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The Story of English Study Guide & Plot Summary

Robert McCrum
This Study Guide consists of approximately 37 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Story of English.
This section contains 524 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Purchase our The Story of English Study Guide

The Story of English Summary & Study Guide Description

The Story of English Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on The Story of English by Robert McCrum.

Plot Summary

The Story of English is a brief history of the English language from its inception to a study of its variations all across the contemporary world. English is the most widely used language in the world. It is the language of world politics, commerce, science, and popular culture. English has the unique ability to grow and adapt in response to challenges and new situations, which the authors display with examples drawn from a wide range of media sources throughout the book. Voice recordings have made knowledge of spoken English easier in the last century or so but before that much had to be reconstructed. It is also unclear to the authors how to separate English into accents, types, dialects, and so on. Along the way, the authors undermine a number of important myths.

The Story of English is composed of an introduction, nine chapters, and an epilogue. The introduction explains what the authors intend to accomplish in the book and explain some of the animating problems that the author observes. Chapter 1, An English-Speaking World explains how the world came to be dominated by English in recent decades. The book is particularly focused on the United Kingdom and so starts its history from this location. Many regional dialects of English existed until the BBC and Received Pronunciation became widespread. While regional dialects did not disappear, they were substantially diminished. The United States continued the spread of English after the decline of the British Empire. However, global English is not limited to American or Standard English.

Chapter 2, The Mother Tongue, tells the story of the origin of English. The development of English began when the Celtic British were conquered by Julius Caesar in 55 B.C. which led to their partial Romanization. The Romans left England in the early fifty century AD and soon thereafter three Germanic tribes, the Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes, migrated to English. When Christianity came to the British Isles in the late sixth century, a large range of Roman and Greek words were imported. Scandinavian invasions between the 8th and 11th centuries were another important influence and the Norman Conquest revolutionized the English language, transitioning English from Old to Middle English.

Chapter 3, A Muse of Fire, shows how Middle English started to evolve into Modern English during the Elizabethan Age through the flourishing of English culture and the beginning of the British Empire. Chapter 4, The Guid Scots Tongue, tells the history of the Scottish dialect and accent. Chapter 5, The Irish Question, tells the same story for the Irish. Chapter 6, Black on White, explains the formation of black dialects across the Western Hemisphere. Chapter 7, Pioneers! O Pioneers! Focuses on American English and the alterations made from Standard British English.

Chapter 8, The Echoes of an English Voice, focuses largely on the Australian and New Zealand variants of English. Chapter 9, The New Englishes, quickly reviews the many variants of English that have developed in countries that the British controlled in Africa, the Caribbean, and the East like South Africa, Jamaica, and Singapore. In the epilogue titled fittingly Next Year's Words, the authors make predictions about the future evolutions of the English language.

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This section contains 524 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Purchase our The Story of English Study Guide
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The Story of English from BookRags and Gale's For Students Series. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.
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