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Philology 4: Early Modern Everyday English


Admission requirements

Philology 3: History of the English Language (or equivalent), and preferably also the course Language & Linguistics: Tools and Methods.


How did people swear in Early Modern times? How would they speak to their children? What did they sound like? What did the grammar and vocabulary of English look like and dow did it vary? In this course you will look at everyday Early Modern English language as used in a wide variety of text types.

Abuse, accounts, depositions, journals, letters, memoirs, presentments and wills: these are all different text types, the study of which can tell us a lot about variation in pronunciation, grammar and lexis, but also about the pragmatics of swearing, for instance. In this course, you will read a large variety of texts to study everyday English as it was used from the year 1500 onwards, and during the Early Modern English period (1500-1700) in particular. We will focus on differences between these texts, as well as from present-day Standard English. In addition, we will look at texts by well-known authors such as Shakespeare but also at texts by lesser-known men and women, as well as by people from different regional and sociolinguistic backgrounds, including people who were practically illiterate. We will concentrate on variation in spelling, pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary, style of writing and discourse pragmatic elements.

Course objectives

This course builds on experience acquired during the first three semesters of the BA curriculum in English philology (Old English, Middle English), particularly as it regards the history of the English language (Philology 3).

At the end of the course, students

  1. will have a good insight into the nature and language of different text types from the Early Modern English period (1500–1700), and of their relationship with the more standard printed texts of the time

  2. will be able to analyse and identify the textual and linguistic characteristics of a large variety of text types typical of the period

  3. will have a good knowledge of the spelling, morphology and syntax of Early Modern (standard and ) non-standard texts as well as of the typical lexis of the text types dealt with

  4. will be able to apply their skills when choosing and writing a BA thesis in the field of Early (or Late) Modern English.


Visit MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar (2 hours a week)

Assessment method


  • presentation

  • weekly contribution in class

  • final paper


  • presentation (20%)

  • weekly contribution in class (10%)

  • final paper (70%)

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

Nevalainen, Terttu (2006). An Introduction to Early Modern English. Edinburgh University Press.
Cusack, Bridget (1998). Everyday English 1500 – 1700. A Reader. Edinburgh University Press.


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


Please note that Cusack’s book may have to be ordered from abroad and delivery may take up to three weeks.

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.