Did we spark your interest in historical linguistics? There is plenty of literature on this field, part of which is also suitable for those without prior knowledge. Below, we have listed some of our personal favourites!


Accessible for anyone

Van Sanskriet tot Spijkerschrift: Breinbrekers uit alle talen 

[From Sanskrit to Cuneiform: brain teasers from all languages]

Alexander Lubotsky, Michiel de Vaan

Many students of Linguistics have ended up in this study program thanks to the Linguistics Olympiad, which challenges high school students to solve complex puzzles about foreign languages. Are you not a student, but are you easily entertained by solving puzzles? Then this book is perfect for you. It is a collection of puzzles (and their solutions) from the past editions of the Olympiad. Note that it is written in Dutch. Puzzles (in English) from past editions may also be found at https://www.ioling.org/.


The Unfolding of Language

Guy Deutscher

How is it possible that such an amazingly complex system as ‘language’ has come into being, and how can it be that there is such a high variety of languages? If you’re looking for an accessible book on the distant origins of language, grammar and grammatical change, then this is exactly what you are looking for.


The Riddle of the Labyrinth

Margalit Fox

Within the Indo-European language family, a great variety of scripts exists, some of which has been deciphered only in the past decennium. But how is that possible, deciphering an unknown script when even the underlying language is a mystery? This book discusses the decipherment of the Linear B script, and reads like a detective. It is accessible even for readers who have never heard of Linear B.


For the real enthusiasts

Is there no thing you’d rather do than start your studies in Linguistics right now? And is the introduction on this website not enough for you? The books mentioned below are used as study books for the first year of the BA Linguistics, and they give an elaborate scientific introduction in the field. They even include exercises so that you can easily get started yourself!


Indo-European Language & Culture: An Introduction

Benjamin Fortson

If you are looking for information on the several different Indo-European daughter languages, then this book is certainly a good starting point. Per language or branch, it tells you where and when it was spoken, and offers basic information about the most important texts and inscriptions, and the speakers of that language. It also contains an introduction into the culture of the Indo-Europeans as far as we can reconstruct it on the basis of linguistic material.


Comparative Indo-European Linguistics

Robert S. P. Beekes

If you want to start reconstructing language yourself, this book will turn out to be a very useful tool. After ten chapters of explanation on the how and why of language change, the book gives an overview of the changes in Indo-European sounds and grammar. This way, you’ll get a detailed idea of the way in which every branch has developed through time.


Trask’s Historical Linguistics

Revised by Robert McColl Millar

Trask’s book is excellent for anyone who is interested in language change in general rather than the Indo-European family. You’ll learn about concepts such as language contact, the sociological aspect of language change, and about the question of how languages come into being, and how they die. The book offers instructive examples throughout, from languages from all over the world.