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LINGUIST List 24.1639

Thu Apr 11 2013

Review: Historical Linguistics: Gramley (2011)

Editor for this issue: Joseph Salmons <jsalmonslinguistlist.org>

Date: 28-Feb-2013
From: Katarzyna Sowka-Pietraszewska <katarzynasowkahotmail.com>
Subject: The History of English
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Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/23/23-1019.html

AUTHOR: Stephan Gramley
TITLE: The History of English
SUBTITLE: An Introduction
PUBLISHER: Routledge (Taylor and Francis)
YEAR: 2011

REVIEWER: Katarzyna Sowka-Pietraszewska, Uniwersytet Wrocławski

This accessibly written book is intended for undergraduates. It contains 13
chapters, of which the first part (chapters 1-6) outlines the external history
of English up to the Early Modern English period, while the second (7-13)
sketches the global spread of English.

Chapter 1, ‘The Origins of English (before 450)’, briefly discusses the
origins of human language and the genetic relations that may exist between
languages, introducing the family-tree model, the notion of proto-language and
the Indo-European family, and indicating the position of the Germanic within
Indo-European. Next, the author distinguishes between internal and external
change. The section ‘Changes in Germanic before the invasions of Britain’
focuses on pronunciation (Grimm’s Law, Verner’s Law), grammar and vocabulary.
As a next step, Latin borrowings, the result of close contact between Germanic
speakers and Romans, at the beginning of the first century, are concisely
illustrated. The chapter closes with a section on the Germanic migrations.

Chapter 2, ‘Old English: early Germanic Britain (450-700)’, reviews the
cultural and linguistic influence of the Celts and the Romans on
pre-Anglo-Saxon England and English. This chapter presents subsequent Germanic
incursions and the formation of the first Germanic kingdoms. Next, the main
features of the Old English (OE) alphabet, spelling, pronunciation, and some
selected aspects of grammar are discussed and followed by some textual
analysis. For more data on OE grammar the reader is referred to the online
companion. Unfortunately, the sections on ‘phonological terms’ and ‘case’ are
unfinished yet. The section on the Christianization of England includes an
introduction to the runic alphabet. The chapter closes with a section on
regional varieties, showing the divergence of English dialects through an
analysis of two versions of Cædmon’s Hymn.

After outlining three stages of Viking incursions, Chapter 3, ‘Old English:
the Viking invasions and their consequences (700-1066/1100)’, discusses the
significance of the contact with the Vikings on (i) vocabulary; (ii)
pronunciation, (iii) inflection and (iv) syntax. In the section on inflection,
among the examples of the Norse-influenced changes one would expect, we find
an interesting presentation of Burnley’s (1992:416) and Samuels’ (1972:144ff)
influential approaches to the origin of the Modern English (ModE) pronoun
‘she’. In syntax the author attributes the rise of complex forms (i.e.
perfect, progressive, the ‘will’ future, ‘do’ as an auxiliary) to contact with
Old Norse. Arguments for and against Middle English as a creole are reviewed
next. Bailey and Maroldt’s (1977) arguments for this position are followed by
Thomason and Kaufman’s (1998) discussion, which is less favourable for the
hypothesis. The final sections comment on the rise of the West Saxon written

Chapter 4, ‘Middle English: the non-standard period (1066/1100-1350)’, starts
with an overview of the presumed motives for the Norman Conquest and continues
with the linguistic effects of Norman French - English contact before
standardization of the latter. The part on linguistic influence tracks the
changes in pronunciation, including phonemicization, discussing and
illustrating, for example, the occurrence of voiced fricatives /v,ð,z/ and the
rules of Middle English (ME) vowel lengthening, shortening and
monophthongization. The section on spelling catalogues various regional
differences. The bulk of this section shows changes in grammar addressing,
among other things, the development of progressive, the perfect, modal
auxiliaries, the passive, negation and concord. This part closes by covering
changes in vocabulary, discussing the massive lexical influence of French on
ME. The final section raises the question of ME creolization again, this time
with regard to Norman French influence. The last section provides interesting
examples of the dialectal diversity of ME.

Chapter 5, ‘Middle English: the emergence of Standard English (1350-1500)’,
starts with a brief discussion of social and political movements of the late
fourteenth and fifteenth centuries that had a major impact on the changing
status of English, in particular the growing popularity of English and
decreasing importance of French. A number of events that influenced the rise
of Standard English are presented, such as the growth of the importance of the
lower class, the translation of the Bible into the vernacular, the rise of
London speech, the Caxton printing press and Chancery English. The features of
Chancery Standard are addressed in some detail, for example the pronouns
‘you’/’thou’, the pronoun ‘one’, the relative pronoun, periphrastic structures
including the periphrastic ‘do’, and word order changes. The section on
vocabulary outlines the major changes in the ME word hoard, attributed mainly
to the influence of Romance languages. Inkhorn terms are briefly introduced
but a more extensive discussion is reserved for Chapter 6. ME non-standard and
regional variations are illustrated by reference to texts from English and
Scottish literature.

Chapter 6, ‘The Early Modern English period (1500-1700)’, links the major
social, political, cultural and demographic changes in sixteenth and
seventeenth century England to language history. The section on Early Modern
English (EModE) includes an interesting discussion of dialect levelling among
migrants to London. Moreover, this section lends a typological perspective to
the changes taking place in EModE. The section on regulation and codification
discusses the most significant changes in spelling, vocabulary and
pronunciation and sketches out the GVS. The section on grammar and morphology
is well-developed again, presenting a wide variety of changes, such as the
spread of ‘do’-periphrasis, periphrastic expression of aspect, voice and
tense, the subjunctive, modal verbs, and the pronoun ‘you’. Regional variety
in EModE is illustrated by reference to texts from the South of England and

Chapter 7, ‘The spread of English (since the late sixteenth century)’, begins
with an overview of the political, social, economic, and linguistic situation
in Europe in the seventeenth century, and points out its effect on the
beginning of British colonial expansion. The areas of English diffusion are
presented neatly in three charts: (i) The spread of English from Britain; (ii)
The spread of English in and from America; (iii) The spread of English from
Jamaica. The concept of General English (GenE) is introduced as a designation
including both StE and non-standard English, ‘but excluding the traditional
dialects and the English pidgins and creoles’ (p.374). The author uses two
schemes to present differences within GenE. First, he uses Kachru’s well-known
model of three concentric circles, along with his own ‘Two-dimensional model
of English showing status variation, as well as, GenE and traditional
English’. Unfortunately, it takes a few readings to truly understand this
intricate model. In the chapter, there is a good, detailed introduction of the
process of the transplantation of English under conditions of migration and
language imposition. Definitions of English as a native language (ENL),
English as a second language (ESL) and English as a foreign language (EFL) are
also offered and precisely described. The last part recognizes the mechanisms
of social interaction as the consequence of the globalization of English and
shows examples of bilingualism, code switching and borrowing in English, as a
native language, and English as a second language. A presentation of pidgin
and creole English communities in West Africa and the Caribbean followed by a
presentation of the societies that speak English as a Foreign Language close
this chapter.

Chapter 8, ‘English in Great Britain and Ireland (since 1700)’, gives an
account of the most important demographic developments as well as the
revolution in transportation, industrialization, urbanization, education and
the media, and discusses their impact on the linguistic situation in Britain,
Ireland and Scotland. The discussion of attempts to codify English points out
events, such as Swift’s proposal of the establishment of academy or the advent
of grammars and dictionaries. A concise analysis of changes in vocabulary is
followed by a section on recent grammatical developments. After a short
theoretical introduction to lexicalization and grammaticalization, this
section revisits the development of modal verbs and closely examines their
development in EModE. The section on pronunciation outlines the emergence of
Received Pronunciation and reviews phonological changes including
yod-dropping, the occurrence of T-glottalization in British English,
L-vocalization and the appearance of an intervocalic alveolar flap in General
American. It is interesting to read about the vocalic chain-shifts, including
in Cockney. The attempts to reform ModE spelling are also briefly summarized.
Traditional dialects and the standard English of Scotland and vernacular Irish
English are concisely presented. The chapter closes with a presentation of the
diversity of urban English due to migration, e.g., Estuary English, British
Black English, or Chinese - English.

Chapter 9, ‘English pidgins, English creoles, and English (since the early
seventeenth century)’, includes a large section giving details of British
colonialism and imperialism and their linguistic consequences. There is an
interesting and detailed examination of English-influenced pidgins and
creoles. A considerable part of the section is devoted to the Creole continuum
illustrated in Guyanese and Jamaican Creoles. The last part is an inspiring
review of four approaches to the origin of creoles. Monogenesis theory, the
theory of parallel development, the influence of the superstratum theory and
the innate bioprogram theory are summarized and followed by a critical
analysis. The chapter closes with textual examples showing linguistic
differences in the two major English creole areas, the Caribbean and the

Chapter 10, ‘English in North America (since the early seventeen century)’,
starts with a topic usually overlooked in other books on the history of
English: the earliest evidence of the contacts between the pilgrims and the
Indians and their linguistic consequences, as reflected in American English
(AmE) vocabulary. The further development of AmE and motives for divergence
from British English (BrE) are approached from two perspectives. The section
on the colonial period recognises the importance of dialect levelling
(koinézation) by early settlers; while the post independence period witnessed
some conscious efforts to distinguish AmE from BrE. This section summarizes
movements towards the standardization of AmE. The effects on vocabulary,
spelling, grammar, morphology, and pronunciation are discussed and
interspersed with interesting examples. The discussion of English in North
America rounds out with the presentation of some widespread forms of
non-standard GenE in America, regional varieties (the South, the West, and
Canadian English) and some ethnic varieties within AmE (American Indian
English, immigrant English, African American Vernacular English, and Chicago

Chapter 11, ‘English in the ENL communities of the Southern Hemisphere (since
1788)’, begins with a presentation of socio-historical background and events
that prompted the citizens of the British Isles to emigrate to the Southern
Hemisphere colonies (Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand). A few remarks
on standard and non-standard English in the colonies are given. A comparative
approach to the grammar, pronunciation and vocabulary of the English of the
Southern Hemisphere points out many features they share and comments on those
that developed individually in each language. The chapter, moreover, offers a
discussion of non-standard grammar, continuations of GVS in Southern
Hemisphere ENL and vocabulary. The latter section discusses borrowings, loan
words and loan translations, as well as some examples of folk etymology. It
also illustrates numerous productive word formation processes and
lexical-semantic change in Southern Hemisphere ENL. The chapter concludes with
a section on the regional varieties of non-standard Cape Flats English, South
African English, Māori-influenced English and Aboriginal English. Each section
includes several textual examples.

In Chapter 12, ‘English in the ESL countries of Africa and Asia (since 1795)’,
a concise definition of English as a Second Language is followed by a review
of the colonial history of the ESL countries (West Africa, Southern Africa,
East Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia and the Pacific). Features of
phonology, grammar, and vocabulary in ESL spoken in West Africa, Southern
Africa, East Africa, South Asia, and Southeast Asia are presented
contrastively. This analysis aims to point out some individual linguistic
developments in ESL spoken in these areas. An interesting presentation of the
influence of substratum on the pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar, and
pragmatics of ESL is presented in the following section. The closing section
examines the identitarian function of Second Language variety of English.

In Chapter 13, ‘Global English (since 1945)’, the roots of Global English are
identified in ‘the politically, economically, and culturally dominant position
of the United States and Great Britain throughout the ModE period and in the
momentum that English has generated in the media’ (p.361). The standard and
non-standard English used in media is exemplified and followed by a critical
review of modern approaches to Global English. A discussion of the
identitarian role of the multiplicity of ‘Englishes’ closes the chapter.

Given increasing interest in the history of English in the period from the
early seventeenth to the late nineteenth centuries when English was taken from
the British Isles to overseas locations, this book is a vital resource. In
fact, Gramley’s textbook is a masterful survey of English language history,
recognizing different processes of change and dealing thoroughly with the
mechanisms of social interaction which affected English and gave rise to its
varieties. The author has not only achieved his aim of providing basic reading
for undergraduates, but also provides fine reading for students of
undergraduate courses on, for example, sociolinguistics, language change and
the global varieties of English.

This is a readable, well-organized and stimulating textbook. Each chapter
closes with (i) a conclusive summary and a number of study questions, half of
which revise social and cultural background and the other half summarize
linguistic background; (ii) a section with author’s suggestions for further
reading where the recommended textbooks are concisely surveyed and invite
individual research.

The book includes extensive background material (about eighty texts in the
book, numerous maps and illustrations). The 2005 IPA chart and a glossary of
basic terms used in the book as well as a list of references are provided at
the end of the book. The book comes with a supporting website
http://cw.routledge.com/textbooks/gramley-9780415566407/ (accessed February
23, 2013). The website contains extensive supplementary material. However,
some sections, e.g. the interactive timeline presentation and Chapter 2, are
not finished yet.

I am currently using this book in my undergraduate History of the English
Language class. This choice was motivated mainly by the fact that, so far, I
have found no other textbooks that dedicate so much the space to the
historical spread of English beyond the British realm. Besides, this book is
not only an invaluable textbook for the student of the history of English, but
also a source of inspiring questions prone to motivate individuals to pursue
their own research in the field.

Bailey, C.J.N. and K. Maroldt (1977) “The French Lineage of English,” In: J.M.
Meisel (ed.) Langues en contact -- Pidgins -- Creoles -- Language in
Contact. Tübingen: Gunter Narr, 21-53.

Burnley, D. (ed.) (1992) The History of English Language. A Source Book.
London: Longman
Kachru, B.B. (1985) “Standard, Codification and Sociolinguistic Realism: The
English Language in the Outer Cycle,” In: R. Quirk and H.G. Widdowson (eds.)
English in the World: Teaching and Learning the Language and Literatures.
Cambridge: CUP, 11-30.

Samuels, M.L. (1972) Linguistic Evolution with Special Reference to English.
Cambridge: CUP.

Thomason, S.G. and T. Kaufman (1998) Language Contact, Creolization, and
Genetic Linguistics. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Katarzyna Sowka-Pietraszewska teaches History of the English Language and
Introduction to Historical Linguistics at the University of Wrocław in Poland.
Her research interests include historical linguistics, diachronic syntax and
semantics. She is currently working on a project on changes in argument
structure of ditransitive verbs in Old and Middle English.
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