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DRPS : Course Catalogue : Centre for Open Learning : Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences

Undergraduate Course: History of English: from its origins to the present day (LLLI07025)

Course Outline
SchoolCentre for Open Learning CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 7 (Year 1 Undergraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits10 ECTS Credits5
SummaryThis course will be an overview of the history of the English language from its Indo-European past until the present day with its many global varieties. The course will analyze both the external historical and cultural factors that affected the evolution of English, as well as language-internal systemic changes in its phonology, morphology, syntax and lexicon. Students will be introduced to concepts and methods from linguistics, historical linguistics, and sociolinguistics.
Course description Indicative Syllabus
The course will be structured into three blocks:

Block 1. Linguistics, language change and historical linguistics.

1. Introduction to the course and a brief introduction to linguistics. This week will introduce the main topics and objectives of the course, and the main areas of study linguistics: phonology; morphology; syntax; semantics.
2. Language change. This class will analyze how and why languages change. We will discuss language-internal change, as well as the effect of external factors like historical events, culture, and geopolitics.
3. Doing historical and variationist linguistics. This class will introduce students to the main principles and methodologies for the study of historical linguistics and synchronic variation.

Block 2. The story of English.

4. The prehistory of English. This week will introduce students to the Indo-European language family, and in particular to the Germanic branch, to which English belongs.
5. Old English. This class will survey the main linguistic features of Old English, its writing system, and some of its key texts.
6. Middle English. This class will survey the main linguistic features of Middle English, with a particular focus on the effects of language contact on its development. This week will also discuss some key texts in relation to issues of spelling and pronunciation.
7. Modern English. This class will survey the main linguistic features of Early Modern and Modern English, with a particular focus on the standardization process and the rise of a prestige pronunciation.
8. Scots and Scottish English. This class will discuss the main history and linguistic features of Scots and Scottish English, and attitudes towards them.

Block 3. New Englishes.

9. English around the world. This week will outline the historical spread of English around the world, and describe the linguistic features of some key varieties, and the factors that led to geographical variation in New Englishes.
10. Creole Englishes. English as a lingua franca. The first part of the class will focus on the development of English-based pidgins and creoles. Students will be introduced to the characteristics and principles of extreme language contact, with particular attention given to the linguistic consequences of the slave trade. In the second part of the class we will discuss the role of English as a lingua franca, and the effects that second language learners are having on the language.

This course will begin with an introduction to some of the main areas of the study of language, followed by the principles of language change and the methodology used to study it. This section will cover both language-internal systemic processes (e.g. phonological chain shifts, semantic change, grammaticalization), and the external historical, cultural and sociological factors that can produce and shape language change. With these theoretical and methodological bases in place, the course will then survey the various historical stages in the evolution of English in chronological order: its pre-historical origins, Old English, Middle English, Modern English and new Englishes (American English, and English in Africa and Asia). This survey will also include a section on the development of English and Scots in Scotland.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Additional Costs 20 course text
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Describe some of the main linguistic features of earlier stages of English and of new Englishes.
  2. Demonstrate knowledge of the main historical, cultural and sociological events that affected the evolution of English.
  3. Demonstrate an understanding of the basic principles of language change and the methodologies of historical linguistics and sociolinguistics.
  4. Show familiarity with the analysis of written and spoken texts from different periods of English and from different communities of English speakers.
  5. Demonstrate an awareness of the historical and political reasons for the global status of English today.
Reading List
Indicative reading list

Mugglestone, L. ed., 2012. The Oxford History of English. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Hogg, R.M and Denison, D. eds., 2010. A History of the English Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Jones, C. ed., 1997. The Edinburgh History of the Scots Language. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
Trask, R.L., 1994 Language Change. London: Routledge.
McMahon, A.M.S., 1994. Understanding Language Change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Schneider, Edgar W. 2011. English Around the World: An Introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsHistory English Language
Course organiserMr James Mooney
Tel: (0131 6)50 3077
Course secretaryMr Benjamin Mcnab
Tel: (0131 6)51 4832
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