ENGL 318

History of the English Language: Early History (3 credits)

Course Description
The purpose of the course is to provide students with an understanding of how the English language has changed in from its Indo-European origins to the end of the Anglo-Saxon period (1100). The course begins with discussion of attitudes towards language change, the nature, causes, and mechanisms of linguistic change, and the genealogical and typological classification of languages. It then embarks upon a survey of the historical development of English. Considering first the prehistoric changes from Proto-Indo-European to Germanic, we will then study how the language called Old English (449-1100). developed. We will look at all aspects of the Old English language, including its sounds (phonology), spelling (orthography), forms of words and their endings (morphology), sentence structure (syntax), and meanings of words (semantics), and vocabulary. Our focus will be on the “synthetic” nature of Old English grammar. In addition to language-internal causes of change, there will be discussion of the “external history” of the language, that is, the historical, political, and social events that shaped Old English.

Required Texts
Laurel J. Brinton and Leslie K. Arnovick, The English Language: A Linguistic History. 3rd  edition (Oxford UP, 2017). ISBN 9780199-019151    www.oupcanada.com/BrintonArnovick3e

No formal background in language or linguistics is required. Students must have third-year standing and have completed the Writing Requirement of their Faculty.

ENGL 318 (partially) satisfies requirement (B) for the English Language Emphasis Major, the combined Language & Literature Emphasis Major, the combined Language & Literature Honors, and the Minor in Language. It also satisfies category (c) in the English Honours degree. It (partially) satisfies admission requirements for the secondary teaching programs in English Education and English Language Learner Education in the Faculty of Education.


The work required in this course includes:***

TWO in-class tests (each 36%)              72%
FOUR online quizzes (each 7%)            28%
Total                                                     100%

The two tests are non-comprehensive. The second test will be held during the December examination period, but will be no different in kind, length, or value from the mid-term test. You must sit both tests to pass the course. (Students who for personal/medical/family/academic reasons are unable to sit an examination on the date scheduled must speak to the instructor beforehand.)

The online quizzes will be consist of  multiple choice, matching, and T/F questions. Quizzes will be released on Thursday at 3:30 p.m. and due the following Thursday at 2:00 p.m. You may save the quiz and return to it, but you may attempt it only once.

*** An optional Word History project may be completed. If you choose this option, the weighting of the grades will be as follows:

TWO in-class tests (each 30%)              60%
FOUR online quizzes (each 7%)            28%
Word History project                              12%
Total                                                     100%

(If you choose the optional word history project, your grade will be calculated both with and without the project and you will be given the higher of the two grades. That is, the project cannot bring your grade down.)

Self-testing Exercises
Self-testing exercises from the book will also be assigned. Answers are provided at the end of the text. The in-class tests will be similar in kind to the homework exercises. For success in this course, it is crucial that the self-testing exercises be completed when assigned. There are additional self-testing exercises on the companion website: www.oupcanada.com/BrintonArnovick3e

Learning outcomes
Upon completion of the course, the student will be able to

  • explain the nature, causes, and mechanisms of language change;
  • accept the causes and inevitability of language change;
  • describe the linguistic features of Proto-Indo-European, Germanic, and Old English, and explain the developments from one stage to another; and
  • recognize how the current state of the English language has resulted from historical change.

All materials of this course (course handouts, lecture slides, assessments, course readings, etc.) are the intellectual property of the Course Instructor or licensed to be used in this course by the copyright owner. Redistribution of these materials by any means without permission of the copyright holder(s) constitutes a breach of copyright and may lead to academic discipline.