BA Film Studies and English Language

Year of entry: 2022

Course unit details:
History and Varieties of English

Unit code LELA10342
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Linguistics & English Language
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


The aim of this course unit is to introduce you to the historical development of the English language and its present-day regional varieties. You will acquire a thorough knowledge of the history of the English language in its socio-historical context from the 5th to the 21st century, and a good understanding of the most important historical developments that have shaped the current structure of English. We will not only focus on the traditional ‘story of English’, which is the story of Standard English, the story of the printing press and the elites, but we will also look at alternative accounts by taking a ‘language history from below’ approach, that is the stories of the ordinary population. It introduces you to certain regional and ethnic varieties of English, both within and outside of the British Isles, and how they developed over time. We will not only analyse the language of professional scribes, authors and other documents produced in Standard English, but we will also look at different text-types that represent the language of the common people to varying degrees, such as witness depositions & trial proceedings, literary dialect & dialect literature, folksongs, poor relief petitions, emigrant letters and threatening notices. In doing so, you will be introduced to the basic vocabulary and research methods of historical (socio)linguistics, dialectology and World English(es).
This course is a pre-requisite for LELA20401 The Changing English Language and LELA20502 Variationist Sociolinguistics.


The module aims to:

  • Demonstrate how the English language varies historically from its origins to the present day in terms of orthography, word order, sounds and vocabulary
  • Discuss the links between socio-cultural background and language variation and change
  • Provide a practical introduction to resources and methods for the study of language change
  • Explore regional and social variation in the development of the English language, with a particular focus on ‘standard’ vs ‘non-standard’ varieties of English.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course students will be able to:

Teaching and learning methods

11 hours (1 hour per week) of the material for this course unit will be delivered online.

Knowledge and understanding

By the end of this course students will:

  • have a thorough knowledge of the history of the English language from the 5th to the 21st centuries
  • describe some of the main differences between the development of Standard English and some ‘non-standard’ varieties of English
  • Understand the role of certain major sociohistorical events in the development of language structures

Intellectual skills

By the end of this course students will be able to:
  • recognise regional, stylistic and diachronic variation in linguistic data
  • retrieve and analyse historical material
  • support an argument using evidence and reasoning

Practical skills

By the end of this course students will be able to:
  • Carry out linguistic investigations using a variety of quantitative and qualitative methods, including close textual analysis, variationist methodologies, and the basics of corpus linguistics.
  • Perform simple statistical tests and data analysis in excel
  • Summarising and presenting findings in a style appropriate to linguistics

Transferable skills and personal qualities

The coursework and final exam will enable students to develop the skills of independent study and learning.By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Develop the skills of independent study and learning, time management and the ability to work towards deadlines.
  • Confidently analyse new data
  • Succinctly report on data analysis

Employability skills

Analytical skills
This unit equips students with skills of data analysis that can be applied in a wide range of contexts: students learn how to look for patterns and structures, and interpret change in terms of social and structural pressures and constraints. Students will learn how to explain and justify their analyses verbally and in written form. These skills are relevant for all jobs that require data analysis and reporting.
Students who go on to become teachers of English will have acquired the knowledge about earlier stages of English and about changes affecting English that forms the backbone for teaching modules on language change

Assessment methods

Learning Journal 10%
Mid-term take-home exam (exercises, data analysis, short written questions) 30%
Final take-home exam (exercises, data analysis, short written questions, longer essay questions) 60%


Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or summative

Verbal general feedback based on learning journal during the lectures


Written general and persona feedback on mid-term exam + opportunity to discuss personal feedback during office hours

Formative and summative

Personal feedback on final exam upon request


Verbal feedback during seminar exercisses and discussion




Recommended reading

  • Gramley, S. 2012. The History of English. An introduction. London: Routledge.


    + additional readings

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Marije Van Hattum Unit coordinator

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