History of the English Language
The story of English tells of the dramatic changes to the English language over the past 1200 years – from an inconsequential offshoot of west Germanic spoken on a little island off of the North Sea to an international language spoken by nearly one and a half billion people. Scholarship on these linguistic shifts examines what are sometimes called "internal" process of change (grammar, sound change) and "external" processes of change (social, cultural), but these categories merge in exciting ways.
This course will investigate the stages in the development of English (Old English, Middle English, Early Modern English and present-day Englishes) to consider changes in the sound and construction of the language. The goal of this course is to create basic proficiency in the phonological, syntactic, morphological, sociolinguistic and pragmatic evolution of English and to examine the scholarly conversation on historical English language. Historical language scholarship will be pursued partly as an end in itself, but partly as a methodology for other kinds of research since English language history provides useful tools for cultural studies, literary historical studies, colonial and post-colonial studies, language studies, and the teaching of writing.
No previous experience with language study or linguistics is required, and students will be encouraged to pursue course research that is relevant to their own areas of interest.