History of the English Language

Tanya Pollard

2307 Boylan

T. 6:30-9:00

e-mail: Tpollard@brooklyn.cuny.edu

website: http://academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/english/tpollard

Office: 3108 Boylan

phone: 718-951-5000 x6216

hours: T 2:30-4:30, and by appointment

The English language, like the United States, and like Brooklyn in particular, is a crazy quilt of countless languages and cultures. This course will explore the development of English from its earliest forms to the present day, with an emphasis on the cultural encounters that have kept it in a constant state of mobility and expansion. We will examine the language’s Anglo-Saxon beginnings and its early evolution in response to encounters with French, Latin, and Greek; we will then go on to explore some of the far-flung shores where England’s colonial and imperial ventures brought the language, and look at what they brought to it in return. We will consider the distinctive status of American English, the question of when and how neologisms and slang terms become official components of the language, and the status of English as a global phenomenon, alongside the phenomenon of mixed linguistic forms such as Spanglish, Franglais, Danglish, Singlish, Hinglish, Tanglish, and Globish. Students’ experiences with, and perspectives on, alternate forms of English will be welcomed into discussions.

 

Date

Assignment

1

8-30

Introduction: Crystal, 3-7

2

9-6

Origins: Crystal 15-33, 57-85; Bryson, 46-53; Bragg, 6-7 (Blackboard) (1)

3

9-13

Middle English: Crystal 105-107, 121-139, 145-162, 222-253; Bryson, 53-63; Bragg, 32-39 (Blackboard) (2)

4

9-20

Renaissance: Crystal 254-333, 339-341; Bragg, 109-120 (Blackboard) (3)

5

9-27

Standardization: Crystal 365-414; Bryson 147-160 (4)

6

10-4

no class; classes follow Friday conversion schedule

7

10-11

exam

8

10-18

America and elsewhere: Crystal 419-452; Bryson 161-178 (1)

9

10-25

English expands: Crystal 453-479; Bragg, 236-260 (Blackboard) (2)

10

11-1

Fusion Englishes: Crystal, 502-509; Abley, 54-100 (Blackboard); Chotiner, “Globish for Beginners,” http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/books/2010/05/31/100531crbo_books_chotiner?currentPage=all (3)

11

11-8

The Future of English: Crystal 514-534; Bryson 179-195, 239-245; Kleinman, “How the internet is changing language,” http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-10971949; Kambara, “Oh, Twitter, What Will Become of Our Language?” http://thesocietypages.org/thickculture/2009/04/14/oh-twitter-what-will-become-of-our-language/ (4)

** submit proposal for final project, including two sources

12

11-15

exam

13

11-22

no class; classes follow Thursday conversion schedule

14

11-29

research presentations and responses (1 & 2)

15

12-6

research presentations and responses (3 & 4)

16

12-13

overview, peer-editing workshop; draft of research paper due

17

12-20

final research paper due

Course Requirements and Expectations:

Attendance

Because your contributions to class discussion are a central part of your work for this course, attendance is crucial. If you miss more than two classes, your overall grade will drop; at four absences, you may fail the class. Arriving late to class will count as one-third of an absence.

Texts

I have ordered two texts for this course: David Crystal, The Stories of English, and Bill Bryson, Mother Tongue. Both are available at Shakespeare & Co. Excerpts from other texts will be provided online, through the course website or Blackboard. It is essential to bring all required texts with you to each class session.

Participation

Learning is a collaborative process, which works best when each of you engages fully with the texts and with each other. To this end, I will expect you to participate actively in class discussions, and you will be required to provide and introduce topics for class discussion on a rotating basis. Your contributions will determine a significant portion of the semester’s grade. In order to build a classroom atmosphere of courtesy and concentration, please avoid behavior that is disrespectful and interferes with others’ learning, including rudeness, talking while others are speaking, and ringing from cell-phones, pagers, watches, etc.

Writing

Over the course of the semester you will write two short (2 page) papers accompanying in-class presentations, as well as one longer (6-8 page) research paper. All written work should have a central claim that is well argued, clearly written, and directly supported by close readings of textual passages; the research paper will also incorporate, and respond to, at least three secondary sources. All papers should be typed, double-spaced, in a 12-point font, with one-inch margins on all sides. Written work is due at the start of class, and lateness will result in lowering of the grade. Any use of others’ ideas must be fully acknowledged in footnotes; speak to me if you are unsure about what this means. Plagiarism is a serious offense, and will result in failing the class and being reported to the Dean’s Office.

Coursework and grading:

Brief weekly quizzes

Midterm exam

Final exam

Final research project

Participation, short papers, and presentations


20%

20%

20%

20%

20%


Selected Recommended Additional Readings (excerpts available on Blackboard under "Course Documents"):


Mark Abley, The Prodigal Tongue: Dispatches from the Future of English (Houghton Mifflin, 2008)


Melvyn Bragg, The Adventure of English (Arcade, 2003)


David Crystal [extensive bibliography, all very strong]


Seth Lerer, Inventing English: A Portable History of the Language (Columbia, 2007)


Haruko Momma and Michael Matto, ed, A Companion to the History of the English Language (Blackwell, 2008)

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