ENG 121: The Story of English

Fall 1997

Bill Grabe
Phone: 523-6274
Office: LA 139, BAA 314
Office Hours: M, W, 10-10:45 AM
W, 3:15-4 PM
Th, 3:15-4 PM; other hours by appt.

TA: Amy Kayser
Office: LA 113 (phone 36255)
Office Hours: TBA

Course objectives: The purpose of this course will be to examine the remarkable history of the English language and the many varieties of current-day English (or Englishes). The course is based partly on the PBS series, The Story of English, and 6 of the video segments will be viewed as part of the course. In addition, the course will provide a basic introduction to specific changes in the English language over the approximately 1,500 years of its existence.


Barber, C. 1993. The English language: A historical introduction. 2nd. ed. New York: Cambridge University Press.

McCrum, R., W. Cran and R. MacNeil. 1992. The story of English. 2nd. ed. New York: Penguin Books.

Viewing of 6 videos from the Story of English.


The requirements for the course include a mid-term and a final exam, 7 short 20-25 minute quizzes, 3 one-two page homework assignments, and 2 one-two page response papers.



The mid-term and final exams with be in class (Oct 27 and Dec 13). The quizzes will review the recently covered material and will only take 1/2 of a class period (20-25 mintes). The howework will require synthesis and analysis of specific aspects of the course material. The response papers will be one-two pages in length, typed. They will be your reactions to the material read and viewed, to class discussion, or to a topic brought up in class that you decide to explore further. They are not intended to be summaries of the course material.

You are expected to attend all classes, and attendence will be taken during video showings and guest lecturers, and on Fridays. More than 3 unexcused absences will lead to a lower grade.

Please note that the standard warning against plagiarism applies in this class (see below). A plagiarized assignment will result in an "F" for the assignment and an "F" for the class. Even if you are struggling badly, it is much better to get a poor but passing grade on assignments, and work for a better overall grade in some other way.

Academic Dishonesty: Academic dishonesty in all forms violates the basic principles of integrity and thus impedes learning. More specifically, academic dishonesty is a form of misconduct that is subject to disciplinary action under the Student Code of Conduct and includes the following: cheating, fabrication, fraud, facilitating academic dishonesty, and plagiarism.


Weekly Syllabus:

Week 1: August 25, 27, 29
Introduction to the Story of English, to the English language
Mon: Syllabus, course expectations, brief intro (BAR 1:1-13)
Wed: What is language? (BAR 1: 13-24) [BAR 25-31 FYI]
Fri: SOE, Chap 1, An English-Speaking World
(Map of the world as a handout)

Week 2: Sept 1, 3, 5: Language Change
Wed: The flux of language (BAR 2: 32-53) [BAR 53-57 FYI]
Fri: Film #1 - An English-Speaking World

Week 3: Sept 8, 10, 12
Mon: Indo-European Languages (BAR 3: 58-64) [BAR 64-80 FYI]
Wed: Germanic Languages (BAR 4: 81-92)
Fri: Germanic Languages (BAR 4: 92-99)

Week 4: Sept 15, 17, 19
Mon: Old English (BAR 5: 100-122) [BAR 122-126 FYI]
Wed: Old English
Fri: SOE, Chap 2, The mother tongue

Week 5: Sept 22, 24, 26
Mon: Film #2 The Mother Tongue
Wed: Guest Lecture: Norsemen and Normans (BAR 6: 127-150)
Fri: Norsemen and Normans

Week 6: Sept 29, Oct 1, 3
Mon: Middle English (BAR 7: 151-163)
Wed: Guest Lecture: Chaucer and Middle English
Fri: Middle English (BAR 7: 163-171) [BAR 172-173 FYI]

Week 7: Oct 6, 8, 10
Mon: Early Modern English (BAR 8: 175-188)
Wed: Early Modern English (BAR 8: 188-198)
Fri: SOE, Chap 3, The muse of fire

Week 8: Oct 13, 15, 17
Mon: English in the scientific age (BAR 9: 199-210, 214-23)
Wed: English in the scientific age [BAR 210-214 FYI]

Week 9: Oct 20, 22, 24
Mon: Guest Lecture: The Guid Scots Tongue SOE, Chapter 4,The Guid Scots tongue
Wed: Film #3 - The Guid Scots Tongue
Afternoon Midterm Review Session

Week 10: Oct 27, 29, 31
Mon: Irish and the Loaded Weapon (SOE, Chapter 5)
Wed: SOE, Chapter 6, Black on White
Fri: Film #4 - Black on White

Week 11: Nov 3, 5, 7
Mon: Black on White
Wed: SOE, Chapter 7, Pioneers! O Pioneers!
Fri: Pioneers! O Pioneers
HW #3

Week 12: Nov 10, 12, 14
Mon: Guest Lecture, Pioneers! O Pioneers!
Wed: SOE, Chapter 8, The Echoes of an English Voice
Film #5 - The Muvver Tongue
Fri: The Echoes of an English Voice

Week 13: Nov 17, 19, 21
Mon: Guest Lecture, The Echoes of an English Voice
Wed: English as a World Language (BAR 10 & 11: 234-245; 250- 269; 276-278)
Fri: English as a World Language

Week 14: Nov 24, 26
Mon: SOE, Chapter 9, The New Englishes
Wed: Film #6 - Next Year's Words

Week 15: Dec 1, 3, 5
Mon: SOE, Chapter 10, Next year's Words
Wed: Next year's Words: Two guest lecturers
Fri: Review for the Final Exam

Finals Week: Dec 8-11 Review session on Monday