The Development of the English Language
English 411, Autumn 2005
Go directly to:
Office: (973) 353-5279 x 516; 516 Hill Hall.
Hours: Monday and Wednesday, 10:30-11:30, and by
appointment (appointments are best).
Home: (609) 882-4642 (before 10:00 p.m.!).
E-mail: jlynch @
andromeda.rutgers.edu (the best way to reach me).
Listserv: language @
andromeda.rutgers.edu (for the whole class).
- Written Assignments: There will be two papers,
the first of around 1,500 words (six pages), the second of 2,000
(eight pages). There are also several short exercises (we'll
discuss these in class).
- Attendance: Almost any excuse, given in
advance (in person, by phone, or by E-mail), will receive my
blessing. Absences not excused in advance will be frowned upon,
and your final grade will be lowered by half a grade for each
unexcused absence. The same policy applies to late papers: I'll
grant extensions, but only if you talk to me before the
- Computing: Some essential information will be
available only electronically. All students therefore
must have an E-mail account by the end of the first
week of classes, and must be able to use the World
- Plagiarism: It should go without saying, but
all work in this class must be your own. Handing in
someone else's work as your own will result in an F for the
course with no second chance, and may result in disciplinary
action. I encourage you to use outside sources, but you
have to cite anything you didn't write yourself. If you have even
an inkling of a doubt about what's legitimate or how to cite
something, see me before handing in the paper.
- Readings: The following books are available from New
Jersey Books (not the Rutgers Bookstore):
There will also be a packet of photocopies, available from
Affordable Copies at 49 Halsey St. As always, I've worked hard to
find the cheapest reliable editions in print. I give the
approximate list prices; secondhand copies and discount vendors
should let you cut your expenses substantially. Many readings
will also be available on-line; a few will be available
- David Crystal, The Stories of English. $35.
- The American Heritage Dictionary, 4th ed. $6.
Schedule of Class Meetings
- Wed., 7 Sept.
- No Class: I'll be away at a conference in
- Mon., 12 Sept.
- Introduction: David Crystal, The
Stories of English, Introduction.
- Wed., 14 Sept.
- Old English: Crystal, chapters 1 and 2 (and
interludes readings always include the
associated interludes); selection from Ælfric's
- Mon., 19 Sept.
- Old English Dialects: Crystal, chapters 3
and 4; selection from Beowulf.
- Wed., 21 Sept.
- Introduction to Middle English: Crystal,
chapters 5 and 6; selection from Robert Mannyng, Story of
Englande. Exercise 1: Compare three
translations of the opening of Beowulf and describe
the differences in two or three pages. Pay attention to what each
translator gains and loses by his or her choices, and consider
what sort of audience he or she has in mind.
- Mon., 26 Sept.
- Lexical Invasions: Crystal, chapter 7;
selection from Geoffrey Chaucer, The General Prologue to
the Canterbury Tales.
- Wed., 28 Sept.
- Language Change: Crystal, chapter 8;
selection from William Langland, Piers
- Mon., 3 Oct.
- Middle English Dialects: Crystal, chapter 9;
selection from Sir Gawain and the Green Knight;
selection from Chaucer, The Reeve's Tale; selection
from John Barbour, Bruce. Exercise
2: Look up four words from Mannying, Chaucer, or
Langland in the OED and describe, in two or three
pages, how their history illuminates them.
- Wed., 5 Oct.
- The Beginnings of Standard English: Crystal,
chapter 10; selection from Sir Thomas Malory, The Book of
- Mon., 10 Oct.
- The Arrival of Printing: Crystal, chapter
11; selection from William Caxton, Eneydos.
- Wed., 12 Oct.
- Introduction to Early Modern English:
Crystal, chapter 12; Matthew
25, as translated by Wycliffe, Tyndale, and the KJV
- Mon., 17 Oct.
- Innovation: Crystal, chapter 13; William
3.2, and selection from John Lyly, Euphues.
Exercise 3: Using the on-line OED,
find four words or senses first used by either Shakespeare or the
King James translators, and describe the significance of their
appearing at that time in history.
- Wed., 19 Oct.
- Early Modern Dialects: Crystal, chapter 14;
- Mon., 24 Oct.
- The Seventeenth Century: Francis Bacon, "Of
Studies"; selections from John Milton, Paradise
- Wed., 26 Oct.
- Philosophical Speculation: Selections from
John Wilkins, An Essay toward a Real Character and a
Philosophical Language, and John Locke, An
Essay concerning Human Understanding. First
Paper Due: In around 1,500 words, do a close reading of
one of some passage of English literature from before 1800 and
show how careful attention to the language brings the meaning to
- Mon., 31 Oct.
- Imposing Order: Crystal, chapter 15; Samuel
to A Dictionary of the English Language;
in-class exercise in lexicography.
- Wed., 2 Nov.
- Fixing Change: Crystal, chapter 16;
selection from Daniel Defoe, "An
Essay upon Projects"; Jonathan Swift, "A
Proposal for Correcting . . . the English
- Mon., 7 Nov.
- English Goes International: Crystal, chapter
17; selection from John Smith, The Generall Historie of
Virginia, New-England, and the Summer Isles; selection
from Cotton Mather, The Negro Christianized; Phillis
Wheatley, "On Being Brought from Africa to America," "A Farewell
to America," "To the University of Cambridge, in New-England";
Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Language."
- Wed., 9 Nov.
- The Nineteenth Century: Crystal, chapter 18;
Noah Webster, essays on spelling
reform; Charles Dickens, The
Pickwick Papers, chapter 25; Walt Whitman, "When
Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd." Exercise
4: Search the on-line OED for words that
entered English from another language you know; in two or three
pages, note the earliest examples of English borrowings from that
language, and look for connections between the arrival of these
words in English and larger historical forces.
- Mon., 14 Nov.
- Literary Dialects: Crystal, chapter 19;
Robert Burns, "To a Mouse,"
Drink"; selection from James Kelman, How Late It Was,
How Late; selection from Irvine Welsh,
- Wed., 16 Nov.
- American Vernaculars: Mark Twain, "Sociable
Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County."
- Mon., 21 Nov.
- Modern Englishes: Crystal, chapter 20;
William Faulkner, "Barn Burning"; Sylvia Plath, "Daddy"; Allen
selection from Ngugi wa Thiong'O, Decolonizing the
Mind; Derek Walcott, "The Fortunate Traveller."
Exercise 5: Using the on-line OED,
find any five words that entered the English language in the
nineteenth century, and in two or three pages try to comment on
their significance why were they needed? what did
people say before that?
- Wed., 23 Nov.
- No Class: Thanksgiving break.
- Mon., 28 Nov.
- African-American Vernacular English:
Wikipedia, s.v. African
American Vernacular English; Joel Chandler Harris, "How
Mr. Rabbit Was Too Sharp for Mr. Fox"; Langston Hughes, "The
Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain"; selection from Zora
Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God;
selection from Toni Morrison, Sula; selected blues
- Wed., 30 Nov.
- Obscenity and Profanity: FCC.
v. Pacifica Foundation, 438 U.S. 726; George Carlin's extended
list of obscenities; Nicholson Baker, "Leading with the
Grumper." Exercise 6: Track down at least three
words or senses in current use that you can't find in any
dictionary (including both American Heritage and
OED); try to offer your own defintion of what they
- Mon., 5 Dec.
- The N-Word: Phil Middleton and David
(the Word), a Brief History"; Wikipedia, s.v.
- Wed., 7 Dec.
- "The Worst Follies of Orthodoxy": George
and the English Language"; Paul Fussell, "Fresh Idiom"; James
Dawes, Introduction to The
Language of War. Exercise 7: Look for
at least two advertisements or examples of political speech that
distort meaning by manipulating language, and describe in detail
what the writers are doing.
- Mon., 12 Dec.
- The Limits of Language: Selection from James
Joyce, Finnegans Wake; John Ashberry, "The
Instruction Manual"; Sonia Sanchez, "to blk/record/buyers" and
"Masks." Final Paper Due: In an argumentative
essay of about 2,000 words, describe how the language
works in some short piece of writing. The more detail you
can provide the better.