Friday, April 16, 2010

Ryan Watches a Motion Picture #4: The Adventure of English (2003)

It's a fascinating miniseries on the birth of the English language and its growth in time to be the global language it is today. It proves to be a detailed and stirring look at the historical forces that shaped the language and nudged it into certain patterns and dialects, and should scratch the documentary itch of any English student or lover of the word, the line, the way.

It goes over the reasons why we spell words in certain ways, how certain words have shifted meaning, and which words from our vast word-horde were trickled in from different languages as their respective nationalities clashed. How the English artists, Shakespeare among them, changed the language through their work and how they brought status to the English language abroad.

It gets a little overzealous, I think, whenever it posits that English is a particularly robust, naturally selected, or adaptable and absorbing language, since I'd guess that its spread and knack for assimilating foreign words and grammars has more to do with imperialist and economic forces rather than any kind of naturally selected flexibility, but the series does manage to admit as much near the end of the series.

So: The historical rundown it presents is compelling without need of cheesy re-enactment, and should keep you fascinated every step of the way.

*Not actually part of the documentary, but informative nonetheless.

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