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The Adventure of English: The Biography of a Language | [Melvyn Bragg]

The Adventure of English: The Biography of a Language

This is the remarkable story of the English language; from its beginnings as a minor guttural Germanic dialect to its position today as a truly established global language. The Adventure of English is not only an enthralling story of power, religion, and trade, but also the story of people, and how their lives continue to change the extraordinary language that is English.
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Publisher's Summary

This is the remarkable story of the English language; from its beginnings as a minor guttural Germanic dialect to its position today as a truly established global language. The Adventure of English is not only an enthralling story of power, religion, and trade, but also the story of people, and how their lives continue to change the extraordinary language that is English.

©2003 Melvyn Bragg; (P)2014 Audible, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"Both entertaining and informative." (Booklist)
"This 'biography' succeeds in its broad, sweeping narrative." (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.1 (281 )
5 star
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3 star
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Overall
4.0 (45 )
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Story
4.0 (47 )
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3 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Francis Liverpool, United Kingdom 13/09/2006
    Francis Liverpool, United Kingdom 13/09/2006 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "All the voices"

    This is not perhaps the most obvious choice for an audio book but it proves in fact to be an excellent work to listen to.Melvyn Bragg writes in a way that is a model of intelligent popularisation : without ever being either too technical or patronisingly simple he conveys much information about the history of the English language in a way that will entertain and instruct anyone with any degree of interest in the subject.Robert Powell -always a most competent and intelligent reader-copes superbly with what is often a difficult text.He manfully does his best to impart interest even to the long lists of words that occur in some chapters, but where he excels particularly is in the plausible rendition that he gives of the various dialects and languages related to English - his Frisian and Anglo-Saxon may or may not satisfy experts but they sound most convincing.He clearly enjoyed the challenge of conveying how differently English did and does sound. With such expert reading this is one of the occasions when an audio book has a distinct advantage over the silent printed text.If you have any interest in our language, you will enjoy this work and this reading.

    107 of 107 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kirstine Bonnyrigg, United Kingdom 07/12/2007
    Kirstine Bonnyrigg, United Kingdom 07/12/2007 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Outstandingly well-read and enjoyable journey"

    Melvyn Bragg writes in an accessible style well-suited to be read aloud. He has been well-served by the reader, Robert Powell, who has brought the book alive by his outstanding ability to pronounce all the variants of English that can only be depicted by phonetic symbols on the page. The use of the word 'Adventure' in the title is apposite as the book is as lively as a good historical novel.

    18 of 18 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Anne Sk?ndalSweden 29/07/2009
    Anne Sk?ndalSweden 29/07/2009 Member Since 2009
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    "Fascinating language"

    I had a hard time learning English but when I came to the stage I was able to read and listen without using my dictionary and still understand it I became more and more interested in the history of the language; both the development and the paralels I see in my own language.

    Now I have both read and listened to this book. It's worth it!

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Peter Beulah, United Kingdom 26/01/2009
    Peter Beulah, United Kingdom 26/01/2009 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
    235
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    234
    74
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    "Very educational"

    Fascinating book, which captures a mass of interesting facts about the English language inside a well narrated and informative history. Highly recommend it to someone interested in the roots of the language from the 5th century onwards - this is a very accessible listen and I would go so far as to say it is indeed an adventure to listen to. It touches on the way English spans the globe in it's many forms and derivatives and why it is such an extensive, flexible language.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David Bushey, Herts, United Kingdom 02/03/2008
    David Bushey, Herts, United Kingdom 02/03/2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
    16
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    "A great accompaniment to any journey"

    I found the Bragg Powell combination very enjoyable. I thought Powell produced passable attempts at the European pronunciations, but my Caribbean wife and I had to laugh at some of the creole and pigeon he produced. Small criticism though and it even at times added to the listening experience. The news that we British communicated officially in French until Edward 1st was quite a surprise. Heartily recommended

    14 of 17 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lyndsey La Chapelle NeuveFrance 17/09/2010
    Lyndsey La Chapelle NeuveFrance 17/09/2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
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    "Great for language enthusiasts"

    Really enjoyable for anyone who likes history or languages. As a teacher of English as a foreign language, it was very interesting to pick out all the influences and words from other languages that have made up English. Long may that continue!

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Caroline 27/08/2009
    Caroline 27/08/2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Great book, great narration"

    I keep going back to listen to this book. It is so interesting and a product of lots of research that doesn't become tedious, although the lists of words probably work better on the page. But that aside, I love it.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John Blackmore Ely, UK 23/12/2012
    John Blackmore Ely, UK 23/12/2012 Member Since 2010

    John Blackmore

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    "Fascinating"

    A really good listen for anyone interested in the English language. Some of the information presented I already knew but overall I realize how little I knew about my own language. As always the narration is as important as the book itself. Robert Powell can always be relied upon to keep me interested. I will certainly be listening to this book again.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ivor 31/10/2009
    Ivor 31/10/2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "In a word"

    I first bought this title because I thought it would teach me something about the reason why we talk the way we do. It did far more than that. Robert Powell is an excellent choice for the reader. After listening to the book I bought a copy and tried to work my way through some of the Old English sections. I found that Robert's mastery of the dialects and phrases helped me enjoy it more and make sense of it. Melvyn Bragg has written an extremely accessable account of our language that incorporates mystery, warfare,domination,robbery and the ability of our language to expand using other languages.
    Of special interest are the chapters on American and Australian English.
    Excellent title.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Patricia Kendal, United Kingdom 15/08/2009
    Patricia Kendal, United Kingdom 15/08/2009 Member Since 2007
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    "Why didn't I enjoy this?"

    Fascinating subject, full of facts - so why didn't I enjoy it? I nearly didn't make it past the first chapter. Perhaps it's better read on the page than listened to? The endless lists, for example. And too many examples per fact (yes we've got the point, thank you). Or maybe this book is of more interest to a non-native speaker/lover of English Language. I really don't know, but this is the most disappointing talking book for me so far.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-10 of 16 results PREVIOUS12NEXT
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  • Amazon Customer
    Arkansas
    21/10/05
    Overall
    "Many Of Course monments"

    Highly recommend to anyone who loves our language, hates our language, or just wants to know where in the world did that come from. Be prepared for the book of lists as my wife called it, but it does not detract from the content. There are many times when you will hear the origin of the word or words and say of course, it makes sense now. This book shows that we speak a living history.

    This book is the best example of an audiobook being better than the written word. The narrator does make the book.

    87 of 87 people found this review helpful
  • ezs
    09/11/05
    Overall
    "Comprehensive, engaging and informative"

    Although this book has a running time of just over twelve hours; the listener is soon immersed and lost in this treasury by Melvyn Bragg. Covering the full span of time from the earliest European roots of English to the most current usage - this is a must listen.

    Robert Powell is the perfect reader for this book; his natural style and easy meter really compliment the content.

    35 of 35 people found this review helpful
  • Tim
    Fremont, NE, United States
    18/04/06
    Overall
    "Very Interesting!!"

    What would seem to be a very dull subject is made rather interesting by this book. There are parts where the book drags, but the chapters of Wycliffe, Tyndale, Shakespeare and the King James Bible are just a few of the intriguing highlights of this book.

    As some have said, this is a book that is probably BETTER as an audiobook. The reader does a GREAT job with old english and many of the dialects. Hearing someone speak ancient versions of the language (rather than trying to figure out what they were supposed to have sounded like) is a BIG bonus with the audiobook version.

    The author also did a great job with describing how dialects occur, even in modern times (such as "Pigeon" dialects). I also thought the discussion of attempts to create a modern "universal" language were quite interesting.

    It was also fascinating to learn how many figures of speech originated with Shakespeare, as well as early versions of the English Bible.

    Definitely well worth the read!

    25 of 25 people found this review helpful
  • Hugh
    Asheville, NC, USA
    12/12/07
    Overall
    "What a story!"

    I have listened to this twice now, and found it hilarious both times. Now, I must admit that the reader is not perfect. Obviously, he has no idea what "okra" is, much less how to pronounce it. But even that was funny. I know I could not begin to produce the variety of accents required to make this work. What is great is the story. I understand so much about my native language that I never knew before. This should be a High School textbook. It's no wonder that English is such a wierd language. This book explains much.

    20 of 20 people found this review helpful
  • Dorothea
    VlaardingenNetherlands
    11/04/08
    Overall
    "great listen"

    Already listened to this book twice and there will be more times to follow. It's a great listen. Especially enjoyed the chapters about the early and medieval history - fascinating.
    The story is well written, witty, very informative and even thrilling (like history is). Since I am not English I am definitely not the one to criticise the reading - to my ears the narrator does a great job.
    Could not have spent my monthly credit better!

    17 of 17 people found this review helpful
  • Marius
    Irene, South Africa
    18/11/08
    Overall
    "Hugely entertaining and informative"

    Of all of the books I downloaded, I least expected this one to be a gem, but such it is. Superbly narrated by the actor Robert Powell, it tells the fascinating story of the relentless growth of a polyglot mongrel language, never ashamed to borrow or steal words from every language it encountered. Essentially, that seems to have been its greatest strength, insulating it from attack, and allowing it to evolve into the marvellous tongue of Chaucer, Tindale, Shakespeare, Steinbeck, Dickens, Twain, Wodehouse, Waugh and Tolkien, to say nothing of Hunter S Thompson. Melvyn Bragg has written a superb book. My only regret is that he mentioned so few words of South African origin, of which trek, veld, impi, assegaai, stoep and indaba are but a few. One of very few 5 star ratings I have made.

    35 of 37 people found this review helpful
  • Andrew
    Reston, VA, USA
    15/06/07
    Overall
    "Fascinating and engrossing!"

    This is definitely one of those books that is better listened to than read, and I agree with the previous reviews that the narrator is to be commended for his ability to pronounce obsolete words and arcane dialects. (Although I must admit that his attempts at an American accent made me cringe a bit.) My only other criticism is a tiny one: the author's claim that the Northeastern US more or less speaks a single, clear spoken dialect. As a native Bostonian, I must object! That aside, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It gave me a new understanding and appreciation of my language and enough trivia fodder to make me a cocktail party liability for quite some time.

    10 of 10 people found this review helpful
  • Shawn
    Mesa, AZ, USA
    28/05/07
    Overall
    "A Worthwhie Adventure"

    I very much enjoyed this lecture, it was more than I'd expected. Adventure is the correct word for this as we travel through time learning about about the perils English has and does face. I was especially fascinated by the later chapters covering some current languages that are derivatives of English. Suddenly Ebonics as a language made sense to me.

    10 of 10 people found this review helpful
  • John
    HIGHLANDS RANCH, CO, USA
    08/08/08
    Overall
    "TRUELY an Adventure in English and HISTORY."

    Audio: Excellent. Clear, crisp, enunciation. Narrator has a British accent, (and why not, the author is English), and was VERY easily understood by this American. This book is a SPECIAL TREAT as it is actually BETTER TO LISTEN to it than to read it. This is because of the innumerable authentic-sounding pronunciations of English word derivations and origins throughout history. Even if the words are spelled phonetically in the book (and I don't know if they are), I say you cannot beat having them pronounced properly. This REALLY brings the book alive.

    Content: Outstanding. The Adventure of English is an adventure in history also, as it necessarily must be. Celtic, Norse, Friesen (sp?), Norman French, Latin, French, Spanish, u-name-it. England, Normandy, U.S.A., the Carribean, Australia, et al. Henry II and Eleanor of Acquitaine, Chaucer, Tyndale, Philip Sidney, Mark Twain, oh, and Shakespeare of course, to name a few. The subject matter is presented in a personal and personable manner. It is not technical or aloof. Tres facile a' comprendre. N'est-ce pas? I usually read philosophy, politics, current events, and fiction. This book was a very worthwhile departure from that. I highly recommend this book and I will be LISTENING to it again.

    39 of 42 people found this review helpful
  • Dean
    Grasswood, SK, Canada
    15/12/05
    Overall
    "As Entertaining As Possible"

    Exceptionally well done, they really did make it as interesting as I think is humanly possible. The reader deserves full marks for his efforts, and as for the book itself, again, top marks. I did find a few mistakes (for example, attributing things of Canadian origin to America) and I also thought that it was a little misleading to talk of more modern influences when the words borrowed often also have more ancient roots, but those are small grievances at best.

    I will say that I wouldn't recommend the book to a casual passer by, it was largely the fact that I had paid for it that forced me on in the beginning (it did, as I say, become interesting eventually). But for someone with a definite interest, this is a title worth a definite purchase.

    9 of 9 people found this review helpful
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