A History of the English Language A History of the English Language by Albert C. Baugh & Thomas Cable
Publisher: Prentice Hall
Year: 2001 (5th Edition)
Pages: 447

Baugh’s A History of the English Language is a supremely wonderful resource for learning about the origins and evolutions of English. Admittedly, it’s a bit more like a textbook than the sort of book you’d read for shits and giggles, but while my eyes would glaze over a bit when he would get into tables of Old English pronoun declensions, the history and some of the more easily-understood mechanics of change were absolutely fascinating.

A History of the English language methodically (the paragraphs are numbered, for goodness’ sake) traces English, beginning in its most primeval stages as Saxonic dialects, through its various injections of Latin via ecumenical campaigns by the Catholic Church or the more subtle inclusions from Norman, into the heavy Scandanavian influences from conquering Norsemen, into the period of great consonant change seen in Middle English and the early Renaissance, and finally into the relatively dormant transition to modern English, which saw changes in vocabulary and not very much else.

The whole book is filled with examples which sometimes stretch on for entire pages. I won’t pretend that it held my interest the entire time—it was downright boring sometimes, to tell the truth—but sometimes Baugh goes on interesting historical tangents, or brings up a genuinely fascinating point, and I smack my head and say, “So that’s why we say [word] that way!” It was moments like these that held my interest.

By and large, though, A History of the English Language doesn’t strike me as the sort of book one would read all the way through for fun. It’s more in the style of a reference work, filled with hard data in easily-accessible sections. It’s too inconsistent to be a truly fun read (I rather expected that), but it certainly is interesting if you have the patience to slog through it.

§1392 · November 30, 2006 · Tags: , , , , ·

5 Comments to “A History of the English Language”

  1. Rusty says:

    but sometimes Baugh goes on interesting historical tangents, or brings up a genuinely fascinating point, and I smack my head and say, “So that’s why we say [word] that way!” It was moments like these that held my interest.

    It’s moments like these that I live (kind of) for. Indeed it’s moments like these that help me survive during the darker moments of first year chemistry, like finally finding out why oxygen is paramagnetic. For that reason I might well ask for this book for Christmas.

  2. rob says:

    Indeed it’s moments like these that help me survive during the darker moments of first year chemistry

    are you regretting your choice of mickey-mouse course yet

  3. Rusty says:

    Not yet. That comes half way into the second year, remember?

  4. rob says:

    do you think you’ll drop out again

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