BA English Language and German

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
The Changing English Language

Course unit fact file
Unit code LELA20401
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Linguistics & English Language
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


In this unit, we will explore some of the major changes to the words and grammar of English. We will discuss how semantic and grammatical changes are studied, modelled and explained. As such, this unit is also an introduction to these topics in Historical Linguistics in general and to some of the methods, theories and discussions in this subdiscipline of Linguistics.


Unit title Unit code Requirement type Description
History and Varieties of English LELA10342 Pre-Requisite Compulsory
English Word and Sentence Structure LELA10301 Pre-Requisite Compulsory


  • Study some of the major changes affecting the words and grammar of English
  • Introduce students to (English) Historical Linguistics and prepare them for more advanced study as well as research projects in this area

Knowledge and understanding

  • Sophisticated understanding of a number of major semantic and grammatical changes in English
  • Insight into the workings and effects of language change over a long period of time
  • Knowledge of main terms, as well as some theories and debates in (English) Historical Linguistics
  • Good understanding of the data and methods used in (English) Historical Linguistics

Intellectual skills

  • Explain and apply key terms in Historical Linguistics to new data sets
  • Critically discuss different theoretical approaches to and debates about major changes affecting the structure of English
  • Understand main claims in research papers on semantic and grammatical change

Practical skills

  • Collect data to study semantic and grammatical changes in English
  • Analyse and interpret sets of selected examples evidencing change in English
  • Speak and write about semantic and grammatical change 

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Skills in linguistic analysis that can be applied to the study and analysis of other languages 
  • Problem solving and analytical thinking skills, when faced with new data sets and grammatical puzzles
  • Oral and written communication skills, including essay writing and scholarly referencing
  • Attention to detail and precision in analysis and reporting

Assessment methods

Assessment task

Weighting within unit (if summative)



Data question (in seminar)


Exam including terminology questions, an essay question and a data question





Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Discussion and Q&A in lectures and seminars


Individual comments on essay

Formative and Summative

Seminar feedback on data question


Individual comments on exam (upon request)



Recommended reading

  • Kay, Christian & Kathryn L. Allan. 2015. English historical semantics. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
  • Fischer, Olga, Hendrik De Smet & Wim van der Wurff. 2017. A brief history of English syntax. Cambridge: CUP.
  • Hogg, Richard and David Denison, eds. 2006. A history of the English language. Cambridge: CUP.
  • Brinton, Laurel, ed. 2017. English historical linguistics: approaches and perspectives. Cambridge: CUP.
  • Kytö, Merja & Päivi Pahta, eds. 2016. The Cambridge handbook of English Historical Linguistics. Cambridge: CUP.


           (Sections from) books and papers on individual topics will be added during lectures

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 3
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 164

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Tine Breban Unit coordinator

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