nl en

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 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 depend on many factors. For that reason you will be introduced to a range of approaches such as 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 is available on the BA English website

Mode of instruction

At least one weekly lecture and 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

One assignment (25%) and a final written exam (75%).
When the final grade is 5.0 or less, the student must resit all the course components for which an insufficient grade was scored. It is only possible to resit insufficient course components when the final grade is 5.0 or less.
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

David Crystal (2004). The Stories of English. Woodstock and New York: The Overlook Press.
David Crystal (2010). Evolving English. London: British Library.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory. Please note that students other than BA English language and culture studies will have to have permission from the coordinator of studies before enrolling.
General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte
Registration Contractonderwijs


Student administration Van Eyckhof


Please note that you will be needing the course books from week 1 onwards. Ordering books published abroad, for instance through, may take longer than expected.