[Milton-L] Language epochs

Salwa skhoddam at cox.net
Tue Dec 11 14:41:42 EST 2018


Thanks for your contributions. You always bring up very interesting and important points. Please continue to do so.

If it’s not too late to add my suggestions. . . Almost all books on Language or Linguistics have delightful, rather brief chapters on the history of the English Language, for example, Victoria Fromkin’s An Introduction to Language, chapter 11. Also, Mario Pei’s The Story of English is a good read, written in an informal style with scores of newspaper writers and columnists added to such authorities as Baugh, Jespersen, and Robertson. It was very helpful to me when I taught Linguistics. I’m not sure if it’s still in print. And then there’s The Story of English by Robert McCrum, William Cran, and Robert MacNeil  the beautifully illustrated companion to the PBS television series of around 1986 (on VHS, I’m afraid). But the book is a treasure in itself.

Merry Christmas to all,



Salwa Khoddam, PhD.

Professor of English, Emerita

Oklahoma City University

4436 NW 60th Place

OKC, OK 73112

Phone: 405-942-3801


From: milton-l-bounces at richmond.edu [mailto:milton-l-bounces at richmond.edu] On Behalf Of Nancy Charlton
Sent: Tuesday, December 11, 2018 1:09 PM
To: John Milton Discussion List <milton-l at richmond.edu>
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Language epochs


Thanks, everyone. I’ll pass all this information along. 


It’s almost St Lucien’s Day. Time to get out the John Donne book. 


I, among no doubt many others, once wrote a paper comparing the Nativity odes of Milton and Crashaw. It burgeoned into an examination of all the Christmas poetry up through the 18th century. Since I already knew every verse of every English carol and a few in French and German (soprano and alto parts) Christmas to me is music. And cookies. 


Veni, Immanuel. 


Nancy Charlton 



On Tue, Dec 11, 2018 at 9:36 AM Jameela Lares <Jameela.Lares at usm.edu <mailto:Jameela.Lares at usm.edu> > wrote:

There is also, btw, a Facebook page dedicated to the topic:  the history of the english language (hel). HEL is an interesting acronym, as I usually hear it as HOTEL, but maybe they would attract too many hospitality types?




Jameela Lares, Professor of English

Charles W. Moorman Distinguished Professor, 2017-2019

The University of Southern Mississippi

108 College Drive #5037

Hattiesburg, MS 39406-0001





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 Carol Barton, PhD, CPCM
Sent: Tuesday, December 11, 2018 11:32 AM
To: milton-l at richmond.edu <mailto:milton-l at richmond.edu> 
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Language epochs


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): 



It’s well-written, and interesting.


Best to all,








On Dec 10, 2018, at 8:17 PM, Watt, James <jwatt at butler.edu <mailto: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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