CTL5002S: The Origins of Modern English


Instructor:      Carol Percy, Associate Professor, Department of English, U of T.

Contact info:   Wetmore 125, New College. 978-4287. cpercy@chass.utoronto.ca

Meetings:       Mondays, 5:30-8:30 (but we can negotiate start time!), OISE 12-204

Course page:  http://cpercy.artsci.utoronto.ca/courses/5002syll.htm

“HELL”:        http://cpercy.artsci.utoronto.ca/helhome.htm

(History of the English Language Links)


Course description: This introductory course studies the English language in reverse chronological order – that is, from its many modern voices to its Germanic origins in the Anglo-Saxon period. We will, however, spread the study of Old English through the semester: for the first half of the course, we’ll learn a concept each week and get to know a few texts very well. Basic terms and concepts will be illustrated early in the term with examples from present-day English texts. Sub-topics to be treated include vocabulary, semantics, spelling, writing, pronunciation, grammar, language variation and change, and the codification of English in grammars and dictionaries. We will often use specific texts as a basis for lectures and discussion: there will be extra emphasis on the use of language in literature. One assignment will invite you to apply the course material in your classroom. I will also be helping you to focus and investigate a brief research project on a topic of your own choice.


Required texts: The required course text is David Crystal’s Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language (Cambridge University Press); this has been ordered to the University of Toronto bookstore. Please bring Crystal to every class. I will also be collecting $5 to cover the cost of handouts. If you get keen on particular topics, there is a range of books on short-term loan at the Robarts Library. The course home page will also have links to various essential or merely useful resources. You should have easy and frequent access to the University of Toronto’s electronic resources: please make sure this week that you can use the online Oxford English Dictionary.


Method of evaluation. #1 Evaluation of reference resources (20%); #2 Seminar presentation of a classroom application (25%); #3 Research paper (25%); #4 Take-home exam (20%); Participation (10%).


Tentative/general outline


Please consult this page every week for changes and updates!


Schedule                Topic                                                  OE topic


Week 1 (Jan. 7)        Overview                                            Recognizing OE words.


For Jan 14th:   Find the course web page, check access to U of T resources, print stuff out.

Make sure you have e-access to OED (get proxy server?).

          Print out “words from 1970” sheet linked to course home page.

                   Print out linked pages from Murray McGillivray’s course:

OE pronunciation 1 and OE pronunciation 2.

Plunge into readings about the Modern English vocabulary:

Read Crystal chapters 9, 10 (p.138), 11, 12, 14 (p.198 only).    

Read handouts from the Oxford Companion to the English Language:

          Semantics, Word-formation, Slang.

                   Collect some “data” for our group analysis of Modern English next week:

                             Some slang from your students or children.

A very short passage of a text with new words (computing, science, etc.)

Get a sense of Old English:

Read Crystal chapter 2, chapter 3 (pp.16-19, 22 only).


Week 2 (Jan. 14)     Modern English                                    Recognizing OE words.

                                    Lexis, semantics.


For Jan 21st:   Canadian English: Read Crystal c7 (92-95) and c20 (306-317, 340-343). [Millward 363-368].

                   Read and study (Canadian) dictionary headwords handout.

                   Read and study Old English handout (Abraham and Isaac).

                   Read and reread the Abraham and Isaac story online, with its glossary.

From course web page, print out “Old English as an inflected language” and “present of the verb beon and the personal pronouns”.


Week 3 (Jan. 21)     North American/Canadian English           OE irregular verbs

Phonetics, phonology.                         OE pronouns.


For Jan 28th:   Review phonetics and phonology: read Crystal c17. [Millward chapter 2.]

World Englishes: Read Crystal c7, c20 (pp. 358-363 only). [Millward chapter 9.]

                   Read and study poems and illustrative texts (handout).

                   From course web page, print out “Old English syntax”.


Week 4 (Jan. 28)     World Englishes.                                  OE word order



For Feb 4th:    Review grammar: read Crystal c14, c15, c16.

Read Crystal c7 (96-97), c20 (344-349). [Millward 403-405, and descriptions of particular varieties earlier in the chapter.]

Read and study illustrative texts (handout).

From course web page, print out “OE case system/strong masculine and neuter nouns”.


Week 5 (Feb. 4)       Pidgins and creoles.                             OE nouns.


For Feb. 11th: Read Crystal c6 (pp.80-91 only). [Millward, intro to chapter 8.]

                   From course web page, play with and print out OED search results:

                             Headwords from C19th texts containing the word “Canada” (sample 100)

Headwords “first cited” in 1837 (sample 100)

Headwords “first cited” in 1870 (sample 100)

                   From course web page, print out “OE weak verbs”.


Week 6 (Feb. 11)     The 19th century                                           OE weak verbs.


For Feb. 25th: Read Crystal c5 (72-75),c6 (76-79), c13. [Millward chapter 7.]

                   From course web page, play with and print out OED search results:

                             Headwords from 18thc texts containing “language” (sample 100)

                             Headwords “first cited” in 1770 (sample 100)

                        From course web page, print out “OE strong verbs: singan




Week 7 (Feb. 25)     The 18th century                                           OE strong verbs

                                                                   #1: Evaluating reference resources.

For March 4th: Read Crystal c5. [Reread Millward chapter 7.]

                        Study texts (handouts)                    


Week 8 (Mar. 4)       Early modern English


                        Study texts (handouts)


Week 9 (Mar. 11)     Early modern English


For Mar. 18th: Read Crystal c4. [Millward chapter 6.]

                   Study texts (handouts)


Week 10 (Mar. 18)   Middle English                      #2: Classroom applications.


Week 11 (Mar. 25) Middle English                        #2: Classroom applications.

                                                                                    [#4: Receive take-home test.]


For April 1st:   Read Crystal c3. [Millward chapter 5.]

                   Study poems (handout)


Week 12 (Apr. 1)     Old English: some poetry


For April 8th:   [Millward chapter 4.]


Week 13 (Apr. 8)     Old English: the Germanic and Indo-European roots

                                                                                    #3: Research papers due April 8th.

                                                                                    [#4: Take-home test due April 12th.]