Department of English

University of Toronto

ENG285H1F L0101

ENG285H1F     L0101     T11-1, R11
The English Language in World
Instructor: Prof. C. Percy

Office Location: Jackman Humanities Building, Room 732
Email: 
 carol.percy@utoronto.ca 

Brief Course Description: Many varieties of English are used around the world—and in our classroom. This introductory course surveys transnational, regional, and social varieties of Later Modern English; the cultural and linguistic factors that have shaped them; their characteristic structures; and their uses in speech and in writing. We will describe linguistic variation, analyze and master linguistic standards, and explore how native and non-native speakers and writers around the world exploit the resources of English.

What will you learn? We will begin with the Englishes in our classroom and some foundations for describing sounds, words, grammar, and genres. We will survey some methods for analyzing linguistic innovation and variation and change. We will discuss questions of linguistic authority and the cultural constructions of linguistic standards, in reference books, official institutions, and public and popular discourse. We will discover and interpret some topical consequences of the spread of English around the world and online, in informal presentations that draw on newspapers and on other electronic sources. We will consider contemporary creole languages and the evidence for their distinctiveness and the contexts of cultural oppression. We will apply what we have learned to the literary interpretation of linguistic variation in literature and in film. We will draw on the expertise and experience of all of you in the classroom: presentations and research projects will be driven by your diverse language backgrounds and interests. Present-day ‘Standard’ English is a variety that we all have in common: understanding its contexts will help us master its standards.

How will you demonstrate your learning? Practising with repeatable Blackboard exercises, you will review linguistic concepts before in-class tests and learn some research strategies to use in your personal projects. Drawing on Concert of Voices: an Anthology of World Writing in English, you will finish this course able to integrate analysis of language variation into a literary analysis of some postcolonial texts. And in student-driven blogs and presentations and research projects you will have opportunities to analyze non-literary as well as literary sources. This course not only welcomes but depends on the perspectives of students with a variety of language backgrounds and subject interests. Indeed, one former student (specializing in physics and astronomy) wrote about the jargon and slang of Toronto bicycle couriers and revised it for publication as “Running Reds and Killing Peds: the Lexicon of Bicycle Messengers” in English Today.


Required Reading: A textbook (TBA) and the anthology Concert of Voices, 2nd ed., ed. Victor J. Ramraj (Broadview, 2009) have been ordered to the University of Toronto Bookstore. Other required readings will be available as a PDF coursepack and on Blackboard.

First Three Authors/Texts: TBA

Method of Evaluation: Online e-xercises (5%), in-class and online participation (5%), very short in-class and online writing assignments (15%), informal contribution to panel presentation (10%), tests (30%), research paper (25%).

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