This Language, A River
A History of English
  • Publication Date: December 5, 2017
  • ISBN: 9781554813629 / 155481362X
  • 352 pages; 6½" x 9"

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This Language, A River

A History of English

  • Publication Date: December 5, 2017
  • ISBN: 9781554813629 / 155481362X
  • 352 pages; 6½" x 9"

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.

For more information about This Language, A River: Workbook, click here.


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

This Language, a River is an introductory textbook for the history of the English language that is sure to become a popular choice for many classrooms. … [T]he authors have produced a textbook that is both affordable and eminently practical. It is written in an approachable style and is not overly dense even when explaining complicated topics. Perhaps its biggest strengths are the many well-thought-out exercises appropriately situated throughout the book, with an answer key located at the back. … Smith and Kim should be commended for producing a much-needed new textbook on this topic that is at the same time detailed, approachable, affordable, and appropriate for the realities of undergraduate education today, a difficult balance to achieve.” — Mark Sundaram, Journal of English and Germanic Philosophy

“If Smith and Kim had not written this book and Broadview not published it, the stones would cry out. What we need today at the undergraduate college level is a book that can span a classroom of both sophomore and upper level students (including non-majors and dual-listed graduate students), whose preparedness runs the gamut … such is the achievement of This Language, A River.” — Peter Fields, Rocky Mountain Review of Language and Literature

“This book is indeed fresh, concise, and obviously written by instructors with ample experience in guiding students through the subject: it would make an excellent choice for the undergraduate classroom.” — Edward J. Christie, Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Teaching

Preface: About This Book

1 Introduction
2 Grammar Fundamentals
3 Before English
4 Introduction to Phonetics and the International Phonetic Alphabet
5 Germanic
6 Four Important Terms and Concepts
7 Old English
8 Middle English
9 Early Modern English
10 The Modern Period and Global Englishes

Answers to Exercises
Works Cited and Bibliography

K. Aaron Smith and Susan M. Kim are Professors of English at Illinois State University.

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