This is a major introduction to historical linguistics, designed for students who have no background in historical linguistics but who have at least some knowledge of phonetics, phonology and morphology. Historical linguistic theory is introduced throughout where appropriate, although the book presupposes no acquaintance with contemporary theories of phonology or syntax. The author introduces all major types of change, consequences of change (dialect and language families), methods in historical linguistics, and later chapters deal with sociolinguistic aspects of change, language contact, birth and death of languages, language and prehistory and finally the issue of very remote relations.
The book covers the more recent work on the study of phonological changes in progress, on morphological and syntactic change, and on typological approaches to change, and it addresses such recent controversies as the Nostratic hypothesis and the Greenberg/Cavalli-Sforza work on language, genes and teeth. It also treats etymology and onomastics in some detail.
The approach is data oriented throughout. Students are encouraged to confront data, to spot patterns and to construct their own accounts and they are encouraged to consider their own experience of English and other languages.