This book is designed as a practical handbook for students beginning the study of earlier stages of the English language, whose eventual aim is to proceed to more advanced work on the history of English, or on earlier English literature, or on both.
Although most courses in English studies offered by major universities include a component on the historical study of English, and on earlier states of the language, it is my impression that there is a paucity of clear descriptive accounts of the various stages of English for beginning students, laid out on modern lines and clarifying the connections between each stage. I believe that there is a need for what might be called, using a rather traditional term, a ‘primer’ in Early English, in which the essential characteristics of each stage of the language can be identified and the differences and similarities between the stages can be made explicit.
This book is designed to meet that need. Once a knowledge of the prototypical characteristics of Old, Middle and Early Modern English has been secured, it is hoped that students can then develop their knowledge of each stage of the language on a firm foundation. In short, I regard this book as a ‘prequel’ to more advanced books, enabling a swifter and more effective engagement with the materials there presented. It is for that reason that I have added an