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*The History of English*
“The Spoken History of a Global Language”
By Kevin Stroud

If you’ve ever looked at an Old English document and wondered how we got
from that to now, you’ll love this podcast. Stroud has made what could have
been a mind-numbingly boring topic into a fascinating podcast. The podcast
began in June 2012 and currently is at episode 106.

He begins with our language’s proto-Indo-European roots, discussing how the
people who spoke it came to spread it all over Europe and beyond. He
explains how pronunciation shifts occurred, things like how “p” became “f”
(like how “pater” became “father”) and how we can trace the development of
the language through those consistent changes.

He really hits his stride when he gets to Old English, which he must have
studied at some point. Stroud’s a lawyer by profession, but his love of
language is plain. He pronounces Old English and Old Norse words clearly,
making the subtle differences distinct. His section on pronouns – which are
Old English and which are Old Norse – was really good.

In order to show how English evolved, Stroud covers a lot of straight-up
history. He discusses what led to the Magna Carta, what conditions led to
the publication of the first law books in English, which wars caused which
demographic shifts, and so on. He tells the history of England in order to
tell the history of English.

Stroud’s website is good, too. He has entries for all his episodes. Some
include maps that show migrations or areas where certain languages were
prevalent. A couple have audio samples, such as Gregorian chants and a
group singing “Sumer Is Icumen In.” I expect as he progresses into the
later centuries he’ll have more such resources available.

Stroud also plans to include samples of various English speakers’ accents
in future episodes to illustrate the evolution of modern English accents
and dialects. On his website he has a place for people to leave a voice
sample, asking everyone to list the place where they acquired their accent
and say the same 13 sentences, such as “The ten steel beams are still
supporting the tin roof” and “The goose took a bath in the mill pond.”

The History of English has an active community who ask questions, offer
corrections, and generally comment on the interesting bits of information
we learn every two weeks. Most of this is on the website, but there’s also
a Facebook page.

Like many podcasters, Stroud has a Patreon page for donations. But his
approach to fundraising is low key. He has two audio books for sale, one on
Beowulf and the other on the alphabet. “Beowulf Deconstructed: The Old
English of Beowulf” is available for $6 or $0.99 each for six chapters.
“The History of the Alphabet” is in two parts, each $3.

I listened to the Beowulf audio book, and I liked it, but if you know much
about it, or about Old English, it may feel like he’s covering well-tread
ground. His focus is on the language, after all. But the best reason to buy
these episodes is to support a podcaster who provides his main
chronological narrative completely for free. This is especially true of
Stroud, who has no ads on his podcast or website.

The History of English podcast currently is in the early 13th century.
Recent episodes looked at the Ancrene Wisse, discussed prefixes and
suffixes, and the most recent episode looked at the early medieval book

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