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The History, Use, and Theory of the English Language

ENGL 504.301
instructor(s):
M 3-6

The course will cover the history, use and theory of the English language from Old English to the present. Although it will not take the traditional form of diachronic philological study, the course will include much of the standard material of historical language study as is reflected in the outline below. The material is sufficiently comprehensive to allow students to pursue independent topics relevant to their specialized interests. Thus a student may choose to examine
Wulfstan's prose, a Chaucerian text, alliterative narratives, Shakespeare, Pope, Dickens, Faulkner, etc., from the perspective of one of the unit topics identified in the course outline. Or (s)he may elect to explore diachronic studies of grammar and language study (which might cover the legacy of Greek and Latin grammarians through the medieval
West, the early prescriptive grammars of English, and so on), or historical modifications of rhetorical language and its use. Applicable to students of more recent literature are topics in sociolinguistics, language (narrative, speech, dialogue) as marker of gender, race, and class, each of which would allow the investigation of codes and register
across a range of written and situational contexts.

Unit A: Linguistic History and Theory--diachronic and synchronic approaches
1. Vocabulary (lexis, word-formation, and meaning);
2. Syntax and morphology;
3. Standards of grammaticality and correctness;
4. History of language study (dictionaries, grammars, modern linguistics):
5. Register and codes;
6. Social and geographical aspects of the use of English.
Unit B: Study of Literary Language--diachronic and synchronic approaches
1. Concepts of Literary Language;
2. Poetic Diction;
3. Figurative Language;
4. Rhyme and meter;
5. Relations between written and oral discourse;
6. Ideas of linguistic decorum and genre;
7. Language as persuasion and social action.