The 'correct' use of English has been the subject of vigorous debate in recent years. But what defines 'correctness' in our use of language? And how has this altered over time? In this authoritative survey of the history of the English language, the author examines how linguistic traditions have changed and developed over the centuries to produce the language that we are familiar with today. Taking present-day usage as its starting point, the book uses a topic-based approach to explore the historical development of vocabulary, grammar, syntax, sounds and spellings, thus providing both a firm sense of the structure of the language and an outline of its history.