In the present little book, I merely endeavor to draw out a general sketch of some of the more important principles which should be observed by all who pretend to have any acquaintance with English etymology."
-Walter W. Skeat, in his Preface
First published in 1910, this classic introduction to the linguistics of the English language is notable not only for its scholarly value but for a charming defensiveness of its own erudition ("The general ignorance of even the most elementary notions on the subject [of etymology], as perpetually exhibited in our periodical literature, is truly deplorable," the author sniffs).
Cambridge professor Skeat concisely explores the history of the English language and the sources from which it is derived, including the influences of military and religious invasions from the continent of Europe; the ancient Anglo-Saxon symbols and sounds the language utilizes; how English spelling came to be standardized; the historical mutation of vowel sounds; and prefixes, suffixes, and roots.
British academic WALTER WILLIAM SKEAT (1835-1912) was Erlington and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Cambridge. He also wrote (with A.L. Mayhew) A Concise Dictionary of Middle English: From A.D. 1150 To 1580.