A Cultural History of the English Language (The English by Gerry Knowles

By Gerry Knowles

This e-book provides a brand new interpretation of the historical past of English. entry to giant corpuses of English has allowed students to evaluate the trivia of linguistic switch with a lot better precision than prior to, usually pinpointing the beginnings of linguistic techniques in position and time. the writer makes use of the findings from this examine to narrate significant old occasions to alter within the language, specifically to parts of linguistic inquiry which have been of specific value lately, corresponding to discourse research, stylistics and paintings on pidgins and creoles. The e-book doesn't try and chronicle alterations in syntax or pronunciation and spelling, yet is designed to counterpoint a corpus-based research of formal adjustments. the tale of English is mentioned to the overdue Nineties to incorporate, among different issues, discussions of Estuary English and the consequences of the data superhighway.

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The most typical kind of reading in our modern culture is that undertaken by individuals reading silently to themselves. In medieval times, reading more typically meant reading aloud. St Augustine, in his Confessions, comments that St Ambrose read silently, implying that this was unusual (Aston, 1977: 348). We now think of letters representing sounds (which implies that sounds are logically prior to letters), but the medieval term for the sound of a letter was its 'voice' (which implies that letters are prior to sounds).

Indeed we sometimes know that they were not. English versions of the Paternoster begin father our but words such as my and our have always come before the noun in English. The tenth-century Rushworth gospel (Sweet, 1978: 145) continues beo gehalgadpin noma for 'sanctificetur nomen tuum'. We cannot conclude from this one example that English could at that time put the subject after the verb. Nor can we tell without further evidence whether be hallowed was a normal use of the passive at that time, or whether it was a clumsy attempt to represent the meaning of the Latin word.

The decline of Welsh was accelerated by economic factors and the industrial revolution. The growing English conurbations led to the economic decline of Welsh towns, and the emigration of Welsh speakers to England, while in the other direction labour was attracted to the valleys of the south not only from other parts of Wales but also from England. The English attitude towards the Welsh language could be openly hostile. Thomas (1994: 105) quotes The Times of 1866: 'the Welsh language . . is the curse of Wales .

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