Department of English

University of Toronto

ENG385H1F L0101

ENG385H1F   L0101   M11-1, W12
History of the English Language
Instructor: Prof. C. Percy
Office Location: Jackman Humanities Building, Room 732

Brief Description of Course: Three themes will guide us in this introductory course. How is the history of English reflected in modern English? How can we tell ‘histories of Englishes’ to reflect cultural contacts and social variation? 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 course is not only accessible to but dependent on the unique experiences and expertise of multilingual students from all disciplines. The cornerstone of this course remains your individually-chosen research papers, on cultural-linguistic or literary subjects. Last year’s topics 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.” I am always happy to help you shape your papers.  

Required Reading: TBA, to be ordered to the University of Toronto Bookstore (214 College Street). You might also enjoy David Crystal's The Stories of English (Penguin, 2004), an inexpensive and entertaining text.

First Three Authors/Texts: TBA.

Method of Evaluation: Participation in class and online; in-class and online exercises; test(s); research paper.

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