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
Zeinab Ibrahim, The American University in Cairo
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
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).