History of English

The details
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 5
Monday 13 January 2020
Friday 20 March 2020
17 April 2019


Requisites for this module
LG210 or LG218



Key module for

BA QX31 Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL),
BA QX41 Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) (Including Foundation Year),
BA QX51 Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) (Including Placement Year),
BA QXH1 Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) (Including Year Abroad),
BA QV3C English Language and History (Including Year Abroad),
BA QQ13 English Language and Linguistics,
BA QQ15 English Language and Linguistics (Including Placement Year),
BA QQ16 English Language and Linguistics (Including Foundation Year),
BA QQ3D English Language and Linguistics (Including Year Abroad),
BA QQ23 English Language and Literature,
BA QQ24 English Language and Literature (Including Foundation Year),
BA QQ32 English Language and Literature (Including Year Abroad),
BA QQ35 English Language and Literature (Including Placement Year),
BA QB36 English Language and Language Development (Including Year Abroad),
BA QQ3C English Language and Language Development,
BA QQ3F English Language and Language Development (Including Placement Year),
BA L390 English Language and Sociology (Including Year Abroad),
BA LQ31 English Language and Sociology,
BA RQ93 Modern Languages and English Language,
BA RQ99 Modern Languages and English Language (5 Years Including Foundation Year)

Module description

This module looks at diachronic variation in the English language, i.e. at changes over time. It considers historical as well as associated sociolinguistic issues, with a specific focus on phonological variation. Syntactic, morphological, lexical, and semantic change are also considered.

The module will deal with the question of why linguistic variation exists in the first place. It will also look at major landmarks in the history of English. Thus, characteristics of Old English, Middle English and Modern English are discussed in conjunction with the pressures that led to changes taking place.

The module will offer insights into dialectal variation, in particular phonetic and phonological changes over time and across geographical locations.

Module aims

• To familiarise students with the concept of diachronic variation in the English language in its historical and sociolinguistic context
• To introduce students to the salient features of the major accents and dialects of English, including historical varieties of the language and the ways in which these varieties evolved
• To enable students to develop an informed view of the status of non-standard varieties of English
• To provide practice in linguistic analysis, phonetic transcription and elementary auditory training

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students will have:

1. An appreciation of why and how the English language changed over time.
2. A detailed understanding of historical and sociolinguistic influences on language change.
3. Gained insight into aspects of phonological and morphological variation.
4. Gained a comprehensive understanding of concepts such as dialect and accent.
5. Improved their transferable skills in auditory perception and phonetic transcription.

Module information

No additional information available.

Learning and teaching methods

The module is taught as a 2-hour lecture/seminar


  • Hogg, Richard M. (c2002) An introduction to Old English, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
  • Barber, Charles Laurence. (1993) The English language: a historical introduction, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Lass, Roger. (1987) The shape of English: structure and history, London: Dent.
  • Crystal, David. (2004) The stories of English, London: Allen Lane.
  • Britain, David. (2007) Language in the British Isles, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Milroy, James; Milroy, Lesley. (1993) Real English: the grammar of English dialects in the British Isles, London: Longman. vol. Real language series
  • Horobin, Simon. (2013) Chaucer's language, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Wells, J. C. (1982) Accents of English, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Foulkes, Paul; Docherty, Gerard J. (1999) Urban voices: accent studies in the British Isles, London: Arnold.
  • Graddol, David; Open University. (2007) Changing English, London: Routledge. vol. English language
  • Fennell, Barbara A. (2001) A history of English: a sociolinguistic approach, Oxford: Blackwell Publishers. vol. Blackwell textbooks in linguistics

The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course. The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students. Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Weighting
Coursework Assignment 1 28/02/2020
Coursework Assignment 2 03/04/2020

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Ella Jeffries
Dr Ella Jeffries, Office: 4.207, Telephone: 01206 873762, Email: e.jeffries@essex.ac.uk



External examiner

No external examiner information available for this module.
Available via Moodle
Of 20 hours, 20 (100%) hours available to students:
0 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information

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