Language variation and change *EDU*

Course Name

Language variation and change in the history of English




5/6 EC

Course date

semester 1 (2020 - 2021)

Registration open until

15/06/2020 - 25/09/2020


This course will be taught online via Teams


Marcelle Cole (UU) en Janet Gijzenhout (Leiden)

E-mail Contact

Marcelle Cole (UU)

Course objectives

This course will appeal to students with an interest in the history of the English language and prospective teachers of English who want to acquire a better understanding of how English has changed and developed over the course of time and why.

The course will provide students with:

– a historical perspective on English that will enable them to understand the idiosyncrasies of Modern English grammar, its spelling norms and sound system.

– a good grasp of how the grammatical system of earlier stages of English functioned and changed over time to become the language that it is today

– an understanding of how language contact has shaped English

– knowledge of the principles of language change

By the end of the course, students will be able to usefully apply a historical perspective to their own teaching of the English language. They will also be in an ideal position to write an MA paper that provides an indepth discussion of a linguistc development in the history of English.

Course content

Possibly more so than any other West Germanic language English has changed enormously over time. This course explores how and why English has changed to make it the language it is today. You will learn where English came from, its relationship with other Germanic languages like Dutch and Frisian, how and why it has changed over time, and how internal and external forces have shaped its development.

Students are highly recommended to also take the MasterLanguage course Medieval English Literature in the Classroom (semester II, block 1) for 5 ECin order to further their study of English from a historical  perspective.



Assignments and in-class presentations 45%
Essay (individual paper of c. 2500-3000 words) 55%

Study load
5 ECTS (= 140 hours)
Seminars: 7 x 3 = 21 hrs
Preparation and work per week 7 x 5 = 35 hrs
Assignments 6 x 4 = 24 hrs
Individual paper = 60 hrs

UvA: Students who need 6 ECTS may elect to do an extra assignment. This must be determined with your lecturer in week 1. 

Background Literature and Course Materials

  • Charles Barber, Joan C. Beal and Philip A. Shaw. 2012. The English Language (2nd ed.). Cambridge University Press. EAN 9781107693937

Other primary and secondary literature will be provided by the instructors.

Further information

Course schedule
Fridays 14.00-17.00


Nov 6, 13, 20 , 27

Dec 4, 11, 18