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BOOK NOTICES 713 runes, printing, Caxton suggest that written English was as important in the first millennium of the language as it has become in the last three or four centuries. B offers some discussion of pronunciation and grammar, but gives more attention to vocabulary and spelling. It is not clear what he intends by 'disjunctive' in the heading ofCh. 4. The OED gives no help; the definitions there (and in B's supplement) are largely restricted to the uses ofthe term in logic and grammar . In fact, ofthe halfdozen or so dictionaries that come to hand, only one gives a meaning that seems to fit: Webster's 9th Collegiate gives 'marked by breaks or disunity'. At least a part of Ch. 4 describes the 'breaks and disunity' caused by the spread ofEnglish to America, and the latter portion discusses the conflict between descriptive and prescriptive attitudes toward the language during the last century. As a good lexicographer should, B comes down on the descriptive and permissive side: "There is little doubt that most of the new features that are intensely disliked by linguistic conservatives will triumph in the end. But the language will not bleed to death' (57). Ch. 5, 'Literature, ritualistic works, and language ', sketches the history ofpoetic and prose style from Beowulf'to Hopkins and Joyce, and traces Biblical translation from Wyclif to the New English Bible. As might be expected, B has little use for the modernizers; in fact, he finds their efforts producing a 'loss for society as a whole—not so much ofparticular words as of the way they are put together—[which] is grievous beyond all knowing' (76). In Chs. 6 ("The recording of English in dictionaries and grammars'), 7 ('Vocabulary'), and 8 ('Pronunciation and spelling'), B is in his element as a lexicographer. His review of dictionaries and grammars is a useful historical record, from the beginnings to his own OED supplement and the 1971 grammar of R. Quirk et al. (now replaced by their 1985 Comprehensive grammar ). The chapter ends with a few paragraphs on 'what has come to be called transformational/ generative grammar' (103). B seems to have ended his study of this with Chomsky's Syntactic structures (1957), and he is quite skeptical about its value. This skepticism is further evinced in Ch. 9 on "The syntactical arrangement of words', which concludes: 'Much ground has been lost and many fine minds blunted on the complications of transformational generative grammar' (155). The final chapter, 'Dispersed forms of English ', presents a brief history of the spread of English from the 16th century to the present, first as colonial varieties and then as distinctive national languages having a back-influence on the language of the homeland; it closes with a short section on 'English as a lingua franca'. B concludes: 'English, when first recorded in the eighth century, was already a fissiparous language . It will continue to divide and subdivide, and to exhibit a thousand different faces in the centuries ahead.' But it is his pious hope that it will remain 'a communicative force ... for many centuries to come' (173). [W. Nelson Francis, Brown University.] English etymology. By Alfred Bammesberger . Heidelberg: Winter, 1984. Pp. 163. B begins his little book by apologizing for its being an 'appetizer' for 'beginners'. But the book requires no apologies: it is clear, concise, and well organized. Its title, however, is slightly misleading, in that the book as a whole deals less with the history of individual words than with the English language over a 5,000-year period . The individual chapters deal sequentially with the following topics: (1) linguistics, (2) cognate languages, (3) Indo-European to Germanic, (4) Germanic to Old English, (5) Old English to Modern English, (6) word formation, (7) semantics , (8) loan words, (9) etymological dictionaries , and (10) a history of30 English words. There are three bones that I would pick with B: first, his definition of language as a system of 'arbitrary vocal symbols' (I believe that language is sometimes iconic and sometimes visual ); second, his characterization oflanguage as a uniquely human ability (I believe that apes exhibit linguistic capacity comparable to that of human children); and third, his assertion that every...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1535-0665
Print ISSN
0097-8507
Pages
pp. 713-715
Launched on MUSE
2015-04-01
Open Access
No
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