English 3901a: History of the English Language (Spring 2021)Posted: January 10, 2021
About this course
Why don’t we spell knight n – i – t – e?
Where does ‘silent e’ come from?
Why is it book and books but not sheep and sheeps?
Do we say somebody is six foot or six feet tall?
All of us have asked questions like these about the English language. This course will teach you how to find the answers. It covers the history of the English language from its pre-historic beginnings to its current position as the lingua franca of the modern world.
We begin with a brief survey of some important linguistic and methodological concepts. We then cover the major periods in the History of English paying particular attention to aspects that affect the way we now speak and write. In doing so we will cover the historical development of English sounds, spelling, grammar, vocabulary, and rhetoric. We will also be looking at changes in the attitude of speakers of English towards their language’s position and importance in daily life.
The course is of general interest. It may be particularly useful for students considering further study in language art education, linguistics, medieval or classical languages and literature, or English history. No special training in linguistics, foreign languages, or grammar is required.
By the end of this course you should have an understanding of the principles of linguistic change, particularly as this applies to the English language. You should be able to recognise the major external and internal influences on the development of the English language and know how to research interesting forms and constructions using standard reference works.
Time and location
- Mondays and Wednesdays, 10:30-11:45
- Zoom (please see the Class Moodle pages for link/meeting number).
- Daniel Paul O’Donnell (firstname.lastname@example.org). Department of English, University of Lethbridge (bio)
- AKM Iftekhar Khalid (email@example.com). Department of English, University of Lethbridge.
My email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
My office hours (starting January 19) are:
- Tuesdays 11:15-12:00
- Wednesdays 11:45-12:30
Please see the Class Moodle for location information (on Zoom).
If you can’t make my office hours, I am also available by appointment
- Brinton, Laurel J., and Leslie K. Arnovick. 2017. The English Language: A Linguistic History. Third edition. Don Mills, Ontario: Oxford University Press.
- Handouts and web pages as assigned.
- Essential Grammar Guide
- Some optional things
- Participation and Attendance 15% (Pass/Fail) 
- Homework discussion leadership
- Formative Exercises 25% (Appropriate/Inappropriate/Fail) 
- Summative 45% (A+ through F)
- Research Essay (12-15 pages) 25% 
- Final Exam 20%
- Badges 15% 
- Distinction 1.5%
- Great Distinction 3%
- Resubmission -2.5%
. All exercises under this category are of equal weight. I reserve the right to add or subtract participation exercises during the year.
. All exercises under this category are of equal weight. Exceptional work may be eligible for badges.
 Up to three blogs published in any one week may be counted for credit (though you are welcome to publish more than three). If you publish more than one blog, then the first one counts for 1 point and the second and third 1/2 point each (i.e. a maximum of 2 points in any one week). For the purposes of calculating grades, the week ends Tuesday night at Midnight (i.e. anything published after 00:00 on Wednesday belongs to the following week. Please look at the about blogs page to see my (liberal and easy-going) policies on what is required and acceptable in blogs
 Creative/alternative work will be accepted for the final written assignment only with prior permission of the instructor. Proposals for creative/alternative work will be considered the week before Reading Week. If you are considering a creative or alternative project for your final written assignment, please ensure you prepare a proposal and book an appointment to discuss it with Professor O’Donnell.
. If any your work is exceptionally high quality it may be eligible also for Badges. Badges can be applied to any piece of work and always have the same value, regardless of the underlying value of the assignment (i.e. a “Great Distinction” badge is worth 3% of your final grade whether it is on your final essay or your first essay.
Mondays and Wednesdays
Students may submit one piece of “Inappropriate” work for regrading, provided they accompany this with a letter explaining what changes have been made to the resubmission. Students who resubmit work for grading will receive a 2.5% penalty on their final grade.
The following policies will be followed in all my classes unless otherwise announced. You are expected to be familiar with the policies reproduced here and in the more general section on my website. These additional web pages are to be considered part of this syllabus for the purposes of this course. Failure to conform to any of these policies may result in your grade being lowered.
The University of Lethbridge keeps track of student performance using a letter and grade point system (See section 4 of the University Calendar). Instructors assign students a letter grade at the end of each course (the University does not issue or record mid-term grades). These letter grades are converted to a numerical value (a Grade Point) for assessing overall academic performance (a Grade Point Average or GPA). The University does not record percentage-type grades and does not have a fixed scale for conversion from percentage scores to letter grades and grade points. Each instructor is responsible for determining their own methodology for determining students’ final letter grade.
In my classes, I use the following letter-grade to percentage correspondences:
How your grade is determined depends on the type of work being assessed. Tests of specific skills or knowledge (such as identification questions in literature classes, or fact-oriented tests in my grammar and language classes) are usually assigned a numeric score which is easily converted to a percentage. Essays, presentations, and other performance-oriented tests are usually graded by letter. I convert letter grades to percentages by taking the median value in each grade-range, and rounding up to the nearest whole percent. The only exceptions are A+ (which is converted to 100%), and F (which is converted to an arbitrary percentage between 0% and 49% based on my estimation of the work’s quality). These scores can be found in the conventional value row of the above table.
In marking work I try to keep the University’s official description of these grades in mind (a description can be found in the University Calendar, Part IV.3.a). If you get an A it means your work is excellent; a B means your work is good; a C means it is satisfactory; a D that it is barely acceptable (minimal pass); and an F that it is failing to meet University-level standards.
I have prepared rubrics for most types of qualitative assignments (assignments that do not expect the student simply to provide a correct factual answer). These can be found in my Academic Policies section: http://people.uleth.ca/~daniel.odonnell/Academic-Policies/
Tests, Exams, and Quizzes
Essays, Reports, and Posters
Essays and reports will be collected on Moodle. Unless prior permission has been given, all essays, reports, and posters must be submitted in PDF format.
This course uses plagiarism detection software. Any plagiarism will be treated very seriously: you can expect to receive a grade of 0 on the assignment as well as other penalties depending on the seriousness of the offence.
This schedule is a work in progress and will be updated over the next few weeks.
|1||11/1||Syllabus and Administrative Questions|
|13/1||The History of English in Overview||
|2||17/1||First homework submission (continues weekly)|
|19/1||Weekly Blog starts|
|20/1||Language and language change||
|2/2-8/2||First Term Test|
|13/2-21/2 Reading Week|
|6||21/2||First essay due|
|16/3-22/3||Second term test|
|17/3||early Modern English||
|31/3||Present Day English||
|Final Essay Due|
|15/4-23/4 Final Exam|