I have just come across these interesting videos by the Open University: 10 videos of about 1 minute each which tell the history of the English language as it unfolded over the centuries.
Of course it’s not an in-depth treatment of this fascinating matter, but it is certainly a neat way to introduce it.
This is the first video, Anglo-Saxon – The History of English (1/10):
The other ones can be found here:
If you are looking for something along the same lines to read while on vacation, The Stories of English by David Crystal is an interesting read.
I have just read a really interesting discussion about the degrammaticalization of the morpheme -ish (as in red >> reddish).
The question is whether ish can be considered as a “liberated word form” or if it can only be used on its own when the word it should be attached to can be easily recovered in the context as in:
- Is he rich?
In the example above, of course, it means “richish”. But what about this example:
- Can I punch anyone on earth?
- Yes, ish.
Is ish referring to anyone or to the entire speech act? You can read the entire discussion here. I agree with those who claim that in this case ish has scope over the entire speech act. It should be interpreted to mean “sort of” and therefore it is used as a free word form to mitigate the illocutionary effect. Any other examples?
I have decided to join in the great initiative promoted by Ever Ours (Lydia) and Utterly Engaged (Lucia and Henny). For Japan With Love and the Bloggers’ Day of Silence (March 18) will help raise funds for disaster relief, emergency shelter and supplies via Shelterbox. Please visit For Japan with Love and donate! Donations will be accepted until March 31, 2011.
If you are on Twitter, please spread the word and use the tag #forjapanwithlove! Thanks!
Language Diversity in the USA is a very interesting book published by Cambridge University Press (the American edition is available here). It deals with the controversial issue of ethnolinguistic diversity in the States. The author, Kim Potowski, tackles the matter starting from common statements such as:
“You’re in America, speak English. It’s our official language.” “Today’s immigrants are not learning English as quickly as those of the past.” “Multilingualism threatens our national unity.”
The author defines these statements “myths” and profiles the top 12 minority languages in the USA (Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog, French, Vietnamese, German, Korean, Russian, Italian, Arabic, Portuguese, Polish), with an additional chapter about Native American languages. She discusses the features of each language and concludes every chapter with a prediction about the future longevity of each one of them.
Overall, the book allays possible fears that either English or American national identity should be threatened by language diversity, which the author sees as a resource for the US.
An interesting article about the changing pronunciation of some words in British English: “The Pronunciation of Controversy“.
The interesting fact is that, while most changes are due to the influence of American English on British English, in some cases such as the one at issue, the change has nothing to do with the American standard and appears to be an “internal British affair”.
Apparently, there is some debate about whether English spelling needs to be simplified: “Unthinkable? Simpler spelling” and a reply: “These variations on English spellings simply won’t work“.
Wasn’t it already complicated enough?!