The Development of the English Language
English 411, Autumn 2011
Go directly to:
Office: (973) 353-5204; 531 Hill Hall.
Hours: Monday and Wednesday, 1:002:30, 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).
- Written Assignments: There will be one
of 2,000 (eight pages). There are also seven short exercises,
each of which should be three or four double-spaced typed pages.
We'll discuss these in class.
- Final Exam: A short final examination will
include identification of quotations, close reading, and short
- 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: Much essential information will
be available only electronically. All students therefore
must have access to the Web by the end of the first
week of classes.
- 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
- Readings: The following books are available
from New Jersey Books and the Rutgers Bookstore:
The shorter readings will also be available online, either linked
from this syllabus or through Blackboard.
- David Crystal, The Stories of English.
- Jack Lynch, The Lexicographer's Dilemma.
Schedule of Class Meetings
- Wed., 7 Sept.
- Introduction: Class business,
- Thurs., 8 Sept.
- (A change in class designation in which Thursday pretends to
be Monday, but I'll be at a conference. No
- Mon., 12 Sept.
- More Introduction: David Crystal,
Stories of English, Introduction; Jack Lynch,
Lexicographer's Dilemma, chapter 1
(“Vulgarities of Speech”).
- Wed., 14 Sept.
- Old English: Crystal, Stories of
English, chapters 1 and 2 (and interludes readings
always include the associated interludes); selection
- Mon., 19 Sept.
- Old English Dialects: Crystal, Stories
of English, chapters 3 and 4; selection from Beowulf.
- Wed., 21 Sept.
- Introduction to Middle English: Crystal,
Stories of English, chapters 5 and 6; selection from
Robert Mannyng, Story
of Englande. Exercise 1: Find three
translations of a short passage (say, ten or fifteen lines) in
Beowulf — print is okay, but this
site will save you some trouble — and write a three- or
four-page essay comparing and contrasting the translations with
one another and the original Old English. (There's no need for a
thesis statement, introduction, or conclusion; get right to
business.) 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, Stories
of English, chapter 7; selection from Geoffrey Chaucer, The
General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales.
- Wed., 28 Sept.
- Language Change: Crystal, Stories of
English, chapter 8; selection from William Langland, Piers
- Mon., 3 Oct.
- Middle English Dialects: Crystal,
Stories of English, chapter 9; selection from Sir
Gawain and the Green Knight; selection from Chaucer,
Reeve's Tale; selection from John Barbour, Bruce.
Exercise 2: Look up four words from Mannying,
Chaucer, or Langland in the OED and describe how
their history illuminates them.
- Wed., 5 Oct.
- The Beginnings of Standard English: Crystal,
Stories of English, chapter 10; Lynch,
Lexicographer's Dilemma, Introduction; selection
from Sir Thomas Malory, The
Book of Sir Launcelot.
- Mon., 10 Oct.
- The Arrival of Printing: Crystal,
Stories of English, chapter 11; selection from William Caxton,
- Wed., 12 Oct.
- Introduction to Early Modern English:
Crystal, Stories of English, chapter 12; Matthew
25, as translated by Wycliffe, Tyndale, and the KJV
- Mon., 17 Oct.
- Innovation: Crystal, Stories of
English, chapter 13; William Shakespeare, Hamlet,
3.1, and selection from John Lyly, Euphues.
Exercise 3: Using the online 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,
Stories of English, chapter 14; Shakespeare, Henry
- Mon., 24 Oct.
- The Seventeenth Century: Lynch,
Lexicographer's Dilemma, chapter 2 (“The Age
in Which I Live”); 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 2,000 words, do a close reading of
one of some passage of English literature from before 1700 and
show how careful attention to the language brings the meaning to
light. Again, there's no need for an introduction or conclusion,
though it should be in connected prose.
- Mon., 31 Oct.
- Fixing Change: Crystal, Stories of
English, chapter 16; Lynch, Lexicographer's
Dilemma, chapter 3 (“Proper Words in Proper
Places”); selection from Daniel Defoe, “An
Essay upon Projects”; Jonathan Swift, “A
Proposal for Correcting . . . the English
- Wed., 2 Nov.
- Imposing Order: Crystal, Stories of
English, chapter 15; Lynch, Lexicographer's
Dilemma, chapter 4 (“Enchaining Syllables, Lashing
the Wind”); Lynda Mugglestone, “Dictionaries”
(from Samuel Johnson in Context); Samuel Johnson, Preface
to A Dictionary of the English Language;
in-class exercise in lexicography.
- Mon., 7 Nov.
- English Goes International: Crystal,
Stories of English, chapter 17; Lynch,
Lexicographer's Dilemma, chapter 6 (“The
People in These States”); 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,
Stories of English, chapter 18; Lynch,
Lexicographer's Dilemma, chapter 8 (“The Taste
and Fancy of the Speller”);
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 online OED for words that
entered English from another language you know; 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, Stories of
English, chapter 19; Robert Burns, “To a
Drink”; selection from James Kelman, How
Late It Was, How Late; selection from Irvine Welsh, Glue.
- Wed., 16 Nov.
- American Vernaculars: Lynch,
Lexicographer's Dilemma, chapter 7 (“Words,
Words, Words”); Mark Twain, “Sociable
Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.”
- Mon., 21 Nov.
- Modern Englishes: Crystal, Stories of
English, chapter 20; Lynch, Lexicographer's
Dilemma, chapter 10 (“Sabotage in
Springfield”); William Faulkner, “Barn
Burning”; Sylvia Plath, “Daddy”;
Allen Ginsberg, “America”;
selection from Ngugi wa Thiong'O, Decolonizing
the Mind; Derek Walcott, “The
Fortunate Traveller.” Exercise 5:
Using the online OED, find any five words that
entered the English language in the nineteenth century, and try
to comment on their significance why were they needed?
what did people say before that? (Note that today is
a Wednesday schedule.)
- Wed., 23 Nov.
- No Class: Thanksgiving break.
- Mon., 28 Nov.
- African-American Vernacular English:
Wikipedia, s.v. African
American Vernacular English; Joel Chandler Harris,
Mr. Rabbit Was Too Sharp for Mr. Fox”; Langston Hughes,
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.
- “The Worst Follies of
Orthodoxy”: George Orwell, “Politics
and the English Language”; Paul Fussell, “Fresh
Idiom”; James Dawes, Introduction to The
Language of War. Exercise 6: 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., 5 Dec.
- Obscenity and Profanity: Jack Lynch,
Lexicographer's Dilemma, chapter 11
(“Expletive Deleted”), pp. 229–45; Jesse
Sheidlower, Introduction to The F-Word; Nicholson
with the Grumper.”
- Wed., 7 Dec.
- The N-Word: Lynch, Lexicographer's
Dilemma, chapter 11 (“Expletive Deleted”), pp.
245–52; Phil Middleton and David Pilgrim, “Nigger
(the Word), a Brief History”; Wikipedia,
- Mon., 12 Dec.
- The Limits of Language: Lynch,
Lexicographer's Dilemma, chapter 12; selection from
James Joyce, Finnegans
Wake; John Ashberry, “Daffy Duck
in Hollywood” Sonia Sanchez, “to
blk/record/buyers” and “Masks.”
Exercise 7: 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 definition of what they