I'm just after finishing Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue The Untold History of English
by John McWhorter (amazon link).
The main topic is the evolution of English grammar -- the way he writes suggests he's proposing theories that are not generally accepted. Writing style a bit odd at times, but I got used to it. Well worth reading imo
Two main points are that, compared to Proto-Germanic, (the ancestor of all Germanic languages) and also to other modern Germanic languages:
English gained from the native Celtic languages:
- what he describes as a meaningless 'do', e.g. why do we use the word 'do'? Apparently unknown almost anywhere else in the world apart from the native Celtic languages (he quotes Welsh & Cornish)
- we also gained the phrasing: I am writing -- instead of I write as in other Germanic languages e.g. ich schreibe
and English lost via the Vikings (more info below):
- loads of suffixes (especially with verbs, but also nouns)
- nouns having gender
- most reflexive verbs -- e.g. the German ich erinnere mich translates to I remember. Remnants in English are e.g. I behave myself
- hither / tither / man (now one/you) / some prefixes / etc.
- using the 'be' verb to make a past tense of action verbs -- a remnant of same from Jane Austen: I am so glad we are got acquainted
The Viking theory involve a huge influx of adults who learned the language fairly poorly and passed this on to their kids. A different but comparable modern example being when immigrants want to give their children the new language, and they haven't already learned it well themselves, the children tend to learn a simplified version of same.