M101 | The History of the English Language |
Kathleen Duguay

9:30 - 11:00 a.m. |
Six Sessions on Zoom -
1/22, 1/29, 2/5, 2/12, 2/26, 3/4 (Please note: no class on 2/19)

Almost all the peculiarities of English usage can be explained through an exploration of its history. This class will reveal many of the apparent “mysteries” of our language. For instance, why is “mice” the plural of “mouse”? Why is “gh” pronounced differently in the words “through” and “tough”? Where did the language originate and what social and historical factors influenced its evolution? We will answer all these questions, while we explore the origins and progression of the English language throughout its long and circuitous history.

This course will be a combination of lectures and discussion. PowerPoint slides will be used for class presentations, and handouts and additional resources will be available for those who want to explore topics in greater depth.

Week 1: Brief overview of linguistic terminology and English phonetics including the International Phonetic Alphabet and some basic transcription of common words.

Week 2: The early origins of English including its Germanic roots, its relationship to other languages and how these relationships were discovered.

Week 3: The historical events leading to the establishment of English as a unique language and the characteristics of Old English.

Week 4: The transition from Old English to Middle English and the historical events that influenced this evolution. Examples from Chaucer and other texts.

Week 5: The establishment Early Modern English as the language we know as English today and the period known as the Age of Linguistic Anxiety.

Week 6: In this final session we will look at the language as it exists today with an emphasis on American English and its various dialects. What historical changes are still impacting the evolution of the language and what trends do we see as to where the language is headed?

Kathleen Duguay has an M.A. in Comparative Literature and a Ph.D. in English. She was a professor of English for 25 years at East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania where she taught a wide variety of courses in literature, linguistics and writing. She currently lives in North Adams where you will often find her on the golf course or pickleball court.

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