Spellbound: The Surprising Origins and Astonishing Secrets of English Spelling

James Essinger, Author . Delta $13 (336p) ISBN 978-0-385-34084-7

British author Essinger (Jacquard's Web: How a Hand Loom Led to the Birth of the Information Age ) provides an enlightening and enjoyable excursion into "the magical nature" of writing through the history of English spelling. Essinger provides many examples of English's well-known inconsistency between spelling and pronunciation, and the fact that many words are spelled illogically and arbitrarily. But there is, he says, "method in the madness" and concludes that there is no need for reform. Essinger notes fascinating research showing that some dyslexic children find Chinese characters easier to comprehend than written English, because Chinese characters relate to meaning rather than sound. Extremely valuable is the author's well-researched chronicle of the evolution of English spelling, beginning with the invasion of William the Conqueror in 1066, through Middle English ( a hybrid of Norman French and Anglo Saxon) and the subsequent transformation into Modern English. The rise of Modern English was sparked by changes in pronunciation, the influence of the Renaissance, which led to heavy borrowing from Latin and Greek, and the introduction of the printing press. Essinger takes the influence of technology through the present, looking at the impact of e-mail and text messaging. A good-humored buoyant style helps make this examination of the origin and current state of English spelling a pleasure to read. (May 1)

Reviewed on: 03/26/2007
Release date: 05/01/2007
Genre: Nonfiction
Hardcover - 254 pages - 978-1-86105-906-2
Open Ebook - 175 pages - 978-0-440-33693-8
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