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The History of the English Language, 2nd Edition | [The Great Courses, Seth Lerer]

The History of the English Language, 2nd Edition

This course offers an overview of the English language that is literary, historical, cultural, political, and scientific in its scope and designed to give you greater insight into the written and spoken word.The lectures provide a thorough understanding of the history of the English language - from its origins as a dialect of the Germanic-speaking peoples through the literary and cultural documents of its 1,500-year span to the state of American speech today.

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Publisher's Summary

This course offers an overview of the English language that is literary, historical, cultural, political, and scientific in its scope and designed to give you greater insight into the written and spoken word.The lectures provide a thorough understanding of the history of the English language - from its origins as a dialect of the Germanic-speaking peoples through the literary and cultural documents of its 1,500-year span to the state of American speech today.

Professor Lerer defines concepts by illustrating them with copious examples. He often speaks in the dialect appropriate to each lecture - be it Old English, Chaucer’s Middle English, or the colloquial style of Mark Twain’s most unforgettable characters.

Disclaimer: Please note that this recording may include references to supplemental texts or print references that are not essential to the program and not supplied with your purchase.

©1998 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)1998 The Great Courses

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.5 (98 )
5 star
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4.4 (83 )
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Performance
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  •  
    John Chamblee, GA, United States 11-02-14
    John Chamblee, GA, United States 11-02-14 Member Since 2009

    I'm a lawyer and mediator. I represent businesses in disputes with their insurers and in other complex litigation. I also assist machinery companies and manufacturers (primarily international) with equipment sales, non-disclosure agreements, and business issues. I also mediate commercial disputes.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Good, But Could Be Better"

    This course is very interesting, although it could be better. The first two parts of the book are excellent with a wealth of historical information about the historical development of the English language going, well, back to the beginning. Really fascinating, and I felt like I learned a lot.

    When the book gets to the later stages, however, it slips a bit. The professor lapses into more than a little political correctness, which is probably not surprising given his background. If you can take it or leave it, the discussion is still interesting.

    The professor is not a bad lecturer, but he has one incredibly irritating habit: He says "if you like" all the time. It becomes glaringly obvious, especially given the length of the recording. Maybe the professor can fix this in the third edition.

    Another irritation--although certainly not the professor's fault--is the trumpet music announcing each new chapter along with the fake applause (which also closes each chapter). Straight out of 1950s sound effects. Just plain awful and prevalent in the "Great Courses." But, fortunately, a small part of the recording.

    10 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ken Millbrook, New York, United States 09-24-13
    Ken Millbrook, New York, United States 09-24-13 Member Since 2012

    Say something about yourself!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Fascinating and informative"

    I listened to the first version of this course on cassette tapes way back in the day and found it truly fascinating. The second version contains much of the original material, and it was fun to be reminded of the things I had forgotten. It is a testament to the original course that I also remembered quite a lot! The new material at the end brings the history of English up to date by covering the ways in which new technologies are transforming the language. Professor Lerer presents the lectures at a perfect pace, uses great examples to illustrate abstract concepts, and clearly loves this material. His enthusiasm is infectious. Highly recommended as a way to learn not only the history of English but also some widely applicable principles of philology and linguistics.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Avid Reader Hawaii 03-12-14
    Avid Reader Hawaii 03-12-14

    from Hawaii

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    "Very detailed"
    Would you listen to The History of the English Language, 2nd Edition again? Why?

    I listened to the entire course. Professor Lerer is very learned and prepares well, but it was more information than I really wanted to learn. This is a very detailed history.


    Would you be willing to try another book from The Great Courses? Why or why not?

    Yes. This was my third course.


    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer Southport, CT 02-26-15
    Amazon Customer Southport, CT 02-26-15 Member Since 2014

    Auragual

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Sparkling"

    Professor Lerer may rub you the wrong way a little when you first hear his voice; he did me.

    I had that reaction, I think, because he enunciates each word with such excruciating clarity and exactness that it becomes at times distracting from the actual content of the lecture.

    It was only a little further into the course, however, that this very trouble, that is the shifting of focus between the meaning of the sentences/sections/thoughts and the individual words (free from direct context, highlighted by the intentionality with which he executes them) became a source of joy and reflection that added tremendously to the experience. I'm sure this was one of his goals in constructing these polished lectures.

    His apparently deep knowledge of the pronunciation of old and middle English, including the various dialects, makes listening to his readings of Chaucer, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Beowulf, Cadmon and even Shakespeare (reconstructed to sound as it would have if you were hearing it circa 1600) really thrilling.

    I'm going to find his other courses after reviewing this one. Highly recommended!

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    DMG 05-24-14
    DMG 05-24-14
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    "Way, way too long"
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    Only if I knew them to be a total language geek or a career student


    Would you recommend The History of the English Language, 2nd Edition to your friends? Why or why not?

    Only if I knew them to be a total language geek or a career student


    How could the performance have been better?

    The instructor speaks as if he is putting hard emphasis in each sentence. 36 hours of emphasis is a lot to listen to. It would have been better if he modulated his tone.


    Did The History of the English Language, 2nd Edition inspire you to do anything?

    No.


    Any additional comments?

    I purchased the course because I was interested in how the English language developed into what it is today. The lectures did bring out a few interesting points - the fact that England was a tri-lingual country for hundreds of years was interesting. Also other odd points here and there. But this was 36 lectures, about a half hour each. It would have been more merciful to at least compress it into a fourth (or less) with more stuff and less boring fluff.

    4 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dr. Aubrey Thompson Jacksonville, Florida, Texas United States 07-26-15
    Dr. Aubrey Thompson Jacksonville, Florida, Texas United States 07-26-15 Member Since 2013

    EAT

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    "Comprehensive and provocative"

    Goes far beyond the history of English, dealing,as it does with the nature of language and the relationship between imagination, communication, and reality. This course will reward occasional replay.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    mean square 07-26-15
    mean square 07-26-15
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    "Impressive"

    Best taken in small doses. Lots of info that needs to be thought about and digested.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    E.D. California 06-17-15
    E.D. California 06-17-15 Member Since 2008

    Goldenthreads

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    "Informative."

    It was very informative, but the lecturer, while exuberant, was a bit over the top some times.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    A. Middleton Waukegan, IL USA 05-28-15
    A. Middleton Waukegan, IL USA 05-28-15 Member Since 2010
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    "Definitely a more in depth course."

    I enjoyed tthus very much. But I wouldn't recommend it as your first book on linguistics.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John L Terra/Sol 05-28-15
    John L Terra/Sol 05-28-15 Member Since 2014
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    "Good Introduction to the Subject"

    Informative lectures on the history of English. Presentation was lively and clear. Worth listening to.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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