The Story of English

,    »  -   30 Comments
998
8.03
12345678910
Ratings: 8.03/10 from 37 users.

Storyline

The Story of EnglishThe Story of English is the title of an Emmy Award winning nine-part television series, and a companion book, both produced in 1986, detailing the development of the English language. A little bit old but very good.

The book and the television series were written by Robert MacNeil, Robert McCrum and William Cran. The book has been revised twice, once in 1993, and again in 2002.

The documentary series was directed by William Cran, and originally broadcast on BBC and PBS. It was co-produced by MacNeil-Lehrer Productions and the BBC, and was principally funded through a grant from General Foods. The third episode, "A Muse of Fire", won the 1987 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement - Informational Programming - Writing. The series was released as a 5 tape box set in 2001, running 495 minutes. The book and series have been used in University courses.

Related documentary on this subject at TDF is The Adventure of English.

Encompassing history, geography, sociology, drama, language, arts, and more, The Story of English takes viewers on an unforgettable journey through the history of the English language. Host Robert MacNeil travels the world to illustrate the language's global influence. Part travelogue, part linguistics, part history, and all fascinating, the series is a unique blend of solid scholarship and engrossing entertainment.

Episodes included in the playlist: 1. An English Speaking World, 2. The Mother Tongue, 3. A Muse of Fire, 4. The Guid Scots Tongue, 5. Black on White, 6. Pioneer O Pioneer, 7. Muvver Tongue, 8. The Loaded Weapon and 9. Next Year's Words.

More great documentaries

Comments and User Reviews

  • Captain Crunch

    They need to put huge video screens up at the border and show this doc. Maybe the border jumpers might pick up some English by accident.

  • http://www.krashbox.com HaTe_MaChInE

    @Captain Crunch - "Maybe the border jumpers might pick up some English by accident."

    Pretty sure most Canadians already speak English.

    But seriously even most Central/South Americans speak English as a second language.

    It is the U.S that promotes only teaching a single language. Might also be the reason the U.S suffers form some of the poorest education in the world.

  • ez2b12

    Maybe it's just me but this is really boring. I suppose that's why i speak such horrible english, I have never been interested in language. I don't recommend this doc unless you are interested in language.

  • Insomniac

    @Captain Crunch: Most americans I've met from states on the Mexico border cant really speak english either. Perhaps mexicans dont bother to learn proper english because you still wouldnt understand them.

  • ez2b12

    @ captain crunch

    I don't think most people would disagree that those coming to the US to live should learn english. I think it's the way you said it that gets so many upset. This is the melting pot of the world, remember. Our country was built by immigrants and has always taken pride in the fact that we are a nation of immigrants. Now we get into a finacial bind and it seems as if we only maintain our standards until it gets hard to do so. Then we just walk away from them as if they have not been the very definition of our society for hundreds of years.

    I understand the differnece between legal and illegal immigration but too many in this country simply attack latinos in general for our immigration problems. We also might try and understand that many of these people crossing the border illegally are good people that are just trying to find a decent standard of living. Notice I said many, not all. I know we have a lot of bad people and drugs crossing as well. I just hate to see the country i grew up in, believing all the time it was a compassionate and generouse people, be so mean and unsympathetic. Even if we do not allow them to stay we should not demonize them simply for trying to live a decent life.

    The same can be said of terrorism and the growing disdain for muslims in this country. We are a country built on religiouse freedom, we have always promoted it and said that we would die for it. But the second it becomes uncomfrotable to maintain this standard we walk away form it as if it never existed. Take the issue of placing a mosque at ground zero. I for one am against it on one hand, but I also see this as a very dangerouse precident to set. We can no longer claim to be the protectors of religiouse freedom if we only grant that freedom to certain religions.

    Under this precedent no christian church should be allowed within so many feet of were an abortion doctor was murdered by a christian. This is an act of terrorism as well. Terrorism is the attempt to exact change by instilling terror in a certain group of people. Is this really what we want to do? Maybe so, I doubt it but maybe so. All I am saying is lets make sure we come out of this with the same country we were defending in the first place- wether we are talking about immigration reform or religiouse freedoms.

  • Connie

    @ Everyone :-)

    I have this book I Enjoy it very much and still use it for referncing . I am surprised of the style and music for I had a reverent conotation of this book due perhaps to the info saturation.
    I could never get rid of this book it will always be in my library.

  • Connie

    @ Ok I give up the Doc. is boring . I much rather read the book.
    Maybe I will try watching it again while I'm cleaning the house.But I can't bear to watch it with full attention.

  • http://kool-invention.mine.nu doc-fan

    movie doesn't work :(

  • Connie

    @ Doc fan

    It is working for me.

    Try moving the scroll button for the movie manually . For me sometimes its a button problem but once I move it it works.

    I hope that works for you if not come back and tell Vlatko

  • Connie

    JUst for the record I jumped to the second segment and di enjoy the rest of the film. Part one was just too boring for me. But am glad I forwarded it to enjoy the rest.

  • http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/about/ Vlatko

    The movie is working fine.

  • hmmm

    it's actually quite entertaining!

  • old

    This was quite a find for me, not boring in the least it is chocka block full of data - now, back to the program.

  • Quimbys

    Extremely dated. The views presented here are passing into obsolescence as we speak...

  • tjo

    what i particularly like is the gauging it provides, from 1986 until now... a mere 24 years - the extremely rapid pace of technology - i never consider it on a day to day basis, but this is a great testimony to the breakneck speed our lives have taken from then until now - i wonder what the changes to the book in 1993 and 2002 were? - history always shows us where we've been & where we've gotten to and what may lie ahead .... wonderfully in depth

  • http://zebrareader.blogspot.com/ Lori George Alexander

    I watched this series when it first came out on PBS. I am glad I had a chance to see some of it again. I missed some of the episodes and I guess not all of it is here either.

    I can see some of it has aged and some of it has not. It is ironic that the anniversary of the "I have a Dream" speech of Dr. Luther Martin King is today.

    It is sad to see the experts that have passed away since the film was made such as Alister Cooke. I thought it was great the first time I watched it and still do. I got the book which I don't have with me now. It was a magnificent achievement then and still stands the test of time.

  • http://webfx3.0fees.net/ Dave

    Can these "videos in parts" be joined as a single file & upload to mega video or some other hosts like google videos which support larger FLV files please!!

  • Missy Pearson

    My husband, Steve, introduced me to this book and the PBS documentary film in the early 90's. The Story of English is as complicated as the language itself, which is the combination and melding of languages from Anglo, Saxon, Celtic, Latin, to French, etc. over time throughout history and later exported to the world by two world powers: the British Empire and the United States. As English became the official government language of invaded countries or region, it was influenced by the indigenous language of the country invaded. Thus, regional accents, new meanings or usage and other variations evolved especially on the spoken language.

    The book or the documentary film gave me a historical account, perspective and understanding of this difficult language especially for someone who had to learn it as a second language. The book came alive as I travelled and continue to travel to different metropolitan areas in the world such as London, New York, Hongkong, Manila, etc. where English is widely spoken.

    I learned from the book that when people talk about “correct” English, it means the written or spoken English of England and North America or the “standard” English used in mass media and academia which is homogenized and dominated by American and English mass media. Reading and understanding “The Story of English” provided me an understanding of the variations and differences, more so on the spoken than written language, in different regions or countries. One doesn’t make another more superior or inferior or vice versa. As English continue to evolve, we continue to learn to communicate and convey our messages as to understand and be understood.

  • http://zebrareader.blogspot.com/ Lori George Alexander

    Missy Pearson, great comment.

  • Dan Flynn

    Great doc and great book. Funny though, around the world, every expert of every dialect thinks that what is unique about his dialect is how the speakers love to play with words. I think that's fundamental to our species more than it is a unique feature of any dialect.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/XUKON7YIROBO3B32VBW5MR7WMM Hh

    Although many think this documentary is dated and politically incorrect, it's still factually correct. Chinese will NEVER and i mean NEVER dominate the world as a language.
    The more interesting aspects of this documentary is when they move out of English usage worldwide, and discuss the history of it, and the various forms of english, used in America, Canada, and Britain.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sharon-Hutchinson/1024877771 Sharon Hutchinson

    I remember watching this on TV many years ago. It's good to see it again. English, as any living language, continues to evolve. It also is clear that we in the US do not really speak "English"!

  • Saffron

    YouTube now allows for much longer videos. It would be great if these were uploaded as whole episodes.

  • dewflirt

    THEN and THAN are two different words!!!!!!!! Ok, I feel better for that ;)

  • http://www.facebook.com/jeff.kwan.1238 Jeff Kwan

    British Empire was a being of invading other countries with the sole purpose of making the Islanders more affluent on the expenses of other countries ruled by the local British Authority. UK won the WWII but it lost the empire for America started stepping in after having paid such a high price on both--military spending & the loss of American G.I.lives in the war.

    UK today, with the existence EU, can't even sustain the high voice like France & Germany in Europe. What it has been doing & can find itself in the world poltic is to become the loyal dog of America sharing the same nose of breathing. America is still the single biggest GDP country in the world & the single strongest military giant as well.

    English language, without this capitalistic monster of United States of America stepping in, can't be that powerful as it is today. The British empire is just a joke & I wonder how many people in the UK still think of the empire. Is over. British empire will never come back. The new one is the hell of American capitalistic & military empire building on the selling the trash government bond. Unluckily, China & Japan these two stupid ass have possessed a large pile of so many thousand billion US Federal Bonds in financing the US Federal Government. Stupid government leadership. I have to speak my heart out. American people, in general, don't speak high class clean articulate pronunciation phonetic English. Is a bit upsetting. I have admitted that English is still the most popular single language used in international commerce, finance & science as well. This is the fact that I have accepted. Jeff Kwan of Hong Kong, 11th-1-2013

  • http://www.facebook.com/jeff.kwan.1238 Jeff Kwan

    British Empire was a being of invading other countries with the sole purpose of making the Islanders more affluent on the expenses of other countries ruled by the local British Authority. UK won the WWII but it lost the empire for America started stepping in after having paid such a high price on both--military spending & the loss of American G.I.lives in the war.

    UK today, with the existence EU, can't even sustain the high voice like France & Germany in Europe. What it has been doing & can find itself in the world poltic is to become the loyal dog of America sharing the same nose of breathing. America is still the single biggest GDP country in the world & the single strongest military giant as well.

    English language, without this capitalistic monster of United States of America stepping in, can't be that powerful as it is today. The British empire is just a joke & I wonder how many people in the UK still think of the empire. Is over. British empire will never come back. The new one is the hell of American capitalistic & military empire building on the selling the trash government bond. Unluckily, China & Japan these two stupid ass have possessed a large pile of so many thousand billion US Federal Bonds in financing the US Federal Government. Stupid government leadership. I have to speak my heart out. American people, in general, don't speak high class clean articulate pronunciation phonetic English. Is a bit upsetting. I have admitted that English is still the most popular single language used in international commerce, finance & science as well. This is the fact that I have accepted. Jeff Kwan of Hong Kong, 11th-1-2013

    show more show less

  • Roderick F. Brentnall

    I am sure that Robert MacNeil, Robert McCrum and William Cran did not write "The Story of English" to get this kind of commentary. It's about a language and not a piece about American social development and behaviour.
    Get with the program!

  • SLK

    Aren't you just a little bundle of bigotry.

  • keetakat

    "American people, in general, don't speak high class clean articulate pronunciation phonetic English."

    At least we know how to use punctuation and spell-check. Geesh.

  • Valerie

    Have you even watched the documentary?!!? It is the story of how English has changed as it moves around the world. Just the same as English is not spoken in England, as it was even 50 years ago, it is a language that changes. Instead of being critical, educate yourself.