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The Adventure of English: The Biography of a Language | [Melvyn Bragg]

The Adventure of English: The Biography of a Language

This is the remarkable story of the English language; from its beginnings as a minor guttural Germanic dialect to its position today as a truly established global language. The Adventure of English is not only an enthralling story of power, religion, and trade, but also the story of people, and how their lives continue to change the extraordinary language that is English.
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Publisher's Summary

This is the remarkable story of the English language; from its beginnings as a minor guttural Germanic dialect to its position today as a truly established global language. The Adventure of English is not only an enthralling story of power, religion, and trade, but also the story of people, and how their lives continue to change the extraordinary language that is English.

©2003 Melvyn Bragg; (P)2004 BBC Audiobooks Ltd

What the Critics Say

"Both entertaining and informative." (Booklist)
"This 'biography' succeeds in its broad, sweeping narrative." (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.0 (1951 )
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  •  
    Cathy Midrand, South Africa 03-15-11
    Cathy Midrand, South Africa 03-15-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A brilliant adventure in English"

    I have a physical copy of this book, which I found quite heavy going - however, Robert Powell's narration made all the difference. He manages to get his tongue around Old English so well that I actually understood the words, even though they are so different to the English of today. The tale of the growth of the language is fast paced and exciting, with many new insights. I did find the odd list of words quite tiresome at first, until I understood why they were included.

    Overall, I think this is an excellent book for anyone who loves the English language, and wants to understand its roots

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Stephanie Gorham, ME, United States 03-10-11
    Stephanie Gorham, ME, United States 03-10-11 Member Since 2003
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    14
    1
    Overall
    "Disappointing"

    The section of the book on early English is very good. Unfortunately, the section on American English was so poorly researched that I had to stop listening to the book. Many of the derivations claimed for American words were urban legends and were wrong.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer Charleston, SC, United States 03-01-11
    Amazon Customer Charleston, SC, United States 03-01-11 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    81
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    "Interesting, but not what I expected"

    I expected a bit more on the mechanics behind the formation of our language, and hoped that it would delve into the various accents of regional dialects. There was some of that there, but not much and only intermitedly. Also, the author repeatedly made analogies that made it sound as though English were a person ( stuff like "and so our language preserved the norman conquest and overcame the conquerors", hooray), which often served as the whole explanation for why English formed the way it did. I found that irritating.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer Warminster, PA, United States 02-28-11
    Amazon Customer Warminster, PA, United States 02-28-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
    8
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    6
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    "Highly Informative"

    Very interesting. I thought I had a good understanding of the origin of English but I was clearly wrong. This work is aimed at a UK audience and the author's use of the collective "we" to mean the English people can be a little disconcerting at times for an American audience. Still I thoroughly enjoyed it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    William Rancho Cucamonga, CA, United States 02-21-11
    William Rancho Cucamonga, CA, United States 02-21-11 Member Since 2003

    I am a retired high school computer teacher. After years of tech reading, I have given up reading for listening while I woodworking.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Enlightening"

    This is a wonderfully written and fantastically read book about something that could have been dryly intellectual. It is so worth the read just to find out where many of our common phrases actually came from. Robert Powell executes the dialog magnificently.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    K.D. Keenan Northern California 01-29-11
    K.D. Keenan Northern California 01-29-11 Member Since 2004

    1emp

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    "Great Read for English Nerds"

    I don't read much non-fiction, but this book held my attention. I'm not sure I learned much new, but it was entertaining and interesting.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael Phoenix, AZ, United States 01-22-11
    Michael Phoenix, AZ, United States 01-22-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
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    2
    2
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    "A linguistic delight!"

    This is the first audiobook that I will listen to again. The narrator, Robert Powell, has an amazing gift for correct linguistic pronunciation that covers a wide spectrum of contributory languages that form our present language. As a lifelong student of language, I found this book to be an extraordinary treat! Were it possible, I would give a higher rating.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Janna Lansdale, PA, United States 12-27-10
    Janna Lansdale, PA, United States 12-27-10 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
    57
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    52
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    "surprisingly engaging"

    I am no linguist, just a person with a curious interest in history and odd facts. This book satiates my appetite for both. It personifies "English" into a sortof person, striving to survive the ages, despite a wild attack on it from all sides at every turn. I love the way the author has created suspense throughout, as though we don't know whether it will survive in the end or not! And what a great review of history, putting it all in perspective with how English fared at each time period.

    I enjoy the reader's voice, and his pronunciations are quite amazing and necessarily good for the understanding of the book. I don't think I would have nearly as much understanding were it not for this, so I am glad to have the audiobook instead of the printed version.

    While not being a murder mystery or suspense thriller, this book is surprisingly engaging. Enjoy!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ellen M. Lind Hillsboro, OR United States 12-21-10
    Ellen M. Lind Hillsboro, OR United States 12-21-10 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
    7
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    "Not an original concept"

    Start with Bill Bryson???s 1990 gem ???The Mother Tongue???; remove Bryson???s trademark humor and substitute a scholarly tone; use many of the same sources and examples, but drop some and expand some others; include a few (but surprising few) examples from the dozen years between the two publication dates. There you have Bragg???s The Adventure of English. It was good, it was interesting, but it wasn???t original.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    D. Bennett 12-19-10
    D. Bennett 12-19-10 Listener Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
    9
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    "Engaging but long winded"

    This book gives an approachable survey of the evolution of English. I learned many things, such as the strong influence of French on English via the Norman Conquest. The author speaks from a British perspective. If you are not familiar with, say, the Battle of Hastings, you may want to consult Wikipedia as you go along.

    I grew bored during the second half of the book, and felt I had to slog to the finish line. This may be because, as the author moves forward in time, the history becomes more familiar. While it was interesting to learn about the language of the Wild West cowboys, I found this part less engaging because I already knew about them.

    The book could say as much as it does in about 2/3 of the space. The periodic rhapsodies to the power of English can wear thin after a while. Nonetheless, I don't regret reading it.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
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