LINGUIST List 13.3407

Sun Dec 22 2002

Sum: Text for Undergraduate Historical Linguistics

Editor for this issue: Anthony Rodrigues Aristar <>


  1. Z. S. Bond, Undergraduate Historical Ling Text

Message 1: Undergraduate Historical Ling Text

Date: Wed, 18 Dec 2002 10:00:06 -0500
From: Z. S. Bond <>
Subject: Undergraduate Historical Ling Text

In response to my query about a text for undergraduate historical
linguistics (Linguist 13.2525), I have received suggestions and
comments from the following:

Tim Beasley
Mayrene Bentley
Edward N. Burstynsky
Patricia DeMarco
Mark Donohue
Peter Hendriks
Douglas Lightfoot
John Lynch
Marc Pierce
Charles O. Schleicher
Mary Shapiro
Bruce Spencer
Herb Stahlke
Jan Tent
Michael Tjalve
Margaret Winters

I want to express my gratitude to all. Below are the recommendations
as well as some evaluative comments.

I'd like to suggest Bloomfield's classic, Language. I think
it's a wonderful book in general, and it also works just fine as a

I use Arlotto's 1972 Intro. to Historical Linguistics (Univ. Press
of America). It's short, relatively accessible, and not too dated.

For students with little or no background in linguistics, you may wish to
consider Andrew Sihler's book Language History. An alternative may
be Anthony Arlotto's book, Introduction to historical

Completely recommend Crowley, Terry. 1992. An introduction to
Historical linguistics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

I looked through 8 or 9 historical ling texts before deciding on the
Trask _Historical Linguistics_ book. Overall, I liked the Trask

I ended up using Crowley's An Intro to Historical Linguistics. It's
nice because it comes with study guide questions for each chapter.

You might want to look at: Sihler, Andrew. 2000. Language History: An
Introduction. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. It probably wouldn't work as
the only text for a course, but it makes a nice supplement to a text
that doesn't explain all the basics.

I've used Terry Crowley's 'An introduction to Historical Linguistics'
(Oxford University Press, 3rd edition, 2000) with good success. I
supplement the Crowley with exercises from Algeo's The Origins and
Development of the English language and its workbook and Charles
Jones' A History of English Phonology.

I've had a lot of success with Trask which is thorough, interesting,
and has some good exercises at the end of each chapter. Jeffers and
Lehiste isn't bad at a bit lower level, but uneven.

I used Lyle Campbell. It is a good solid book with exercises from a
variety of languages. Probably the best book out there.&nbsp; Trask is
also an excellent book which I have used. Good exercises. Too much
Basque in it for my liking.

Jeffers Lehiste is a good book, with all the essentials. Many of the
standard textbooks (like Lehmann, Hock, Arlotto, Anttila) are heavily
weighted in favour of Indo-European. I have use Bynon before and the
students hated the book.

Terry Crowley's &quot;An Introduction to Historical Linguistics
(Oxford U. Press, 3rd. ed., 1997) is good in that it was initially
written with second-language users of English in mind, and thus things
are explained clearly, and not too much background is assumed.

I have tried a variety of texts including Trask, Lehmann (3rd),
Crowley, and Hock and Joseph. I find Trask to combine a sensible
critical approach with a thoughtful coverage of the field that can be
handled in a semester.I also like Crowley, but his approach is better
suited to the audience he had in mind. Lehmann (3rd) is a thoroughly
engaging text with a very strong emphasis on Indo-European. It would
be difficult for undergrads. Hock and Joseph is the most thorough and
varied of the lot. I like Campbell the best, although I haven't used
it in a class. But the book might be too much for undergrads to

I'd thoroughly recommend the following: Terry Crowley, 1992 An
Introduction to Historical Linguistics. Auckland: OUP.

I have been using An Introduction to Historical Linguistics by Terry

1. It was written for students whose native language was not English,
and so is easy to understand for native speakers and non-native
speakers alike.
2. It is not Indo-European-centric.
3. He does not try to go too far in each section, and nor does he
assume too much. 
4. The exercises are manageable for beginning students. 
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