[Milton-L] Language epochs

Carol Barton, PhD, CPCM cbartonphd1 at verizon.net
Tue Dec 11 12:31:56 EST 2018

Nancy, I believe Albert C. Baugh’s and Thomas Cable's A History of the English Language is still the standard. Readers can get it on Amazon.com <http://amazon.com/> (among other places): 
https://www.amazon.com/History-English-Language-Albert-Baugh/dp/041565596X <https://www.amazon.com/History-English-Language-Albert-Baugh/dp/041565596X>

It’s well-written, and interesting.

Best to all,


> On Dec 10, 2018, at 8:17 PM, Watt, James <jwatt at butler.edu> wrote:
> Dear Ms. Charlton:
> Given that many speakers of what is called "English" these days have difficulty reading journalists whose columns exceed 700 words, it's no wonder that they consider even Emerson and Thoreau,  Willa Cather and Virginia Woolf to be difficult writers using old English which, to them, means anything beyond fifteen word declarative sentences in the present tense. I seem to recall the History of the English Language being one of the 'elective' courses in English when I was an undergrad at Portland State College in the Early Anthropocene (read Sixties).  I didn't take it until I was in Grad School at UNC Chapel Hill where it was offered by Norman Eliason who, when I came to ask about the "L" pass grade I received remarked abruptly and clearly that my final examination was barely literate. When I went to the Graduate Advisor, worried because a second "L" at Chapel Hill would mean I was out of the program (in all my other courses I got an "H" for High Pass, which was then the highest grade you could get in the Grad School), he said to me "Oh, don't worry, Norman gives EVERYONE Ls.  We don't count them."
> So, naturally, I enrolled in Norman's "Beowulf to the Pearl Poet" the following semester. I got a P that time --and I earned it!
> Spenser and Milton with O.B. Hardison, jr. were wonderful experiences and have stayed with me all my life.  But Norman Eliason is responsible for my learning that my language is easily as great an instrument as my opposable thumb, if not greater. 
> I wish I could recommend a book for the general reader, but, alas, I have no idea what this creature looks or sounds like.
> Yours with Holliday Greetings (Oh, Hell: "Merry Christmas")
> Jim Watt,
> Allegra Stewart Professor Emeritus
> Butler University
> Indianapolis IN
> p.s. why are you leaving Portland?  Or do you mean the other Portland; the one in Maine?  If so, noi explanation required.
> From: milton-l-bounces at richmond.edu <mailto:milton-l-bounces at richmond.edu> <milton-l-bounces at richmond.edu <mailto:milton-l-bounces at richmond.edu>> on behalf of Nancy Charlton <charltonwordorder1 at gmail.com <mailto:charltonwordorder1 at gmail.com>>
> Sent: Sunday, December 9, 2018 9:40:29 PM
> To: John Milton Discussion List
> Subject: [Milton-L] Language epochs
> The other day there was an article posted the a Facebook group about volunteer archaeologists finding two letters that slipped through some cracks at Knole, ancestral home of the Sackville family. One was on vellum, in terrible shape, and was turned over to a team of expert restorers. The author of the article spoke of how difficult it was to read the “Old English.” I can’t  copy it or I’d post it here, but I replied with a very short history of the English language. I quoted from the Beowulf as an example of real Old English, from Chaucer as Middle English as “getting there,” and citing poets and authors in law and science to give a taste of progressing modernity. I cited Milton as tipping the language into becoming easily readable by us in C 21, except for 18th C attempts to straitjacket it into Latinate structure; I could have added that we’ve now been Hemingwayed into such simplicity that we read the old texts with bewilderment. 
> I’ve had several compliments on this, with thanks for bringing out things many people have never heard of, as history of the language is not part of most public school curricula. 
> I really backed up to get a running go at this request: could I have some recommendations as to more information on history of English for the general reader? It seems to be treated as a very specialized niche. 
> Thank you. 
> Nancy Charlton
> Soon to be gone from Portland, Oregon. 
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