Close cookie details

This site uses cookies. Learn more about cookies.

OverDrive would like to use cookies to store information on your computer to improve your user experience at our Website. One of the cookies we use is critical for certain aspects of the site to operate and has already been set. You may delete and block all cookies from this site, but this could affect certain features or services of the site. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, click here to see our Privacy Policy.

If you do not wish to continue, please click here to exit this site.

Hide notification

  Main Nav
Inventing English
Cover of Inventing English
Inventing English
A Portable History of the Language
Borrow Borrow

Why is there such a striking difference between English spelling and English pronunciation? How did our seemingly relatively simple grammar rules develop? What are the origins of regional dialect, literary language, and everyday speech, and what do they have to do with you?

Seth Lerer's Inventing English is a masterful, engaging history of the English language from the age of Beowulf to the rap of Eminem. Many have written about the evolution of our grammar, pronunciation, and vocabulary, but only Lerer situates these developments in the larger history of English, America, and literature.

Lerer begins in the seventh century with the poet Caedmon learning to sing what would become the earliest poem in English. He then looks at the medieval scribes and poets who gave shape to Middle English. He finds the traces of the Great Vowel Shift in the spelling choices of letter writers of the fifteenth century and explores the achievements of Samuel Johnson's Dictionary of 1755 and The Oxford English Dictionary of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He describes the differences between English and American usage and, through the example of Mark Twain, the link between regional dialect and race, class, and gender. Finally, he muses on the ways in which contact with foreign languages, popular culture, advertising, the Internet, and e-mail continue to shape English for future generations.

Each concise chapter illuminates a moment of invention-a time when people discovered a new form of expression or changed the way they spoke or wrote. In conclusion, Lerer wonders whether globalization and technology have turned English into a world language and reflects on what has been preserved and what has been lost. A unique blend of historical and personal narrative, Inventing English is the surprising tale of a language that is as dynamic as the people to whom it belongs.

Why is there such a striking difference between English spelling and English pronunciation? How did our seemingly relatively simple grammar rules develop? What are the origins of regional dialect, literary language, and everyday speech, and what do they have to do with you?

Seth Lerer's Inventing English is a masterful, engaging history of the English language from the age of Beowulf to the rap of Eminem. Many have written about the evolution of our grammar, pronunciation, and vocabulary, but only Lerer situates these developments in the larger history of English, America, and literature.

Lerer begins in the seventh century with the poet Caedmon learning to sing what would become the earliest poem in English. He then looks at the medieval scribes and poets who gave shape to Middle English. He finds the traces of the Great Vowel Shift in the spelling choices of letter writers of the fifteenth century and explores the achievements of Samuel Johnson's Dictionary of 1755 and The Oxford English Dictionary of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He describes the differences between English and American usage and, through the example of Mark Twain, the link between regional dialect and race, class, and gender. Finally, he muses on the ways in which contact with foreign languages, popular culture, advertising, the Internet, and e-mail continue to shape English for future generations.

Each concise chapter illuminates a moment of invention-a time when people discovered a new form of expression or changed the way they spoke or wrote. In conclusion, Lerer wonders whether globalization and technology have turned English into a world language and reflects on what has been preserved and what has been lost. A unique blend of historical and personal narrative, Inventing English is the surprising tale of a language that is as dynamic as the people to whom it belongs.

Available formats-
  • OverDrive Read
  • EPUB eBook
Languages:-
Copies-
  • Available:
    1
  • Library copies:
    1
Levels-
  • ATOS:
  • Lexile:
  • Interest Level:
  • Text Difficulty:

Recommended for you

About the Author-
  • Seth Lerer was born in Brooklyn, New York, and was educated at Wesleyan University, Oxford University, and the University of Chicago. He taught at Princeton before moving to Stanford University, where he is the Avalon Foundation Professor in the Humanities. The author of many books and articles on medieval and Renaissance literature, he is known nationally for his audio and videotape series, The History of the English Language, for the Teaching Company.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from January 15, 2007
    Lerer is not just a scholar (he's a professor of humanities at Stanford and the man behind the Teaching Company's audio and videotape series The History of the English Language
    ); he's also a fan of English—his passion is evident on every page of this examination of how our language came to sound—and look—as it does and how words came to have their current meanings. He writes with friendly reverence of the masters—Chaucer, Milton, Johnson, Shakespeare, Twain—illustrating through example the monumental influence they had on the English we speak and write today (Shakespeare alone coined nearly 6,000 words). Anecdotes illustrate how developments in the physical world (technological advances, human migration) gave rise to new words and word-forms. With the invention of the telephone, for instance, a neutral greeting was required to address callers whose gender and social rank weren't known. America minted "hello" (derived from the maritime "ahoy"), and soon Twain enshrined the term in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
    . Whether it's Lerer's close examination of the earliest surviving poem in English (the seventh-century Caedmon's Hymn
    ) or his fresh perspective on Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, the book percolates with creative energy and will please anyone intrigued by how our richly variegated language came to be.

  • Library Journal

    March 1, 2007
    In 19 essays, Lerer (humanities, Stanford Univ.)known for his "History of the English Language" audio and videotape series for the Teaching Companypresents his "portable assembly of encounters" with the English language, namely, a synopsis of contributions from figures as varied as seventh-century poet Caedmon and civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. Lerer aims to connect "individual experience and literary culture," typically examining quotations from literature, famous speeches, and even an email message. He includes lengthy quotes sometimes requiring translation from Old or Middle English. In this way, Lerer explains English-language development regarding word coining and borrowing, vowel shifts, and the role of such prominent publications as "Samuel Johnson's Dictionary" (1755). He also explores dialects and the impact of war on language. Following the works cited for each chapter are two appendixes consisting largely of phonetic symbols and a glossary of linguistic terms. Lerer's survey is distinct from other recent essay collections using a chronological approach (e.g., Linda Mugglestone's "The Oxford History of English") or a more comprehensive, topical tack (e.g., Richard M. Hogg and David Denison's "A History of the English Language"). Recommended for academic libraries.Marianne Orme, Des Plaines P.L., IL

    Copyright 2007 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Publishers Weekly

    "The book percolates with creative energy and will please anyone intrigued by how our richly variegated language came to be."

Title Information+
  • Publisher
    Columbia University Press
  • OverDrive Read
    Release date:
  • EPUB eBook
    Release date:
Digital Rights Information+
  • Copyright Protection (DRM) required by the Publisher may be applied to this title to limit or prohibit printing or copying. File sharing or redistribution is prohibited. Your rights to access this material expire at the end of the lending period. Please see Important Notice about Copyrighted Materials for terms applicable to this content.

Status bar:

You've reached your checkout limit.

Visit your Checkouts page to manage your titles.

Close

You already have this title checked out.

Want to go to your Checkouts?

Close

Recommendation Limit Reached.

You've reached the maximum number of titles you can recommend at this time. You can recommend up to 1 titles every 7 day(s).

Close

Sign in to recommend this title.

Recommend your library consider adding this title to the Digital Collection.

Close

Enhanced Details

Close
Close

Limited availability

Availability can change throughout the month based on the library's budget.

is available for days.

Once playback starts, you have hours to view the title.

Close

Permissions

Close

The OverDrive Read format of this eBook has professional narration that plays while you read in your browser. Learn more here.

Close

Holds

Total holds:


Close

Restricted

Some format options have been disabled. You may see additional download options outside of this network.

Close

You've reached your library's checkout limit for digital titles.

To make room for more checkouts, you may be able to return titles from your Checkouts page.

Close

Excessive Checkout Limit Reached.

There have been too many titles checked out and returned by your account within a short period of time.

Try again in several days. If you are still not able to check out titles after 7 days, please contact Support.

Close

You have already checked out this title. To access it, return to your Checkouts page.

Close

This title is not available for your card type. If you think this is an error contact support.

Close

An unexpected error has occurred.

If this problem persists, please contact support.

Close

Close

NOTE: Barnes and Noble® may change this list of devices at any time.

Close
Buy it now
and help our library WIN!
Inventing English
Inventing English
A Portable History of the Language
Seth Lerer
Choose a retail partner below to buy this title for yourself.
A portion of this purchase goes to support your library.
Close
Close

There are no copies of this issue left to borrow. Please try to borrow this title again when a new issue is released.

Close
Barnes & Noble Sign In |   Sign In

You will be prompted to sign into your library account on the next page.

If this is your first time selecting “Send to NOOK,” you will then be taken to a Barnes & Noble page to sign into (or create) your NOOK account. You should only have to sign into your NOOK account once to link it to your library account. After this one-time step, periodicals will be automatically sent to your NOOK account when you select "Send to NOOK."

The first time you select “Send to NOOK,” you will be taken to a Barnes & Noble page to sign into (or create) your NOOK account. You should only have to sign into your NOOK account once to link it to your library account. After this one-time step, periodicals will be automatically sent to your NOOK account when you select "Send to NOOK."

You can read periodicals on any NOOK tablet or in the free NOOK reading app for iOS, Android or Windows 8.

Accept to ContinueCancel