History of the English Language & General Linguistics

General Resources

4headsIntroductory Bibliography – A beginner’s biblilography of general linguistics, with sections for reference works, standard and classic early studies, works by and about Saussure and Chomsky, and miscellaneous specialized studies.The LINGUIST List – The most complete collection of resources on the web for all branches of linguistics. It is centered around the LINGUIST e-mail list, which can be searched online and also offers links to material such as topic-oriented sites, dissertation abstracts, and book reviews.Ask a Linguist (from the LINGUIST List) – An e-mail answerbag for linguistic questions fielded by a panel of professional linguists. You can post a question or read archived discussions.

iLoveLanguages – Formerly The Human Languages Page, a comprehensive catalog of language-related Internet resources with over 1600 links, strongest on links to particular languages. It can be slow, but it is searchable if you know specifically what you’re looking for.

The Voice of the Shuttle (Search for “linguistics,” “language,” or other terms) – Part of a massive website of academic links, the VoS Linguistics home page contains numerous useful and interesting links, both serious and whimsical, including “The Klingon Language Institute.”

Summer Institute of Linguistics Home Page – Located at the International Linguistics Center in Dallas, this site’s focus is the study of minority languages and cultures around the world. There are numersous links to resources for the study of linguistics, anthropology, translation, literacy, language learning, and computing.

Oxford English Dictionary By subscription only. – This monument to historical linguistics is still a basic tool for linguists.

The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary – The collegiate dictionary, good also for comparison with the OED.

Grammar and Style Notes – Jack Lynch of the University of Pennsylvania provides this online handbook of traditional “prescriptive” grammar. For a radically different approach to grammar, see the section on Chomsky, below.


Resources for Studying Human Speech – From the University of Washington, a collection of links and material related to phonetics and phonology. Especially useful are the phonetic charts for English.

Historical Linguistics

History of the English Language Home Page – A web page for a course in historical linguistics by Dan Mosser of Virginia Tech.

The History of Historical Linguistics – A brief account of the development of the field of historical linguistics by Steen Schousboe of Copenhagen (contains a good bibliography).

Emily’s Guide to Languages and Linguistics – I don’t know who Emily Hanna is (an amateur word lover, apparently), but these two sites have good, reliable introductory material clearly explained with a minimum of technical terminology.

Proto-Indo-European – Prof. Ed Duncan’s audio introduction to Proto-Indo-European and the language families that descended from it.

Sanskrit Home Page – The foundation of the reconstruction of Proto-Indo-European was the comparison of Greek and Latin with Sanskrit. This is a collection of links and information that allow you to make your own comparisons.

The Word Detective – Articles on word origins by Evan Morris, a language columnist for the New York Daily News. Entertaining and informative.

Dialect Studies & Issues

American Dialect Society (ADS) Links – Links to dictionaries, linguistic atlases, and topic sites having to do with both dialect and historical linguistics.

ADS-L Archives Search Engine – A means of searching the ADS e-list archives from 1992 to the present. You can search for discussions of specific words and phrases (like “Big Apple”) or grammatical issues (like prescriptive grammar or Ebonics, for which see below). When it’s working properly, this is the most efficient way to search the archives. Thanks to Grant Barrett for creating and maintaining it.

The Dictionary of American Regional English – This is not an online version of DARE, but it is a good introduction to its methodology, including maps, examples, and quizzes for you to test what you know about American regionalisms.

BritSpeak – A lighthearted comparison between American and British English. A good way to check your idioms.

Center for Applied Linguistics African-American Vernacular English Information Page – A comprehensive collection of materials related to what linguists usually refer to as African-American Vernacular English [AAVE] or Black Vernacular English [BVE], including the controversy in 1997 over so-called “Ebonics”.

Saussure & Chomsky

The two most influential linguists of the 20th Century have been Ferdinand Saussure, who established the principles of a non-historical scientific approach to language called Structuralism, which eventually led to Semiotics, and Noam Chomsky, who conceived of Transformational Grammar, a view of grammar as a “generative” process instead of a set of external handbook rules. These links are brief biographies and introductions to their work.

Semiotics for Beginners

Noam Chomsky and Chomsky’s Grammar: Encyclopedia Britannica articles (requires subscription).

Sign Language & Primate Studies

The development of linguistic approaches to sign language has changed traditional definitions and understanding of language, and controversial work with primates (e.g., the chimpanzees Washoe, Lucy, and Lana, the gorilla Koko, and the bonobo Kanzi) has challenged Chomskyan linguistics.

American Sign Language Linguistic Reserch Project

A Basic Guide to American Sign Language (ASL)

The Deaf Resource Library

Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute (Central Washington University)

Sociolinguistics, Psycholinguistics, Neurolinguistics

Linguistics has always been an interdisciplinary field, studying the social phenomenon of language but grounded in the natural science of phonetics. These three related disciplines under the broad linguistic umbrella have contributed some of the most important breakthroughs in our understanding of what language is, where it came from, and how it works. Psycho- and neurolinguistics have also called into question the Chomskyan linguistic model that has dominated the field for 30 years. Note that much of the material in these links is highly specialized and can be difficult. For an excellent and readable neurolinguistic approach to language, see Terrence Deacon’s The Symbolic Species: The Co-Evolution of Language and the Brain (in the Introductory Bibliography).

William Labov Home Page – Labov is a pioneer sociolinguist and remains a leader in the field.

Psycholinguistics Overview – A good introductory article by Science Daily

The Talking Brain: A Neurolinguistics Blog