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Hi, people from the forum. I'm a 21 year old guy  interested in the historical evolution of (some) natural languages, ranging from the sounds nuances to the historical context that they developed. So, can you guys recommend books or online courses that outline this area of study, preferenciably something in the likes of a academic environnement?

Daniel:
For introductory level textbooks in Historical Linguistics, here are some good options:

Lyle Campbell, Historical Linguistics: An Introduction
https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/historical-linguistics-fourth-edition

Hans Henrich Hock & Brian D. Joseph, Language History, Language Change, and Language Relationship: An Introduction to Historical and Comparative Linguistics
https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110613285

Longer, graduate-level version:
Hans Henrich Hock, Principles of Historical Linguistics
https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110746440

Tore Janson, The History of Languages: An Introduction 2012, Oxford.


Each of those books has several editions. The older edition of Janson's book was called Speak but it's substantially similar content if you find a copy of that instead.

Campbell is a popular textbook, while Hock & Joseph is somewhat more comprehensive but still accessible to undergraduates, and Hock's graduate-level textbook is a dense and extremely thorough introduction that would cover just about everything you'd want to know starting out if you want to dive right into the deep end of the topic. These all cover sound change and other topics.

Janson is a different kind of introduction, and not very technical at all, also not really covering sound change. But I would recommend it (probably in addition to one of the others), because it's a very interesting read. It really talks about the history of languages, rather than historical linguistics in a narrow sense, and it takes a sociolinguistic perspective on how languages change through contact. It's a very accessible book to read for non-experts, but also interesting enough to keep the attention of experts, so it's a unique kind of non-technical but useful book.

One more I might add to the list, on a more specific topic:



David W. Anthony, The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World
https://press.princeton.edu/books/paperback/9780691148182/the-horse-the-wheel-and-language
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Horse,_the_Wheel,_and_Language

That one is about a specific topic, from an anthropological perspective on the history and spread of the Indo-European languages. It's well regarded by linguists, and also generally accessible to a non-specialist audience.

There are a lot of other interesting things to read, but that's a reasonable start. Some fun things to consider beyond this, but still with some relevance to familiarizing yourself with these topics, you might take a look at:

Edward Vajda, "J.R.R. Tolkien's imaginary languages" (YouTube lecture)
https://youtu.be/5NKlr0vRX34
(A fun and surprisingly relevant discussion of historical linguistics applied to Lord of the Rings. Tolkien was originally a philologist, and only secondarily an author! LOTR was in some sense based initially around the fictional languages he had created as a story and world to hold them.)

A bit more of a tangent, and not so strictly academic, but again fun for thinking about these topics:
https://conlangingfilm.com/
(A really well made documentary about conlangs)

David J. Peterson, The Art of Language Invention
https://artoflanguageinvention.com/books/

I mention those not because they are directly about historical linguistics per se, but because they bring up a number of related topics that might help make them more accessible to you from a non-technical perspective, but tying into the same questions we ask about language structure and how those structures change. One of the best ways to make a conlang is to "evolve" it from an earlier stage into the final form you choose, and that means applying the principles of historical linguistics. Peterson in particular is serious about making naturalistic conlangs through this process, and he has been successful in that of course, if you've seen his work in Game of Thrones and other movies and TV.

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