E 364M • History of the English Language
12:30 PM-2:00 PM
In this course we will survey the history of what could be argued to be now the most popular language in the world, and certainly the most widely known. Beginning with its prehistory on the Continent over two thousand years ago, we will trace the fortunes of English from Anglo-Saxon times to its present manifestations across national boundaries. We will learn the distinctions of sounds, inflectional endings, and sentence patterns that mark each major stage of the language. Though the course will focus on the different forms of the language as they survive in various texts, we will pay some attention to the interaction between the internal history of English and the social and political contexts that define its external history. The goal is a better understanding of change in English and the signs of this change that can be seen everywhere from spelling to legal procedure. No previous study of linguistics is required; a willingness to learn phonetic transcription early in the semester, however, is crucial. There will be weekly homework exercises to give practice in working with different aspects of analysis that have been developed for English. Three writing assignments will measure your ability to discover and assimilate information on orthography, semantics, and usage over the course of the languages history, and you will revise one of these to incorporate additional perspectives.
Four written assignments 60%
In-class midterm 15%
Comprehensive final exam 20%
There will be no make-up exams or final without a proven medical emergency. I will accept late papers only on or before the class day immediately after the due date for that assignment. In the papers and the exams I look for concision, specificity, and elegance of arrangement.
Celia Millward, A Biography of the English Language, 2nd edition (1996)
Millward, Workbook to Accompany A Biography of the English Language, (1990)