This Language, A River is an introduction to the history of English that recognizes multiple varieties of the language in both current and historical contexts. Developed over years of undergraduate teaching, the book helps students both to grasp traditional histories of English and to extend and complicate those histories.
Exercises throughout provide opportunities for puzzling out concepts, committing terms and data to memory, and applying ideas. A comprehensive glossary and up-to-date bibliographies help to guide further study.
“This Language, A River is an excellent resource for the evolving History of the English Language class, which must cover grammar fundamentals and linguistics in addition to the history of English. By combining lucid explanation with concrete examples and exercises, K. Aaron Smith and Susan M. Kim have written a text that helps students navigate language change through orthography, phonology, morphology, and syntax. This approach empowers students to play with language, encouraging them to make connections between grammar and semantics, prescriptive media and imaginative literature, and cultural invention and orthography. And by dedicating a majority of their text to pre-modern Englishes, Smith and Kim help students explore these connections in the ‘strange’ and ‘unfamiliar’ roots of our language.” — Sarah Breckenridge Wright, Duquesne University
“This textbook confronts head-on the problems implicit in teaching the history of English to students, many of whom have not yet met linguistics or a millennium of history of either the language or its speakers. Straightforward prose, exercises interspersed strategically (with answers at the end), definitions of new terms when they first occur (as well as in an alphabetical listing at the end), a sampling of ‘minor Englishes’—altogether a well-balanced introduction to English and its history. The authors’ ‘pleasure ... in the ways in which [their subject] brings together so many different kinds of intellectual work’ is apparent from beginning to end.” — Robert Stevick, Professor Emeritus, University of Washington
“K. Aaron Smith and Susan Kim have given us an HEL textbook for the 21st century in This Language, a River. Uncompromising in their dedication to linguistic rigor, the authors never lose sight of the needs of contemporary students as they fully explain and define key terms and concepts for the study of language. At the same time, they deftly interweave the internal and external histories of English to create a coherent diachronic narrative that details political, literary, cultural, and social aspects of language change. Students of literature will appreciate the authors’ use of canonical texts to illustrate points of linguistic and cultural interest along the way, while exercises throughout each chapter offer opportunities for in-class activities or homework. In all, This Language, a River should serve today’s HEL students and teachers well for years to come.” — Michael Matto, Adelphi University