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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)2014 Audible, Inc.

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 (2053 )
5 star
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Overall
4.1 (853 )
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Story
4.2 (836 )
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Performance
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  •  
    fred greensboro nc 09-23-10
    fred greensboro nc 09-23-10 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    125
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    139
    89
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    4
    0
    Overall
    "I have a high tolerance but this one beat me"

    I have a high tolerance for dry subjects but this one was a little too dry for me. Might be the wrong format. Might be the wrong subject. Just a little too serious for me.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David Halifax, NS, Canada 09-12-10
    David Halifax, NS, Canada 09-12-10 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
    343
    ratings
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    66
    63
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    Overall
    "Unoriginal but well read"

    In some ways I found this an unnecessary book - it doesn't do anything that wasn't already done in Robert McCrum's "The Story of English" or Bill Bryson's "Mother Tongue". Having read those books, I didn't feel that I learned anything new. However, it was a pleasure to experience a book on this subject in audio format - Robert Powell is a brilliant narrator and does a superb job of reading Old English and the numerous accents required of him (only Uncle Remus seems to defeat him - the result is very awkward). If you've never read a book on this subject, this will be a fascinating experience. Even if you have, it might be worthwhile for Powell's narration.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    06-19-10
    06-19-10 Member Since 2014
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
    1
    Overall
    "Very compelling"

    This is not your "dry" history book. The writer make the subject come alive. Additionally, I gained a better appreciation of the English language.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Chris Waraksa 01-16-09 Listener Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
    6
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    3
    1
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    Overall
    "Sheds little light"

    Having listened to half of this title, I consider this a great disappointment. I was looking for some insight into how English developed and how language develops in general, but there was little insightful about that here. Just as an example, the great vowel shift, a great mystery in the history of English, is barely mentioned. I guess it would be interesting if you aren't interested in linguistics but only in a sketch of English history, but I had hoped for much more than that, given the title and reviews on this website.

    6 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    kevin kohut 08-22-08
    kevin kohut 08-22-08 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
    30
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    171
    5
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    Overall
    "facinating - if you love words and their origens"

    Some of the word lists can be a bit tedious, but it's a small price to pay for the insight provided in this book. A couple of friends have gone through this at the same time and we both believe we are the richer fo having gone on this journey.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    jkhbusiness2 Boston, MA, United States 09-24-11
    jkhbusiness2 Boston, MA, United States 09-24-11

    JoshBoston

    HELPFUL VOTES
    11
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    Story
    "A little silly"

    This book has some interesting information, but it is buried deep inside flights of fancy and purple prose. Bragg is very serious in calling this a "biography": English is treated as a living, breathing thing with wills and desires. The bulk of the book is taken up with speculations about how English might have felt about this, or what she might have been thinking when deciding to do that. I don't mind a little flowery prose now and then, but it got pretty tiresome. Chop that out, and the book would have only been an hour or so long.

    The reader was entertaining, though. I have no idea how good his pronunciation of Old English or Church Latin actually is, but is certainly sounded credible.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carol Bristol, CT, United States 07-29-11
    Carol Bristol, CT, United States 07-29-11
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
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    "Major snooze-fest!"

    I lasted about six minutes: halfway through a numbered list of the top 100 English words rooted in Friesen. Truely awful.


    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kristine Hibbing, MN, USA 01-03-10
    Kristine Hibbing, MN, USA 01-03-10 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
    51
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    "Great, until he started on the Catholic-Bashing"

    I found this book entertaining - until the author launched into full-fledged Catholic bashing. Wyclif and the Lollards heroes? OH PUH-LEEZE! Come up with something new, will you please?

    3 of 16 people found this review helpful
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  • Francis
    Liverpool, United Kingdom
    9/13/06
    Overall
    "All the voices"

    This is not perhaps the most obvious choice for an audio book but it proves in fact to be an excellent work to listen to.Melvyn Bragg writes in a way that is a model of intelligent popularisation : without ever being either too technical or patronisingly simple he conveys much information about the history of the English language in a way that will entertain and instruct anyone with any degree of interest in the subject.Robert Powell -always a most competent and intelligent reader-copes superbly with what is often a difficult text.He manfully does his best to impart interest even to the long lists of words that occur in some chapters, but where he excels particularly is in the plausible rendition that he gives of the various dialects and languages related to English - his Frisian and Anglo-Saxon may or may not satisfy experts but they sound most convincing.He clearly enjoyed the challenge of conveying how differently English did and does sound. With such expert reading this is one of the occasions when an audio book has a distinct advantage over the silent printed text.If you have any interest in our language, you will enjoy this work and this reading.

    108 of 108 people found this review helpful
  • Kirstine
    Bonnyrigg, United Kingdom
    12/7/07
    Overall
    "Outstandingly well-read and enjoyable journey"

    Melvyn Bragg writes in an accessible style well-suited to be read aloud. He has been well-served by the reader, Robert Powell, who has brought the book alive by his outstanding ability to pronounce all the variants of English that can only be depicted by phonetic symbols on the page. The use of the word 'Adventure' in the title is apposite as the book is as lively as a good historical novel.

    19 of 19 people found this review helpful
  • Anne
    Sk?ndalSweden
    7/29/09
    Overall
    "Fascinating language"

    I had a hard time learning English but when I came to the stage I was able to read and listen without using my dictionary and still understand it I became more and more interested in the history of the language; both the development and the paralels I see in my own language.

    Now I have both read and listened to this book. It's worth it!

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Peter
    Beulah, United Kingdom
    1/26/09
    Overall
    "Very educational"

    Fascinating book, which captures a mass of interesting facts about the English language inside a well narrated and informative history. Highly recommend it to someone interested in the roots of the language from the 5th century onwards - this is a very accessible listen and I would go so far as to say it is indeed an adventure to listen to. It touches on the way English spans the globe in it's many forms and derivatives and why it is such an extensive, flexible language.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • David
    Bushey, Herts, United Kingdom
    3/2/08
    Overall
    "A great accompaniment to any journey"

    I found the Bragg Powell combination very enjoyable. I thought Powell produced passable attempts at the European pronunciations, but my Caribbean wife and I had to laugh at some of the creole and pigeon he produced. Small criticism though and it even at times added to the listening experience. The news that we British communicated officially in French until Edward 1st was quite a surprise. Heartily recommended

    15 of 18 people found this review helpful
  • Lyndsey
    La Chapelle NeuveFrance
    9/17/10
    Overall
    "Great for language enthusiasts"

    Really enjoyable for anyone who likes history or languages. As a teacher of English as a foreign language, it was very interesting to pick out all the influences and words from other languages that have made up English. Long may that continue!

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Caro
    Cornwall
    8/27/09
    Overall
    "Great book, great narration"

    I keep going back to listen to this book. It is so interesting and a product of lots of research that doesn't become tedious, although the lists of words probably work better on the page. But that aside, I love it.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • John Blackmore
    Ely, UK
    12/23/12
    Overall
    "Fascinating"

    A really good listen for anyone interested in the English language. Some of the information presented I already knew but overall I realize how little I knew about my own language. As always the narration is as important as the book itself. Robert Powell can always be relied upon to keep me interested. I will certainly be listening to this book again.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Patricia
    Kendal, United Kingdom
    8/15/09
    Overall
    "Why didn't I enjoy this?"

    Fascinating subject, full of facts - so why didn't I enjoy it? I nearly didn't make it past the first chapter. Perhaps it's better read on the page than listened to? The endless lists, for example. And too many examples per fact (yes we've got the point, thank you). Or maybe this book is of more interest to a non-native speaker/lover of English Language. I really don't know, but this is the most disappointing talking book for me so far.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Sally
    4/16/10
    Overall
    "Should be read"

    I think this book should be read and not listened to. It's a fascinating subject but one that lends itself to seeing the written word as well as hearing it in order to have an etymological understanding.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful

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