BA Linguistics and Social Anthropology / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
History and Varieties of English

Course unit fact file
Unit code LELA10342
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


The study of the English language is a study of many varieties of English, historical, regional, social and stylistic. The aim of this course unit is to introduce you some of these varieties, explore their individual linguistic features, how these varieties developed in the history of English and what factors motivate contemporary variation and change. We will study varieties of English, both within and outside of the British Isles, and discuss how geopolitical, cultural and social developments have shaped and continue to shape the sounds, vocabulary, orthography and grammar of English.

As part of this unit, you will learn some of the fundamental concepts and research methods in historical linguistics, sociolinguistics, dialectology and World English(es).

This course is a pre-requisite for LELA20402 The Changing English Language and LELA20502 Variationist Sociolinguistics.


The module aims to:

  • Demonstrate how the English language varies historically, geographically, socially and across different contexts of use in terms of sounds, vocabulary, orthography and grammar
  • Discuss the links between historical, geopolitical and socio-cultural context and language variation and change
  • Provide a practical introduction to resources and methods for the study of language variation and change
  • Introduce students to some of the major varieties of English


Historical varieties of English, such as Old English, Middle English and early Modern English

Regional varieties of English, including dialects in the UK, US, and Southern Hemisphere English

English as a global language

Varieties in different context of usage: register and genre

The role of socio-economic status in language variation and change

Teaching and learning methods

1x2-hr lecture per week

1x 1-hr seminar per week

Optional individual consultation sessions during office hours

E-Learning: All course materials, including lecture handouts, seminar worksheets, and course and assessment info will be made available on Blackboard.

Knowledge and understanding

By the end of this course students will:

  • Be able to identify and describe linguistic features of a range of historical, regional and social varieties of English, including the major historical and current regional varieties of English
  • Understand and explain the historical, geopolitical and socio-cultural context in which different varieties of English developed and which motivates contemporary variation
  • Be aware of the role of social factors such as socio-economic status in language variation and change
  • Have a thorough knowledge of the history of the English language from the 5th to the 21st centuries
  • Have acquired fundamental concepts of historical linguistics, sociolinguistics and dialectology to be ready for detailed study in years 2 and 3


Intellectual skills

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

  • Read and understand linguistic discussions of variation and change in English and apply their findings to real language data
  • Competently discuss linguistic features of English in the areas of phonetics, orthography, vocabulary and grammar
  • Support an argument using evidence and reasoning
  • Summarise and present findings in a style appropriate for linguistics

Practical skills

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

  • Recognise linguistic markers of diachronic, regional, social and stylistic variation in linguistic data
  • Work with real language data
  • Work with a range of sources used in the study of historical, regional and other varieties of English

Transferable skills and personal qualities

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

  • Study and learn independently, manage their time · confidently interpret new data and explain their analysis
  • Support an argument using evidence and reasoning
  • Summarise and present findings in a clear and concise way
  • Identify and contextualise different (current) varieties of English
  • Talk about diversity of English in a linguistically-informed way

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 and variation.

Assessment methods

Assessment Task

Formative or Summative


Midterm Test

Formative and Summative


Final Exam





Feedback methods

Feedback Method

Formative or Summative

Written general and personal feedback on mid-term test, seminar session dedicated to global feedback and discussion of answers followed by opportunity to discuss personal feedback during office hours

Formative and Summative

Personal feedback on final exam on request


Verbal feedback during seminar exercises and discussion



Recommended reading

Galloway, N. and H. Rose. 2015. Introducing Global Englishes. Abingdon/New York: Routledge.

Kohnen, T. 2014. Introduction to the History of English. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.

McIntyre, D. 2020. History of English: A Resource Book for Students. Abingdon/New York: Routledge.

Van Herk, G. 2012. What is Sociolinguistics? Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell

And additional readings

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 2
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 165

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Maciej Baranowski Unit coordinator
Tine Breban Unit coordinator

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