Authoritative and wide-ranging, this book examines the history of western linguistics over a 2000-year timespan, from its origins in ancient Greece up to the crucial moment of change in the Renaissance that laid the foundations of modern linguistics. Some of today's burning questions about language date back a long way: in 1400 BC Plato was asking how words relate to reality. Other questions go back just a few generations, such as our interest in the mechanisms of language change, or in the social factors that shape the way we speak. Vivien Law explores how ideas about language over the centuries have changed to reflect changing modes of thinking. A survey chapter brings the coverage of the book up to the present day. Classified bibliographies and chapters on research resources and the qualities the historian of linguistics needs to develop, provide the reader with the tools to go further.