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Philology 3: History of the English Language


Admission Requirements

Successful completion of Philology 1 and 2 or equivalent.


Proceeding from the introductions to Middle English and Old English in the first year, this course offers a more substantial insight into the history of the English language from the earliest times down to the present day. It will deal with Old English in the wider context of Indo-European languages, with Middle English dialect variation, with the impact on the language of the introduction of the printing press and of the popularity of Shakespeare, with the development of standard English and of American English as an independent linguistic variety, and it will provide introductions into important interdisciplinary approaches to the study of the English language (comparative linguistics, historical sociolinguistics, corpus linguistics and normative linguistics). During the course you will moreover learn to work with what are currently the most important tools and databases for the study of the history of English, i.e. the Helsinki Corpus, the Corpus of Old English, the Middle English Compendium, Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales on CD-Rom, the Oxford English Dictionary, )Early English Books Online_, Eighteenth Century Collections Online, the concordancing program WordSmith and the Internet. The course will be taught through Blackboard.

Course Objectives

Proceeding from the first-year philology courses this course offers further insight into the history of the English language by continuing to focus on Old and Middle English and by dealing with the most significant linguistic and socio-cultural developments that took place during the Early and Late Modern English periods. Use will be made of the most important electronic tools necessary to be able to carry out research in this field, i.e. online dictionaries, databases, CD-Roms, a concordancing tool and the Internet. Students will be made acquainted with a number of current interdisciplinary research models. At the end of the course they will have an overview of the main characteristics of the different stages in the history of English, i.e. Old English, Middle English, and Early and Late Modern English, and they will be able to apply the most important electronic resources for doing research in the field. Following the successful completion of this course students will be well equipped to continue with the more advanced courses in English philology that are part of the curriculum.


The timetable will be available from July 1 onwards on the Department website.

Mode of Instruction

One-hour lecture and a one-hour seminar per week.


Written test (80%); two take-home assignments (20%). No mark for either component may be lower than 5.0.


This course is supported by Blackboard.

Reading list

  • Mugglestone, Lynda. 2006 The Oxford History of English. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Additional reading material.


Students can register through uSis.

Register for ‘Contractonderwijs’ via:

Contact information

English Department, P.N. van Eyckhof 4, room 103c. Phone: 071 527 2144, or mail: