Author's preface to the first edition

This short introduction to the history of English is the product of teaching a subject that is often daunting to the student. It is intended to be as clear and simple as possible and therefore assumes no technical knowledge on the part of the reader.

Inevitably the debt to numerous works of scholarship is too heavy to acknowledge in copious notes and references. The book has drawn extensively on the work of historians of English like C.L. Barber, M.L. Samuels, and Barbara Strang; of linguists and language scholars like A.C. Gimson, Geoffrey Leech, Frank Palmer, Randolph Quirk, and R.A. Waldron; and of sociolinguists like Joshua Fishman, Einar Haugen, William Labov, and Peter Trudgill. And the work of Raymond Williams has proved an invaluable supplement. The more specific contributions of others have been acknowledged in the Notes and Bibliography at the end of the book.

The book is divided into three parts. Parts 1 and 2 trace the history of English within England, first by outlining a 'historical sociology' of the language and then by exploring some case studies of linguistic change. Part 3 concerns the history of English in other areas of the British Isles and in different parts of the world.

-viii-

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A Social History of English
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Figures vi
  • List of Tables vii
  • Author's Preface to the First Edition viii
  • Preface to the Second Edition ix
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I - Emergence and Consolidation 5
  • 1 - Languages in Contact 7
  • 2 - Standardisation and Writing 31
  • Part II - Changing Patterns of Usage 59
  • 3 - Words and Meanings 61
  • 4 - Grammar 86
  • 5 - Pronunciation 112
  • Part III - Imposition and Spread 147
  • 6 - The Imposition of English in the British Isles 149
  • 7 - English as an International Language 180
  • Part IV - Evidence, Interpretation and Theory 215
  • 8 - A Critical Linguistic History of English Texts 217
  • Theoretical Postscript 255
  • Exercises and Topics for Further Study 266
  • Appendix: International Phonetic Alphabet Consonant Symbols 270
  • Notes and Suggested Reading 272
  • Bibliography 278
  • General Index 291
  • Index of Words and Forms 299
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