Print resources for studying the history of the English language

Extended readings for your reports, OE transliterations, your research essays, or general interest. I've tried to make everything as accessible as possible for you. In general, the call number to remember is "PE", both in the stacks and in the reference section. Anything with an * in front of it (e.g., Millward) should be on short-term loan. Some of the others (e.g., Crystal) are reference books: "GENR" means that it is on the 4th floor of the Robarts library. Victoria and Trinity Colleges also have excellent reference sections and collections, but I haven't systematically indicated which of these books are available there; I'd be grateful if you could help me update this list. Please reshelve reference books when you've finished using them.

Have a look at my website with links to online resources (aka ‘HELL’).

For general reference:


*Crystal, David. The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995. PE 1072 C68 1995X GENR, PE 1072 C7 1995 VUPR, TRIF, 420 C957C OISE/UT & FIS [arranged chronologically and thematically]

*McArthur, Tom. The Oxford Companion to the English Language. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992. PE 1625 O85 1992 GENR, UNIV; PE 1072 O9 1992 TRIF, VUPR [arranged alphabetically] Concise edition is available on-line as an ‘e-book’.

*McArthur, Tom. The Oxford Guide to World English. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002. PE 1072 M33 STL.

Webster's Dictionary of English Usage. Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster Inc., 1989. PR 1460 W425 1989 GENR, TRIF, VUPR, and INNIS under a different call number [great for historical account of contemporary usage issues]

*The Cambridge History of the English language.  Ed. Richard Hogg. 6 vols. Cambridge University Press. PE 1072 C36 1992. Covers OE, ME, EmodE, ModE, English in Britain and overseas, English in North America. The best springboard into relatively current historical-linguistic scholarship; good bibliographies.]

Some bibliographies:


"Further reading" at the end of the appropriate chapters in the Cambridge History of the English Language [PE 1072 C36].

The e-index to conjure with is “Linguistics & Language Behavior” – it’s even got abstracts.

Fisiak, Jacek. A Bibliography of Writings for the History of the English Language. 2nd ed. Berlin, New York, & Amsterdam: Mouton de Gruyter, 1987. Z 2015 A1 F57 1987 GENR [not exhaustive, but a handy way of getting an overview of some topics]

Annual bibliographies in Anglo-Saxon England (Cambridge) [DA 152.2 A 75] and especially the Old English Newsletter (Binghamton, NY) [PE 101 O 44] for OE culture, history, literature, language.

Burnley, David and M. Tajima, eds. The Language of Middle English Literature. Brewer, 1994. [Z 2012 B925 1994]

Dictionaries & thesaurus (historical):


Many of these are now online: see (go to..) ‘HELL’, the ‘dictionaries’ page.

The American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots. Rev. and ed. Calvert Watkins. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1985. P 615 A43 1985 ROBA [Fun intro essay on IE, and an index where you can learn that Wurst (German for "sausage") and war are related to each other]

Dictionary of Old English. Eds. Ashley Crandell Amos, and Antonette dePaolo Healey. Toronto: for the Dictionary of Old English Project, Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Toronto, by the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1986-. [PE 279 D53 1986 GENR mfe - in one of the fiche cabinets, 4th floor Robarts] But it’s now online: see ‘HELL’.

"Bosworth-Toller". An Anglo-Saxon Dictionary based on the manuscript collections of the late Joseph Bosworth. Ed. T. Northcote Toller; suppl. A. Campbell. [PE 279 B55] It’s now online, sort of: see ‘HELL’

English/Old English, Old English/English Dictionary. Ed. Gregory K. Jember, with John C. Cavell et al. 1975. [PE 279 J4 GENR, ROBA]

*Griffiths, Bill. A User-Friendly Dictionary of Old English. Amra: Benbowbridge, 1989. [PE 279 G75?] Has `wild cards' for those annoying OE vowels!

*Hall, J.R. Clark. A Concise Anglo-Saxon Dictionary. 4th ed. Toronto: University of Toronto Press in association with the Medieval Academy of America, 1984. [PE 249 H3 1984] Quite inexpensive in paperback, if you'd like an OE dictionary of your own. Meanings only, no illustrative quotations. Also online.]

*Roberts, Jane, and Christian Kay. A Thesaurus of Old English. 2 vols. London: King's College London, Centre for Late Antique and Medieval Studies, 1995. [PE 279 R62 1995] Use this if you want to find as many words in an OE semantic field as you can. And do appreciate the extent to which OE used compounding and affixation (prefixes and suffixes) to extend its vocabulary. Now online.

Middle English Dictionary. Ed. Hans Kurath and others. [PE 679 M54] You will need to use this for the semantics project. Now online, under ‘Middle English Compendium’ if you’re getting to it from the U of T library catalogue.

Anglo-Norman Dictionary. Ed. L.W. Stone et al. 1977- [PC 2926 A646]

The Oxford English Dictionary =[OED] 2nd ed. 20 vols. Oxford, 1989. PE 1625 M7 1989 (but shelved out of sequence at many libraries. Also on line -

Old English

*The Cambridge History of the English Language. Vol. 1. The Beginnings to 1066. Ed. Richard Hogg. 1992. [CHEL1][advanced; chapters on different aspects of OE by specialists in the field; an invaluable resource] [PE 1072 C36 1992]

Cameron, Angus, and Allison Kingsmill. Old English Word Studies: A Preliminary Author and Word Index. Toronto: University of Toronto Press in association with the Centre for Medieval Studies, 1983. [PE 279 C35 1983 GENR mix] Lists all scholarly studies of OE words. The DOE project (14th floor Robarts) has an updated copy if you get really keen.

Gneuss, Helmut. "The Old English Language". In The Cambridge Companion to Old English Literature. Ed. M. Godden and M. Lapidge. 1991. [PR 173 C36 1991 ROBA] Nice overview.

Lass, Roger. Old English. A historical linguistic companion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994. [PE 125 L37] For those of you interested in how Old English grammar reveals the language's Germanic and Indo-European roots.

Marckwardt, Albert H. and James L. Rosier, Old English Language and Literature. 1972. [PE 123 M3 1972 ROBA, SMC] A textbook of Old English. Topics introduced in an odd order, but clearly. Use the table of contents if you're looking for info on a particular topic.

*Mitchell, Bruce and Fred C. Robinson. A Guide to Old English. 5th ed. 1992. [PE 131 M5] *Mitchell, Bruce. An Invitation to Old English and Anglo-Saxon England. Oxford, UK; Cambridge, Mass: Blackwell, 1995. [PE 123 M58 1995 ROBA]

*Quirk, Randolph, and C.L. Wrenn. An Old English Grammar. New ed. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press. [PE 131 Q 57] [a really excellent introductory OE grammar: try it first if you're perplexed]

*Smith, Jeremy J. Essentials of Early English. London and New York: Routledge, 1999. [PE 1101 S58 STL/ROBA, VUPT]

Middle English:

Bennett, J.A.W. and G.V. Smithers, eds. Early Middle English Verse and Prose. 2nd ed. rev. 1968. [has detailed descriptions of the language of individual texts] [PR 1120 B4 1968]

Burrow, J.A. and Thorlac Turville-Petre. A Book of Middle English. 1992. [PE 535 B87 1992]

*The Cambridge History of the English Language. Vol. 2. 1066-1476. Ed. Norman Blake. 1992. [CHEL2] [PE 1072 C36 1992]

Fisher, John. The Emergence of Standard English. Lexington: the University Press of Kentucky, 1996. [PE 524.7 F7 1996]. Collected essays arguing for the role of the Chancery in the dissemination of the ancestor of standard English].

Jordan, Richard. Handbook of Middle English Grammar: Phonology. Trans. and rev. Eugene Crook. The Hague and Paris: Mouton, 1974. [For those of you seriously interested in sound change!]

McIntosh, Angus. A linguistic atlas of late medieval English [LALME]. Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 1986, PE 1705 M45 1986 ROBA. [data for serious study of dialects]

*Mossé, Fernand. A handbook of Middle English. Trans. James A. Walker. 1952. [PE 535 M623]

*Mustanoja, Tauno F. A Middle English Syntax. Helsinki: Societé Néophilologique, 1960. [PE 613 M8] There is no volume 2.

Rothwell, W. `Arrivals and departures. The adoption of French terminology into Middle English'. English Studies (1998): 144-165. [PE 1 E55] Challenges a few stereotypes about the subject. He's written other articles on French/English interaction.

Samuels, M.L. `Some applications of Middle English dialectology'. English Studies 44 (1963): 81-94. [PE 1 E55]

*Smith, Jeremy J. Essentials of Early English. London and New York: Routledge, 1999. [PE 1101 S58 1999 STL/ROBA, VUPT]

Wakelin, Martyn Francis. The Archaeology of English. London: Batsford, c1988. Useful examples and descriptions of OE and ME dialects. [PE 1075 W36 1989.]

Early Modern and later Modern English

Bailey, Richard. Images of English: a cultural history of the Language Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1991. PE 1072 B33 1991.

Bailey, Richard. Nineteenth-Century English. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1996. PE 1085 B35.

Barber, Charles. Early Modern English London: Andre Deutsch, 1976. New ed: Edinburgh: Edinburgh UNiversity Press, 1997. PE 1081 B3.

*Beal, Joan C. English in Modern Times 1700-1945. London: Arnold, 2004. PE 1083 B37 2004 ROBA.

*Cambridge History of the English Language, volumes 3-6. PE 1072 C36 1992.

Crystal, David. English as a global language. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1997. PE 2751 C79.

Gorlach, Manfred. Introduction to Early Modern English Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991. PE 821 G613.

Gorlach, Manfred. English in nineteenth-century England: an introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1999. PE 1085 G67.

Gorlach, Manfred. Englishes, More Englishes, Even More Englishes, etc. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 1991, 1995, 1998 (more coming). PE 2751 G67+.

McArthur, Tom. The English languages. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1998. PE 2751 M38.

Language change:

Aitchison, Jean. Language Change: Progress Or Decay. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991. P 123 A378

Bynon, Theodora. Historical Linguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977. P 140 B95 ROBA

Hock, Hans Henrich. Principles of Historical Linguistics. 2nd ed. Berlin, New York, Amsterdam: Mouton de Gruyter, 1991. P 140 H6 1991 ROBA

Jeffers, Robert J., and Ilse Lehiste. Principles and Methods for Historical Linguistics. Cambridge, MASS and London, UK: MIT Press, 1979. P 140 J4

Kress, Gunther. Linguistic Processes in Sociocultural Practice. 2nd ed. 1985; reprint, Deakin University: Oxford University Press, 1989. P40 K74

*Lehmann, Winfred P. Historical Linguistics: An Introduction. 3rd ed. London and New York: Routledge, 1992. P 121 L45 1992 ROBA

*McMahon, April M.S. Understanding Language Change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994. P 142 M38 1994

Milroy, James. Linguistic Variation & Change. Oxford, UK & Cambridge, USA: Blackwell, 1992. PE 1101 M55 1992

Schendl, Herbert. Historical linguistics. Series: Oxford Introductions to Language Study, ed. H.G. Widdowson. Oxford UP, 2001.

Histories of English:

Bailey, Richard W. Images of English: A Cultural History of the Language. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1991. PE 1072 B33 1991

*Barber, Charles. The English Language. A Historical Introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993. PE 1075 B265 1993

*Blake, Norman. A History of the English Language. New York: New York University Press, 1996. PE 1075 B46 1996 [great on external history/standardization]

*CHEL1&2 = The Cambridge History of the English Language. Ed. Richard Hogg. 6 vols. Cambridge, UK and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992-. PE 1072 C36 1992

Crystal, David. The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995. PE 1072 C68 1995X GENR, PE 1072 C7 1995 VUPR, TRIF. 420 C957C OISE/UT & FIS.

*Fennell, Barbara. A History of English. A sociolinguistic approach. Blackwell, 2001. PE 1075 F.

*Freeborn, Dennis. From Old English to Standard English: A Coursebook in Language Variation Across Time. 2nd ed. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 1998 PE 1075.5 F74 [interesting texts & exercises]

*Graddol, David, Dick Leith, and Joan Swann, eds. English: History, Diversity, and Change. Milton Keynes & London/New York: Open University & Routledge, 1996. PE 1075 E58 1996 [emphasis on origins of PDE variation]

*Lass, Roger. The Shape of English: Structure and History. London: Dent, 1987. PE 1075 L36 1987 [explains PDE from a(n) historical perspective]

*Leith, Dick. A Social History of English. 2nd ed. London; Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1983. PE 1075 L44

*Machan, Tim William and Charles T. Scott, eds. English in its Social Contexts. Essays in historical sociolinguistics, eds. New York & Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992. PE 1101 E55 1992

McArthur, Tom. The English languages. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1998. PE 2751 M38. ROBA.

*McCrum, Robert, William Cran and Robert MacNeil. The Story of English. London & Boston: Faber & Faber, 1986. PE 1075 M45 1986 [particularly good on early modern variation and world English]

*Millward, Celia M. A Biography of the English Language. 2nd ed. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1996. PE 1075 M64 1989 ROBA, SIGS [The first edition is fine, too, if you've got it second-hand.]

*Pyles, Thomas. The Origins and Development of the English Language. 4th ed. San Diego: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1993. PE 1075 P9 1993, SCAR, VUPT [Good introductory - read first if you're confused, then move on to Millward or Strang]

*Rigg, A.G. The English Language: A Historical Reader. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1968. PE 1122 R5 ROBA [primary texts for analysis - lots of parallel translations of the Christian bible, good introduction outlining main features of language change. Now also on line]

*Smith, Jeremy. An Historical Study of English. Function, Form and Change. London & New York: Routledge, 1996. PE 1075 S45 1996X [emphasizes causes of linguistic change]

*Strang, Barbara. A History of English. London: Methuen, 1970. PE 1075 S85 ROBA, SIGS [More detailed and comprehensive than most of the textbooks, but it has a user-unfriendly index. Use the analytic table of contents instead.]

Wakelin, Martyn Francis. The Archaeology of English. London: Batsford, c1988. PE 1075 W36 1989. [nice overview of OE and ME dialects.]

*Williams, Joseph M. Origins of the English Language, a Social and Linguistic History. New York: Free Press, 1975. PE 1075 W55 [lots of fun exercises, if you ever have to teach this course!]


See the relevant chapters of the relevant volumes of the Cambridge History of the English Language for fast advanced info!

Denison, David. English Historical Syntax: Verbal Constructions. London and New York: Longman, 1993. PE 1361 D46 1993 ROBA [presents and analyzes different opinions on current issues in verbal syntax - advanced]

*Jespersen, Otto. A Modern English Grammar on Historical Principles. 7 vols. Heidelberg and Copenhagen: , 1909-1949. London: Allen & Unwin, 1961. PE 1101 J5 1961 [confusing arrangement, but if you can find them, has interesting examples of important grammar changes]

Quirk, Randolph, et al. A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language. London and New York: Longman, 1985. PE 1106 C65 1985 GENR [or try their University grammar if this is too much!]

Traugott, Elizabeth. The History of English Syntax. A Transformational Approach to the History of English Sentence Structure. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1972. PE 1361 T7 ROBA

*Visser, Frederic Theodor. An Historical Syntax of the English Language. 3 vols. Leiden: Brill, 1969-1973. PE 1361 V5 1980 [like Jespersen, hard to find your way around, but a source of good historical examples of important grammar changes]

Word-formation (also check OED2 under individual affixes):

Bauer, Laurie. English Word-Formation. 1983. PE 1175 B38 1983 ROBA

Katamba, Francis. English Words. London and New York: Routledge, 1994. PE 1571 K38 1994 [nice intro to linguistic issues]

*Marchand, Hans. The Categories and Types of Present-Day English Word-Formation: A Synchronic-Diachronic Approach. 2nd ed. München: C.H. Beck'she Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1969 (ca.). PE 1175 M3 1969

Matthews, P.H. Morphology. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991. P 241 M3 ROBA

Stockwell, Robert and Donka Minkova. English words: history and structure. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2001. P/PE 1571 S73 2001 [ROBA-P, SMC—PE]


Brengelman, F.H. "Orthoepists, Printers, and the Rationalization of English Spelling." Journal of English and Germanic Philology 79.2 (1980): 332-54. PD 1 J7 ROBA [actually for later periods of English. The article addresses the issue of whether printers or academics or authors were responsible for the standardization of spelling]

Scragg, D.G. A History of English Spelling. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1974. PR 1141 S3 VUPT [on STL at Victoria College library]