Evolving English

One Language, Many Voices

David Crystal

Evolving English

David Crystal

Distributed for British Library

160 pages | 150 color plates | 8 x 11 | © 2010
Paper $22.50 ISBN: 9780712350983 Published March 2012 For sale in North and South America only

One-third of the world’s population can speak or write in English, which is an unprecedented achievement for a language. How did this enormous reach come about? And what happens to a language when it is used by so many? In Evolving English, David Crystal, the leading authority on the development of the English language, answers these questions and more.

Unlike other histories of the English language, Evolving English is a fully illustrated history, charting the development of the language through images, from the earliest runic inscriptions in Old English and the emergence of a standard variety of English between 1400 and 1800 to the most modern forms of the language, as seen in concrete and text poetry. In telling the story of the language’s growth and change, Crystal draws on examples from English in its various guises and uses—including everyday English, English in the workplace, regional and international varieties, and English in playful and literary expression. 

Crystal’s accessible and lively linguistic history shows where language is now, where it has been, and—perhaps most important of all—where it is heading. Crystal is not afraid to address the new varieties of the language appearing in world literature, on the Internet, and in cell phone text messages. Both topical and readable, Evolving English shows that the story of the world’s most common language is as diverse and interesting as those words that comprise it.


1  English Comes of Age
2  Setting the Standard
3  Everyday English
4  English at Work
5  English at Play
6  Accents and Dialects
7  English Around the World

Further Reading
Review Quotes

“Perhaps the world’s most prolific authority on English language and linguistics, Crystal is one of only a few scholars who can make difficult subjects accessible to a wide audience. . . . An excellent addition to any library's holdings on English language history. . . . Highly recommended.”

ELT Journal

“Combining a hobbyist's enthusiasm with an academic's erudition, [Crystal] has a knack for writing in a down-to-earth style that appeals to a wide audience regardless of how familiar they are with the subject matter. . . . Evolving English is a beautifully illustrated history, each page spread containing at least one large image alongside concise and helpful commentary. A history of language might sound like a dry subject to the uninitiated, but it is in fact pretty spectacular . . .  and with pictures this ongoing mystery story comes vividly to life.”

For more information, or to order this book, please visit http://www.press.uchicago.edu
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