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Department of English

University of Mississippi

A Biography of the English Language

by Mary Hayes and C.M. Millward
The third edition of A BIOGRAPHY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE continues to examine the structure of English, from its Indo-European pre-history, through the invasions that shaped Old and Middle English, through its speakers’ conscious efforts to police it in the Early Modern period, through its present-day transformations manifest in urban slang and text-messaging. The textbook explores three important issues: how languages and language change are systematic; how the inner history of a language is profoundly affected by its outer history of political and culural events; and how the English of the past has everywhere left its traces on present-day English. By uncovering the language’s past, one can better use it to communicate as well as speculate about its future use in ever-changing globalized media.