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Inventing English: A Portable History of the Language

Average Rating 3.5
( 6 )
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  • Posted April 28, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    An excellent textbook!

    This was my textbook for a college class and I was impressed with how clear and straight-forward the writing is. After being dragged thriugh the desert of traditional textbooks, this was a breath of fresh air! I don't even plan on getting rid of it now that the class is over.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 18, 2007

    Uneven

    The possibilities of this title caught my eye (ear?) while listening to Professor Lerer discuss it and its subject on C-Span. Reading it proved interesting - he provides a number of pieces of information and discusses a number of topics which I found new or unfamiliar - but it fell short of its promise. First, disclaimers to the contrary, a basic knowledge of linguistics is necessary to appreciate the information it provides. Second, the professor does indeed know his English, but fails repeatedly and annoyingly when he strays into Latin. Enough so that his invitation to sing along with him at the end of his first chapter prompted me to say, 'not if you keep hitting these sour notes.' Third, while he celebrates the changing character of modern English and invites his reader to do the same, his text is a standard popularization of the language in which he teaches, reflecting little of what he claims is going on. Perhaps because his book would otherwise never have seen print? Fourth and last, like many of his academic contemporaries, he shows himself ready and eager to question or challenge the mental worlds in which his predecessors thought about the language, but unable to question his own, e.g., his assumption about the fluidity of the language which cannot be 'regulated' by anyone. All in all, the book is an interesting way to pick up information about the history of English if you're unfamiliar with it, less so if you are and are familiar with the wider field of linguistics.

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    Posted July 24, 2011

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