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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 (2047 )
5 star
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3 star
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Overall
4.1 (847 )
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1 star
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Story
4.2 (831 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Dean Grasswood, SK, Canada 12-15-05
    Dean Grasswood, SK, Canada 12-15-05
    HELPFUL VOTES
    9
    ratings
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    7
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    "As Entertaining As Possible"

    Exceptionally well done, they really did make it as interesting as I think is humanly possible. The reader deserves full marks for his efforts, and as for the book itself, again, top marks. I did find a few mistakes (for example, attributing things of Canadian origin to America) and I also thought that it was a little misleading to talk of more modern influences when the words borrowed often also have more ancient roots, but those are small grievances at best.

    I will say that I wouldn't recommend the book to a casual passer by, it was largely the fact that I had paid for it that forced me on in the beginning (it did, as I say, become interesting eventually). But for someone with a definite interest, this is a title worth a definite purchase.

    9 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alan Pasadena, TX, USA 12-07-05
    Alan Pasadena, TX, USA 12-07-05
    HELPFUL VOTES
    6
    ratings
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    1
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    Overall
    "History class should have been like this!"

    As an English speaker, I have always been interested in the path that this language took in it's development. The Adventure of English is a wonderful historical tracing of the lineage of a remarkable language. This work shows how historical facts intertwine with each other, and how that, in the case of English, the very language defined a people, shaped a culture, and preserved a nation. A great Audiobook - both enlightening and entertaining.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Steve Brewster, NY, USA 09-26-05
    Steve Brewster, NY, USA 09-26-05 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
    132
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    15
    8
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    "AMAZING !! The narrator deserves a medal !!!"

    As an American, I find this book a bit more difficult to grasp than a native of the U.K. would find; that having been said, I must say this narrator deserves an award of some kind - his ability to pronounce these words (in many dialects, some ancient) is amazing!

    Great story line, quite entertaining and educational (even for a Yank).

    66 of 75 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rich in BCS College Station, TX 04-14-06
    Rich in BCS College Station, TX 04-14-06 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
    32
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    8
    4
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    "Not for those with a casual interest"

    I learned much from this book and, as other reviewers have pointed out, it is very well written and read. However, I must confess that it was a chore for me to get through. The lists of words often went on and on and would definitely work better in written form than in audio. While driving I often had to switch to the radio to keep from falling asleep.


    If you have a serious interest in language and etymology, this is a must read. For the rest of us, it's a bit like homework that you know you should do, but don't always look forward to with glee.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    William 02-09-06
    William 02-09-06
    HELPFUL VOTES
    91
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    "Loved this."

    A fascinating history of English. I will purchase the paper version to accompany this the next time I listen.

    What's most valuable about this audio book is that the narrator is an accomplished speaker, displaying an amazing range over the various accents, dialects and foreign languages contained in the text.

    Listening to him was far more educational for me than actually reading, because in his voice I could hear the sounds of Old English and Middle English, Latin and so on. This made an impression that was greater than when I had seen these words on a page.

    As I mentioned, I will purchase the paper version as well. This is the history of English, and for me (an American) it was very interesting (for example) to finally fit Chaucer into the historical context of England's history. This book is the history of English, but it is not restricted to the English people. The author includes North American and Australian English, too.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David Naples, FL, USA 11-24-05
    David Naples, FL, USA 11-24-05
    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
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    "OUTSTANDING"

    This journey with English was fascinating. The author brings the language to life . The research and his analysis was extensive. The vivid history of English in various settings made the book fun.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Thomas Dallas, TX, USA 11-19-05
    Thomas Dallas, TX, USA 11-19-05 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    60
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    84
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    "Excellent Book!"

    This is a fantastic book! It takes you a tour of how our language has evolved over time, truely fasinating!!! ..and like others have said, the narrator is a very gifted speaker.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    S. Olsen 05-14-09
    S. Olsen 05-14-09 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
    17
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    "Great material"

    I am not a linguist and the lists of words did not interest me, but hearing the history through the angle of the language was very interesting. The infusion of foreign words in the language shows how great an influence the force or movement was on the minds of the english people. A good introduction and an enjoyable listen.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Janine Alexandria, VA, USA 12-27-07
    Janine Alexandria, VA, USA 12-27-07
    HELPFUL VOTES
    9
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    3
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    "Awesome"

    History and writers will absoultly enjoy this book. The narrator is also worth mentioning, as he lends a fun and witty aspect to the book. If you love history or just love to write, this book is for you

    9 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Adriel Durham, N/A, United Kingdom 07-18-06
    Adriel Durham, N/A, United Kingdom 07-18-06
    HELPFUL VOTES
    13
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    5
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    "Perfect for Audio"

    This is a great book to listen to. It's good to be able to listen to how the words actually sound, rather than trying to imagine what they would sound like when read off a page.

    Enjoyed the book tremendously and highly recommend it.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
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  • 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
  • vickie hunter
    5/15/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Fascinating"

    An enjoyable and fascinating journey through the development of the English language. A social history which lubricates what could otherwise be a rather dry subject, with interesting facts and anecdotes. Extremely well read by Robert Powell.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Fiona
    5/4/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Better than reading the book"

    Accents were essential for the meaning of the text. A job well done...
    This is an essential read for anyone who appreciates the written ( spoken) word.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • C. Edwards
    Leeds U.K.
    2/20/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A really interesting exploration"

    The origins of English. The way English has fit itself to it's users and been manipulated by groups was fascinating from start to finish.
    If you like English, etymology or linguistics this is a worthwhile listen

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • P. M. Trivett
    Berkshire, England
    2/10/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Informatively riveting"

    I have been listening to this along with watching the television documentary. Obviously Melvyn Bragg presented the television programme and to hear from the author direct is far better than from a reader. But Robert Powell was excellent and clear in this, explaining the adventures about this wonderful language called English as I would expect from an actor of his calibre. And Mr Bragg is to be congratulated on this excellent book. A pleasure to listen to and much linguistic gossip now to spread!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • M. Griffiths
    12/7/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Pure pleasure"

    This is a gem!
    Bragg is personable and authoritative. He spins the information into an engaging narrative making this a great book with wide appeal.
    Robert Powell also does a great job with multiple accents and faultless delivery. I think that the audiobook would be better that the printed version for this reason.
    Other reviewers have complained about the lists; don't be put off by this they are not intrusive,

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Catherine
    Torquay, Devon, United Kingdom
    10/26/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Can't get past first chapter"
    What disappointed you about The Adventure of English?

    Should only be read as it has long lists of words


    Would you be willing to try another one of Robert Powell’s performances?

    Robert Powell is great it's the content I can't cope with


    Any additional comments?

    Not good as an audio book

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Amazon Customer
    worthing, west sussex United Kingdom
    8/3/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "The Adventure of English"
    Would you listen to The Adventure of English again? Why?

    Yes! This is a difficult, lengthy topic, yet Melvin Bragg manages to make it fascinating and seems to cover every aspect in depth. The social history aspect of the times was made more interesting than most dedicated books on early English history. Well done, Melvin!


    Have you listened to any of Robert Powell’s other performances? How does this one compare?

    Robert Powell's narration does the book justice. I cannot think of anyone who could have done a better job. A perfect match. I was very impressed with his narration of both the French and Early English vocabulary. Beautifully, and expertly, done.


    Any additional comments?

    If, like me, you enjoy social history AND the English Language, you will love this book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Vivian
    New Malden, United Kingdom
    3/9/08
    Overall
    "Erudite - but long"

    Written to Melvyn Bragg's usual high standard and extreamly well read by Robert Powel. Unfortunately the long lists of examples became tedious and if it had been a book I would have skipped through many of them.

    Save this one for long days on the beach - not a commute.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Neil
    BROSELEY, SHROPSHIRE, United Kingdom
    3/24/10
    Overall
    "Fascinating"

    If you are an english speaker you owe it to yourself to hear this gripping tale of a swashbuckling language and it's rise to dominance.
    Superb.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful

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