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The Story of English
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1.

Black on White [electronic resource]

Gullah-the African-influenced dialect of Georgia's Sea Islands-has undergone few changes since the first slave ships landed 300 years ago, and provides a clear window into the shaping of African-American English. This classic PBS program traces that story from the west coast of Africa through the American South, then to large northern cities in the 1920s. Studying the origins of West African pidgin English and creole speech-along with the tendency of 19th-century white Southerners to pick up speech habits from their black nursemaids-the program highlights the impact of WWI-era industrialization and the migration of jazz musicians to New York and Chicago.
Online
2007; 1986
2.

The Empire Strikes Back [electronic resource]

Will standard English, as it was known in the 20th century, disappear? Will English continue as the global tongue, or will its numerous varieties become, as offshoots of Latin did, a host of mutually unintelligible languages? This classic PBS program features new varieties of English that have transcended British and American influence. The program focuses on some of the most successful examples of "New English," including Jamaican creole, the English of India, and the pidgin of Melanesia, brought to Papua New Guinea by maritime trade. The program concludes with the possibility that the world's first global language will endure alongside its unrecognizable descendants.
Online
2007; 1986
3.

An English-Speaking World [electronic resource]

English is a language spoken by two billion people, perhaps even more. This classic PBS program examines the prevalence of English in the world today and presents a historical overview of its rise. Focusing on the expansion of the British Empire and the emergence of English-language mass media, the program explains how widespread English usage survived Britain's post-WWII decolonization, particularly in India and Africa. It also examines the impact of American-and especially Californian-English, which has arguably become standard. Interviews with William Safire and Gloria Steinem provide insight into Americanization and the linguistic influence of feminism.
Online
2007; 1986
4.

The Guid Scots Tongue [electronic resource]

The Scottish tongue is one of the oldest in Britain, a Northern variety of English that, but for the accidents of history, might have become a separate language. This classic PBS program deals with the influence of the Scots in spreading the language of their historic enemies-the Sassenachs of the South-around the world. The program begins in the 15th century, the golden age of the Scottish tongue; it follows the linguistic path of the Scots as they settled in Ulster and then crossed the Atlantic into Appalachia and the American sunbelt. A look at the English of the Scottish Highlands is also included, studying the influence of the Gaelic languages that still survive on the Outer Hebrides.
Online
2007; 1986
5.

Loaded Weapon [electronic resource]

The Irish experience reflects two language traditions, English and Gaelic. This classic PBS program shows how English was first established in Ireland in the 17th century and how, in cases of violent cultural conflict, language can function as a weapon. Exploring the west of Ireland today, the program identifies traces of Irish Celtic culture, despite the historical decline of the Gaelic tongue. Typical Irish accents in Cork are examined, with examples containing strong echoes of Elizabethan speech. The impact of Cromwell's rule and the catastrophic famines of the 1840s-both of which forced many Irish into exile, further distancing them from their native language-is also studied.
Online
2007; 1986
6.

The Mother Tongue [electronic resource]

The making of English is the story of three great invasions and a cultural revolution. This classic PBS program shows how an early form of English was carried to Britain by invading Anglo-Saxons, how that language was all but obliterated by waves of Viking settlers, and how it was reshaped by the French-speaking Normans. The fact that English survived on the lips of people who left no written records is made clear in the program; however, the nascent literary history of the language is also presented-how it emerged in the first English plays, developed in the printing achievements of William Caxton, and flowered in the poetry of the first great English writer, Geoffrey Chaucer.
Online
2007; 1986
7.

A Muse of Fire [electronic resource]

As the landscape of the New World awakened England's imagination, so did a new landscape of words-in the English of William Shakespeare and the King James Bible. This classic PBS program describes the spread of English to North America and explains how Shakespeare's prodigious vocabulary filled the language with startling new words, phrases, and constructions. Recording strong echoes of Shakespearean English in the little villages lying near Stratford, the program also describes the making of the Authorized Version of the Bible-the only great work of literature ever created by committee-and examines the linguistic dissent perpetrated by the Puritans.
Online
2007; 1986
8.

The Muvver Tongue [electronic resource]

In the 19th century, English spread throughout the British Empire-but which English? This classic PBS program traces the roots of white Commonwealth English to Cockney, the language of London's working class. Explaining the influence of Cockney on modern, standardized speech, the program shows how, in fact, the accents of BBC English are gradually becoming modified by Cockney speech characteristics like the glottal stop. Resemblances between the accents of New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and the Falkland Islands are also explored, highlighting major aspects of the colonial language-along with traces of aboriginal tongues nearly eclipsed by English.
Online
2007; 1986
9.

Pioneers! o Pioneers! [electronic resource]

Both westward expansion and 19th-century immigration affected the development of a uniquely American English. This classic PBS program tells the story of that burgeoning dialect, from the Revolutionary War to the 1920s. Beginning with the Declaration of Independence, the program depicts the determination of American radicals-dictionary author Noah Webster among them-to achieve linguistic as well as political separation. While the urban, immigrant-laden Northeast is rightly viewed as a linguistic pressure cooker, the western frontier is portrayed as no less dynamic-thanks to fur traders, riverboat pilots, gold miners, Spanish-speaking cowboys, Native Americans, and the railroad.
Online
2007; 1986