Department of English

University of Toronto

ENG385H1F L0101

ENG385H1F     L0101    M12-2, W-12
History of the English Language
C. Percy
Office Telephone: 416-978-4287
Office Address: Jackman Humanities Building, Room 732
Email address:  

Brief Description of Course:
Three themes will guide us in this introductory course. What can we learn about the past from variation and change in language? How are these histories of English reflected in modern English? And how does knowing linguistic history help us understand and analyze earlier English literature?
   Although the course will have a broadly chronological structure, general linguistic concepts will be introduced one at a time: by the end of the course you’ll have vocabulary for describing variation, change and standardization in vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation and spelling. Low-stakes in-class and online tasks will exercise key concepts before the stakes get higher. And in collaborative in-class panel discussions we’ll apply linguistic concepts to analyzing literary texts, and perhaps have a chance to share work in progress.
   The cornerstone of this course remains your individually-chosen research papers, on cultural-linguistic or literary subjects. Past topics have included “Thou and you in Shakespeare’s Hamlet: Why not just say ‘Get you to a nunnery?’”; “Trends in the naming of hormones: from ‘Where they come from’ to ‘What they do’”; “‘All that is gold does not glitter’: Aragorn’s code-switching in The Lord of the Rings”; and “Representing Japanese words in English: developing standards.” Generous students have given me permission to post their papers online for you to read. And I am always happy to help you shape your papers.
   The course is not only accessible to but dependent on the unique experiences and expertise of multilingual students from all disciplines.

Required Reading: Charles Barber, Joan Beal, and Philip Shaw’s The English Language: A Historical Introduction, 2nd edition (Cambridge University Press, 2009) and David Burnley, The History of the English Language: A Source Book, 2nd edition (Routledge, 2000) have been ordered to the U of T bookstore. I’ve asked them to order as many second-hand copies as possible. Strongly recommended is David Crystal's The Stories of English (Penguin, 2004), an inexpensive and entertaining text that is sometimes hard to find in print. I’ve also asked the bookstore to order this as a ‘recommended’ text.

First Three Authors/Texts:

Method of Evaluation: Participation in class and online (10%); repeatable online exercises (5%); short paper (20%); test (aids allowed) (25%); research paper (40%).

Link to ARTSCI Calendar Course Descriptions.

Link to ARTSCI 2016-17 Timetable with Room Allocations.

Return to 300 Level Courses.

Return to 2016-17 Fall-Winter Courses.

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