Think On My Words: Exploring Shakespeare's Language

Overview

'You speak a language that I understand not.' Hermione's words to Leontes in The Winter's Tale are likely to ring true with many people reading or watching Shakespeare's plays today. For decades, people have been studying Shakespeare's life and times, and in recent years there has been a renewed surge of interest in aspects of his language. So how can we better understand Shakespeare? How did he manipulate language to produce such an unrivalled body of work, which has enthralled generations both as theatre and as literature? David Crystal
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Think On My Words

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Overview

'You speak a language that I understand not.' Hermione's words to Leontes in The Winter's Tale are likely to ring true with many people reading or watching Shakespeare's plays today. For decades, people have been studying Shakespeare's life and times, and in recent years there has been a renewed surge of interest in aspects of his language. So how can we better understand Shakespeare? How did he manipulate language to produce such an unrivalled body of work, which has enthralled generations both as theatre and as literature? David Crystal addresses these and many other questions in this lively and original introduction to Shakespeare's language. Covering in turn the five main dimensions of language structure - writing system, pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary and conversational style - the book shows how examining these linguistic 'nuts and bolts' can help us achieve a greater appreciation of Shakespeare's linguistic creativity.

About the Author:
David Crystal is one of the world's foremost authorities on language

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

Here, Crystal (Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language) explains the nature of language and poetic effect in Shakespeare's work, giving a brief and clear description of English prosody and commenting on old (through the 1100s), middle (through the 1400s), early modern (1500-1750), and modern English. Crystal examines the differences between Shakespeare's plays written before and after 1600 to track the playwright's art and development. (He mostly uses the first folio of 1623 but also makes comparisons to the quarto texts.) He explains the nature and use of iambic pentameter and how it works in Shakespeare's plays; gives a good overview of Elizabethan printing practices; brilliantly describes Shakespeare's grammar, spelling, punctuation, pronunciation, and vocabulary; and insightfully shows how the elements of syntax, morphology, and accents combine to form Shakespeare's discourse. The appendix list of "false friends," words that are spelled the same but have different meaning in early modern and modern English, is especially illuminating. A fine introduction to Shakespearean studies; essential for literature collections.
—Gene Shaw

From the Publisher
'Here is a linguist [David Crystal] who knows not only how words work but how they work in theatre. Anyone who cares for Shakespeare will be informed and entertained by this intriguing and wide-ranging study.' Stanley Wells
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521876940
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/2008
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 5.43 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.79 (d)

Meet the Author

David Crystal is a writer, editor, lecturer and broadcaster. He is Honorary Professor of Linguistics at the University of Bangor.

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Table of Contents

List of figures and tables     vii
Preface     ix
Abbreviations     xi
'You speak a language that I understand not': myths and realities     1
The quantity myth     2
The invention myth     8
The translation myth     10
The style myth     15
'Now, sir, what is your text?' Knowing the sources     22
Texts     22
Printing     27
Manuscripts?     31
Shakespeare's language?     40
'In print I found it': Shakespearean graphology     42
The alphabet     43
Capitalization     48
Space-savers     53
Spelling     58
'Know my stops': Shakespearean punctuation     64
Exclamation marks     72
Parentheses     78
Apostrophes     83
Italics     88
Inverted commas     94
Hyphens     96
'Speak the speech': Shakespearean phonology     100
The way they said it     101
Prosody     105
Why pentameters?     112
'Trippingly upon the tongue': Shakespearean pronunciation     125
Theevidence     130
Insights     143
'Think on my words': Shakespearean vocabulary     146
Easy words     147
Metrical constraints     150
Difficult words     152
False friends     156
Old and new words     159
Coinages     161
Clusters     165
Repetitions     168
Signposts     171
Collocations     173
Perspective     175
'Talk of a noun and a verb': Shakespearean grammar     178
Similarities and differences     181
Nouns     184
Adjectives     186
Verbs     188
Pronouns     193
Word order     199
'Hear sweet discourse': Shakespearean conversation     207
Verse and prose     208
Metre in discourse     219
Varieties of language     221
A legal example     224
Epilogue - 'Your daring tongue': Shakespearean creativity     230
An A-to-Z of Shakespeare's false friends     234
Notes     245
References and further reading     247
Index     249
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