nl en

English Historical Linguistics


Admission requirements

A BA course in English linguistics and in historical linguistics.


In this course, we discuss language change in the history of the English language. Focusing on several case studies exemplifying syntactic, morphological and semantic change, we examine which processes of change are at work, including reanalysis, analogy and grammaticalization. We will also pay attention to a number of approaches and perspectives in the field of (English) historical linguistics, as well as to the corpus method, with some hands-on exercises.

Course objectives

The course aims to familiarize students with

  • a number of key syntactic, morphological and semantic changes that took place in the history of the English language

  • some important descriptive methods and theoretical approaches used in the field of (English) historical linguistics the use of historical corpora

By the end of the course, students will be able to

  • identify syntactic, morphological and semantic changes in the history of the English language

  • recognize processes that are at work in linguistic change

  • assess different descriptive methods and theoretical approaches used in the field of (English) historical linguistics

  • draw appropriate conclusions from linguistic evidence of linguistic change as found in historical texts and corpora

  • critically assess primary research literature

  • construct an argument and present research findings with bearing on a topic in historical linguistics


The timetable is available on the MA Linguistics website

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Course Load

The course load is 280 hours.

  • time spent on attending seminars: 26 hours

  • time for studying the compulsory literature: 100 hours

  • time for preparing the presentation: 32 hours

  • time to write a paper (including reading/research): 122 hours

Assessment method

Assessment An in-term oral presentation and an end-of-term written essay.


  • Oral presentation: 30%

  • Written essay: 70%

NB A minimum mark of 5.5 is required for the written essay.

The essay must be rewritten if the mark is lower than 5.5. There is no resit for the presentation.

Essay inspection and feedback
How and when an essay review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the course results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the course results, an essay review will be organized.

Attendance is compulsory. Missing more than two seminars means that students will be excluded from the seminars. Unauthorized absence also applies to being unprepared, not participating and/or not bringing the relevant course materials to class.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • study materials (course programme, written assignment, etc.)

  • course-related announcements

Reading list

  • Brinton, Laurel (ed.). 2017. English historical linguistics: Approaches and perspectives. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • A selection of articles/book chapters (if these are not available in the University Library, they will be made available in Blackboard).


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


Please contact Student administration van Eyckhof for questions.
The coordinator of studies is Else van Dijk