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Historical Linguistics

An Introduction

Lyle Campbell

Edition: 3

Paperback (In stock)
Hardback (In stock)

This state-of-the-art, practical introduction to historical linguistics – the study of language change – does not just talk about topics. With abundant examples and exercises, it helps students learn for themselves how to do historical linguistics.

Distinctive to the book is its combination of the standard traditional topics with others now considered vital to historical linguistics: explanations of why languages change; sociolinguistic aspects of linguistic change; syntactic change and grammaticalisation; distant genetic relationships (how to show that languages are related); and linguistic prehistory. In addition, this third edition contains two new chapters on morphological change and quantitative approaches; a much expanded chapter on language contact with new sections on pidgins and creoles, mixed languages, and endangered languages; new sections on the language families and language isolates of the world; examination of specific proposals of distant genetic relationship; and a new section on writing systems.

With its clear, readable style, expert guidance and comprehensive coverage, Historical Linguistics: An Introduction is not only an invaluable textbook for students coming to the subject for the first time, but also an enlightening read for specialists in the field and non-specialists alike.


  • Practical hands-on approach to the subject, including numerous student exercises
  • Examples taken from a wide range of languages, including numerous non-Indo-European languages, to illustrate concepts and methods
  • Engaging writing style combined with insightful coverage makes this an engrossing introduction

About the Author

Lyle Campbell is Professor of Linguistics at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa.


Praise for the Second Edition

Thanks to his practical approach, Campbell's book has a clear edge as the most useful practical introduction to the subject for beginners - and for more advanced students and specialists … Among the topics neglected in older textbooks that receive appropriate attention in Campbell’s introduction are areal linguistics and its implications; critical evaluation of proposals of distant genetic relationship; linguistic prehistory (including vocabulary recovery of the protolanguage and search for its homeland); and the role of philology in its various aspects. On the whole, the book appears to be remarkably reliable, especially in view of the wide range of languages covered.

- Asko Parpola, THE

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