Review of The Fight for English by David Crystal

Published 05/01/2012 by damselwithadulcimer

This book should be required reading for anybody who cares about the English language. Although David Crystal is a linguist he passionately believes that our language must evolve. It can never be preserved in aspic. To endorse this belief he reminds us that Samuel Johnson saw the error of his way, and proclaimed that language can never be fixed. Crystal goes on to state:

You cannot stop language change. You may not like it; you may regret the arrival of new
forms and the passing of old ones; but there is not the slightest thing you can do about
it. Language change is as natural as breathing. It is one of the linguistic facts of life.

He charts the evolution of the English language, both verbal and written, from Anglo-Saxon times to the present day when American English is more the norm than the exception. He analyses the changes in our language over the centuries and discusses how the pedants and moralisers have tried to impose rules and regulations. How regional accents and dialects have been derided, and how writers, such as Shakespeare, have been retrospectively criticised for making grammatical errors.

Crystal reaches an optimistic conclusion that allows for changes to the English language. He is pleased that the teaching of grammar has been reintroduced to schools, but in a far less prescriptive and proscriptive manner that now permits children to understand and questions the rules.

It’s time to go with the flow and accept that the English language has never stood still, nor will it in the future. And there is nothing wrong with starting a question with a conjunction and ending it with a preposition. 

3 comments on “Review of The Fight for English by David Crystal

  • You probably should improve your own grammar by learning the difference between “its” and “it’s” before publishing reviews…

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