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Historical Sociolinguistics & Varieties of English


Admission requirements

A BA degree in English Language and Culture or in English Linguistics (or equivalent)


A language only spoken by a few hundred people in its early days, English is now the native language of millions across the globe and has developed into a complex set of varieties and styles. From Standard written English to internet slang, from regional dialects to Jamaican English and Jamaican Creole; how did these distinct styles and varieties evolve?
In this course, students will consider the complexity of the English language from a historical
sociolinguistic perspective and dive into the roots of the rich linguistic variation that developed within various social groups across time and across the globe. For instance, we will look into the historical context within which African American English emerged and find out what texts written by semi-literates can tell us about regional pronunciation in the past, as well as the social status of some features and varieties of English over time. As a part of this we will consider how English can vary in relation to the situation in which it is used, e.g. spoken versus written, formal versus informal, as well as social factors such as gender, region, and social class.In doing so, students will examine phonological, lexical, orthographic and morphological variation using a range of historical data and historical sociolinguistic approaches, including corpus linguistic methods.

Course objectives

The successful participant will:

  • have gained knowledge about the socio-historical context within which varieties of English
    -have knowledge about stylistic, social and regional variation across time and space
    -have a good understanding of various aspects of historical sociolinguistic approaches

  • have gained experience analysing historical linguistic data, including the reading of old
    -have gained experience applying historical sociolinguistic research methods, i.e. corpus


Visit MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method


  • presentation 20%

  • a research proposal 20%, resulting in a final paper 40%

  • weekly assignments 20%


The final grade consists of the weighted average of the above components.

To pass, your final weighted average grade should be a 6 at the lowest and no component mark should be lower than 5.


Students who fail the course can only rewrite the paper and proposal.

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

-McColl Millar, R.(2012). English Historical Sociolinguistics. Edinburgh: Edinnburgh University Press (accessible online through university library. Widely available paperback versions trough Amazon and other online shops)
-Articles and chapters available from the university library


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

Registration Studeren à la carte en Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Education Administration Office Reuvensplaats

E-mail address Education Administration Office Reuvensplaats:

Coordinator of Studies

Moragh Gordon