This essential new text provides a comprehensive, modern account of how the English language originated, developed, changed, and continues to morph into new forms in contemporary society. It first offers a rigorous, approachable introduction to the building blocks of language itself and then traces English language usage's messy development in society, beginning with its origins in the Indo-European language family and continuing chronologically through the Old, Middle, Modern, and present-day forms.
Seth Lerer deftly tells this story not as a tale of standards and authority but of differences and diversity. He draws on public and private literary sources from different regions and those in different social classes, highlighting sources from women and people of color - and introduces readers to the effects of technology on English, and the politics of dialect and racial, gender, regional, and class identity across these periods. Further, this text extensively addresses the rich diversity of English varieties, with innovative, focused chapters dedicated to American Englishes, African American Englishes, Global Englishes, and Virtual Englishes.
Requiring no prior knowledge of language history or linguistics, offering an array of supplemental activities as online support material, and taking a socially motivated approach to pedagogy that seeks to generate productive reflective and discussion about language difference and politics, this book enables and encourages the twenty-first century student in the United States to see their own language use as deeply implicated in power dynamics and social relationships.