A groundbreaking history of worldwide English in all its dialects, differences, and linguistic delights: “Informative . . . distinctive . . . a spirited celebration.” —The Guardian In this “well-informed and appealing” work (Publishers Weekly), David Crystal puts aside the usual focus on “standard” English, and instead provides a startlingly original view of where the richness, creativity, and diversity of the language truly lies—in the accents and dialects of nonstandard English users all over the world. Whatever their regional, social, or ethnic background, each group has a story worth telling, whether it is in Scotland or Somerset, South Africa or Singapore. He reminds us that for several hundred wonderful years, there was no such thing as “incorrect” English—and traces the evolution of the language from a few thousand Anglo-Saxons to the 1.5 billion people who speak it today. Moving from Beowulf to Chaucer to Shakespeare to Dickens and the present day, Crystal puts regional speech and writing at center stage, giving a sense of the social realities behind the development of English. This significant shift in perspective enables us to understand for the first time the importance of everyday, previously marginalized, voices in our language—and provides an argument too for the way English should be taught in the future. “A work of impeccable scholarship [that] could easily serve as a standard textbook for students of linguistics, but Mr. Crystal, reaching out to a more general audience, recognizes that even the most avid reader might flinch at the sections on Old Norse grammatical influence. Cleverly, he has sprinkled the book with little digressions, set apart in boxes, that address historical mysteries, strange loanwords, interesting etymologies and the like.” —The New York Times “Learned and often provocative . . . demonstrates repeatedly that common conceptions about language are often historically inaccurate—split infinitives bothered no one until recently (likewise sentence-ending prepositions).” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review) “Simply the best introductory history of the English language family that we have. The plan of the book is ingenious, the writing lively, the exposition clear, and the scholarly standard uncompromisingly high.” —J.M. Coetzee, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature