ENG6361F (History and Structure of the English Language I):

Take-home test


Given out:           Wednesday 1 December 2004

Due:             Wednesday 15th December 2004 (Eastern Standard Time)

Handing it in:          To CP in person or to the Wetmore Hall Porter’s Lodge, New College

                             NB: the lodge is closed 11:30-12:30 and 6:30-7:30

                    If you will be out of town by this point of the term, please contact CP.


Late penalty:          2% per day; not accepted after 22 December 2004.




1.                  Put only your student number on each numbered page of the test.

2.                  The test must be entirely your own work: do not collaborate with anybody else at any stage.

3.                  You may use whatever resources you like; please cite them in the text of your test (using ‘short titles’ if you like, e.g. OED, etc.)

4.                  NB: You must explain everything in your own words. No credit will be given for ‘dumps’ from the OED, for instance.


Part A: From Old to (early) Middle English (40 points)


Pick one of the following early Middle English texts from Millward 6.17:


Identify and exemplify about 5 of the most significant (representative, important) features of early Middle English under each of the following 4 headings:

(1)   vocabulary & semantics

(2)   spelling & pronunciation,

(3)   grammatical inflections/ morphology,

(4)    word order / syntax.


Try to make each ‘feature’ as broad as possible: e.g. rather than “this text shows one new graph”, how about “ME has introduced a number of new digraphs”?

Make sure that you have exmplained why your feature is important (does it illustrate innovation? continuity? regional variation?), and exemplified it with appropriate terms and symbols and with a reasonable number of accurate examples. Organize your points coherently. You may use point form.


Part B: Early English in Modern English / explaining PDE from a historical perspective (60 points)


Using what you have learned this term and any resources that you care to use,

(a)   explain (accurately, thoroughly, coherently, but as concisely and elegantly as you can, and in your own words) how twelve of the examples below exemplify general trends in the history of English. I am not expecting more than 2-3 sentence per ‘phenomenon’. (Some examples may illustrate more than one phenomenon, though: think about semantics, morphology, etc.)

(b)   demonstrate your understanding of the concept by providing another example or pair of examples that illustrates the same trend(s).


1)          two and dual

2)          was and were

3)          forgive and forget

4)          with: as a preposition and in withstand

5)          plough and plow

6)          foul and filth

7)          heal, whole, and hale

8)          skirt and shirt

9)         the variant pronunciations of PDE herb

10)            canal and channel

11)            holy and holiday

12)            five sheep, fish, moose

13)      the drunken sailor had drunk too much

14)            bath and bathe