The Earliest English : An Introduction to Old English Language book cover
1st Edition

The Earliest English
An Introduction to Old English Language

ISBN 9780582404748
Published September 9, 2004 by Routledge
328 Pages

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Book Description

The Earliest English provides a student-friendly introduction to Old English and the earliest periods of the history of the English Language as it evolved before 1215. Using non-technical language, the book covers basic terminology, the linguistic and cultural backgrounds to the emergence and development of OE, and the OE vocabulary that students studying this phase of the English language need to know.

In eight carefully structured units, the authors show how the vocabulary of Old English contains many items familiar to us today; how its characteristic poetic form is based on a beautiful and intricate simplicity; how its patterns of word building and inflectional structure are paralleled in several present day languages and how and why the English language and its literature continued to change so that by the mid-12th century the English language looks more like the 'English' that we are familiar with in the 21st century. Features of the book include:

  •  the provision of accessible guides to some important 'problem topics' of classical OE
  • stimulating cross-linguistic comparisons, e.g. the pronoun system of OE as compared with the pronoun system of present day Dutch
  • cleverly laid out translation exercises, with structural help in the form of selective glossaries
  • careful division into eight units, designed for both classroom use and self-study

Written in a clear and accessible manner, The Earliest English provides a comprehensive introduction to the evolution of Old English language and literature, and will be an invaluable textbook for students of English Language and Linguistics.

Table of Contents


List of symbols


Using this book

1. Thinking about the earliest English

2. History, culture, language origins

3. Nouns

4. Verbs

Interlude. Working with dictionaries

5. OE Metric

6.  Standards and Crosses

7. Twilight

8. Rebuilding English

At-a-glance guide to inflections (1): classical Old English, nouns

At-a-glance guide to inflections (2): classical old English, verbs


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Chris McCully is a freelance writer and academic. He has published widely in the fields of English historical linguistics, Old English and English phonology.

Sharon Hilles is Professor of English at California State Polytechnic University where she teaches Linguistics, grammar, first and second language acquisition and the development of modern English.


'...a new textbook that makes intricate changes in the language comprehensible to students and provides new perspectives on language evolution.

'...this account of the development of the English language is a true asset to it's study.'

Biljana Cubrovic, The European English Messenger, 14.1, 2005.

'...nicely bound, well presented and with earnest claims on the back cover to provide students with everything they could possibly need to become expert in the subject.'

Tim Connell, The Times Higher, Dec 2nd 2005.