Back in 2006, Oxford University Press published Don Ringe’s From Proto-Indo-European to Proto-Germanic, which was billed as the first volume in a new OUP series called A Linguistic History of English. That particular book wasn’t so much a history of the English language that we know as a reconstruction of Proto-Indo-European. Don Ringe is a major figure in Indo-European studies (as well as historical linguistics in general), and it was great to get a state-of-the-art reconstruction from his perspective.
After enjoying that first volume, I would impatiently check the new arrivals shelf at the university library so I could read the second volume straightaway. Years passed, however, and nothing ever appeared. I had wondered if the series had been canceled, but now Oxford University Press finally unveiled the second volume: The Development of Old English, this time by Don Ringe and Ann Taylor.
This is over 600 pages of historical linguistics goodness. Ringe & Taylor reconstruct Proto-Northwest Germanic first, dedicating the first nearly two hundred pages to this intermediate language, and only then do they introduce the innovations of Anglo-Saxon. One area that gets unusually detailed coverage is Old English syntax, which is described with examples from the York–Toronto–Helsinki Corpus of Old English Prose. The authors base themselves loosely on generative linguistics, but they sought to avoid being bogged down in theory.
This is a major publication. It may not quite replace Roger Lass’s Old English: A Historical Linguistic Companion (Cambridge University Press, 1994) as a clarification of the odd paradigms and sound changes for people going back to Old English to study its literature, but it certainly represents a great reference for readers following Proto-Indo-European forward.