Saturday, 16 April 2016

The Adventure of English

English is a language that has spread further than any other and is now spoken as a first language by vast numbers of people all over the globe, and by even more people as a second or third language. It has always been a greatly adaptable language pulling in words from other tongues and simply adding them to the ever growing list of words that fill the English dictionary. What started as a humble language spoken by small tribes has been shaken by invasions, and by invasion has shaken the world.

So often described as a Germanic language yet it is filled with Latinate words, mainly thanks to the French who almost wiped out English, and phrases that stretch back through time so that we have forgotten their original meaning. It has been moulded and stretched by great writers such as Chaucer and Shakespeare and Dickens, while others, like Samuel Johnson, have tried to contain it in dictionaries and have people speak it correctly. Yet today accents and dialects are stronger than ever, within England and without. Words can be altered, grammar can be changed (or ignored – again both overseas and in Essex, I mean, England) and yet still we can understand each other (just).

This is the adventure of English, as described by Melvyn Bragg in his novel by that name. A fascinating story of how a language has changed and how it has changed the world. It is a gripping, twisting narrative with times of trouble, great victories and a cast of colourful characters who have all impacted the way we speak today and indeed the way I write this post now. So if you’re looking for something to read, something that will surprise you, amaze you, make you laugh and teach you more than you can possibly imagine about a language you probably thought you knew well, look up The Adventure of English!

No comments:

Post a Comment