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History of English II - LAN00001I

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  • Department: Language and Linguistic Science
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Joel Wallenberg
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2022-23

Module summary

Studying the history of English sits at the crossroads of scientific linguistics, the traditional humanities, and the social sciences. In order to understand the relevant historical developments, we need to be truly interdisciplinary in our approach, and consider (among other things): the minds and linguistic systems of individual speakers, the structure of speech communities, population movements, archaeological evidence for linguistically-relevant events, and how texts come be written, copied, and lost. Historical linguistics of this type builds a lot of skills, and requires both careful study and imagination.

This module introduces students to the scientific study of language change, applies it to the History of English as a case study, and also discusses the importance of traditional humanities work in preserving and curating human culture. We also introduce students to the comparative method in historical linguistics, and Uniformitarian Principle in action: the study of linguistic history is primarily a study of how similar all humans are to each other. The module will focus on a number of important topics in the History of English, and cover a variety of different types of linguistic structures (e.g. phonological, lexical, morphological, syntactic). The module will also introduce students to primary text analysis, and to reading the academic literature in historical linguistics.

Related modules

Pre-requisite modules

Co-requisite modules

  • None

Prohibited combinations

  • None

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2022-23

Module aims

  • To give you an understanding of the development of the English language from the Proto-Germanic and Old English period to the modern period, within a framework of ideas about the causation and progress of linguistic change and the origins of sociolinguistic variation.
  • To explore, and help you learn to read, scholarly literature on language change, the history of English, and sociolinguistic variation.
  • To more carefully consider the social context of these changes, and the population structures and movements that surrounded them (or led to them).
  • To help you learn to analyse historical texts yourselves.
  • To help you build teamwork skills.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module you should:

  • understand some of the major linguistic events in the history of the English language, and the social context in which they are embedded.
  • be able to read scholarly articles in linguistics and understand the key points of the article.
  • delve into historical texts yourselves and generate novel research ideas from them.
  • relate your own research interests to results in published articles, and write about the connection in readable academic prose.


Task Length % of module mark
N/A 30
Online Exam
History of English II
N/A 70

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Online Exam
Reassessment: History of English II
N/A 100

Module feedback

Formative assessment and feedback

  • Formative exercises done individually or in groups throughout the module
  • Feedback will include written comments and oral feedback during class discussions.

Summative assessment and feedback

Students will be given written feedback and marks for their work within the University mandated schedule.

Indicative reading

The following books would be suitable as background reading. They are not required texts.

Barber, Charles (1993) The English Language: A Historical Introduction. Cambridge: CUP.

Baugh, A.C. and T. Cable (4th edition 1993) A History of the English Language. London: Routledge.

Crystal, David (2004) The Stories of English. Penguin.

Mugglestone, Lynda (2006) The Oxford History of English. Oxford: OUP.

Smith, Jeremy (1996) An Historical Study of English: Function, Form and Change. London: Routledge.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.