History of the English Language

Michael Israel ENGL 482
israel@wam.umd.edu Office Hours: Tues 5-6 , Thurs 10-11, & by appointment Office: 4109 Susquehanna 
(301) 405-3816 Class time: 11-12:15 TTh Classroom: 1117 Susquehann 



This course examines the history of English from its origins in the Germanic branch of the Indo-European language family (which also includes Greek, Russian, Latin, Persian and Hindi, among others), through its modern position as the most widely spoken language on the planet. We will be interested in both "internal" developments, such as changes in the sounds of the language and the ways sentences are structured, and "external" factors, such as the social and political forces that carried English around the world. As part of our study of transformations the language has undergone in the last several centuries, we look at some features of Englishes spoken outside Europe and North America. The course will also include considerations of how and why languages change, including the ways that social context and the cognitive organization of language make certain kinds of change more natural than others.

Course Work

Students are expected to complete all assignments and readings, and to arrive in class prepared to discuss them. Class participation, including both regular attendance and involvement in discussions, will count for 15% of your final grade. Other course work will include occasional exercise sets and short written assignments (20%), a mid-term (25%), an in-class presentation (10%) and a final exam (30%). All course work should be either typed or computer-printed.

Texts & Materials

Other Resources

The History of English

Basic English Linguistics

Historical Texts and Varieties of English