I regularly teach a course that combines introductory linguistics and the history of the English language. Here’s a collection of online resources to help my students and others pursuing the same studies!
This page is very much in progress as of Fall 2018; I’ll be updating it throughout the semester as I compile resources for this semester.
pre-history of english
What might Proto-Indo-European have sounded like?
Well, here’s one sample, recited by linguist Andrew Byrd:
You can read along, either in reconstructed PIE or in the English translation, here.
How is English related to other IE languages?
Click on the image to view a larger version or click here to find out more:
Where are IE languages spoken today?
curious about other language families?
Check out this page for a basic introduction to the world’s non-IE language families.
And this map to see where different language families are distributed around the world.
I’ve got lots of resources for learning both OE & ME on my medieval language & literature page. Be sure to scroll all the way down for audio and video samples.
How much of Present-Day English comes from Old English?
A LOT! Here’s a helpful visual representation!
What did OE look and sound like?
“The Dream of the Rood” allows us to answer this question in a few different ways.
Here’s the text of the poem in both OE (with audio!) and ModE.
And you can also see what the poem looks like (partially) written in runes on the monumental Ruthwell Cross.
What did ME sound like?
Let’s answer this first with a bit of music: Summer is icumen in (mid-13th century). Here are the lyrics:[Brit. Lib. MS Harley 978, f. 11v]
Sumer is icumen in,
Loude sing cuckou!
Groweth seed and bloweth meed,
And springth the wode now.
Ewe bleteth after lamb,
Loweth after calve cow,
Bulloc sterteth, bucke verteth,
Merye sing cuckou!
Wel singest thou cuckou:
Ne swik thou never now!
Here’s a helpful British Library page with info about the piece and a manuscript image so you can follow along with the music.
helpful web resources on the history of english
The History of English podcast.
Web resources from Gramley’s History of English. The different audio samples are especially good!
A solid History of English website with good links and sources.
A playlist of Melvin Bragg’s Adventure of English TV series.