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Historical Linguistics and the History of English

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Systemic functional linguistics has intensively studied synchronic language variation, both the diatypic and the dialectal. Even though some systemic functional analyses of aspects of historical dialects, mainly English, and various descriptions of historical texts, also mainly English, have been made, nevertheless systemic functional diachronic studies have been relatively neglected.

The aim of this book is to provide an introductory model for the diachronic description of languages within the systemic functional framework, using the history of English as an example. At the centre of the model are the historical relationships between successive states of semantics and of lexico-grammar. The first part the model concerns cultural semantics, discourse semantics, register and genre. Change over the history of English in each of these areas runs through the stages of Old English, Middle English, early Modern English and later Modern English. The second part of the model concerns lexico-grammar, with a concentration on changes through the same historical stages of English in structures and systems. The book proceeds by taking lexico-grammatical units at group and clause rank through the historical stages of their development.

Published: Sep 1, 2025