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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 (2032 )
5 star
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4.1 (832 )
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Story
4.2 (816 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Amazon Customer Arkansas 10-21-05
    Amazon Customer Arkansas 10-21-05 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Many Of Course monments"

    Highly recommend to anyone who loves our language, hates our language, or just wants to know where in the world did that come from. Be prepared for the book of lists as my wife called it, but it does not detract from the content. There are many times when you will hear the origin of the word or words and say of course, it makes sense now. This book shows that we speak a living history.

    This book is the best example of an audiobook being better than the written word. The narrator does make the book.

    87 of 87 people found this review helpful
  •  
    ezs 11-09-05
    ezs 11-09-05 Member Since 2006
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    "Comprehensive, engaging and informative"

    Although this book has a running time of just over twelve hours; the listener is soon immersed and lost in this treasury by Melvyn Bragg. Covering the full span of time from the earliest European roots of English to the most current usage - this is a must listen.

    Robert Powell is the perfect reader for this book; his natural style and easy meter really compliment the content.

    35 of 35 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tim Fremont, NE, United States 04-18-06
    Tim Fremont, NE, United States 04-18-06 Member Since 2014

    Computer Programmer and Worship Leader. Have enjoyed reading since my mom got me hooked on Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie prior to my teen years. My brother got me hooked on audio books after I started having a longer commute to work. Love a variety of genres.

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    "Very Interesting!!"

    What would seem to be a very dull subject is made rather interesting by this book. There are parts where the book drags, but the chapters of Wycliffe, Tyndale, Shakespeare and the King James Bible are just a few of the intriguing highlights of this book.

    As some have said, this is a book that is probably BETTER as an audiobook. The reader does a GREAT job with old english and many of the dialects. Hearing someone speak ancient versions of the language (rather than trying to figure out what they were supposed to have sounded like) is a BIG bonus with the audiobook version.

    The author also did a great job with describing how dialects occur, even in modern times (such as "Pigeon" dialects). I also thought the discussion of attempts to create a modern "universal" language were quite interesting.

    It was also fascinating to learn how many figures of speech originated with Shakespeare, as well as early versions of the English Bible.

    Definitely well worth the read!

    27 of 27 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Hugh Asheville, NC, USA 12-12-07
    Hugh Asheville, NC, USA 12-12-07
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    "What a story!"

    I have listened to this twice now, and found it hilarious both times. Now, I must admit that the reader is not perfect. Obviously, he has no idea what "okra" is, much less how to pronounce it. But even that was funny. I know I could not begin to produce the variety of accents required to make this work. What is great is the story. I understand so much about my native language that I never knew before. This should be a High School textbook. It's no wonder that English is such a wierd language. This book explains much.

    21 of 21 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dorothea VlaardingenNetherlands 04-11-08
    Dorothea VlaardingenNetherlands 04-11-08
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "great listen"

    Already listened to this book twice and there will be more times to follow. It's a great listen. Especially enjoyed the chapters about the early and medieval history - fascinating.
    The story is well written, witty, very informative and even thrilling (like history is). Since I am not English I am definitely not the one to criticise the reading - to my ears the narrator does a great job.
    Could not have spent my monthly credit better!

    17 of 17 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marius Irene, South Africa 11-18-08
    Marius Irene, South Africa 11-18-08 Member Since 2014
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    "Hugely entertaining and informative"

    Of all of the books I downloaded, I least expected this one to be a gem, but such it is. Superbly narrated by the actor Robert Powell, it tells the fascinating story of the relentless growth of a polyglot mongrel language, never ashamed to borrow or steal words from every language it encountered. Essentially, that seems to have been its greatest strength, insulating it from attack, and allowing it to evolve into the marvellous tongue of Chaucer, Tindale, Shakespeare, Steinbeck, Dickens, Twain, Wodehouse, Waugh and Tolkien, to say nothing of Hunter S Thompson. Melvyn Bragg has written a superb book. My only regret is that he mentioned so few words of South African origin, of which trek, veld, impi, assegaai, stoep and indaba are but a few. One of very few 5 star ratings I have made.

    35 of 37 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Thomas Allen 05-22-08 Member Since 2011
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    "A great way to relate the story of English"

    "Wow!" That's really all I can say after the last word of this book is spoken! Throughout the book, the author treats the language as a living, breathing, growing entity. And after experiencing this book, I'd say he's right! At times, English is facing persecution and extinction. At other times, English is rolling roughshod over whole nations. The author deals in details of history to make his personification of English stand on two feet. After this book, I have a new found pride to speak a language that has had such a magnificant journey.

    11 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andrew Reston, VA, USA 06-15-07
    Andrew Reston, VA, USA 06-15-07
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    "Fascinating and engrossing!"

    This is definitely one of those books that is better listened to than read, and I agree with the previous reviews that the narrator is to be commended for his ability to pronounce obsolete words and arcane dialects. (Although I must admit that his attempts at an American accent made me cringe a bit.) My only other criticism is a tiny one: the author's claim that the Northeastern US more or less speaks a single, clear spoken dialect. As a native Bostonian, I must object! That aside, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It gave me a new understanding and appreciation of my language and enough trivia fodder to make me a cocktail party liability for quite some time.

    10 of 10 people found this review helpful
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    Shawn Mesa, AZ, USA 05-28-07
    Shawn Mesa, AZ, USA 05-28-07
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    "A Worthwhie Adventure"

    I very much enjoyed this lecture, it was more than I'd expected. Adventure is the correct word for this as we travel through time learning about about the perils English has and does face. I was especially fascinated by the later chapters covering some current languages that are derivatives of English. Suddenly Ebonics as a language made sense to me.

    10 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John HIGHLANDS RANCH, CO, USA 08-08-08
    John HIGHLANDS RANCH, CO, USA 08-08-08
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    "TRUELY an Adventure in English and HISTORY."

    Audio: Excellent. Clear, crisp, enunciation. Narrator has a British accent, (and why not, the author is English), and was VERY easily understood by this American. This book is a SPECIAL TREAT as it is actually BETTER TO LISTEN to it than to read it. This is because of the innumerable authentic-sounding pronunciations of English word derivations and origins throughout history. Even if the words are spelled phonetically in the book (and I don't know if they are), I say you cannot beat having them pronounced properly. This REALLY brings the book alive.

    Content: Outstanding. The Adventure of English is an adventure in history also, as it necessarily must be. Celtic, Norse, Friesen (sp?), Norman French, Latin, French, Spanish, u-name-it. England, Normandy, U.S.A., the Carribean, Australia, et al. Henry II and Eleanor of Acquitaine, Chaucer, Tyndale, Philip Sidney, Mark Twain, oh, and Shakespeare of course, to name a few. The subject matter is presented in a personal and personable manner. It is not technical or aloof. Tres facile a' comprendre. N'est-ce pas? I usually read philosophy, politics, current events, and fiction. This book was a very worthwhile departure from that. I highly recommend this book and I will be LISTENING to it again.

    39 of 42 people found this review helpful
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