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Philology 3: History of the English Language


Admission requirements

Successful completion of Philology 1 (Introduction to Middle English) and Philology 2 (Introduction to Old English Language) or equivalent.


How did English come to look the way it does in the present?

From the Angles, Saxons and Jutes to today, English has gone through tremendous transformations and is now spoken far beyond the British Isles.

This course is a follow-up from the introductions to Middle English and Old English in the first year, but now offers a bird’s eye view of the major developments which the English language underwent from its beginnings until the present day. It will also draw on the skills you acquired during the courses Linguistics 1 and 2.

You will examine changes in the English lexicon, grammar and sound system from past to present. In doing so, you will consider important historical, political and social factors that contributed to the rich variation and change that can be observed throughout the ages. Using a range of text-types from various time-periods, you will trace the development of standard English, but also look at other varieties of English.

Course objectives

At the end of the course

  • you will have acquired a good survey of the characteristics of Old, Middle, Early and Late Modern English, and of the rise of English as a world language

  • you will have gained an insight into a number of current interdisciplinary research methods within the discipline and you will have learned to work with the Oxford English Dictionary and other relevant tools for research

  • you will be well equipped to continue with the more advanced philology courses that follow, and will have acquired an indispensable basis for the study of English in general.


Visit MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

  • A weekly one-hour lecture

  • A weekly one-hour seminar

Assessment method


Written exam with short open questions and essay questions
A written assignment


Assignment: 30%
Final exam: 70%


For component marks lower than 5, students will have to do a resit.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

Barber, C., Beal, J. Shaw,P. 2012. The English language: A Historical Introduction (2nd revised edition). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

(be sure to purchase the 2nd revised edition!)


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website.

Registration Studeren à la carte en Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte.
Registration Contractonderwijs.


Dr. M.S. Gordon


Disclaimer: Please note that the course descriptions, in particular the assessment method, might be adjusted (timely) depending on the measures taken regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.