This volume of "The Penguin History of Literature" is devoted to its medium, the English language. A first section considers present-day English, its sounds, grammar, vocabulary and stylistic varieties. A second section describes the growth of the language over the centuries and concludes with chapters on the social context of English-language studies and the role of English in the modern world. While each essay stands complete in itself, the book is designed to provide a grounding in the modern language through which to explore past developments. It constitutes an introduction to the subject, and full biographies point the way to further investigation. "The Penguin History of Literature" is a critical survey of English and American literature in ten volumes. Each volume is a collection of original essays specially commissioned for the series, which, taken together, cover 14 centuries of literature from the Anglo-Saxons to the present.