ENG6361H: History and Structure of the English language I


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                Lectures run from July 5th through August 9th. (There will be breaks in the 3-hour block!) Monday August 7th is a civic holiday.  Some of the assignments are due after this period: see below.

                I’m hoping to teach much of this course in the “smart classroom” in the McLellan Physics building (rm 134): stay tuned.

                We’ll study the language from its Indo-European and Germanic roots through its earliest recorded forms to the first printed texts of 1476.  We'll spend (half) 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).  This time round, I’m experimenting with the structure of the course—for instance, in order to examine general processes of grammatical change, we’ll look at Old and Middle English nouns on the same day. We’ll see how it goes.

                I hope that the course will illuminate (1) some general principles of language structure, variation, contact, and change, and (2) the structures and anomalies of Present-Day English.

                This is an introductory course.  When it’s over, you will not be able to translate Beowulf at sight, but you will be familiar with the main methods and resources for the historical study of English and will, I hope, have already applied them to topics of interest to you. And I hope that you will be able to apply what you have learned -- in other courses, teaching ESL, or when somebody asks you at lunch whether the lock in wedlock has sinister implications, or why things that are flammable and inflammable are equally likely to burst into flame, or why adjectives like asleep and aloft can’t premodify their nouns (*the asleep students).  You will know where and how to look for the answers.




                I'll be illustrating the 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.  Once you feel firmly committed to the course, please bring me $3.  Thanks.

                You'll reinforce the content of the lectures with the required readings.  The course textbooks are Celia Millward's Biography of the English language (course text - 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; not to be confused with Crystal's other encyclopedias, like the Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English language).  These are on short-term loan at Gerstein.  But you will have to buy the Workbook to accompany a biography of the English language—available at the U of T bookroom.

                Start with the Crystal if this is all very new to you.  My pages numbers are for the first edition of Crystal, so I've also given you chapter numbers.

                If traditional grammatical terminology continues to alarm you, supplement Crystal's chapters 14-16 ("The structure of words", "Word classes", "The structure of sentences") with Jeremy Smith's Essentials of Early English (STL PE 1101 S58).  It illustrates terms and concepts with examples from present-day English (PDE) as well as from OE and ME.  There are also some useful resources on the web: see


                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 (ToC) 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).

                Next week I’ll be giving you a copy of the booklist—linked to the course webpage.

                Just about everything is on short term loan at the Gerstein library, unless it’s a Robarts reference book (4th floor).


                There are some good resources on line.  Have a look at my `links' site on





Method of evaluation


                This course has a heavy workload: constant homework (10%), 2 quizzes on July 19th and July 31st (10%); a brief (5-page) essay on lexical and semantic change from OE to ME due July 24th (20%); a commentary on your transliteration of a short passage of OE into PDE due August 9th (20%); a take-home examination given on August 9th and due at the Wetmore Hall Porter, New College, at 5pm Friday August 11th  (20%); and a brief (8-page max) paper on a topic of particular interest to you due by 5pm on Thursday August 24th (20%). 

                Today I’ll be giving you a description of the OE/ME lexis assignment: you’ll get similarly detailed descriptions of the others next week.

                Late submissions will be penalized by 10%. 





                You’ll reinforce each lesson with homework; auditors are required to complete the homework.  Sometimes I'll mark it, sometimes I'll take it up in class. Be prepared to be put on the spot.

                Monday’s homework is due in class on Wednesday; Wednesday’s homework to my mailbox at New College on Friday.



Prof Percy: Administrivia


Office:   Wilson Hall 2043, New College. 

tel:                    978-4287 (answering machine).

email:   cpercy@chass.utoronto.ca

web page:            http://cpercy.artsci.utoronto.ca



ENG6361H: History and structure of English I




Date                 Topics & Secondary readings


July 5 (W)       

            Overview: present-day English and its roots.

            The prehistory of English: Common Indo-European and Common Germanic.

            Some resources for studying vocabulary: the Thesaurus of Old English (PE 279 R62 STL), the DOE (PE 279 D53 GENR mfe), Bosworth-Toller (PE 279 B55 GENR), the MED (PE 679 M54 GENR), and the OED.

Readings: Millward: Chapter 4 (Language families and Indo-European).

Extended reading (overview): Blake ``1: What is a history of English?’, 2: Background survey’.

Extended reading (IE, Gmc): 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'.

HOMEWORK: MW 4.3-4.9 inclusive. Hand in at Wilson 2043, New College, by 4:30 on Friday 7th  July.



July 10 (M)

            Old English history & dialects.

            OE words: recognizing OE-PDE spelling correspondences.

            OE graphics: runes, the Roman alphabet.

Readings: Crystal: Ch3 (Old English). Millward: Chapter 5  (Old English: Outer history 76-82, graphics 89-93, lexicon 115-127, dialects 132-133).

Extended reading: Strang (use the analytic ToC). Graddol & Swann, Chapter 3 `The origins of English', 95-109.  Quirk & Wrenn, Chapter 1 `Introduction'.  CHEL1: Chapters 1 `Introduction', 3.2 `Orthography', 5 `Semantics and Vocabulary', 6 `Old English dialects', and Chapter 8 `Literary language'. Toon, `The social and political contexts of language change in Anglo-Saxon England', in Machan and Scott, eds. Quirk and Wrenn, Chapter 4 `Word-formation'. CHEL1:

HOMEWORK: MW 5.3, 5.5, 5.21. Due in class, Wednesday 12th July.



July 12 (W)     

            OE sounds (and sound changes).

            Basic phonological concepts:  phonemes and allophones, conditioned sound change.

Readings: Crystal Ch3 (OE sounds). Millward (OE phonology: 82-89). Smith, Essentials, 47-50.

Extended reading: Strang (use the analytic ToC).

Reference: CHEL1: Chapter 3.3 `Phonology'.

HOMEWORK: MW 5.16, 5.17, 5.19, 5.20 (vocab); 5.4 (front mutation). Hand in at Wilson 2043, New College, by 4:30 pm on Friday 14th July.





July 17 (M)

            OE syntax. 

            Linguistic universals.

Readings: Crystal Ch3 (OE grammar) and 16 (Structure of sentences), Millward (OE syntax 107-115). Smith, Essentials 60-67.

Extended reading: Strang (use the analytic ToC). McMahon, Chapter 6 `Word order change and grammaticalisation'. Lehmann, `Typological classification', `Syntactic change'.

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

HOMEWORK: MW 5.18. Due in class Wednesday 19th July.



July 19 (W)

            OE grammar: the noun phrase.

à QUIZ #1: recognizing OE words

Readings: Crystal Ch3 (OE: grammar) and 14-16 (...words, word classes, sentences); Millward (OE morphology: inflections, nouns, adjectives, pronouns 94-101). Smith, Essentials  50-55, 67-75.

Extended reading and reference: Strang (use ToC). Quirk & Wrenn, Chapter 3 `Syntax: functions of the cases'. CHEL1: Chapter 3 (Morphology, 122-146).

HOMEWORK: MW 5.8-5.12. Hand in at Wilson 2043, New College, by 4:30 pm, Friday 21st July.



July 24 (M)

            Morphological and syntactic change 1.

            The noun phrase from OE to ME.

            Syntactic change from OE to ME.


Readings: Crystal Ch4 (ME grammar); Millward (Chapter 6: ME noun morphology and syntax  162-174, 181-181-195). Smith, Essentials 111-119.

Extended reading: Strang (use ToC). Smith, Chapter 7 `Grammatical change'. Lehmann, `Morphological change', McMahon `Morphological change’, `Syntactic change 1', `Word order change & grammaticalization'.

Reference: CHEL2, Chapter 2.8-end `...Morphology', Chapter 4 `Synax', Mossé, Mustanoja.

HOMEWORK: MW 6.8, 6.9. Due in class Wednesday 26th July.



July 26 (W)

            OE grammar: verbs & the verb phrase.

Readings: Crystal Ch3 (OE grammar) and Ch14-15 (morphology and syntax of verbs:204-5, 212), Millward (OE verb morphology and verb phrase syntax 101-105, 109-111). Smith, Essentials, 55-60, 76-84.

Reference & extended reading: Strang (ToC). CHEL1: Chapter 3 `Morphology'.

HOMEWORK: MW 5.15. Hand in at Wilson 2043, New College, by 4:30 on Friday 28th July.




July 31 (M)

            Morphological and syntactic change 2

            The verb phrase from OE to ME.

àQUIZ #2: Old English nouns, verbs, and sentences to translate

Readings: Crystal Ch4 (ME: grammar), Millward (ME verb morphology and verb phrase syntax 174-179, 184-187). Smith, Essentials, 99-111.

Extended reading: Strang (ToC). Smith, Chapter 7 `Grammatical change'; Lehmann, `Morphological change', McMahon *.

Reference: CHEL2, Chapter 2.8-end (`...Morphology'), Mustanoja, Mosse.

HOMEWORK: MW 6.10, 6.11, 6.16. Due in class Wednesday 2nd August.



Aug 2 (W)

            ME background.

            ME vocabulary.

Readings: Crystal Ch4 (ME: background, vocabulary); Millward (ME background and vocabulary 142-146, 195-211).

Extended reading: Strang (ToC). Smith, Chapter 6 `Change in the lexicon'. Lehmann `Semantic change and changes in the lexicon'. McMahon `Semantic and lexical change' & `Language contact'.

Reference: CHEL2,  Chapter 5 `Lexis and semantics'. Jordan (not on STL).

and …

            ME sounds & sound changes; principles of sound change.

            ME spelling.

Readings: Crystal Ch4 (ME: spelling, sounds); Millward (ME phonology and graphics 146-162, 195-211). Smith, Essentials 94-98.

Extended reading: Strang (ToC). Smith, Chapter 5 `Sound-change'. Lehmann `Sound change - change in phonological systems'. Scragg, Chapters 2 `The collapse of the standard', 3 `The French invasion', 4 `Renaissance and re-formation'. .

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

HOMEWORK: MW 6.3-6.6. Hand in to the Wetmore Hall porter by 4:30, Friday 4th August.

MORE HOMEWORK: MW 6.16. Due in class Wednesday August 9th.


[Aug 7 (M)            Civic holiday. No class.]


Aug 9 (W)

            ME varieties and standards.

            Principles of historical dialectology.

            Caxton and the printing press.


Readings: Crystal Ch4 (ME: dialects, origins of standard English); Millward (ME dialects 211-216). Smith, Essentials 121-124.

Extended reading: Strang (ToC). Blake, `Interregnum: fragmentation and regrouping' & `Background to the new standard'.CHEL2, Chapter 3 `ME dialectology'. Wakelin, Chapter 4 (not on STL).

Reference: McIntosh, LALME (not on STL).

à TAKE-HOME EXAMINATION due Friday 11th August,  5pm, Wetmore Porter.

à RESEARCH PAPER due Thursday August 24th, 5pm, Wetmore Porter.