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  • Volume 5: English in Britain and Overseas: Origins and Development
  • Edited by Robert Burchfield, University of Oxford
  • 207.00 (GBP)
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Book description

The Cambridge History of the English Language is the first multi-volume work to provide a full account of the history of English. Its authoritative coverage extends from areas of central linguistic interest and concern to more specialised topics such as personal names and place names. The volumes dealing with earlier periods are chronologically based, whilst those dealing with more recent periods are geographically based, thus reflecting the spread of English over the last 300 years. Volume 5 looks at the dialects of England since 1776, the historical development of English in the former Celtic-speaking countries of Scotland, Wales, and Ireland, and at varieties of English in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the Caribbean, and South Asia. This unique volume will be welcomed by all those interested in the spread of English around the world.


‘A distinguished team of contributors…much to admire. This handsome volume is an indispensable work of reference.’

John Honey Source: The Times Higher Education Supplement

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  • 1 - Introduction
    pp 01-20
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    This introductory chapter provides overview of the book and the subsequent chapters. The subsequent chapters give an account of the history and development of a number of distinct and highly diversified varieties of English those varieties in varying degrees are recognisably different from one another and from standard British and standard American English. In Wales and Ireland the retreat of the mother-tongue Celtic languages has been less dramatic but has followed the same general pattern. In each case an originally monolingual community, for social and political reasons, gradually acquired a second language, namely English, for commercial, administrative and other business. In due course the retreat of Welsh and Irish reached a point where the number of monolingual English speakers exceeded the number of bilingual speakers. The transported Englishes of three of the former British colonies, namely South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, were, to begin with, those of 'emigrant communities speaking several different dialects'.
    pp 21-93
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    Insular West Germanic speech was first established in what is now Scotland in the sixth century. Uniquely among Old English-derived speech forms other than standard literary English, Scots has a claim to be regarded as a distinct language rather than a dialect, or latterly a group of dialects, of English. The distinction between Scots and Scottish English, which though not always clear in practice, is soundly based on historical facts. Germanic speech was established in what had been an area of Celtic language and culture. The growing complexity of the Scottish linguistic situation, with French and English emerging as functioning languages of the kingdom, can be deduced from official documents of the eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The chapter also discusses the spread of English in the Gaidhealtachd and the Northern Isles, and looks at phonology morphology, syntax, and dialect variation of Scottish English. Language adds a distinctive colouring to the contemporary Scottish cultural scene.
    pp 94-147
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    The social factors which brought about the dominance of English in Wales, and which have set in motion the process of language shift, have been political, economic and educational. The nineteenth century, culminating in the spread of formal primary education following the Education Act of 1888, was the period which saw the tipping of the linguistic scales in Wales. The English language functioned as the language of commerce, law, government and education, the major social institutions, admittedly, but Welsh had its prestigious institution in the Nonconformist religion of the chapels. The southern part of the old county of Pembrokeshire has been Anglicised since medieval times. In the south - particularly in the industrial south, in the Glamorgans - and in the eastern counties which border with England, there are already indigenous English dialects which have strong affinities with the English dialects of the west midlands and the south-west of England, superimposed on distinct substratal Welsh influences.
    pp 148-196
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    A complex series of population movements and language contacts lies at the heart of the history of Irish English. Though the Viking presence in Ireland had little direct impact on the development of Irish English, the establishment of coastal towns was crucial for the development of relations between Ireland and the rest of Europe. It is convenient to separate the linguistic history of English in Ireland into two phases based on the external history: a medieval phase, leaving only traces in the archaic dialect of Forth and Bargy; and the modern phase based on the resurgence of English, including Scots, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The Gaelic Society in 1807 and the subsequent development of a national Irish-language movement coincided with political movements for Irish independence to the extent that the language policy of the independent government established after the partition of Ireland in 1921-2 was firmly orientated towards the support of the Irish language.
    pp 197-274
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    Important early evidence for reconstructing dialect areas comes from dialect dictionaries. It would seem that from 1776 till the second half of the nineteenth century dialects were stable, and although regional English was seen as an obstacle to social advancement and as something to be avoided, there appears to have been no actual educational policy at work to create a unified 'polite' English, although there had been individual attempts to codify a spoken standard such as Sheridan and Walker. This chapter summarises the main dialect features that appear in the literature from the late eighteenth century up to about 1870. Most of the relevant sources were reprinted by the English Dialect Society in the late nineteenth century and are easily available. The English Dialect Society bibliography, which covers dialect texts and studies of dialect up to 1877, gives an idea of the amount of attention various regional varieties had attracted.
    pp 275-327
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    Australian English had its beginnings in the late eighteenth century in a convict settlement where people of diverse speech were brought together. The mechanism of linguistic borrowing between languages may be examined in the early history of the word kangaroo. It is first mentioned by Banks in 1770 as a native word. Samuel McBurney, a school principal in Victoria, travelled widely in Australia and New Zealand in the 1880s examining large classes of tonic sol-fa singers in schools. Though in general Australian English and RP, or the variants of Australian English within Australia, agree phonemically if not phonetically, there is not always correspondence in particular words. This chapter discusses the phonology, morphology and syntax of the Australian English. The most striking differences in the lexical distribution of phonemes in RP and Australian English are found in unstressed or weakly stressed syllables.
    pp 328-381
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    Pidginised English was used in the slave trade in West Africa and brought to the Caribbean by African slaves and the British slavers and settlers who dealt with them. A Creole results when a pidgin is adopted as the first language of an entire speech community. During the second half of the seventeenth century a Creole with a structure quite distinct from English merged as the native language of a number of slave communities in the West Indies. The second half of the eighteenth century brought constant warfare to the Caribbean as Britain and France fought over the sugar islands, which were producing great wealth. Central America gained more English speakers during the second half of the nineteenth century even though British political influence waned there. This chapter discusses morphological changes, semantic changes, phonology, and syntax of the Creole English.
    pp 382-429
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    The language spoken in New Zealand at the time of the arrival of the Europeans was a Polynesian language Maori. This chapter presents description of present-day New Zealand English phonetics and phonology, and discusses the history of the pronunciation of English in New Zealand. It has generally been assumed that the morphology and syntax of New Zealand English is indistinguishable from that of British English. Most of the vocabulary that is found in New Zealand English is general to all varieties of English. Despite the fact that many New Zealanders have an ambivalent attitude to America and Americanisms, there are a number of Americanisms in New Zealand English which are normal, and a lot more which are stylistically marked. The chapter discusses the regional variations in New Zealand English, and suggests that the most likely origin of New Zealand English is as an exported variety of Australian English.
    pp 430-496
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    Khoisan and Black languages have from early times provided an important input to South African English. The Black press and Black literature are growth points for all English-speaking South Africans. The South African accent, though its phonology contains elements traceable to particular dialects of English and contact languages, is clearly distinguishable from that of other 'transplanted' Englishes and reflects a unique system. In 1820 the English-speaking population was roughly doubled when between four and five thousand 'settlers' were helped by the British government to establish themselves in the Eastern Cape. This chapter samples some key areas of the vocabularies of human relationships and human types. The syntax of formal South African English approximates to that of formal standard British English. The importance of British models for South African English may relate in the first place to the minority status of English-speaking South Africans and secondly to the rather conservative political outlook of most whites among these.
    pp 497-553
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    The profile of English in the subcontinent is different from that in 1947 when the colonial period came to an end and the country was divided into India and Pakistan. In linguistic terms there are four major language families: Indo-Aryan, used by the majority of the population, Dravidian, Tibeto-Burman, and Munda. The formal introduction of English in South Asia has passed through several stages. What started as an educational debate in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries culminated in Lord Macaulay's much-maligned Minute of 1835, which initiated planned activity for introducing the English language into South Asian education. The major features which contribute to the distinctiveness of South Asian English are varied and complex. First, English is an additional language in South Asia; this means that in the total linguistic repertoire of the users of English, English may be a second, third, or n-th language. In grammar, British English continues to provide a yardstick for standardisation of South Asian English.


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