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Journeys In English [Audio]

This BBC Radio 4 series is written and presented by Bill Bryson and based on his best-selling book "Mother Tongue". In it he romps through the history of Britain to reveal how English became such an infuriatingly complex - but ultimately world-beating - language. The subject areas covered in the course of the programme (which was originally broadcast in 6 episodes) include the arrival of the Angles and the Saxons, the rules which brought order to a disorderly language, the million and one ways to have fun with the English language, the struggle with phrasal verbs (and the way things often get lost in the translation) and the future of English - does Estuary English Rule OK?
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Bill Bryson presents a fascinating exploration of the history of the English language.

About the Author

Bill Bryson's bestselling travel books include The Lost Continent and Notes from a Small Island, which in a national poll was voted the book that best represents Britain. Another travel book, A Walk in the Woods, has become a major film starring Robert Redford, Nick Nolte and Emma Thompson. His new number one Sunday Times bestseller is The Road to Little Dribbling: More Notes from a Small Island. His acclaimed book on the history of science, A Short History of Nearly Everything, won the Royal Society's Aventis Prize as well as the Descartes Prize, the European Union's highest literary award. He has written books on language, on Shakespeare, on history, and on his own childhood in the hilarious memoir The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid. His last critically lauded bestsellers were At Home: a Short History of Private Life, and One Summer: America 1927 Bill Bryson was born in the American Midwest, and now lives in the UK. A former Chancellor of Durham University, he was President of the Campaign to Protect Rural England for five years, and is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society.


YA-- Bryson traces the English language from the Neanderthal man of 30,000 years ago to the present. Interestingly, he contrasts the language as it developed simultaneously in various locations. He also presents examples of the evolution of words and their spellings. The book is well researched and informative; the thorough index will aid novices in the exploration of the language.-- Diane Goheen, Topeka West High School, KS

Linguistics as pop science: Mario Pei's works, such as The Story of Language , have shown how this formula can fascinate, and Bryson's ( The Lost Continent ) blend of linguistic anecdote and Anglo-Saxon cultural history likewise keeps us turning pages. Depth of treatment is not, however, to be found here. Bryson, who wants to see comedy in the English language's quest for hegemony in the modern world, strives for entertaining ironies. While his historical review is thorough, replete with enlightening scholarly citations, he mostly reiterates conventional views about English's structural superiority, asserting that the language dominates the globe today by virtue of its lack of inflection and its ``democratic'' suppleness in accommodating new forms. He retells old tales with fresh verve, and his review of the spelling reform movement has particular merit, but Bryson becomes sloppy when matters of rhetoric and grammar arise, e.g., ``He Shakespeare even used adverbs as nouns, as with `that bastardly rogue,' '' and in presenting his opinions (Samuel Johnson's prose is deemed ``rambling''). BOMC main selection . (July)

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