History of the English Language

HistoryoftheEnglishLanguageHistory of the English Language
Dr. Seth Lerer, Ph.D.
The Great Courses
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History of the English Language is a fascinating survey of English. Lerer is an old-school lecturer, but he nonetheless presents his information in an engaging and interesting manner. Although Lerer does not divide up the course in this way, I see it as consisting of two parts. The first part, in my mind, consists of the first twenty-four lectures and covers English from its beginnings through the development of the Oxford English Dictionary. The second part, lectures twenty-five through thirty-six, describes English in the New World.

Lerer describes the reconstruction of the early Indo-European language in the nineteenth century, and provides and introduction to historical linguistics. He describes the characteristics of Old English and takes us one step at a time up through 2008 when the course was produced. He tells us that the conventions used in text messages are nothing new.

Along with a comprehensive history, Lerer gives us a lot on interesting tidbits. He tells us that John Milton’s teacher was highly critical of Chaucer, and thought Chaucer was doing a great deal of damage to the English language because of the number of foreign words he used in his writing. Lerer tells us that the translators of the King James Bible deliberately used what at the time were archaic constructions.

This course was a marvelous companion on my walks.

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