LINGUIST List 23.2092

Mon Apr 30 2012

Review: Applied Ling.; Historical Ling.: Brinton & Arnovick (2011)

Editor for this issue: Joseph Salmons <>

Date: 30-Apr-2012
From: Daniela Cesiri <>
Subject: The English Language
E-mail this message to a friend

Discuss this message

Announced at

AUTHORS: Brinton, Laurel J. and Arnovick, Leslie K.TITLE: The English LanguageSUBTITLE: A Linguistic History, 2nd EditionPUBLISHER: Oxford University PressYEAR: 2011

Daniela Cesiri, Department of Comparative Linguistic and Cultural Studies,University of Venice "Ca' Foscari", Italy

SUMMARYThe book under review is a new edition of a textbook meant for undergraduatestudents (at any rate, students with no prior specific knowledge) in history ofEnglish and English language and linguistics. The authors specify that the texttakes a North American perspective "especially in its discussion of the nationaland regional varieties of English".

Each chapter includes self-testing exercises with keys provided at the end ofthe volume, which should help students ascertain individually whether they areeffectively learning the concepts provided in the textbook. In addition, thebooks comes with a companion website which serves as an additional tool to bothstudents and lecturers. The website includes a 53-page file of self-testingexercises in .pdf with keys in a separate file for individual study. Eachchapter is also accompanied by a final section with suggestions for furtherreading and listening, as well as web links, and references to sound files onthe companion website. These files are readings of literary samples from the OldEnglish (OE) to the Early Modern English (EModE) periods which aim to reproducethe 'original' pronunciation of the relevant period.

The chapters are constructed to lead students (and instructors) into the historyof English and some of its varieties, starting from a general introduction totheoretical and basic concepts in general linguistics, and finishing with adescription of national and regional varieties.

CHAPTER ONE (Studying the History of English) introduces basic concepts oflanguage, language change and attitudes towards the latter, as well as to thereasons and resources available for the study of the History of English.

CHAPTER TWO (The Sounds and Writing of English) deals with a description of thesounds of English, information on the IPA alphabet used to transcribe thesesounds and to the origins of writing in English and of writing in general.

CHAPTER THREE (Causes and Mechanisms of Language Change) explores the mechanisms-- in the authors' word -- of phonological, morphological, syntactic andsemantic change with a special reference to English in the context of change inother Indo-European languages.

CHAPTER FOUR (The Indo-European Language Family and Proto-Indo-European)introduces readers to the reconstruction of Proto-Indo-European and tolinguistic classification generally, as well as to the description of WestGermanic, the immediate family of English.

CHAPTER FIVE (Germanic and the Development of Old English) describes the firstwell-attested stage of English, the OE period (c. 449-1066). The authors providenot only a description of the main linguistic changes in OE but also adescription of dialects and written records available for this period whichprovide our evidence for this stage of English. In addition, the chapter givesinformation on laws of language change, including philological studies as theyare generally used to explain changes from Proto-Indo-European to Germanic.

CHAPTERS SIX and SEVEN (The Words and Sounds of Old English and The Grammar ofOld English, respectively) describe the main lexical, phonological and syntacticfeatures of OE, with sample texts and analysis to allow students to relateconcepts in the chapters to original texts.

CHAPTERS EIGHT and NINE (The Rise of Middle English: Words and Sounds and TheGrammar of Middle English and Rise of a Written Standard) provide an account ofthe subsequent period, Middle English (ME, 1066-c. 1500). This period sees theinfluence of Norman French on English as the direct consequence of the NormanConquest by William the Conqueror (Duke of Normandy) in 1066. ME texts areprovided with relevant analysis which accompanies the description of the mainlinguistic features of ME. In addition, attention is brought to the fact that awritten standard emerges during the ME period with important consequences forthe future codification of the English language.

CHAPTERS TEN and ELEVEN (The Words, Sounds, and Inflections of Early ModernEnglish and Early Modern English Verbal Constructions and Eighteenth-CenturyPrescriptivism) continue the overview by period, in this case EModE (c. 1500-c.1700), including the 18th century prescriptivist movement, which is generallyinserted in the Late Modern English period (c. 1700-c. 1900) and deals withissues on language usage. As in previous chapters, these describe the vocabularyof English during the EModE period as well as its phonological and syntacticfeatures with the final sections of Chapter Eleven dedicated to the codificationof the language through the creation of grammars and dictionaries.

CHAPTER TWELVE (Modern English) deals with syntactic and semantic changes sincethe end of EModE and the consequences for the language brought by the rise ofnew media as well as contemporary changes.

CHAPTER THIRTEEN (Varieties of English) illustrates the development of nationaland regional varieties with the case of North American English and CanadianEnglish compared to British English, only marginally treating other nationalvarieties of English such as Australian and New Zealand English, African Englishand Caribbean English. The section on regional varieties dedicates some space todialects of English in the British Isles and a larger section to English in theUnited States.

The textbook closes with APPENDIX A, a 'Quick Reference Guide' to linguisticchanges in the history of English with tables reproduced from the textbook butgrouped together in this section. APPENDIX B contains a 'Timeline of Historical,Literary and Linguistic Events in the History of English'. 'Exercise Key','Glossary of Linguistic Terms', and 'References' conclude the volume.

EVALUATIONThis book perfectly serves the audience it aims for. Indeed, it is written insuch a way that students with no prior knowledge of the subject or terminologycan approach the text even through individual study. The introduction to thebasic concepts on language change and relative terminology are useful ingradually leading the student to a deeper understanding of English. In addition,historical and social background provided in each chapter integrates andcontextualises the overview of linguistic features.

Also useful are the final sections of each chapter, providing reference tomaterial -- textual, audio-visual and references to online resources provideconsistent help to students who would like to learn more about the history ofEnglish, the majority from Canada. Inclusion of media and online resourcesavailable from other countries would improve knowledge of English as a globalphenomenon as it is pursued worldwide.

The annotated texts illustrating the main phases in the history of English arewell structured and integrate the theoretical explanation in a way that studentswho study individually can find their way into the text.

Beside these very important merits, the book has some minor negative aspectssuch as the chapters' division for the different phases in the history ofEnglish which does not appear balanced. For instance, the textbook dedicatesample space to the OE period (despite some missing information on the Danelawand the latter's influence on present-day English and regional varieties) butless space to ME which is equally important in the development of present-dayEnglish. Moreover, Late Modern English is not taken as a phase in the history ofEnglish and the section dedicated to Modern English is very limited and lessdetailed than the preceding periods. These points do not affect the quality ofthe monograph but their absence is quite surprising in a work of this kind.

Finally, in Chapter Thirteen, the description of national varieties is centredon North America and Canada (as the authors specify in the Preface). Less spaceis dedicated to regional varieties in the British Isles; however, this textbookdescribes English in Ireland with the term Hiberno-English, a term used less andless in work on Irish English. Indeed, as Hickey (2007:5) states, "it is tootechnical: the use of the term demands that it be explained in studies intendedfor a general readership outside Ireland". Academic research on English inIreland tends to use the more neutral term Irish English, which iscomprehensible to students with no prior knowledge of English dialectology andvariation.

On the whole, the contents are presented clearly and simply and the textbookitself is an example of how to introduce (mainly undergraduate) students to thestudy and research of the history and varieties of the English language.

REFERENCESHickey, Raymond. 2007. Irish English. History and present-day forms. Cambridge:Cambridge University Press.

ABOUT THE REVIEWERDaniela Cesiri holds the position of Lecturer-Researcher on EnglishLanguage and Linguistics at the University of Venice "Ca' Foscari" (Italy)where she teaches undergraduate and postgraduate courses. Her researchinterests include the history of the English language (with particularattention to the Late Modern English period), the historical development ofIrish English (especially during the nineteenth and early twentiethcenturies), Corpus Linguistics applied to synchronic and diachronicstudies, as well as Applied Linguistics (especially English for SpecialPurposes and English for Academic Purposes, both synchronically anddiachronically).

Page Updated: 30-Apr-2012