History of English Language

In this course, we will
study the origins and evolution, in historical and linguistic terms, of what
today may best be described in the plural form: the English languages. There
will be detailed analysis (and translation) of a variety of historical texts,
including several from what are traditionally defined as the Early and Middle
English periods. To do this will inevitably require of students a willingness
to engage with grammars and vocabularies that appear very different from the
language most of us use in our text messages or e-mails.

 

From its very humble origins
on a sparsely populated island off the coast of Europe, a motley collection of
minor Germanic dialects quickly overwhelmed the indigenous languages of Britain
before becoming itself subjected to outside invasion and eventual conquest. The
resulting linguistic hybrid, Celtic-Roman-Saxon-Danish-Norwegian-Norman
English, then began, primarily through colonial expansion and global
domination, to outgrow its sister languages on the Continent, eventually
establishing itself as what most Americans gratefully know it to be today: the
whole world’s lingua franca.

 

If, in what form, and for
how long ‘English’ will remain the primary global language are questions which
no-one today can answer, which is why this course also aims to look beyond the
hegemony of the current Anglo-American centre (spelled correctly according to a
competing variety).  To do this, we will
be examining some competing English-speaking communities and cultures at the
centre and periphery of the so-called English-speaking world for whom the precepts
of the descendants of Dr. Johnson and Noah Webster are no longer quite as
binding.

 

Grading:

There will be two midterms
(40%) and a final examination (30%)

Weekly Laulima Postings
(20%)

Full Attendance (10%)