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Home > Catalog > The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language
The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language


  • 189 b/w illus. 415 colour illus. 53 maps 27 tables
  • Page extent: 500 pages
  • Size: 276 x 219 mm
  • Weight: 2.26 kg

Library of Congress

  • Dewey number: 420
  • Dewey version: 20
  • LC Classification: PE1072 .C68 1995
  • LC Subject headings:
    • English language--Handbooks, manuals, etc

Library of Congress Record


 (ISBN-13: 9780521401791 | ISBN-10: 0521401798)

  • There was also a Paperback of this title but it is no longer available
  • Published May 1995

Replaced by 9780521530330


English is arguably the nearest thing we have to a world language, and yet it is a language with a wealth of varieties, dialects, and traditions, all developing in different ways and at different speeds. This book is a superbly written and illustrated exploration of the history, structure, and use of English throughout the world. World-renowned linguist and author, David Crystal, explores the many facets and varieties of the English language, bringing life to this large and complex subject. He begins with the origins of English in Anglo-Saxon times and follows the growth of the language to the present. Every major English-speaking country is included, and the book abounds with insights into how English evolved and how it works. The author pays particular attention to the use of language in literature and how it permeates humor. He allows language to "speak for itself" by using quotations, photographs, newspaper clippings, poems, advertisements, cartoons, and many other types of illustrative material that vividly complement his narrative. Author Crystal systematically covers the structural features of English, and includes a complete description of grammar, a summary of pronunciation and writing systems, and a thorough treatment of the size and complexity of vocabulary. He explains technical aspects in simple and accessible terms and includes a glossary to assist the reader with unclear language terminology. Highly visual with striking color illustrations, panels and boxed features throughout, this book is fascinating reading for the widest possible audience. David Crystal is the author of The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language (CUP, 1987) and the editor of The Cambridge Encyclopedia (CUP, 1990, 1994).


1. Modelling English; Part I. The History of English: 2. The origins of English; 3. Old English; 4. Middle English; 5. Early Modern English; 6. Modern English; 7. World English; Part II. English Vocabulary: 8. The nature of the lexicon; 9. The sources of the lexicon; 10. Etymology; 11. The structure of the lexicon; 12. Lexical dimensions; Part III. English Grammar: 13. Grammatical mythology; 14. The structure of words; 15. Word classes; 16. The structure of sentences; Part IV. Spoken and Written English: 17. The sound system; 18. The writing system; Part V. Using English: 19. Varieties of discourse; 20. Regional variation; 21. Social variation; 22. Personal variation; Part VI. Learning about English: 23. Learning English as a mother tongue; 24. New ways of studying English; Appendices; Indexes.

Prize Winner

Choosen by the American Library Association as one of the "Best Books of 1995."

Chosen by the American Library Association as one of the Outstanding Reference Sources for 1995 and 1996


"The Cambridge Encyclopedia of English Language (is) perhaps the most brilliant book of the past ten years...what makes it most impressive is that this stupendous work of scholarship, which combines physiology, philology and literary criticism, is, unbelievably, the work of one sole author." Globe and Mail (Canadian)

"...very attractively produced....The breadth of the presentation is stimulating....[an] entertaining and informative encyclopedia." Notes on Linguistics

"This is more than an encyclopedia; it is also a compendium of wonderful anecdotes and illustrations. The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language should be at the top of the list for purchases in all library language/literature collections." Reference Book Review

"The clear and spirited text is stunning, enhanced with over 500 illustrations, making this a particularly rich reference work and a browser's dream....Crystal has created an attractive and readable work for the lay reader as well as the specialist." Library Journal

"...lives up to the reputation of other resources published under the Cambridge imprint and will make an excellent addition to the collections of large public libraries and all academic libraries." Booklist/Reference Books Bulletin

"...bedazzles you with an eye-popping presentation of the cluck-clucking of the mother tongue. If you like fireworks with your information, this is a worthwhile language book..." William Safire, The New York Times Magazine

"...a superb work that manages to be both scholarly and vastly entertaining. A deeply impressive book....the most entertaining and informative browsing book of the summer, as well as a first-rate introduction to contemporary thinking about language." Michael Dirda, Washington Post Book World

"...the most diverting, delightful, imaginative and altogether entertaining compilation ever assembled about spoken and written can have an enjoyable time browsing through these pages and even learn a bit along the way." Herbert Kupferberg, Parade

"You can open it to any page and be enthralled." Indianapolis News

"The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language [is] perhaps the most brilliant book of the past 10 years...what makes it most impressive is that this stupendous work of scholarship, which combines physiology, philosophy, and literary criticism, is unbelievably, the work of one sole author." Toronto Globe and Mail

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