The Stories of English, Paperback
3.5 out of 5 (3 ratings)


When and why did 'thou' disappear from Standard English?

Would a Victorian Cockney have said 'observation' or 'hobservation'?

Was Jane Austen making a mistake when she wrote 'Jenny and James are walked to Charmonth this afternoon'?

This superbly well-informed - and also wonderfully entertaining - history of the English language answers all these questions, showing how the many strands of English (Standard English, dialect and slang among them) developed to create the richly-varied language of today.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 592 pages, Illustrations, maps
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Historical & comparative linguistics
  • ISBN: 9780141015934



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Showing 1 - 3 of 3 reviews.

Review by

A bit heavy going for me, particularly in the early chapters.

Review by

It's a pretty heavy work in contrast to something like Mother Tongue, examining and explaining the history and diversity of English, without putting the usual emphasis on "Standard English". There's lots of stuff about the varieties that peacefully coexisted through most of history until some stupid ideas about linguistic and moral purity exploded onto the scene in the 1700s-ish. I enjoyed it despite feeling it was tough going at times, and had to settle into a good blend of reading and skimming. It's 585 pages! Crystal includes a lot of "sidebars" with examples, which are often interesting but can break up the flow considerably. He also spends a lot of time on the language reformers, but not actually an unreasonable amount in the end. A good solid book.

Review by

Found it really interesting, covered a wide range of aspects of English going right back to the very beginning.Loved that Tolkien got a little mention in the section on dialect.The way it was organised was good but some of the little boxes with additional information were in the middle of interesting sections so you had to flick back and forth to read everything.Was good to finally read it because I'd dipped into bits of it before and David Crystal is such a huge name in linguistics.