A Linguistic Introduction to the History and Structure of the English Lexicon

Paul McFetridge

This book is an introduction to the history and structure of the English lexicon using linguistic concepts. Or, it is an introduction to linguistics through the medium of the English lexicon. Or, it is both.

An intimate knowledge of the history of English and the structure of English words is valuable. If one has a varied intellectual life — and one hopes that undergraduate university students do — then encountering new words or familiar words used in new ways will be a frequent experience. The ability to find familiar forms among the new can provide a sense of confidence. More exciting and subtler is the recognition that a skilled writer is also aware of the history of words and is able to use it to effect. If one is at all interested in literature, this kind of knowledge of English will add more texture to it.

The acquisition of this knowledge isn't really possible without linguistics. Linguistics provides the tools to dissect the lexicon and to explain its structure. Thus, it is necessary to introduce linguistic concepts, methods and calculus throughout the text. While necessary for the study of English, it is hoped that students will see that the study of linguistics is interesting in itself. I have occasionally tried to broaden the scope of the discussion beyond the study of English to suggest larger issues that interested students might pursue.

This book is intended for a first year undergraduate audience. While it attempts to serve two masters, it is expected that the majority of the students will be looking to improve their knowledge of English. This is not a grammar book and doesn't pretend to teach the grammar of English, although necessarily grammatical concepts will enter the discussion. The focus of the book is the English lexicon, its structure and the structure of its occupants. It is hoped that by laying out the English lexicon, both native and non-native English speakers will gain greater facility with the language
- Paul McFetridge, author


"This is an impressive book, knowledgeable, thorough, well written, and well organized. Its detail is dense, but as a fan of grammar I am absorbed by it and happy to submit to it. So full of useful information is the book, in fact, that I would welcome it on my shelf." -
Professor Harvey De Roo (ret), Medieval Literature, Department of English, Simon Fraser University, BC Canada

"Well suited for linguistics majors, strong foreign language majors and students of English." -
Professor Chris Brew, Department of Linguistics, Ohio State University

ISBN: 978-0-86491-291-6


About the Author

For over three decades, Paul McFetridge was a professor in the Simon Fraser University Department of Linguistics.  His area of interest was computational linguistics,  and his research began early with his dissertation, A theoretical phonology of Old English; he studied machine translation, and created and examined computer‑based language instruction. Natural language applications in information processing were also areas of interest.  Paul was chair of the Department of Linguistics at SFU,  and an Associate Dean in the SFU Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences from 2007-2014. Paul McFetridge died on March 14,  2014.



Print version

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Cost for print-version from SFU Publications:   $82.00 CN