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Philology 5B: Late Modern English


Admission requirements

Successful completion of Philology 3 or equivalent.


The Late Modern English period (1700-1900) is marked as the period when people had great concerns about the state of English and generally complained about its deficiency as a language. Not only that, in the victorian age, people were very much concerned with propriety and etiquette. This included propriety and politeness in language use. As part of this prescriptivism emerged; there was to be only one ‘’correct’’ version of English. It was at this point that written and spoken Standard English was codified in spelling books, grammars, and (pronunciation) dictionaries. The codification of the Standard was accompanied by negative attitudes towards non- standard varieties of English, as well as the stigmatization of specific linguistic features. Did this really mean that people followed the rules layed down in prescriptive works and avoided stigmatized features at all costs?

In this course we will investigate which linguistic forms and varieties were stigmatized and how and if prescribed rules were reflected in actual usage by looking at a large variety of texts. We will also consider how different layers of society spoke and wrote by looking at texts by men and women, the nobility, middling sorts, including the labouring poor who were often less familiar with standard norms. In addition to that, we will look at the representation of (non)standard dialects in contemporary literature to uncover the dominant conceptions of and attitudes to existing language variation at the time.

We will concentrate on spelling, pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary and style of writing, and in doing so we will make use, wherever possible, of relevant databases that are available online.

Course objectives

Upon completion of the course students should

  • have a good understanding of the socio-historical processes that played a role in the development of Late Modern English (in the British Isles and beyond).

  • be able to analyse and interpret sets of linguistic and socio-historical data using sociolinguistic theory (and quantitative measures), with a particular focus on the effects of variables such as gender, social class, education, and region.

  • have a good insight into the nature and language of different text types from the Late Modern English period (1700–1900), and of their relationship with the more standard printed texts of the time.

  • have developed the ability to present their research results both orally and in written form.

  • gained experience in transcribing Late Modern English handwriting.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method


  • Presentation

  • Participation (including weekly assignments)

  • Final paper


  • Presentation 20%

  • Class contribution 20%

  • Final paper 60%


There is no resit for the Class contribution.
Students will have successfully passed the course if the average course grade is a 6 or higher, and the paper and the presentation are at least a 5.
When the final grade is lower than a 6 or when the grade for the paper and/or presentation is below a 5, the paper and/or the presentation will have to be retaken during the resit period.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

  • Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade (2009), An Introduction to Late Modern English. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

  • Additional reading material (texts and background reading), available through Brightspace or in one of the reading rooms of the University Library.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website.

Registration Studeren à la carte en Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte.
Registration Contractonderwijs.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Student administration Arsenaal