©Daniel W. Mosser

The Evolution of Present-Day English

This project began under the sponsorship of IDLE (The Innovations for Digital Learning Environments) in the Department of English at Virginia Tech in 1998, and has been used since primarily as a supplemental text in ENGL 4054, History of the English Language, and as an IDLE module. The author is Daniel W. Mosser and all materials are subject to the copyright of the author. This text is made freely available for pedagogical use, but please do notify me by email if you do adopt it for your course: .

By Period

The short version

"...sprung from some common source" (Sir William Jones, 1786): Indo-European and the Pre-History of English

"Came they of three folk, the strongest of Germania, that of Saxons, and of Angles and Jutes" (Bede): The Establishment of English in England

"...and were seen fiery dragons in the air flying" (Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, entry for 793): Vikings & the Influence of Old Norse

"Thus came, lo! England into Normandy's hand" (Robert of Gloucester, ca. 1300): The Norman Conquest and Early Middle English

"And for ther is so gret diversite / In Englissh and in wrytyng of oure tonge..." (Chaucer, ca. 1400): Late Middle English

"I take this present period of our English tung to be the verie height thereof..." (Richard Mulcaster, 1582): Early Modern English

"we had no lawful standard of our language set up" (Lord Chesterfield, 1754): The Development of English Dictionaries

"How barbarously we yet write and speak..." (Dryden, 1679): The Development of English Grammars

"...at the hands of Americans" (Henry Alford, 1863): The American (English) Language

"Do de rite ting": World Englishes

By Topic


Language types

Prescriptive Grammar/Correctness



Sounds & Spelling


Standard Englishes

Nonstandard Englishes