By this I mean have there been any project which analyze the evolution of specific constructs, specific words, etc., and how the language has changed over time?

  • I've provided an answer, could you please confirm that this is what you're after? It's a very broad questions and could be answered simply with 'yes', but I thought I should put in some detail, hope it's satisfactory. Sep 2 '12 at 13:29
  • Both of these answer are kind of what I'm on to. I have a project in mind and I want to make sure it's never been done before. It doesn't appear that it has. Sep 3 '12 at 17:21
  • If you can briefly outline your proposed (research?) project, someone here can probably advise you what similar work has been done. But there's a huge body of work on English and no-one is across all of it. Sep 4 '12 at 0:25

The historical linguistics of English is a very significant area of research. The wikipedia page History of the English Language gives a fairly decent overview of the field. As you will see from that page, there has been work on almost every conceivable aspect of English language history, from phonetics and phonology to syntax and discourse. There are numerous books (eg) and journals (eg) that deal with English historical linguistics, substantial corpora available, and very many researchers working in the area.

English is almost certainly the best-studied language both in its synchonic and diachronic aspects.


I would say it also depends on what you mean by "mapping English." Are you limiting the search to English as it evolved to British English, or including all dialects?

For example, here is an American English Dialectical analysis.

It is easier to find evolutionary evidence of particular dialects and accents of English, rather than the entire history of English as a whole (which would need to include ModE, EModE, ME, and OE).

There have definitely been efforts to map word construction and shifts in ME; I know that Dr. Geoff Nicholls, of St. Peters College, Oxford, proposed a study to understand dialectical differences of ME in England and their corresponding mobility.

Gaston Ümlaut definitely provided some good journals and advice for finding sources; browsing linguistic journals dealing mainly with Indo-European languages studies and English as a whole are really the way to go, as well as perusing the Internet and libraries in search of the many offerings.

Like it was pointed out, what you are asking is very broad, so a bit more focus would be helpful in answering.

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