This course introduces students to the historical study of English and to the discipline of historical linguistics. Students will learn about language-internal and language-external explanations of linguistic change and apply them to the historical varieties of English. They will also work on topics in the history of linguistics, with particular reference to linguistic schools and approaches that have been crucial to the development of historical linguistics, such as the Neogrammarian school, the Neolinguistic school, the Dialectological school, the Variationist school, Network theory, etc. Students will be required to work on primary texts from time to time in order to understand the possibilities and limitations of historical linguistic research, and how written texts relate to spoken language, where most changes are assumed to originate. The course is also an invitation to think about ‘History’ as an academic discipline and how it relates to the idea of languages having ‘histories’. Lastly, we will also explore the topic of how the linguistic past is imagined and represented in literature and popular culture.
The course has 3 timetabled hours per week. The first 2 hours are devoted to the lecture, the third one is a tutorial.
Weekly reading materials will be made available and sent to course participants every week. Please note that the HKU library has in its collection various monographs, edited books, journals pertinent to this course. Some of them are retrievable under the call number [420.9].
The course will enable students
- To critically engage with historical linguistics as a field and with the various assumptions about the ontology of language and languages
- To get an understanding of the main periods of English and of some of its major structural developments.
- To familiarize themselves with the various approaches to language and change
- To acquaint themselves with the ideological dimensions underlying the discourses on language change, and the English language in particular.
- To provide students with the opportunity to research aspects of the history of English of particular interest to them.
This course will be based on 100% coursework.
1 – a personal reflection on the course (500 words) (10%)
2 – In-Class Written Test (40%)
3 – An individual research paper (2000 words) (50%)