ENG G301 / D600 :

The History of the English Language

Spring 2010

Professor Damian Fleming


Welcome to HEL !


Class meetings:        T R 1:30 – 2:45 pm cm144

Office hours: T W R 12–1pm (or by appointment)

Office: CM 149 (in English Department)

Contact information:        Office phone: (260) 918-0192

Email: flemingd@ipfw.edu


Course  Website: http://users.ipfw.edu/flemingd/hel2010.html

COURSE WIKI: http://hel2010.pbworks.com/



This course will serve as an introduction to the study of language in general, and specifically to the historical study of the English language.  The course will give students grounding in the tools of linguistic study: phonology, morphology, graphics, semantics, syntax and lexicon.  In particular we will trace the historical development of the English language, beginning with the classification of all languages, to the Indo-European language family to the successive stages in the development of English, from Old English to American English the many World englishes of the present day.  Particular attention will be paid to sociolinguistic aspects language change as well as the value of linguistic inquiry in the study of literature and in composition.



Required Texts (you’ll need them both right away):

The English Language: A Linguistic History, Laurel J. Brinton and Leslie K. Arnovick (Oxford UP: 2006) ISBN-10: 0195422058 “B&A”


Word on the Street: Debunking the Myth of a “Pure” Standard English, John McWhorter (Basic Books, 1998), ISBN-10: 0738204463 “McWhorter”


Always bring both texts to class; they are necessary for informed discussion; failure to bring your text to class is equivalent to an absence (and you better check out the attendance policy).



Course requirements:


1.   Regular attendance, intelligent participation, alert questioning, and careful preparation of reading and exercises as assigned

2.   Regular quizzes on the material in B&A

3.   Regular online critiques of McWhorter and additional materials

4.   2 semester research projects, to be posted online

5.   Midterm and Final Exams


Grading: The term grade is calculated based on the following:


Participation:                                     10%

          Quizzes                                             10%

          Critiques                                           10%

          Projects                                             20%

          Exams (midterm and final)                50%


Grade Scale:

A          95–100            Highest passing grade                        4.0

A-         90–94                                                                          3.7

B+        87–89                                                                          3.3

B          84–86              Above-average passing grade             3.0

B-        80–83                                                                          2.7

C+*      77–79                                                                          2.3

C*        74–76              Average passing grade                        2.0

C-*       70–73                                                                          1.7

D+*      65–69                                                                          1.3

D*        60–64              Lowest passing grade                          1.0


F *        below 60          Failure or unauthorized discontinuance of class

attendance; no credit.


* Not acceptable for graduate credit



Attendance policy:

This course is based in active participation; as a result, attendance in class is essential.   More than two unexcused absences will drastically affect your grade:


·         On your second absence: total participation grade becomes 0%

·         On your third absence: You are no longer part of this class: final grade: F



·         There are NO excused absences.

·         Excessive lateness will count as an absence.

·         Leaving class early will count as an absence.

·         Sleeping in class will count as an absence.


Regardless of cause, you are responsible for all work missed during absences, including changes to the class schedule announced in class.


Writing Assignments:

Engrave the following on your brain:

·         I do not accept any late work

·         Grade for late work: 0%, returned without comment

·         Computer mishaps are not an acceptable excuse.

o   This is the 21st century.  Save frequently.


Give yourself plenty of time and leeway to get your work done and to deal with bumps in the road should they occur.  Pretend, at least for this class, that you are operating in the real world.


Failure to submit any written assignment will result in a failing grade for the course




          This class is unlike most any other English class you may have taken.  In a lot of ways, it’s more like a science class (the science being historical linguistics) and also has a lot in common with a foreign language class.  This class will demand a lot of memorization and using parts of your brains which do not otherwise get used very often.  For your benefit, I will give quizzes at the beginning of many classes to make sure that you keeping up with the material.  If you read what you’re assigned carefully and do all the exercises, these quizzes will be no-brainers.  Everything is necessarily cumulative.


For the B&A Book:

This book is dense, and there’s a lot of stuff in it that may be completely new to you.  It’s not for skimming.  You are going to have to honker-down and read slowly, carefully, and repeatedly.  Not all of it will make sense without instructor guidance, but you are responsible for consuming as much of it as possible before class meets.  The book is also full of exercises which helpfully reinforce the material that you’ve read (this is in place of other textbooks, which also cost near $100, and make you buy a separate workbook for another $50 or so).  The exercises are excellent for reinforcing the material; although we likely not have time to go over exercises in class, feel free to ask me about any of them.


After the first one, our quizzes on this material will cover two chapters: one you’ve just read, and one we’ve covered in class.  For the former, I will quiz you based on my humane understanding of what a reasonably intelligent student working hard could get out of an initial reading of the text. For the latter, you’ll be responsible for anything we’ve covered in class.


I will try to give “quiz previews” for the material we have not covered yet. Also, focus on the terms: the key words in italics.  Most of these can also be found in the very handy glossary at the end of the book. 



Almost every week (see Schedule) you will be responsible to read and respond to chapters in the McWhorter book or additional materials (usually on available on the internet).  Before 3am the day it is assigned, you must post an informal response/critique to the assigned article on our class wiki.  These need not be formal, but must be at least 500 words long.  Most of these articles deal with the many very current social issues involving English and language in the United States.  Part of those class days will be devoted to discussing these articles and the issues they raise.  Your typed responses are one way to ensure that you have read the material carefully (in advance) and will serve as the foundation of our discussions.  I will grade these on a scale of A–F.  Note that submitting a good critique is not a substitute for active participation.  Failure to turn in two of these critiques will result in a failing grade for the course.


I do not accept any late work, under any circumstance. 


Students with disabilities:


In accordance with University policy, if you have a documented disability, you may be eligible to request accommodations from the office of Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD). Students with disabilities are entitled to reasonable accommodations and should have equal access to learning.  If you have any questions or you believe you need accommodations, contact the SSD office, Walb Union 113, Phone/TTD: 260 - 481 - 6657 http://www.ipfw.edu/ssd/


Keep in mind that accommodations are not retroactive so it is best to register as soon as possible so that timely arrangements can be made.


For all Students:


No retroactive accommodations can be made.  If you feel that you have an issue which may affect your ability to succeed in this class, you must come see me before you’ve defaulted on the class.  Hopefully, any issue can be resolved, but no issue can be resolved after the fact. 


Academic honesty:



Plagiarism will earn you an F for the course, and possible expulsion from the University.  If you borrow an idea or quote from another author, you must cite where you found the material. If you have any questions about citing sources, please **ASK** before your turn in an assignment.  I am happy to help, or visit the Writing Center. http://www.ipfw.edu/casa/writing/)




**note: This schedule is subject to change; missing class is NOT an excuse for not knowing about changes to the schedule (see above: Attendance).


WK 1           T 12   Welcome to HEL! What the HEL is this class about?

Why the HEL should I take it? Are these HEL jokes ever funny?


Overview of what we’re up against: What do you know about English History?


Grammatical Terminology Helps:




                   R 14  Request access/ setup account at our wiki: http://hel2010.pbworks.com/

Post 5 grammatical/spelling/pronunciation Pet Peeves of yours


Introduction to Dictionaries!

Read “Appendix 1: An Introduction to Dictionaries” from English Words: History and Structure, Robert Stockwell and Donka Minkova (Cambridge UP, 2001)


Discussion of Etymology Project


WK 2           T 19   B&A: Ch. 1: Overview/Language Change and Ch. 2: Phonology


R 21  Read and Critique McWhorter ch 1, and ch 2

Etymology Project: word-selection DUE online before class


WK 3           T 26   B&A: Ch. 3 Causes and Mechanisms of Language Change

QUIZ today focused on Ch. 1–3


R 28  Read and Critique, McWhorter ch 3, ch 5 and Anne Curzan, “Says Who? Teaching and Questioning the Rules of Grammar,” PMLA 124.3 (2009): 870–879.


WK 4           T 2     B&A: Ch. 4 Indo-European

FEB                      QUIZ today focused on Ch. 3 and 4


R 4    Read and Critique, Campus Talk and The Power of Slang, and Born in the USA: The Global Spread of American Slang and Like, Quote Me: Like Quotativea Part of English Grammar Now?


WK 5           T 9     B&A: Ch. 5 Germanic and Old English

QUIZ today focused on Ch. 4 and 5


R 11  Read and Critique, The Truth About Change, Language & Society, Language Myth #21: Americans are Ruining English


WK 6           T 16   B&A: Ch. 6 Sounds and Words of OE

                             QUIZ today focused on Ch. 5 and 6


R 18  Read and Critique, The Decline of Grammar, Gatekeeping, State of American: What is 'Correct' Language?

          Etymology Project DUE posted online before class


WK 7           T 23   B&A: Ch. 7 The Grammar of OE

                             QUIZ today focused on Ch. 6 and 7


          R 25  Read and Critique, F&R Ch. 16 and 21 (Ebonics; Hip Hop     Nation)

          Project Peer Evaluations DUE online before class


WK 8           T 2     Catch-up

MARCH      R 4    MIDTERM Exam




WK 9           T 16   B&A: Ch. 8 The Rise of Middle English

QUIZ today focused on Ch. 7 and 8


R 18  Read and Critique, Sociolinguistics Basics and Social Identity and Crossing Over: Language Crossing — Borrowing Identity

          Dialect Project Topic Selection Due online before class


WK 10         T 23   B&A: Ch. 9 Grammar of Middle English

QUIZ today focused on Ch. 8 and 9


R 25  Read and Critique, Are Dialects Fading? and Watch Your Language: What Does Your Speech Reveal? and Language Myth # 17: They Speak Really Bad English Down South and in New York City



WK 11         T 30   B&A: Ch. 10 Early Modern English

APRIL                            QUIZ today focused on Ch. 9 and 10


R 1    Read and Critique, McWhorter ch. 4, and Vowel Shifting: The Sounds, They Are A Shiftin


WK 12         T 6     B&A: Ch. 11 Eighteenth Century

QUIZ today focused on Ch. 10 and 11


R 8    Read and Critique, English Only: The Legendary English-Only Vote of 1795 and Don’t Make English Official and Habla Español?: Does Spanish Threaten American English?


WK 13         T 13   B&A: Ch.12: Modern English

QUIZ today focused on Ch. 11 and 12


          R 15  Read and Critique, Walt Wolfram and McWhorter, ch 6


                   T 20   Read and Critique, McWhorter ch 7 and ch 8


R 22  Read and Critique Talking with Mi Gente: The Distinctive Dialect of Chicano English and Managing Language: Managing Language in a Multicultural Nation


          Dialect project Due online before class


WK 15         T 27  

                   R 29  Dialect project peer evaluations due online before class


Final Exam:  Thursday, May 6, 1–3pm