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Philology 3: History of the English Language


Admission requirements

Successful completion of Philology 1 (Introduction to Middle English/Chaucer) and Philology 2 (Introduction to Old English Language and Culture) or equivalents thereof.


This course is a follow-up from the introductions to Middle English and Old English in the first year, but now offers a coherent survey of the major developments which the English language underwent from its beginnings until the present day. Some highlights: Old English in the wider context of Indo-European languages, the amazing variety of Middle English dialects, the impact of the printing press, the effects of the Renaissance and Reformation on the language, and the rise of standard English and of variants of English outside England itself, especially in America. Language change and language variety depends on many factors. For that reason you will be introduced to a range of approaches such as comparative linguistics, historical sociolinguistics, corpus linguistics and normative linguistics. During the course you will learn to work with what are currently the most important tools and databases for the study of the history of English, such as the Corpus of Old English, the Middle English Compendium, the on-line Oxford English Dictionary and of course the Internet itself. This course will also draw on the skills you acquired during the courses Linguistics 1 and 2. Blackboard will be fully employed each week.

Course objectives

The course objectives are:

  • At the end of the course students will have acquired a good survey of the characteristics of Old, Middle, Early and Late Modern English, and of English worldwide.

  • Students will have gained an insight into a number of current interdisciplinary research methods within the discipline.

  • Students have become proficient in using various important electronic tools in studying the history of English, such as electronic language corpora, on-line dictionaries and the Internet.

  • Upon completion of the course, students are well equipped to continue with the more advanced philology courses that follow.


The timetable will be available by June 1st on the website.

Mode of instruction

One hour lecture, one-hour seminar.

Course Load

The course load of this course is 140 hours.

  • time to be devoted to attending lectures and tutorials: 26 hours.

  • time needed for preparing the lectures and making the assignments (including reading and research): 99 hours.

  • time needed for preparing for the exam: 15 hours

Assessment method

Written exam (70%); two essays (30%).

If the final grade is 5 or less students may only resit the insufficient course component(s).

Attendance is compulsory. Unauthorized absence will mean that you cannot take part in the relevant exam(s).


Blackboard will be used to provide the students with the weekly syllabus, extra information and a sample test. It will also include a discussion board.

Reading list

  • Stephan Gramley, The History of English. An Introduction. (London: Routledge, 2012). ISBN 978-0-415-56640-7 (pb)

  • Aanvullend studiemateriaal


Students should register through uSis. Exchange students cannot register through uSis, but must see the coordinator of studies and register with her. If you have any questions, please contact the departmental office, tel. 071 5272144 or mail:

Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration via Studeren à la carte
Registration via Contractonderwijs


English Language and Culture departmental office, P.N. van Eyckhof 4, room 102C. Tel. 071 5272144;
Coordinator of studies: Ms T.D. Obbens, MA, P.N. van Eyckhof 4, room 103C.


Students are expected to prepare for the first class. Information about reading and assignments for week 1 is available on Blackboard (enrollment is required).