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Modern English and Its Heritage 2nd edition


Modern English and Its Heritage 2nd edition-Whether or not English becomes eventually the universal auxiliary language for international communication-as predicted confidently in some quarters and striven for in others-there is no gainsaying the fact that World War II has given our tongue greater prestige and wider currency than it ever before enjoyed, thanks to the stationing of British and American troops-especially the latter all over the globe. The American jeep and bulldozer, chewing gum and candy, are admired and desired throughout the inhabited world today, and in many cases the American names for these commodities have been taken over more or less directly into local languages or dialects.

The war has had another effect. It has brought the Americans into closer contact with the British, Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders, and other users of our common tongue, and it is likely that this association will become more deeply rooted with the passage of years. Proud as we are of our common heritage of individual freedom and political liberty under the law, we can and should be equally proud of the language that we English-speaking peoples share, for it is a noble and eloquent one.

But pride in a thing is not enough for the thinking person; we must understand it and know how to use it to the best advantage.

We cannot comprehend fully the status that English enjoys today without knowing something of its position "yesterday"-the yesterday stretching back more than a thousand years. It is with this thought in mind that Modern English and Its Heritage has been written.

Part I examines the linguistic heritage historically, from the Indo-European origins down through the Germanic and Anglo-Saxon contributions to the Middle English era and finally to the Modern English period. Part II analyzes the basic elements of the language, the speech sound and the letter, as units of oral and written English.

Every effort has been made to handle the technical aspects of phonology with clarity and directness, avoiding the minute distinctions that serve only to bewilder the student being introduced to the science of linguistics.

In Part III, Grammar and Usage, the structure of the language is considered in some detail and the nature of English grammar is set forth. From time to time attention is called to rules or traditions that appear to be based on prejudice or lack of a complete understanding of the amazing flexibility that characterizes our language, as, for instance, the rule against splitting an infinitive. But I have endeavored throughout to make a fair, dispassionate presentation of the subject matter. My own concern is to promote an interest in and understanding of good English on the part of the student and to acquaint him with the rich resources of the language he has inherited, or perhaps learned as a newcomer.

Finally, Part IV, Word Formation, deals with what is perhaps the most fascinating aspect in the whole field of language. Starting with the origin of words, the various chapters show how words have changed their form and meaning over the centuries and how new terms have entered the language. In conclusion, a glimpse is given of that new linguistic science, semantics, which deals with the meanings of words.

I have written this book with two types of user in mind: first, the serious student of the language who will make it a steppingstone to further research in the field, and second, the average college student

or general reader who is not interested in linguistics but wishes to gain a deeper knowledge of his mother tongue. By the principles laid down and the examples cited, I have aimed to show that English is dynamic, not static, and that despite its long and varied history it is still growing and still changing.

To add to the book's value for more advanced work, care has been taken to provide for each chapter not only a bibliography but also a list of suggested subjects for further research and class papers.

The student is encouraged at every point to consult other sources of information to obtain a broader grasp of the subject than any single textbook can provide.

No writer on any aspect of our language can be insensible of the vast debt owed to predecessors in the field, both among contemporaries and among earlier scholars. The footnotes and bibliographies in this volume can indicate only a small part of this general indebtedness of mine to all the other laborers in the vineyards whose work has come to my attention. We all have three things in common: a love of the language, an enthusiasm for the study of it, and a desire to communicate our own enthusiasm to as many of the coming generations as we can reach.

I am also grateful to Mrs. Georgianna McLarty Voigt for many helpful suggestions in the preparation of the manuscript and to Professor Oscar Cargill who carefully read the manuscript and helped in preparing it for the press.


Fourteen years have passed since the first edition of Modern English and Its Heritage was published, and during that period a great deal of scholarship and investigation has gone on in the field of language. This edition, which represents a revision rather than a rewriting, attempts to take note, so far as limitations of space permit, of the work that has been done during those years. I could not hope to do more than indicate in the body of the text, in the footnotes, or in the bibliographies, those at the end of each chapter and that at the end of the book, the great amount of investigation and its many ramifications. No doubt, I have overlooked or excluded material that will seem important to some, but it is impossible to include everything

in a volume of this size.

This book continues the general plan of the first edition and its general aim. A new arrangement, however, has been made. Part III, Grammar and Usage, has been placed at the end, so that those who wish to consider the other parts first and leave the structure of the language for a separate study may do so.

It is my hope that this volume in its revised form may better serve those with an interest in the English language and will continue to encourage its readers to an active observation of the language and a further study of it. I cannot possibly acknowledge in detail here my debt to the many scholars upon whose investigations and explorations I have depended. References within the work must suffice. I wish, however, to thank in particular the following persons who gave valuable advice: Professors James B. McMillan, University of Alabama; Robert C. Pooley, University of Wisconsin; James N. Tidwell, San Diego State College, California; Robert P. Stockwell, University of California at Los Angeles; and others who o also made helpful

suggestions in preparing this second edition for the press.

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