Sara M. Pons-Sanz

title.none: Hogg and Denison, History of the English Language (Sara M. Pons-Sanz)

identifier.other: baj9928.0705.022 07.05.22

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Sara M. Pons-Sanz, University of Nottingham,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2007

identifier.citation: Hogg, Richard and David Denison. A History of the English Language. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. Pp. xviii, 495. $140.00 (hb) ISBN-10: 0-521-66227-3, ISBN-13: 978-0-521-66227-7 (hb). ISBN: .

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 07.05.22

Hogg, Richard and David Denison. A History of the English Language. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. Pp. xviii, 495. $140.00 (hb) ISBN-10: 0-521-66227-3, ISBN-13: 978-0-521-66227-7 (hb). ISBN: .

Reviewed by:

Sara M. Pons-Sanz
University of Nottingham

2006 was a great year for the study of the history of the English language. It saw the publication of not only the volume under consideration here, but also The English Language: A Linguistic History, by Laurel Brinton and Leslie Arnovick (published by OUP), A History of the English Language, by Elly van Gelderen (published by John Benjamins), The Handbook for the History of English, edited by Ans van Kemenade and Bettelou Los (published by Blackwell) and The Oxford History of English, edited by Linda Mugglestone (published by OUP). To these one should add Don Ringe's From Proto-Indo-European to Proto-Germanic, the first volume of A Linguistic History of English (published by OUP). Given the circumstances, the comment by Hogg and Denison that the publication of the volume under consideration "might at first sight seem otiose, redundant and unnecessary" (xi) becomes particularly appropriate.

First appearances, however, tend to be deceptive, and that is the case as far as the editors' comment is concerned. While Brinton and Arnovick's, van Gelderen's, and Mugglestone's volumes are, in the main, arranged chronologically, moving from Old English to Present- Day English, the volume edited by Hogg and Denison is linguistically arranged, moving through the various levels of linguistic analysis and the different areas of expansion in the use of English. In this respect it resembles each of the volumes of The Cambridge History of the English Language, as well as the volume edited by van Kemenade and Lous.

It includes the following chapters: (1) "Overview" by David Denison and Richard Hogg: in this chapter the editors introduce many of the aspects the reader will need to work through the book, such as an overview of the history of English from the period before the Anglo-Saxon migration to the spread of the British empire, a survey of various factors contributing to linguistic change (the Renaissance, the Reformation, the development of transport systems and international travel, various wars, etc.) and the types of evidence linguists can rely on when studying the history of English.

(2) "Phonology and morphology" by Roger Lass: this chapter presents the major changes in phonology and inflectional morphology undergone by English from the Old English period to present times, with the Great Vowel Shift and various other phonological changes in Modern English being dealt with in particular detail. Even though spatial limitations demand the simplification of explanations and the reduction of data, Lass manages to preserve a picture in which linguistic change is by no means clear and orderly, but rather complex and disorderly.

(3) "Syntax" by Olga Fischer and Wim van der Wurff: Fischer and van der Wurff outline the most significant syntactic developments in the history of English. Unlike Lass, Kastovsky and Hogg (see below), they do not divide their data according to periods, but rather according to grammatical categories and syntactic units, with special attention to the noun phrase, the verbal group, various clausal constituents (subjects, objects, passive constructions, subordinate clauses) and word order. As pointed out by the authors themselves, the chapter is mainly descriptive, with limited space being devoted to explaining the factors triggering the changes. At the beginning of the chapter there is a very helpful table presenting a summary of the most significant syntactic changes over time and an indication of the sections where they are dealt with.

(4) "Vocabulary" by Dieter Kastovsky: after explaining the semantic relations which the members of a lexical field maintain with one another, the various mechanisms of word formation and the general principles behind semantic change, Kastovsky provides the reader with a detailed investigation of the various ways in which English has formed and developed its vocabulary during the different periods of its history. Most attention is devoted to the significance of word formation and borrowing and the close interaction between the two processes.

(5) "Standardisation" by Tertu Nevalainen and Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade: even though the authors refer very briefly to the standardising trends which can be observed in Old English, this chapter focuses on the process of standardisation English has gone through since the end of the Middle English period. They present the process in terms of the various steps suggested by the Milroys (Authority in Language: Investigating Language Prescription and Standardisation, 1991): selection of a linguistic variety (Chancery English), acceptance, diffusion, maintenance (with the printing press playing a very important role in these processes), elaboration of function (through the new roles of English as language of government, law, culture, religion and science from the Middle English period onwards), codification and prescription (through dictionaries and grammars). Once the process is outlined, the authors discuss some of the factors (e.g. register variation) preventing full standardisation.

(6) "Names" by Richard Coates: Coates adopts a England-centred approach to onomastics. He explains the main trends and processes behind the coinage and use of personal names (with the subcategory of pet names), surnames and place-names (with the subcategory of urban names) through the various periods of the history of English. He makes it very clear that onomastics has much to say about the linguistic contact between English and various other languages, mainly Celtic, Old Norse and French and, in this respect, this chapter can be said to supplement Kastovsky's.

(7) "English in Britain" by Richard Hogg: even though Hogg points out that linguistic variation can be analysed from very different perspectives (e.g. in terms of local origin, age, social class, gender and ethnicity), he only deals with dialectal variation (with the exception of a brief reference to British Black English). Given the spatial limitations, no attempt is made to present the features characterising each dialect in each period; instead, various issues concerning the collection and analysis of data, as well as the development of modern dialectology and the interaction between dialectal variation and standardisation are given prevalence. The chapter focuses mainly on the varieties of English spoken in England but Scots, and Welsh and Irish English are also briefly discussed.

(8) "English in North America" by Edward Finegan: this chapter explains the expansion of English in North America from the colonial period to the present day. Close attention is paid to Contemporary North American English through the detailed discussion of dialectal and sociological varieties (amongst which African American English and Chicano English are discussed in particular detail). Even though most of the chapter analyses the varieties of English spoken in the USA, Canadian English is also devoted a section, which outlines its most distinctive phonetic and lexical features.

(9) "English worldwide" by David Crystal: the final chapter analyses the status of English as a global language and the factors triggering its use, be it as a first, second or foreign language, worldwide. The chapter finishes with an attempt to predict what will happen to the different varieties of English in the future. The possibility that they will become a "family of languages" (where issues of identity are likely to play a role at least as significant as lack of mutual intelligibility) is put forward. As part of the discussion, the factors which distinguish a dialect from a language are also dealt with, Scots being one of the varieties whose status is given close attention; this discussion, therefore, supplements Hogg's short section on Scots.

The editors explain that the volume is aimed at "senior undergraduates" (xi) and the arrangement of the book certainly caters for most of their needs by providing them with "the great moments in the history of" each of the linguistic levels and periods of territorial expansion (44). Those interested in exploring a topic in more detail can turn to the items listed under the "Further Reading" section or the items in the extensive bibliography at the back of the book. In fact, some of those items are part of the volume edited by van Kemenade and Lous. Thus, the readers can have access to the latest views on a particular matter. However, the fact that each level of linguistic analysis is presented in a very succinct way has the disadvantage of assuming a level of understanding which students whose degrees are mainly literary--rather than linguistically--focused may not necessarily have. To those students the volume may seem slightly intimidating and highly challenging, which, by no means, is necessarily a bad thing.

The biggest disadvantage of the book when understood as a tool for students is its price. At the moment it is only available in hardback, at a price which is hardly affordable by students ($:140.00, £75.00). One hopes that CUP will publish it in paperback so that it can be fully adopted as a textbook, a role which it certainly deserves.