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Wordsmiths and Warriors The English-Language Tourist's Guide to Britain by David Crystal, Hilary Crystal

Wordsmiths and Warriors The English-Language Tourist's Guide to Britain

The Real World   

Sue Baker's view...

David and Hilary Crystal take us on a linguistic journey through Britain tracing the rise of our language. An unusual guide that you can even use to plot your own linguistic tour, all the information you’ll need is provided allowing you to track down language influence and roots, its idiosyncratic, surprising and above all informative, a lively travelogue.

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Who is Sue Baker

The Good Book Guide logo The Good Book Guide Review. Linguist David Crystal sets off with his photographer wife, Hilary, on an unusual tour of Britain, hunting for the origins of the English language in unlikely places. The book, in Crystal’s clear and enthusiastic style, is an absorbing read. The odyssey begins in windswept Pegwell Bay, where the Anglo-Saxons arrived at the invitation of King Vortigern, and ends in the English department of University College London, where grammarians pore over computer screens. Betraying Crystal’s background as more linguist than tour guide, it is organised historically, though he does give directions and website links, and groups the locations by region at the end of the book.
~ The Good Book Guide

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Wordsmiths and Warriors The English-Language Tourist's Guide to Britain by David Crystal, Hilary Crystal

Wordsmiths and Warriors explores the heritage of English through the places in Britain that shaped it. It unites the warriors, whose invasions transformed the language, with the poets, scholars, reformers, and others who helped create its character. The book relates a real journey. David and Hilary Crystal drove thousands of miles to produce this fascinating combination of English-language history and travelogue, from locations in south-east Kent to the Scottish lowlands, and from south-west Wales to the East Anglian coast. David provides the descriptions and linguistic associations, Hilary the full-colour photographs. They include a guide for anyone wanting to follow in their footsteps but arrange the book to reflect the chronology of the language. This starts with the Anglo-Saxon arrivals in Kent and in the places that show the earliest evidence of English. It ends in London with the latest apps for grammar. In between are intimate encounters with the places associated with such writers as Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Wordsworth; the biblical Wycliffe and Tyndale; the dictionary compilers Cawdrey, Johnson, and Murray; dialect writers, elocutionists, and grammarians, and a host of other personalities. Among the book's many joys are the diverse places that allow warriors such as Byrhtnoth and King Alfred to share pages with wordsmiths like Robert Burns and Tim Bobbin, and the unexpected discoveries that enliven every stage of the authors' epic journey.


'Part history, part travel guide, illustrated with high-quality colour photographs of places associated with the development of the language and those writers who used it to greatest effect, it is an original and ambitious project wonderfully realised.' Evergreen

'Language is a living thing, and Crystal is a lively, literate guide to the landmarks that signpost its long history.' Iain Finlayson

'A splendiferous, beautiful, colourful book that every language, history, archaeology and literature lover should have on their coffee tables and tucked under their arms when they get on a train to jaunt across the country.' Huffington Post

About the Author

David Crystal is known throughout the world as a writer, editor, lecturer and broadcaster on language. He has published extensively on the history and development of English, including The Stories of English (2004), Evolving English (2010), Begat: The King James Bible and the English Language (2010), The Story of English in 100 Words (2011), and Spell It Out: The Singular Story of English Spelling (2012).

Hilary Crystal trained as a speech therapist, worked for a while in clinical linguistic research, then became a sub-editor for the various volumes in the Cambridge and Penguin families of encyclopedias. She has designed several books, notably the anthologies of the poetry of John Bradburne edited by David.

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Book Info

Publication date

5th March 2015


David Crystal, Hilary Crystal

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Author 'Like for Like'


Oxford University Press


440 pages


Language: history & general works
Travel writing



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