ENG6361F: History and Structure of the English language I

||Weekly readings and assignments|| ||Prof Percy's administrivia page|| ||Prof Percy's home page||

We'll spend the term working forwards, with a week surveying Common Indo-European (CIE) and Common Germanic (CGmc), and the rest of the term split more or less evenly between Old English (OE) and Middle English (ME).

I'll be illustrating the weekly lectures with examples from OE and ME texts, mostly taken from the Millward workbook (MW). Bring MW to every class, please. I'll also be distributing handouts every week. Please bring $3 on September 23rd to cover the cost of these.


You'll reinforce the content of the lectures with the required readings, taken from Millward's Biography of the English language (course text - first edition on STL if your budget's tight, though page numbers won't correspond) and David Crystal's Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English language (easily available at PE 1072 C68 1995X GENR, PE 1072 C7 1995 VUPR, TRIF, 420 C957C OISE/UT & FIS); start with the Crystal if this is all very new to you. If you want something intermediate in difficulty between Crystal and Millward, try Pyles (STL PE 1075 P9).

[If for some reason you want to investigate a topic in more depth than Millward, try the `extended readings', and/or browse in Barbara Strang's A history of English (STL PE 1075 S85) with the table of contents rather than the inadequate index; she's particularly good on the `internal' history. Norman Blake's A history of the English language (STL PE 1075 B46) has a fine balance of `internal' and `external' history. If you want a lot more depth and difficulty, I really recommend the relevant chapters of the relevant volumes of the Cambridge history of the English language (STL PE 1072 C36).]

The authors' names in the `extended reading list' correlate with those on the reading list.

There are some good resources on line. Have a look at my list of links to online resources for the study of the English language and the history of the English language

Method of evaluation

This course does have a heavy workload. 2 tests, Nov 11th and Dec 9th (25%); constant homework (10%); your Nov 11th commentary on your transliteration of a short passage of OE into PDE (20%); your Nov 25th brief (5-page max) essay on lexical and semantic change in ME (20%); a brief (8-page max) research paper on a topic of particular interest to you (25%), due on December 20th. I will provide a list of topics for the brief essay, but hope that you'll have found something to engage your interest.


This year I've decided to assign weekly homework leading up to 2 tests rather than setting weekly quizzes. It's due in the envelope on the door of Wilson 2043, New College, by 4 pm the following Tuesday, so that I can get it back to you in time for class.

Weekly readings and assignments

Sept 16

Indo-European and Germanic roots of English.

Readings: Millward: Chapter 4.

Extended reading: Cambridge History of the English Language (CHEL) 1: Chapter 2, `The place of English in Germanic and Indo-European'. Lehmann, `The comparative method', `The method of internal reconstruction'.

Sept 23

OE background.
OE dialects.
OE graphics: runes, the Roman alphabet

Text: Cædmon's hymn (handout)

(from Graddol & Swann, Millward)

Readings: Crystal: Chapter 3 (Old English). Millward: Chapter 5 `Outer history' (76-82), `Old English graphics' (89-91), `Old English dialects' (132-133).

Extended reading: Graddol & Swann, Chapter 3 `The origins of English', 95-109. Quirk & Wrenn, Chapter 1 `Introduction'. CHEL1: Chapters 1 `Introduction', 3.2 `Orthography' and 6 `Old English dialects'. Toon, `The social and political contexts of language change in Anglo-Saxon England', in Machan and Scott, eds.

Sept 30

Recognizing OE words: OE-PDE spelling correspondence.
Phonological concepts: phonemes and allophones (wrt OE fricatives), conditioned sound change (wrt front mutation).

Text: `Se Hælend Crist' (handout)

Readings: Crystal 16-19, Millward 82-89.

Reference: CHEL1: Chapter 3.3 `Phonology'.

Homework for next Tuesday: Millward workbook (=MW) 5.5, 5.3, 5.21

Oct 7

OE vocabulary.
OE poetry.

Texts from MW 5.24 (II, III (#24), V, VIII)

Beowulf, lines 1417-1121 (handout)

Readings: Crystal 22-27, Millward 115-127.

Extended reading: Quirk and Wrenn, Chapter 4 `Word-formation'. CHEL1: Chapter 5 `Semantics and Vocabulary', Chapter 8 `Literary language'.

Homework for next Tuesday: MW 5.4, 5.16, 5.17, 5.19, 5.20.

Oct 14

OE grammar: the noun phrase.


Texts from MW 5.24 (I, VII)

Readings: Crystal 20-21, Millward 94-101.

Reference: Quirk & Wrenn, Chapter 3 `Syntax: functions of the cases'. CHEL1: Chapter 3 (Morphology, 122-146).

Homework for next Tuesday: MW 5.8-9, 12-13.

Oct 21

OE grammar: verbs & the verb phrase.

Texts from MW 5.24 (I, VI)

Readings: Crystal 20-21, Millward 101-105.

Reference: CHEL1: Chapter 3 `Morphology'.

Homework for next Tuesday: MW 5.10, 5.11, 5.15

Oct 28

OE syntax.
Linguistic universals.

Texts from MW 5.24 (I, IV)

Readings: Crystal 20-21, Millward 105-115.

Extended reading: McMahon, Chapter 6 `Word order change and grammaticalisation'. Lehmann, `Typological classification', `Syntactic change'.

Reference: Quirk and Wrenn: Syntax. CHEL1: Chapter 4 `Syntax'.

Homework for next Tuesday: MW 5.18

Nov 4

ME sounds & sound changes; principles of sound change.
ME spelling.

Text: from the Ormulum (handout)

Texts from MW: 6.11, 6.17 (I, VI)

Readings: Crystal 40-43; Millward 146-162.

Extended reading: Lehmann `Sound change - change in phonological systems'. Scragg, Chapters 2 `The collapse of the standard', 3 `The French invasion', 4 `Renaissance and re-formation'. Samuels, `Some applications of Middle English dialectology' (not on STL).

Reference: CHEL2, Chapter 2.1-2.7 `Phonology'. Jordan (not on STL).

Homework for Tuesday 18th: MW 6.3-6.6.

Nov 11

ME background.
ME lexis & semantics; principles of lexical and semantic change.

Resources: the OED and the MED.


--> TEST #1: OLD ENGLISH (12.5%)

Texts from MW 6.17 (II, V, VIII)

Readings: Crystal, Chapter 4: 30-33, 46-49; Millward 142-146, 195-211.

Extended reading: Smith, Chapter 6 `Change in the lexicon'. Lehmann `Semantic change and changes in the lexicon' or McMahon `Semantic and lexical change' & `Language contact'. CHEL2: Chapter 1 `Introduction', Chapter 5: `Lexis and semantics'. Rothwell `Arrivals and departures' (not on STL).

Homework for Tuesday 18th: MW 6.3-6.6.

Nov 18

ME morphology; principles of morphological change.

Texts from MW 6.17 (III, IV, VII)

Readings: Crystal 44-45; Millward 162-181.

Extended reading: Smith, Chapter 7 `Grammatical change'. Lehmann, `Morphological change'.

Reference: CHEL2, Chapter 2.8-end `...Morphology'. Mossé.

Nov 25

ME syntax; principles of syntactic change.

Texts from MW 6.16, 6.17 (VIII)


Readings: Crystal 44-45; Millward 181-195.

Extended reading: McMahon, `Syntactic change 1: the transparency principle'.

Reference: CHEL2 Chapter 4 `Syntax'. Mustanoja.

Homework for next Tuesday: MW 6.11, 6.16

Dec 2

ME dialects; principles of historical dialectology.

Text from MW 6.17 (IV)

Handout from Rigg: Psalm 8 (Rolle, Wycliffite bible)

Readings: Crystal 50-53; Millward 211-216.

Extended reading: CHEL2, Chapter 3 `ME dialectology'. Wakelin, Chapter 4 (not on STL).

Reference: McIntosh, LALME (not on STL).

Dec 9

The Great Vowel Shift. Middle English standards. Caxton and the printing press.


The test will be based on an OE text and an ME text which you will receive on December 2nd.

Readings: Crystal 54-55.

Extended reading: Smith, Chapter 5 `Sound-change'. Blake, `Interregnum: fragmentation and regrouping' & `Background to the new standard'.