ENG6361H (Summer 2001): History and Structure of the English Language I
HELL!--a website with resources
office: New College, Wetmore Hall 125
hours: Tuesdays and Wednesdays (except June 20th) 4:15-5
This is an introductory course in the structure of Old English and Middle English. By August, you will not be able to translate Beowulf at sight, but you will be familiar with some good resources and methods 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, when teaching ESL, or during and after odd conversations. If somebody ever asks you 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 f or the answers.
Each class will consist of a lecture from me, and then of a collective analysis of the texts of the day. I’ll be expecting you to find specific examples in the texts of whatever I’ve been lecturing about most recently. For the first few weeks of the co urse, I’ve indicated on the syllabus what I expect you to be looking for.
There are also 4 short assignments. Indeed, the workload for this course is notoriously heavy, but each of the brief assignments has been selected in order to introduce and to exercise specific content and skills.
This is what you will get out of the course:
Required and recommended reading:
This summer I am experimenting with new textbooks. There are two course textbooks. Freeborn’s From Old English to Standard English contains a range of OE and ME texts for us to talk about: it’s got word-for-word translations of O E texts, commentaries on some of the texts, and engaging facsimiles of some of the texts. Smith’s Essentials of Early English is a good introduction to the structure of OE and ME, as well as to terms and concepts used when describing PDE. There’s a copy of Smith on short-term loan.
This summer’s texts don’t feature clear and/or comprehensive overviews of changes between OE and ME. You’ll find it very helpful to supplement them with occasional visits to the short-term loan department, now on the 9th floor of Robarts. But for getting a focussed overview of the most important concepts, I strongly recommend David Crystal’s Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language (PE 1072 C68 GENR, 4th floor Robarts—please reshelve!). If you’d like more than the page or two in Crystal, I recommend supplementing him with the relevant sections of any of the standard "histories of the English language" (PE 1075) by Barber, Baugh and Cable, Blake, Millward, Pyles and Algeo, Strang.
You may wish for more advanced information at some times during the course. The Cambridge History of the English Language, vols. 1 (OE) and 2 (ME) (PE 1072 C36) is usually your best bet for leads on further research. The e-index to conjure with is Linguistics and Language Behavior Abstracts, though the MLA and ABELL aren’t too bad. There’s an online booklist for the course if you get really hooked
as well as some good bibliographies on the web, for instance the "Lowlands-L" bibliographies at
The individual assignments will come with their own mini-bibliographies.
Methods of evaluation:
You will need to prepare the texts for the day: translate them beforehand, identify items of linguistic interest
The passage will be biblical prose, and will come with a modern English translation.
Handing in assignments/late penalty:
Assignments #1-#3 are due by 6pm, at New College, Wetmore Porter/Room 125. The late penalty is 5% per day.
Assignment #4 is due on August 23rd, but because we will all need a holiday this deadline is very flexible (within the department’s/SGS’s limits for the summer session).
Classes: Tuesday June 19th through Thursday August 9th
(MIDTERM BREAK: week of July 16th)
Assignments: take-home due August 16th; final assignment Aug 23rd (FLEXIBLE)
To give yourself a good clear overview of the issues, I strongly recommend that you read and reread a good clear overview of each week’s topics. I suspect you’ll all find David Crystal’s Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language appeali ng for this (PE 1072 C68 1995 GENR, 4th floor Robarts—please reshelve).
Language basics: Smith, chapter 1 ("Introduction"). Crystal, chapter 2 (The origins of English), 3 (Old English: pages 8-19, 22-27). If you’re feeling very energetic, try Gneuss’s chapter on "The old English language" in the Cambridge Companion to Old English Literature. Fennell (pp. 86-93) has a nice little section about "language contact" issues as applied to the OE vocabulary.
History: Millward ("Outer history" in the "Old English" chapter) is short and pertinent. Or try "United Kingdom—History—Anglo-Saxon England" in the online Encyclopedia Britannica (www.britannica.com).
Old English vocabulary:
Semantic change (further reading: Lehmann chapter 13,
McMahon chapter 7)
On Tuesday June 19th
Freeborn, Activity 1.1 (p.3)
Smith, from texts 1, 2, 4 (pp. 160-164)
For Thursday June 21st:
Old English syntax/word order
Language universals (further reading: Fennell 44-49; McMahon 141ff)
For Tuesday June 26th
Read Smith 3.3 (syntax), Freeborn 4.3.1, Freeborn chapter 3.2 through 3.5
Bring Smith to class. The lecture component of today’s class will consist of pointing out the highlights of section 3.3.
Prepare Freeborn, texts 17 (p.37) through 19a (p.41), for class
Recognize as many OE words with PDE reflexes as you can
Note and describe similarities and differences between OE and PDE word order
For Thursday June 28th
Prepare Freeborn, texts 21 (p.45) and 25 (p.53) for class.
Recognize as many OE words with PDE reflexes as you can.
Be able to identify the subject, verb, and object of the OE sentences and explain if/how the OE word order differs from that of PDE.
OE morphology/paradigms (read Crystal 20-21 for overview)
OE poetry I
For Tuesday July 3rd
Read Smith 3.4 (paradigms), Freeborn 4.3.2 & 4.3.3.
Bring Smith to class. The lecture component of today’s class will consist of pointing out the highlights of section 3.4.
Prepare Freeborn, texts 28 (p.61) & 29 (p.63); review also 21 (p.45) & 25 (p.53).
Compare and contrast OE/PDE words and syntax.
Know the texts as well as you can; I’ll be illustrating my lecture with examples from them.
For Thursday July 5th
Review texts 21 (p.45) & 25 (p.53) and 28 (p.61) and 29 (p.63). Re/read Smith 3.4. Be as familiar as you can be with the syntax of these texts. We’ll be looking at the forms of nouns, pronouns, and verbs.
Identify as many personal pronouns as you can, and identify their person (1st, 2nd, 3rd), number (sg/pl), and case.
Look for past tense verbs: are the verbs weak or strong? singular or plural?
Identify as many demonstrative determiners as you can, and identify their number, gender (if sg.), and case.
Look for nouns. Try to find some nouns from the "General Masculine" and "General Neuter" declensions and some "-an"/weak nouns. Find some examples of nouns in the dative case and nouns in the genitive case, and expl ain why they are in that case.
Prepare Freeborn, texts 26 (p.55) & 27 (p.58). Know the OE texts as well as you can. I’ll be identifying the cases of the nouns and pronouns, and we’ll be unscrambling the syntax of these poems.
OE poetry II
From OE to ME (read Crystal 30-34)
For Tuesday July 10th:
#1: Semantic change due (20%)
A close reading of extracts from some OE poems.
Be familiar with the xeroxes from Hamer (OE and facing page translations).
For Thursday July 12th:
Read Smith, 4.1 and 4.2, and Freeborn, chapter 5.
Prepare Freeborn, texts 33 (p.83) & 34 (p.85): find as many aspects of the text that differ from "classical OE" as you can
Week 5: no class in the week of July 16th.
Work on OE transliterations and commentary (25%)
ME vocabulary (read Crystal 46-49)
Spelling changes between OE and ME (read Crystal 40-41)
Sound changes between OE and ME: why the vowels differ in related forms like keep and kept, wise and wisdom (read Crystal 42-43)
Tuesday July 24th:
#2: OE transliteration and commentary due (25%).
Lecture: some intersections of ME lexis & orthography.
For Thursday July 26th:
Read Freeborn, chapter 6
Prepare Freeborn, texts 37 (p.102), and 35 (p.87) & 36 (p.90): know chapters 5&6 and the texts well enough to be able to recognize examples from it in my lecture on OE sounds & ME changes in sounds & spelling.
ME dialects, especially northern and southern ME (overview: Crystal 50-51)
which is just an excuse for a covert focus on…
ME paradigms and syntax (overview: Crystal 44-45)
For Tuesday July 31st:
Read Smith 4.3 (syntax) and 4.4 (paradigms), and Freeborn chapters 8 and 9.
Bring Smith to class.
Prepare Freeborn, texts 39 (p.126), 52 (p.171), 53 (p.173).
For Thursday August 2nd:
Read Freeborn, chapters 8 and 10.
Prepare Freeborn, texts 50 (p.150), 59 (p. 187), 62 (p.197), 65 (p.204).
Grammatical change & introduction to assignment #3
(Smith, Historical Study of English, chapter 7: "Grammatical change").
English in London.
The 15th century: Caxton and printing, issues of standardization (overview: Crystal 54-57; extended: Strang 159-165, Blake chapter 7)
For Tuesday August 7th
Read Freeborn, chapters 12 and 13.
Be familiar with the GRAMMAR RESOURCES HANDOUT.
For Thursday August 9th (last class):
Read Freeborn, chapter 14.
Prepare Freeborn, text 83 (p.248), 92 (p.261), 94 (p.263).
#3: Brief take-home test due Thursday August 16th, 5pm (25%)
#4: Final version of "review essay" due Thursday August 23rd (FLEXIBLE) (25%)
-> I will need to have seen/marked a draft first. You choose the draft’s deadline!