Welcome to HEL, also known as

English 403: The History of the English Language

Fall 2011

Instructor: Dennis Baron
office: 251 English
phone: 244-0568
email: debaron@illinois.edu
office hours: Monday and Wednesday, 10:00-11:00 a.m. and by appointment

class meets MW 12:30-1:45 pm; 108 English Building

Course description

An examination of the history of the English language from its beginnings to the present, this course will treat in detail, and with equal emphasis, the English of the middle ages, the Renaissance, and the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as well as the English used in the Americas and elsewhere in the world today.  Our focus will be on language in its social context, and so we will develop a picture of English as it functions in the real world of people communicating: speaking, writing, reading, and using language as a social, political, literary and economic instrument.  We will consider as well what happens when when languages come into contact, both more violently, in terms of wars and colonial conquests, and more peacefully, in terms of trade, globalization, cultural exchange, tourism, and the Internet.

We will concentrate on relationships between language and literature; dialect and the process of language standardization; the social implications of linguistic variety; and the nature of World Englishes. We will also study new word formation, the impact of technology on language, and the attempts, over the past four centuries, to reform English spelling, grammar, and usage.

This course should be of particular value to students of language and literature who seek a greater understanding of the linguistic forces at play in the texts they study, and to prospective teachers hoping to show their students that language is a living, ever-changing, user-friendly part of their lives. No previous background in language study is necessary, although such experience will not be held against you.

Requirements: There will be a mid-term exercise, a final exam, and a "language in the news" presentation. 

For the "language in the news" report, a daily feature of the class, each presenter/group is allotted no more than 10 minutes at the start of class to summarize a current issue related to what we're studying this semester, and lead a short discussion on their topic.  Language in the news instructions can be found here.

Attendance policy: Attendance is required -- much of the learning that takes place in this class occurs in class sessions, and your active participation in the discussions is vital.  Excessive absence may adversely affect not just your participation grade, but also your overall grade in the course. More than three unexcused absences will result in a lowered grade.

Grading:   Your grade will be based on the following weighted average --

Midterm Quiz: 30%
Language in the news presentation: 10%
Class participation: 10% (attendance is not participation)
Final exam: 50%

Textbook: Jan Svartvik and Geoffrey Leech, English: One tongue, many voices. Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.

Paperwork reducation notice: This will be pretty much an all-electronic course. All handouts and supplemental readings will be available at the class website: http://www.go.illinois.edu/debaron403. Any of the readings that are not in the textbook, and all supplementary powerpoints, are online, accessible either from this syllabus or from the class handouts page.

Read the Web of Language: a good place to start for language in the news. (just don't use it for your actual reports!)

Some useful links for History of the English Language

Weekly schedule of topics, readings and assignments

Week 1 - Introduction to the course:

Mon Aug. 22 • What is language? Why does it change? Is it changing now? adam

Michelle Bachmann coins hombre-ette

Michelle Bachman on chutzpah:

Michelle Bachmann on Fox News

Sarah Palin coins "refudiate" on Fox News

Sarah Palin on Fox

Ghetto grammar

Language and the London riots: Ghetto grammar robs the young of a proper voice

Read: Defining our language for 100 years

Some new words in the latest Oxford Concise English Dictionary

Dictionary compilers create endangered words list

And here is a list of some of the new words added to Merriam-Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary for 2011

If you were the boss of English, what would you change?

Wed Aug 24 Yola! The changing English language – from its prehistory to the present

Read S&L 1: English -- the working tongue of the global village

Hungary may discourage citizens from learning English because it's too easy.

Yola: one person's shot at fame and glory

Merriam-Webster reports on made-up words submitted by users;

also read about one school's take on linguistic assimilation: Court rules "talking while Spanish" grounds for expulsion

Arthur, IL: English only on the schoolbus

Week 2 English -- the early years

Mon Aug 29: Must language change? How do we feel about that?

Read: Immigrants no longer changing names

Better Speech Week Pledge for Children (1918)

the Better Speech pledge

Wed Aug 31: History of your own language compared with history of "the" language

How would you go about researching the history of your own language development?
How complete and how reliable are the sources, documents, memories of your language history?
How complete and how reliable are the sources, documents, and memories of the history of English?

Week 3 Early history of the individual and the language

Mon Sep 5: Labor Day -- no class

Weds Sep 7: Read S&L 2: The first 500 years

The two histories of English: standard and real.
The Pre-history of English. View the slides here.
A brief history of writing. (view the Powerpoint presentation here)

Week 4

Mon Sep 12 Old English -- the first 500 years, continued (they took 500 years to happen, we can spend two days on them!)

Some characteristics of Old English (view the Powerpoint here)

Weds Sep 14 Old English No language is a pure language

Week 5 Old English

Mon Sep 19: Polonius told Hamlet, "Neither a borrower nor a lender be." But he was wrong. Why do we borrow words?
Reading Old English prose and poetry: Apollonius

Language in the news: Adina Mann, Jeanne Zeller

Wed Sep 21: Reading Old English

Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: The Coming of the Angles

Abraham and Isaac

The Fall

Language in the news: Bridget DiGioia, Elizabeth Morgan

Week 6 Old English

Mon Sep 26: Caedmon's Hymn and 2 Old English Riddles

for Weds, do the Old English Dictionary exercise

Language in the news: Shoshanna Shaoul, Megan Cavitt

Wed Sep 28: Reading OE-- Selection from Beowulf

Language in the news: William Mahoney, Lawrence Henderson

Week 7 Middle English

Mon Oct 3: the beginnings of ME

Read S&L 3: 1066 and all that –
When does Middle English start? Why is it so much more familiar?

A Middle English chronology
The structure of Middle English (link to the online materials)
Reading Middle English: The Death of King Arthur

Language in the news: Tabitha Jou, Kim Tracewski

Weds Oct 5: The relative status of English and French in the Middle English period

Reading ME: The Canterbury Tales

Language in the news: Elizabeth Lipowski, Zoe Regalado

Week 8 Middle English

Mon Oct 10: ME

Reading ME: the Paston Letters ME workshop

Language in the news: Robin Johnson, Claire Wilmsen

Wed Oct 12: Readings comparing OE, ME, and Early Modern English:

The Lord’s Prayer

The Prodigal Son

Language in the news: Rebecca Fundator, Jessica Hourigan

Week 9 Recapping and Assessing Old and Middle English

Mon Oct 17: Review for the midterm (link to the study guide)

Weds Oct 19: Midterm Exam

Week 10 Early Modern English

Mon Oct 24: EMnE

Read S&L 4 Modern English in the Making
Early Modern English: The Great Vowel Shift
features of EMnE grammar and vocabulary
Reading Early Modern English: Shakespeare

Language in the news: Mark Schmudde, John Sheehan

Wed Oct 26: Early Modern English:

Sidney on the double negative

Prescriptive rules in EMnE

Language in the news: Michael Piccoli, Jessica Marovich

Week 11: Standardizing English

Mon Oct 31: The age of dictionaries

Cawdrey,Bailey, and Johnson, Early English dictionaries

Inkhorn terms and archaisms

100 Commonest English words

Language in the news: Ari Kravetz, Elizabeth Hult

Weds Nov 2: Language standardization in EMnE: Where do the rules come from?

Stuff white people like: grammar
Your usage panel

Language in the news: Jason Peterson, Rachel Buccieri

Week 12: English exported

Mon Nov 7: Read S&L 5: English goes to the New World

Nineteenth-century English in the OED

Noah Webster's spelling

Noah Webster's 1806 dictionary

Noah Webster's 1828 dictionary

Noah Webster's sanitized and corrected Bible

Sir James A. H. Murray on "the dictionary says..."

How Oxford decides whether to add a word to its dictionaries

Language in the news: Grant Garland, Brittany Chen

Wed Nov 9: Read S&L 6, English Transplanted

Learning to curse: Aspects of linguistic colonialism in the 16th century

American dialect maps

Flight of the Conchords: He maybe did . . .

Accent reduction in Arizona . . .

. . . and in Bangalore

"Take anything you want!" -- a Japanese English lesson

Language in the news: Kaitlyn Henaghan, Jeremy Lin

Week 13: Separated by a common language

Mon Nov 14: No class today

Wed Nov 16: Read S&L 8: American and British English

Language in the news--Two groups report today--: Penny Paraskis & Sarah Marie Pascual

Nick Guerrero &Brian Siemann

Writing in dialect


How much English do you really need to communicate?

-- FALL Break --

Week 14 English Today

Mon Nov 28: Read S&L 10: The standard language today: myth or reality?

Language in the news: Ethan Feldman

Wed Nov 30: Read S&L 11: Linguistic change in progress

Read: Saraceni, Reflections on the rhetorics of the (re)locations of English

Language in the news: Ellie Goldrick, Alan Newman

Week 15 English Today

Mon Dec 5: AAVE, Black English, or Ebonics.

Read: What happened in Oakland? (on the web)

Read: "If Black English isn't a language, then tell me, what is?" by James Baldwin

Wed Dec 7: Laws and language • Making English Official?

Read: Official English from the school house to the White House
Read: The Babel Proclamation (1918)

final exam study guide

FINAL EXAM essay due by email Friday, Dec.9, at 10 pm. Early submissions will of course be welcome.

Click here for your final exam