our course

English Language: Grammar & History is a course the department recently developed to provide students with an introduction to key concepts and issues from two other classes: ENGL 303 (Modern English Grammar) and ENGL 312 (History of the English Language). Taking them together allows students to develop an understanding of the forms and conventions of Modern English that prepares them for a meaningful engagement with the changing forms of English over the centuries and across the globe.

To demonstrate the natural process of language change, the course surveys the contexts of English’s growth and transformation from the Anglo-Saxon period to the present day, tracing this development with attention to phonology, morphology, grammar, and vocabulary, including an emphasis on etymology, dialect variety, and semantic change.

Through the course of the semester you will:

  • become familiar with and understand the principal systems of grammar that have been used and are being used in the study of English;
  • learn the differences between grammar and usage and between descriptive and prescriptive approaches to language and will observe the cultural effects of different approaches;
  • gain an informed understanding of Standard English/Standard Edited English (SEE);
  • observe that grammar change is a natural process, with cultural ideas of “acceptability” modifying over time;
  • gain an understanding of the cultural, social, and linguistic phenomena that have shaped and continue to shape the language; and
  • be prepared to bring a variety of perspectives to bear on contemporary debates about the nature(s) of English and its/their future(s).

Required textbooks: