Introduction: Rethinking and extending approaches to the history of the English language

Terttu Nevalainen and Elizabeth Closs Traugott

in The Oxford Handbook of the History of English

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199922765
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

Introduction: Rethinking and extending approaches to the history of the English language

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  • Linguistics
  • Historical and Diachronic Linguistics


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Linguistic research has been undergoing major shifts over the past few years. From thinking in terms of discrete categories and modules of language, as well as large discrete steps in change, the attention has shifted to variation, gradience, and interfaces between modules. In particular, language change is observed at the micro-level. This article introduces the rationale for the selection of topics in the Handbook, first what types of evidence can be used to access changes in English that are attested not only in past historical records but are also currently ongoing in British and American English, and English word-wide. It focuses on major trends in work aimed to rethink diachronic accounts of key factors, language external and internal, such as language contact, socio-cultural change, continua, and typological processes. The article also introduces the topic of relationships between information structure, syntax, and prosody. The overall message of the article is that recent rethinking of the field has led to new findings, connections, and prospects for future work.

Keywords: English; English Worldwide; electronic corpora; evidence; historical linguistics; language contact; creoles; information structure; prosody; syntax; typology; socio-cultural change

Article.  5841 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Historical and Diachronic Linguistics

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