3rd Edition

Essentials of Early English An Introduction to Old, Middle, and Early Modern English

By Jeremy J. Smith Copyright 2023
    260 Pages 4 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    260 Pages 4 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    The third edition of this successful textbook has been fully revised and updated.

    Essentials of Early English is a practical and highly accessible introduction to the early stages of the English language: Old English, Middle English, and Early Modern English.

    Designed specifically as a handbook for students beginning the study of Early English language, whether for linguistic or literary purposes, it presumes little or no prior knowledge of the history of English.

    Features of this new edition include:

    • Comprehensive updating of the contents to take account of new developments in the subject
    • Newly added sample texts and accompanying notes
    • Links to images of many of the illustrative texts
    • An updated annotated bibliography.

    A contextual introduction of the history of English is provided, which includes an outline of English in relation to its origins. A deeper analysis is then given on each of the key stages of Early English, using the language of King Alfred, Chaucer, and Shakespeare respectively to illustrate points. Thus, the essential characteristics of each stage of the language are provided to create the ideal course book for History of English courses and to give the student a firm foundation of basic linguistic knowledge which can be applied to further study.


    Part I: Description

    1. Introduction

    2. Describing language

    3. Old English

    4. Middle English

    5. Early Modern English

    Part II: Illustrative Texts

    Section A. Old English texts

    Section B. Middle English texts

    Section C. Early Modern English

    Part III: Bibliography, Old English glossary, and thematic index

    Annotated bibliography

    Old English glossary

    Thematic index


    Jeremy J. Smith is Professor Emeritus in English Language and Linguistics, University of Glasgow, UK. His most recent monograph is Transforming Early English (2020).

    'Informative, lucid, inspiring, Essentials of Early English is an excellent introductory resource for both language and literature students. Profoundly appreciative of the material nature of the written word, and why it matters, this volume equips the student to engage in further study of the subject with confidence and pleasure.'  
    Catherine Batt, University of Leeds, UK

    'I am delighted that the third edition of Essentials of Early English has been prepared for publication. Like its earlier editions, it is an exceptionally friendly introduction to Early English, and yet includes all essential details in this field. I will recommend it widely to students beginning to learn the history of English.'
    Yoko Iyeiri, Kyoto University, Japan

    'This elegantly structured textbook continues to suit everyone!'
    Carol Percy, University of Toronto, Canada