March's Author of the Month is Robert McColl Millar of the University of Aberdeen! He revised and edited the second and third editions of Trask's Historical Linguistics, originally authored by historical linguistics expert Larry Trask. Trask's Historical Linguistics was just published at the end of February. Robert McColl Millar's other 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).
In a new interview, he discussed his career path, what readers can expect from this latest work, its key takeway, and more.
Discuss your career path and what led you to specialize in Linguistics.
Given that my mother was a Scots speaker and my father came from a Gaelic language background, language issues have been a part of my life since a very early age. There has never been a time when I haven’t thought about language and how it varies and changes. As an undergraduate I was happily ensconced at the philological end of the study of ancient languages; always tugging at me, however, was the question ‘why?’ Why and how does language change? For the last thirty years I have been trying to find an answer to this; Trask’s Historical Linguistics forms part of this quest.
What can readers expect from the latest edition of Trask's Historical Linguistics?
Readers can expect a continuation of the tradition started by Larry Trask over twenty years ago. In particular I have maintained his original use of examples from Basque. These give a freshness to the work. In line with the second edition, and as a continuation of its methodology, I have updated many of the findings, paying particular attention to the case-studies, which help give depth and breadth to the work, allowing students to place change in its context.
Is there anything you’d like to highlight about this topic or Trask's Historical Linguistics in particular?
Perhaps the single most important change in the third edition is the addition of a case-study concerned with new dialect formation; in particular, how American and New Zealand English came into being. This is a hot topic at the moment which has helped us understand in more depth how contact between two or more closely related varieties can cause the ‘birth’ of a new variety like others, but not the same as them.
What’s a common misconception about this topic that you’d like to clear up?
Many people assume that Historical Linguistics is as dry as dust. Not so: it’s actually a vibrant and controversial subject with considerable relevance for everyone’s everyday experience.
What’s the one thing you hope readers take away from your book?
A love for, and understanding of, language variation and change in all its diversity.
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…
Paperback – 2015-02-25