Why does language change? Why can we speak to and understand our parents
but have trouble reading Shakespeare? Why is Chaucer's English of the
fourteenth century so different from Modern English of the late twentieth
century that the two are essentially different languages? Why are Americans
and English 'one people divided by a common language'? And how can the
language of Chaucer and Modern English - or Modern British and American
English - still be called the same language? The present book provides
answers to questions like these in a straightforward way, aimed at the
non-specialist, with ample illustrations from both familiar and more exotic
Most chapters in this new edition have been reworked, with some difficult
passages removed, other passages thoroughly rewritten, and several new
sections added, e.g. on language and race and on Indian writing systems.
Further, the chapter notes and bibliography have all been updated.
The content is engaging, focusing on topics and issues that spark student
interest. Its goals are broadly pedagogical and the level and presentation
are appropriate for interested beginners with little or no background in
linguistics. The language coverage for examples goes well beyond what is
usual for books of this kind, with a considerable amount of data from
various languages of India.