The Story of English

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Page index:

English Speaking World

This clip discusses the origins of RP in English public schools as a form of unaccented English. Those who attended these schools went on to become the politican and entrepreneurial elite and the linguistic model for those who aspired to a higher socioeconomic level. A variety of attitudes to RP and other accents are summarized. RP was further spread by radio.

Some Valley girls are interviewed explaining the meaning of current slang: grody, bag your face, awesome, tubular, bitchin, to the max, totally. The clip concludes with an excerpt from Moon Unit Zappa's 'Valley Girl'

The Mother Tongue

Some English place names and geographical terms of Welsh origin. Celtic branch of Indo-European. Sample of Welsh (not subtitled).

Some differences between OE and ME: ME prepositions instead of OE case endings; fixed word order in ME. Subtitled Middle English excerpt from The Canterbury Tales. Chaucer's decision to write in English as opposed to French or Latin.

Reconstructed Old Norse and Old English language contact situation in Yorkshire. Some common modern English words of Norse origin. Normalization of English plural formation over time.

Linguistic effect of Viking invasions; borrowings into English. Samples of modern Yorkshire English, including traditional dialect (subtitled).

Old English dialect map. Students practicing Old English (subtitled) in a language lab. OE case endings and flexible word order.

A Muse of Fire

A speech from Julius Caesar as thought to have been pronounced in Shakespeare's time. A portion of a scene from the same play in modern pronunciation. ? vs. "Doth not Brutus bootless kneel?"

Modern vs. presumed Elizabethan readings of the Prologue to Henry the Fifth.

Shakespeare's morphological creativity.

Samples of traditional Warwickshire English, thought to be similar to Elizabethan pronunciation, from customers at a local pub.

The Guid Scots English

Samples of Scottish English from Stanley Robertson, an Aberdeen speaker (fish processor and story teller), subtitled. Some lexical differences and differences in pronunciation are highlighted.

18th century migrations of Scots-Irish to the Philadelphia area and other points in N. America. Other linguistic features of the Philadelphia area at that time. Peopling of Applachia by Scots-Irish, English and German settlers. Samples of 20th century Appalachian English from a moon-shiner and a couple (the wife is subtitled). Some phonological and morphological characteristics of Appalachian English.

Spread of Lowland Scottish English to northern Ireland (the 'plantation' of Ulster by former residents of Scotland). Samples of N. Irish English, some subtitled. Ongoing conflicts between transplanted Scots (Protestants) and local Irish (Catholics). Map of N. Ireland showing areas with most similarity to Scottish English.One difference concerns the pronunciation of /r/. Some lexical items specific to Ulster English.

Sample of Scots: fake evening news from a Glasgow anchorwoman. (Subtitled)

Sample of "standard English with a Scottish accent": a church service by Fraser Aitken.

Black on White

Narrative from Scanner Boy Renegade. (subtitled)

Interview of Arthur Spears concerning what percentage of the "black population" speak AAVE. "Code shifting" from more formal to less formal styles is also discussed.

Samples of AAVE from rural S. Carolina.

Map showing isolated location of the Sea Islands near Charleston, S. Carolina, where Gullah is spoken. Samples of Gullah, subtitled, from two older residents, whose "African style and accent" is questionably pointed out by McNeill. Gullah is also questionably described in this clip as "the basis of Black American English". Attitudes towards Gullah.

Excerpt from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s, speech "I have a dream".

What jive talk is, when it was spoken, and by whom. Clip from old movie showing sample of jive talk, subtitled. Cab Calloway's The New Cab Calloway Hepster's Dictionary: The Language of Jive. Definition and usage of hep-cat, groovy, and other words. Influence of jive talk on mainstream English.

Samples of AAVE during a church service.

The "growing black middle class that has no ethnic speech characteristics at all". Excerpt of speech by Philadelphia mayor Wilson Good at police academy graduation. He took "language lessons" to "standardize" his speech before running for mayor. "The way you speak can affect your whole life." Interview of Constance Clayton, head of local Board of Education, on possibly detrimental socioeconomic effects of knowing (only) AAVE. Classroom using rap to teach standard English.

Possible influence of AAVE on Southern US (white) English.

Theory of how AAVE might have influenced white southern English. White children in the south with African American playmates may have grown up speaking Plantation Creole as their first language. Boys were eventually sent away to learn standard English, but the girls were not educated (to the same extent). Sample of contemporaneous white southern English.

Pioneers oh Pioneers

Muvver Tongue

Sample of Cockney English in Walthamstow Market in NE London.

Cockney rhyming slang and back slang. Samples of Cockney English from Spittlefield's Market.

Dictionary of Cockney English. Etymology of the word Cockney. Samples of Cockney English. Some phonological properties of Cockney: pronunciation of vowels, h-dropping, l-vocalization, interdentals > labio-dentals. Meanings of some Cockney terms of address.

The Loaded Weapon

Subtitled samples of Cork Irish English. Some features dialect are thought to be conservative, representative of Elizabethan English. Other influences of Irish Gaelic on Cork English are mentioned.

Revival of Irish Gaelic in Belfast, as a symbol of resistance to English governance. Children in day care learning Irish. Irish Gaelic language study in Maze Prison. Sample of Ulster Irish from a former prisoner.

Irish Gaelic, formerly spoken throughout Ireland, is now mainly spoken (as a first language) in small communities on the west coast of Ireland. Samples of Irish Gaelic, some subtitled, are heard in this clip.

Portions of a bilingual poem about the history of Ireland, read in Irish Gaelic (subtitled) and English. Samples of Irish Gaelic and Irish English. "As the old saying goes, the clearest sign of the utter degradation of any country is the abandonment of its native tongue."

Effect of Irish immigration to Liverpool on the local accent. Subtitled samples of Dublin Irish and Liverpool English from soccer fans.

Irish Gaelic and Irish English as symbols of political resistance and self-expression. Samples of Irish English.

Welsh English and Welsh samples, not subtitled. Poetic description by MacNeill of some aspects of Welsh phonology that differ from English.


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