EL5014 - History of English

What will I learn on this module?

This module will place Present-day English in an historical context, examining some of the diachronic processes which have shaped the Present-day language. You will learn what earlier forms of English look like, how they differ from Present-day English and how to interpret evidence for language change. The main focus of the module will be on how and why English changes during its history. We will examine the role that speakers play in shaping the language by situating changes within their social context.

Through detailed examination of particular changes, we will identify recurrent patterns of change. You will learn to reconstruct patterns of change from textual evidence. We will engage with the key debates within historical linguistics, by evaluating and critiquing the work of researchers in the field. By engaging you with current research findings and methods, the module will equip you with skills for empirical analysis of historical linguistic data. Practical work with computerised datasets (corpora) will develop key transferrable skills in ICT, data analysis and your abilities to solve problems independently and/or collaboratively. Employers value these skills, so they will enhance your employability.

How will I learn on this module?

The module will be delivered through a combination of lectures and interactive seminars. Lectures will introduce key concepts and issues. In the seminars we will review the research and the empirical evidence underpinning these concepts in more detail. Readings and/or seminar tasks will be provided via the eLP. You should do these in advance of the seminar. Seminars will provide you with opportunities for discussion of - and formative feedback on - the seminar tasks.

Some seminars will take the form of dedicated essay skills sessions in which you will learn about assessment criteria through a peer feedback exercise. Formative feedback will be provided on a draft essay plan. Other seminars will focus on the process of researching language change using textual data.

You are expected to undertake independent learning, principally in the form of reading around the lecture topics, and preparation for the assessments.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

The module aims to expand your critical understanding of different, and often competing, theoretical and empirical perspectives within sociolinguistics. Lectures, seminars and tasks will develop your academic knowledge and skills, to help you attain the module learning outcomes. Your academic development will also be facilitated through engagement with the academic literature and by talking with your peers and the module tutor about your understanding of this literature (i.e. reading around the topic, and discussing and reflecting upon what you have read).

The module handbook provides details of lectures, seminars, reading lists and assessment criteria; lecture materials are made available on the eLP (see above). The module tutor will be available in lectures and seminars, as well as in ‘Feedback and consultation hours’ (i.e. ‘office hours’) and on email, to discuss any queries or concerns you have about how to excel academically on the module. Formative feedback will be provided both throughout seminar/workshop activities. Written feedback will also be provided on your 500 word formative essay, due at the end of semester 1, synthesising the results of two important empirical studies in the field of sociolinguistics (chosen by the student), prior to completion of the module’s summative assessment (an essay).

In addition, you have a designated Guidance Tutor throughout the entire duration of your programme. The academic side of the Guidance Tutor’s role includes: monitoring your ongoing academic progress; helping you to develop self-reflection skills necessary for continuous academic development; directing you to further available services which can help them with their academic skills (e.g. Library’s Skills Plus). You are advised to meet with your Guidance Tutor at least twice each semester to review your academic progress.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at: http://readinglists.northumbria.ac.uk
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team – http://library.northumbria.ac.uk/readinglists)

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:
1. Demonstrate knowledge of the history of English and language change to place Present Day English in its historical context.

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
2. Interpret historical data, both qualitative and quantitative, as evidence for earlier stages of the English language and for processes of language change. Understand the issues and problems in doing so.
3. Critically evaluate existing accounts of language history/language change in the research literature. Synthesise and evaluate primary and secondary sources to produce critical accounts of change in the history of English.
4. Demonstrate the ability to produce coherently structured and argued written work

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):
5. Demonstrate good academic practice in written work, and in the use of primary and secondary source material.

How will I be assessed?

Formative assessment:

You will receive formative feedback through participation in seminars. You will also have the opportunity to submit short assignment plans for brief written formative feedback on both components of assessment.

Summative assessment:

1 x 1,500 word essay: the essay will be a critical synthesis of secondary research on one of the topics covered during the course. (MLOs 1,3,4,5)

1 x 1,500 word analysis of historical data. Students will be given a small historical dataset comprising qualitative and/or quantitative data and will be required to interpret the data to identify linguistic changes of particular kinds as discussed during the course. They will be required to contextualise their analysis by relating their findings to a critical evaluation of secondary research (MLOs 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)





Module abstract

Please find details of this module in the other sections provided.

Course info

UCAS Code Q310

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 3 years Full Time or 4 years with a placement (sandwich)/study abroad

Department Humanities

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2024 or September 2025

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing. 

Full time Courses are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but could include elements of online learning. Most courses run as planned and as promoted on our website and via our marketing materials, but if there are any substantial changes (as determined by the Competition and Markets Authority) to a course or there is the potential that course may be withdrawn, we will notify all affected applicants as soon as possible with advice and guidance regarding their options. It is also important to be aware that optional modules listed on course pages may be subject to change depending on uptake numbers each year.  

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with possible restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors if this is deemed necessary in future.


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