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Philology 3: History of the English Language


Admission requirements

Successful completion of Philology 1 (Introduction to Middle English) and Philology 2 (Introduction to Old English Language) or equivalent.


This course is a follow-up from the introductions to Middle English and Old English in the first year, but now offers a coherent survey of the major developments which the English language underwent from its beginnings until the present day. Two key aspects of the course are: the identification and analysis of different text types through the ages and the English standardisation process. Because linguistic change and the evolution of different language varietes depend on many factors, this course will introduce a range of approaches to English historical linguistics, such as historical sociolinguistics, corpus linguistics and normative linguistics. During the course you will learn to work with some of the most important tools and databases for the study of the history of English, such as the online Oxford English Dictionary. This course will also draw on the skills you acquired during the courses Linguistics 1 and 2. Blackboard will be fully employed each week.

Course objectives

At the end of the course

  • you will have acquired a good survey of the characteristics of Old, Middle, Early and Late Modern English, and of the rise of English as a world language

  • you will have gained an insight into a number of current interdisciplinary research methods within the discipline and you will have learned to work with the Oxford English Dictionary and other relevant tools

  • you will be well equipped to continue with the more advanced philology courses that follow, and will have acquired an indispensable basis for the study of English in general.


The timetable is available on the BA English website

Mode of instruction

  • A weekly one-hour lecture

  • A weekly one-hour seminar

Course Load

The course load is 140 hours, which includes:

  • time to be devoted to attending lectures and tutorials: 26 hours.

  • time needed for preparing the lectures and making the assignments (including reading and research): 99 hours.

  • time needed for preparing for the exam: 15 hours

    There will be a scheduled question session shortly before the test.

Assessment method


Course assessment comprises three components:

  • weekly assignments, to be submitted before class

  • one such assignment to be marked as a mid-term assessment

  • final written exam


  1. the weekly assignments, to be submitted before class; these assignments will not be marked, but form the basis for class discussion (10%)
  2. one of these assignments will be marked by way of a mid-term progress evaluation (20%)
  3. final written exam (70%).

Students will have successfully completed the course if the final mark is a 6; no separate marks may be lower than 5.


There will be no opportunity to resit the first two components. Should the final mark be lower than 6, the resit of the exam will make up the final mark.

Exam review

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.


Attendance is compulsory. Missing more than three tutorials means that students will be excluded from attending classes. Unauthorized absence also applies to being unprepared and/or not bringing the relevant course materials to class.


Blackboard will be used to provide students with the weekly syllabus, to supply additional course information and a number of sample questions for the test; it also includes a discussion board. Students are expected to hand in the weekly assignments through Blackboard.

Reading list

David Crystal (2004 or more recent edition). The Stories of English. Woodstock and New York: The Overlook Press.
David Crystal (2010). Evolving English. London: British Library (see comments below).


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch

Students other than from the BA English Language and Culture studies need permission from the coordinator of studies before enrolling.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte

Registration Contractonderwijs


Please contact Student Administration van Eyckhof for questions.



  • Please note that you will be needing the course books from week 1 onwards. Ordering books published abroad, for instance through, may take longer than expected.

  • The book Evolving English is possibly only available as a second-hand copy. Should this be the case, access will be arranged differently. For all that, you are strongly advised to try and acquire a copy of this uniquely valuable book.