"In the present little book, I merely endeavor to draw out a general sketch of some of the more important principles which should be observed by all who pretend to have any acquaintance with English etymology." - Walter W. Skeat, in his Preface First published in 1910, this classic introduction to the linguistics of the English language is notable not only for its scholarly value but for a charming defensiveness of its own erudition ("The general ignorance of even the most elementary notions on the subject [of etymology], as perpetually exhibited in our periodical literature, is truly deplorable," the author sniffs). Cambridge professor Skeat concisely explores the history of the English language and the sources from which it is derived, including the influences of military and religious invasions from the continent of Europe; the ancient Anglo-Saxon symbols and sounds the language utilizes; how English spelling came to be standardized; the historical mutation of vowel sounds; and prefixes, suffixes, and roots. British academic Walter William Skeat (1835-1912) was Erlington and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Cambridge. He also wrote (with A. L. Mayhew) "A Concise Dictionary of Middle English: From A.D. 1150 To 1580".
This historic book may have numerous typos and missing text. Purchasers can usually download a free scanned copy of the original book (without typos) from the publisher. Not indexed. Not illustrated. 1892 edition. Excerpt: ... PREFACE In the present little book, I merely endeavour to draw out a general sketch of some of the more important principles which should be observed by all who pretend to have any acquaintance with English etymology. The general ignorance of even the most elementary notions on the subject, as perpetually exhibited in our periodical literature, is truly deplorable, owing probably to the fact that anything like a scientific treatment of etymology is of comparatively modern growth. It is also not a little remarkable that the history of the English language, and particularly of the changes in its pronunciation, is seldom found to be amongst the subjects which 'every schoolboy knows.' A person wholly ignorant of botany would hesitate, in these days, to dash headlong into a botanical subject; but similar caution, as respects the study of etymology, is frequently scouted as displaying a needless timidity. Every man, as was once observed to me, thinks that he can drive, and that he can derive. Owing to the great difficulty of including the history of the various elements of the language, I have confined myself entirely to that portion of English which constitutes the native element. The facts concerning it are of more importance than those which concern even words imported from Latin; besides which, they are at the same time shamelessly neglected. I do not think I have included anything which is not essential and elementary. In the attempt to be brief, I may sometimes have become obscure; and sometimes, perhaps, inexact, which is even worse. Daily study increases the fear of going wrong; but I trust that I have avoided serious mistakes, and that the work may have its value for beginners. For the phonetic symbols used, see p. 19. The value of...