Department of English

University of Toronto

ENG385H1F L0101

ENG385H1F     L0101    M11-1, W12
History of the English Language
Professor Carol Percy

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Office Address: Jackman Humanities Building, Room 732
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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: Course textbook(s) will be ordered to the U of T bookstore: watch this space. I’ve asked the bookstore to order as many second-hand copies as possible. If you are able to find it independently, I strongly recommended David Crystal's The Stories of English (Penguin, 2004). It is inexpensive and entertaining,but has lately been hard to find in print.

First Three Authors/Texts: TBA

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

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