Trask's Historical Linguistics  book cover
3rd Edition

Trask's Historical Linguistics

ISBN 9780415706582
Published March 3, 2015 by Routledge
412 Pages

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Book Description

Trask’s Historical Linguistics, Third Edition, is an accessible introduction to historical linguistics – the study of language change over time. This engaging book is illustrated with language examples from all six continents, and covers the fundamental concepts of language change, methods for historical linguistics, linguistic reconstruction, sociolinguistic aspects of language change, language contact, the birth and death of languages, language and prehistory and the issue of very remote relations.

This third edition of the renowned Trask’s Historical Linguistics is fully revised and updated and covers the most recent developments in historical linguistics, including:

  • more detail on morphological change including cutting-edge discussions of iconization
  • coverage of recent developments in sociolinguistic explanations of variation and change
  • new case studies focusing on Germanic languages and American and New Zealand English, and updated exercises covering each of the topics within the book
  • a brand new companion website featuring material for both professors and students, including discussion questions and further exercises as well as commentaries on the exercises within the book.

Trask’s Historical Linguistics is essential reading for all students of language, linguistics and related disciplines.

The accompanying website can be found at

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 The fact of language change

Chapter 2 Lexical and semantic change

Chapter 3 Phonological change I: change in pronunciation

Chapter 4 Phonological change II: change in phonological systems

Chapter 5 Morphological change

Chapter 6 Syntactic change

Chapter 7 Relatedness between languages

Chapter 8 Syntactic change

Chapter 10 The origin and propagation of change

Chapter 11 Social and historical pressures upon language

Chapter 12 Language and prehistory

Appendix: The Swadesh 200-word list



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Robert McColl Millar is Professor in Linguistics and Scottish Language at the University of Aberdeen. His most recent books include English Historical Sociolinguistics (2012) and (with William Barras and Lisa Marie Bonnici) Lexical Variation and Attrition in the Scottish Fishing Communities (2014).

Larry Trask was Professor of Linguistics at the University of Sussex and an authority on Basque language and historical linguistics.


"Trask's Historical Linguistics is a jewel among textbooks of Historical Linguistics: it brings to life the intriguing paths on which human languages have wandered in their development, and sparks the enthusiasm of the reader to explore and study them, providing the necessary toolkit and background knowledge."
Robert Mailhammer, University of Western Sydney, Australia

"Larry Trask’s Historical Linguistics is an exemplary introduction to the field, and McColl Millar’s third edition is a much needed update: the new case studies and exercises are superb, and the revised reading suggestions extremely helpful."
Adrian Pablé, The University of Hong Kong

"This new edition of Trask’s Historical Linguistics by Robert McColl Millar provides a thorough introduction to the field in the broadest sense while remaining accessible to students and specialists alike. Truly a useful book."
Garry Davis, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, USA

"This revised and expanded edition of Trask’s seminal work will make welcome reading for scholars and students alike."
Raymond Hickey, University of Duisburg and Essen, Germany

"Accessible but not simplified, entertaining but not simplistic, this book provides thorough coverage of the field with a richness of explanation and examples that offers at the same time a synthetic overview and a wealth of data and detail.  The new companion website promises to enhance its value as a textbook for the classroom and the independent learner."
Mark Richard Lauersdorf, University of Kentucky, USA