A history of English

Míša Hejná   George Walkden  


Where does today’s English language come from? This book takes its readers on a journey back in time, from present-day varieties to the Old English of Beowulf and beyond. Written for students with little or no background in linguistics, and reflecting the latest scholarship, it showcases the variation and change present throughout the history of English, and includes numerous exercises and sample texts for every period.

The reverse-chronological approach taken by this book sets it apart from all existing textbooks of the last fifty years. Innovative features also include its focus on variation, multilingualism and language contact, its use of texts from outside the literary canon, and its inclusion of case studies from syntax, sociophonetics and historical pragmatics.



  • Review on Lingoblog by Peter Trudgill published August 12, 2022
    [..]But, very importantly, the book will surely still have a significant legacy in decades to come in the form of scholars and teachers of the History of the English Language, as well as simple enthusiasts for the subject, who will have had their interest aroused by this very readable and enjoyable book. As an introductory textbook, it works extremely well. [...]
  • Review on LinguistList by Portia Dede Opare published January 18, 2023
    [...] “A history of English” is incredibly readable. Its introductory page clearly outlines the book’s purpose and scope. With the book’s signature humour, key concepts and issues are reiterated again and again, helping students remember what needs to be remembered. Being a stand-alone textbook, the book is intentional in operationalizing its definitions and in delimiting its scope. It provides sufficient information to pique the interest of readers without inundating them with extraneous information. Instead, it points readers to other literature for further readings. Moreover, the book incorporates multimodal forms like images, indexes, pointers, infographics, and colourful diagrams which altogether make for an engaging read. [...]



Míša Hejná

Míša (Michaela) Hejná is an Associate Professor in English Language at Aarhus University. Her research interests lie primarily in the areas of language variation and change, phonetics and phonology, and interdisciplinary studies.

George Walkden

George Walkden is Professor of English Linguistics and General Linguistics at the University of Konstanz. He works on language change and syntax, particularly in the context of the Germanic languages.

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June 27, 2022
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Hejná, Míša & Walkden, George. 2022. A history of English. (Textbooks in Language Sciences 9). Berlin: Language Science Press. DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.6560337


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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Details about the available publication format: Softcover


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Details about the available publication format: Hardcover


ISBN-13 (15)