If you consider yourself a logophile (that is, a lover of words), these websites are for you. Crisscrossing the fields of linguistics, journalism, and lexicography, these sites offer insights into the English language from a variety of perspectives--all of them (we think) fascinating.
A word of warning: if you're a true logophile, any one of these top-ten sites may serve to distract you for the rest of the day.
"Explore literary treasures, everyday ephemera, and the complex history of the English language, with unique texts from the British Library collection." All readers should be interested in the Language Timeline (which provides an overview of the history of the English language) and Dictionaries & Meanings (which traces the history of English dictionaries from the 1500s to the present day). British readers, in particular, should enjoy Sounds Familiar--an interactive site that showcases the varied accents and dialects heard throughout the United Kingdom.
In addition to hosting a free online dictionary and thesaurus, Merriam-Webster provides word games, a word of the day, a spelling-bee scavenger hunt, a daily podcast, and other English language resources. This site is especially recommended for students in middle grades and high school.
For the past 16 years, Michael Quinion has kept track of new words, topical words, and weird words (that is, "words that refer to obscure or outlandish subjects, are in themselves rare, or which look odd"). In addition this British site contains some insightful book reviews and numerous articles on various aspects of language.
Imagine a room full of linguists during cocktail hour swapping the latest stories about word-creation, taboo terms
, and the Cupertino effect
: that's the Language Log. Created by Mark Liberman and Geoffrey Pullum in 2003, this collaborative blog is written by linguists for the rest of us--as long as the rest of us have a sense of humor and a serious interest in language.
This is the home page of William Labov's Telsur Project, housed at the Linguistics Laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania. In 2005, Labov and his team published the "Atlas of North American English: Phonetics, Phonology and Sound Change" (Mouton de Gruyter), a study providing "the first overall view of the pronunciation and vowel systems of the dialects of the U.S. and Canada." The maps and analyses on this website include studies that served as the background of the atlas.
The focus on Global English
is one of the distinguishing features of this new site from Macmillan Publishers: "We are interested in English as a living language and how it is spoken around the world by the international community of English speakers."
When it was released in February 2008, the BYU Corpus of American English contained more than 360 million words. Created by Mark Davies of Brigham Young University, this massive word bank allows users to find the frequency of particular words and phrases (in context) and to trace syntactic changes and semantic shifts over the past 80 years.
Also designed by Mark Davies, this site enables users to sort, search, count, and compare the 100 million words in the British National Corpus. "The site is sufficiently sophisticated for us egghead academics," Davies says, "but also easy enough for language learners and others who just think language is fun."