Born as a Germanic tongue with the arrival in Britain of the Anglo-Saxons in the early medieval period, heavily influenced by Norman French from the 11th century, and finally emerging as modern English from the late Middle Ages, the English language has grown to become the linguistic equivalent of a superpower, and is now sometimes described as the world's lingua franca. Worldwide some 380 million people speak English as a first language and some 600 million as a second language. A staggering one billion people are believed to be learning it. English is the premier international language in communications, science, business, aviation, entertainment, and diplomacy and also on the Internet. It has been one of the official languages of the United Nations since its founding in 1945. It is considered by many good judges to be well on the way to becoming the world's first universal language. Author Philip Gooden tells the story of the English language in all its richness and variety.
From the intriguing origins and changing definitions of common words such as 'OK', 'beserk', 'curfew', 'cabal' and 'pow-wow', to the massive transformations wrought in the vocabulary and structure of the language by Anglo-Saxon and Norman conquest, through to the literary triumphs of Beowulf, The Canterbury Tales and the works of Shakespeare. The Story of English is a fascinating tale of linguistic, social and cultural transformation, and one that is accessibly and authoritatively told by an author in perfect command of his material.
Philip Gooden is the author of The Guinness Guide to Better English and the editor of The Mammoth Book of Literary Anecdotes.