ENG 419: History of the English Language


Dr. Rankin 3 credits

          This course offers a thorough introduction to the history and development of the English language from the Old English period through to the present day. It will expose students to the history and culture of the language at significant moments in its development and will also scrutinize its evolution over time. We’ll start with laws of pronunciation and sound that will equip us to read older versions of the language accurately. Then we’ll investigate the various invasions and conquests that helped to shape the language during the medieval period. Moving forward chronologically, we will discuss major themes in the language’s history, including dialectical variations, controversies surrounding the emergence of English as a ‘literary’ language, the emergence of a literary ‘plain style’, the history of dictionary making, the history of the academic study of the language, the emergence of American English and its variants, the relation of English to various analogous Germanic languages, its indebtedness to the broader Indo-European family of languages, and so forth. We will read selected excerpts of prose, verse, and drama as appropriate. English 419 is an elective course in the major. Assignments include exams, quizzes, and a research project.

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James Madison University JMU English Department
Keezell Room 215
P: 540-568-6170
F: 540-568-2983

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