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Review of From Old English to Standard English, Third Edition
AUTHOR: Freeborn, Dennis TITLE: From Old English to Standard English, Third Edition SUBTITLE: A Course Book in Language Variations Across Time SERIES: Studies in English Language PUBLISHER: Palgrave Macmillan YEAR: 2006
Zeinab Ibrahim, The American University in Cairo
SUMMARY The book under review, is the third edition of the title _From Old English to Standard English_. The first edition came out in 1992, followed by the second edition in 1998. The book consists of 21 chapters comprising the total of 446 pages including a bibliography of 11 pages.
In the preface of the second edition, the author mentions that the book was intended for students of the English language at the advanced level but since it was used in English departments of many universities inside and outside of Britain, he has added more material to accommodate studies in higher education. The book tries to trace changes that took place in British English between Old English (OE), Middle English (ME), Early Modern English (EMnE) and Modern English (MnE). In the preface, the author mentions that this edition includes better transcription as new fonts are used, and an additional chapter on the development of handwriting. Since this book is intended for university students, more extensive supplementary material has been added, including a companion website with MP3 downloads that contain pronunciation of Old English, Middle English, and Modern English. In every chapter, following the points discussed, there are activities to be carried out by students.
The introduction explains the methodology recommended for using the book for classroom instruction. The author explains the importance of regional and social dialects and their contribution to Standard English. He explains that the book will present the lexical, semantic, morphological, and syntactic variations across time that lead to Modern Standard English. He provides some useful examples to the reader.
Chapter two provides information on how English was brought to Britain and how it developed. Chapter three presents Written OE. This chapter includes how the Roman alphabet was used to write OE, including consonants and short and long vowels. The author, through historical events such as the conversion of Britain to Christianity in the seventh century, the effect of the presence of Danish and Norwegians Vikings and their settlement in Britain, and the Norman conquest, illustrated through the chronicles, presents the changes that took place in the language, in addition to confirming the existence of dialectal variation. Chapter five presents OE, while chapter six presents the route from OE to ME presenting phonological and orthographical examples. Chapters six and seven concentrate on the Early Middle English in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Chapter Eight compares Northern and Southern texts to identify the effect of Old French (OF) and Old Norse (ON) on Old English in the thirteenth century.
Chapters nine to thirteen deal with the fourteenth century but within regional variation in which Southern and Kentish dialects are presented as well as the Northern, West, and East Midland dialects and London dialect. These five chapters give a comprehensive introduction to how EMnE began in the fifteenth century. Chapter fourteen deals with the development of EMnE in the fifteenth century while chapters fifteen and sixteen deal with its development in the sixteenth century. Chapter eighteen focuses on the development in the seventeenth century. Chapter nineteen presents the English language in the eighteenth century. Chapter twenty compares some historical texts from Old to Modern English and the last chapter, twenty one, offers a conclusion to the whole study.
EVALUATION This study is an excellent textbook not only for English majors but for linguistic students of other languages as well who can benefit highly from a comparative perspective and tracing patterns of developments that took place in the English language. The activities offered at the end of each chapter are highly beneficial allowing readers to deepen their understanding of the contents of the chapters. The texts offer valuable explanation of the chronicles. It is an in depth study of the evolving variations in language over time and an insightful analysis of the development of the English language. The one problem with the book is that it is presently too long, and if any additions are made, it is suggested that it be split into two parts.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER Zeinab Ibrahim is a sociolinguist (variationist) specializing in the Arabic language. She earned her PhD from Georgetown University focusing on lexical variation in Modern Standard Arabic. She has several publications on Modern Standard Arabic: ''Lexical Variation in Modern Standard Arabic'' (in _The Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics_, Brill Publishers, Forthcoming 2007), “Borrowing in Modern Standard Arabic” (in _Innovation and Continuity in Language and Communication of Different Language Cultures_ 9. Edited by Rudolf Muhr. Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 2006, 235-260).