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History of the English Language


Prof Mira Kovatcheva
Mitko Sabev
Dr Bozhil Hristov []


1.    Genetic classification of English
2.    Old English as a Germanic language
3.    Old English vowels and consonants
4.    Old English vocabulary
5.    Old English nouns. The functions of Old English cases
6.    Old English pronouns and adjectives
7.    The Old English verb
8.    Qualitative and quantitative vowel changes in Middle English. Middle English consonants
9.    Grammatical developments in Middle English.Middle English vocabulary
10.    The rise of periphrastic constructions. Word order
11.    Vowel changes in Early Modern English – the Great Vowel Shift and its aftermath. Consonant changes in Early Modern English
12.    The emergence of a standard dialect.
13.    Grammatical innovations in Early Modern English
14.    Comparing Old English with Middle and Modern English
15.    The rise of prescriptivism


TEXTBOOK: Brinton, L. J. & L. K. Arnovick (2011) The English Language. A Linguistic History. 2nd ed. Oxford:   OUP
NB This is a new edition. Do not borrow the book from students who took the course earlier than 2013.
READER: Kovatcheva, M. (2002) The History  of English in Texts and Tables. Sofia: SU Press


Etymologies are available from various dictionaries:;
Bosworth, J. & T. N. Toller (1898, supplement 1921)   An Anglo-Saxon dictionary. Oxford: OUP:
The Cambridge History of the English Language, vols. 1–6. Cambridge: CUP, 2001.
Graddol, D., D. Leith & J. Swan (1996) English: history, diver- sity and change. London: Routledge.
Hall, J. R. C. (1916) A Concise Anglo-Saxon Dictionary. 2nd edition. New York: Macmillan:
Hogg, R. M. & D. Denison [eds.] (2006) A History of the Eng- lish Language. Cambridge: CUP.
Leith, D. (1997) A Social History of English. London: Routledge.
Mayhew, A. L. & W. W. Skeat (1888) A Concise Dictionary of Middle English. Oxford: Clarendon Press:
Mincoff, M. (1972) English Historical Grammar. Sofia: Naouka i izkoustvo.
Mincoff, M. (1978) Old and Middle English Texts. Sofia: Naouka i izkoustvo.
Mugglestone, L. (2006)The Oxford History of English. Oxford University Press.
The Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd ed. Oxford: OUP, 1989 (or any later electronic edition).
Pyles, T. & J. Algeo (1993) The Origins and Development of the English Language. New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich College Publishers.
Данчев, А., Д. Спасов (1992) Английският правопис. София: „Везни“.

TEXTBOOK = Brinton & Arnovick (2011), 2nd edition. Please do not use the old (2006) edition.
READER = Kovatcheva, M. (2002) The History  of English in Texts and Tables (a.k.a. HETT)
Textbook assignments
You are expected to be prepared to discuss the section(s) assigned for each seminar.
You must also do all exercises in each assigned section. Consult the List of Objectives for every seminar.

1 Introduction to the course —— The Lord’s Prayer (pp. 130-131)
2 The Germanic languages. Anglo-Saxon Britain. Old English dialects. TEXTBOOK Handout on PIEChapter 5 (pp. 127–138; 141-157)
3 Old English orthography, phonology.(If time) The Futhorc: Old English in runes TEXTBOOK Chapter 6 (pp. 174–190) Caedmon’s HymnRunes (handouts to be supplied)
4 Old English vocabulary. TEXTBOOK READER Chapter 6 (pp. 163–173); HETT pp. 56-59 Transcribe and translate AS Chronicle, p. 18, lines 1–3 (beginning to ond sige nam.)
5 Old English grammar (1): TEXTBOOKREADER Chapter 7, part 1 (pp. 194–204; 212-215; ex. 7.2.)Transcribe, translate & analyse AS Chronicle, p.
nouns; case functions. 18, lines 3–7 (from Þæs ymb to wælstowe gewald)
6 Old English grammar (2): TEXTBOOKREADER Chapter 7, part 2 (pp. 204–217; ex. 7.3, 7.4, 7.5)Translate and analyse Ælfric’s Colloquy,
pronouns, adjectives and adverbs. pp. 26–27, lines 1–14. Transcribe lines 10–14
7 Old English grammar (3): the verb; word order. READER Chapter 7, part 3 (pp. 218–238) Translate and analyse Ælfric’s Colloquy,pp. 26–27, lines 15–24.
8 Old English text discussion: on the way to Middle English. READER Analyse WS Gospels: Mark II, pp. 39–40, verses 6–11.
9 Middle English: orthography and phonology; TEXTBOOKREADER Chapter 8 (pp. 240–253; 259-276)Read Maundevile, pp. 124–125, lines 1–20;
vocabulary. Social context. Transcribe lines 11–18 (And ȝif to trauayleth)
10 Middle English grammar (1): factors for change. TEXTBOOK READER Chapter 9, Part 1 (pp. 281–294)Chaucer p. 129, line 1–26.
11 Middle English grammar (2): the verb; syntax. The emergence of a standard dialect. TEXTBOOK READER Chapter 9, Part 1 (pp. 294–310; 312–319) Transcribe, translate, analyse ME and analyse OE St. Matthew’s Gospel, p. 126, verses 14–18
12 Bridging Middle English and Modern English: The Great Vowel Shift. TEXTBOOK Chapter 10 (pp. 327–346; ex. 10.5, 10.6)Word histories (handouts to be supplied)
13 18th-century prescriptivism TEXTBOOK Chapter 11 (pp. 367–403)
READER Word histories: Caxton, pp. 133–134
14 Synchronic irregularities in Mod. English (1): Early Modern English verbal constructions. Handout (to be supplied)
15 Synchronic irregularities in Modern English (2) Handout (to be supplied)



Class attendance and participation: 20%
In-class quizzes [1]: 40%
Two tests [2]:40%

Seminar attendance is required. If your attendance falls below 60%, you will not be marked and will have to take the course again. You will not be admitted to the September re- sit exam, either.

[1] In seminars, there will be regular written quizzes on the reading assignments. No prior notice will be given.
[2] The first test will be in one of your lecture slots in May or June. The second will take place after the end of the term. Exact test dates will be announced in class.

A missed quiz/test cannot be done at a later date.
No part of the assessment can be carried over to a following year. There is a comprehensive re-sit exam in September.

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