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Peter Tan

Office: AS5/0604



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Office Hours:

by appointment

Historical Variation in English


+65 6516 6038

Lecture slot:

Fri 4.00–6.00pm

Lecture Venue:

Lecture Theatre 14


·        Dr Peter Tan

·        Ms Maxine Rodriguez

Tutorial group details (click here)


A discussion forum as well as self-assessment is available at the IVLE site for EL2111


This syllabus is located online at:

It will be constantly updated, so please keep don’t download material too early.


Have you ever wondered why some of the basic words in various European languages seem so similar (Welcome, Willkommen, Welkom)? Or why it is that doctors and botanists use so many words that are derived from Latin? Or why some words associated with the law are based on French borrowings (‘treason’, ‘judge’, ‘court’)? Or why the French themselves use English borrowings like ‘le weekend’ or ‘le parking’, like how Malay speakers might use ‘lesen’ (licence) or ‘tiket’ (ticket)? Why did Shakespeare and Chaucer use thou and thee and why don’t we today? Why are there these strange inconsistencies in English, where -ough can be pronounced so many ways (‘bough’, ‘cough’, ‘tough’, ‘though’, ‘thorough’, ‘through’)?

            The answers to these and other questions lie in where English comes from. Before the time of Shakespeare, it was pretty well confined to the few million speakers in Britain; today it is the world’s preferred language.



© brainwise (photo cropped and processed)


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Main Text

Other Prescribed Readings


Additional Print Resources



If you have a fascination with Old English and want to try learning it, look up Stephen Pollington (1997), First Steps in Old English (Norfolk: Anglo-Saxon). Or if your fascination is with Latin, there are some interesting sites: click here to view them.

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Online Material

(Please download a few days before the lecture in case there are updates. Please see download requirements)

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Other Resources


·         The History of English website by Luke Mastin

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The final mark achieved in this module is based on the Continuous Assessment (60%) and Final Exam (40%). The breakdown is in the table. (Click on the items for further details.)

Class Test (22-ii-2019)

20 marks

Essay (due Tues, 26-iii-2019)

20 marks

Group Project (1–12-iv-2019)

10 marks

Tutorial attendance and participation

10 marks

Final Exam (2-v-2019, 9–11am)

40 marks


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EL2111 Time-table (links will be included when they are ready)







Friday, 18-i-2019

Introduction and focus.
Setting out of assumptions for the module. The writing system.
(Read Graddol 2007, pp. 50–55)



Friday, 25-i-2019

The grammatical system and change. (Read Graddol 2007, pp. 56–59, skim through Ch. 6)



Friday, 1-ii-2019

The sound system and change. (Skim through Graddol 2007, Ch. 5)

1 Spelling and Grammar


Friday, 8-ii-2019

Vocabulary and change. (Read Jackson & Amvela, Ch. 2)

[No tutorials in view of Chinese New Year]


Friday, 15-ii-2019

Reasons for change. (Read Graddol 2007, pp. 61–64; 179–188; 229–232)

2 Phonology


Friday, 22-ii-2019

Class test. Indo-European: the beginnings of English. (Read Barber, The English Language, Ch. 3)

3 Vocabulary

Mid-term break (23-ii-2019–3-iii-2019)
Film screening of Midsummer Night’s Dream (Date and time to be confirmed.)


Friday, 8-iii-2019

Video: ‘The Mother Tongue’.
Old English(Read Graddol 2007, pp. 40–50, 74–77)

 4 Reasons for change


Friday, 15-iii-2019

Middle English and Early Modern English. (Read Graddol 2007 pp. 64–73) 

5 The Beginnings



Standardisation and the development of academic writing(Go through Graddol 2007, Ch. 3)

6 External and internal history


Friday, 29-iii-2019

Essay due Tuesday, 26-iii-2019.
The development of American English. Video. (Read Graddol 2007, pp. 132–148) Alternatively, watch The Adventure of English – English in America on youtube. [Topic skipped]


The rise of the non-Anglo Englishes (Read Crystal, English as a Global Language, Ch. 2; skim through Graddol 2007, Ch. 1; pp. 222–223; 149–152)

7 Standardisation


Friday, 5-iv-2019

Global English. (Read Crystal, English as a Global Language, Ch. 4)

8 Presentations I


Friday, 12-iv-2019

Overview, revision and discussion of the examination

9 Presentations II


Friday, 19-iv-2019

[No lecture: Good Friday]

10 Non-Anglo Englishes


Revision week (20–26-iv-2019)

Exam week 1

9.00am, 2-v-2019



Exam week 2






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Download requirements                                                                                            


Some of the notes are in PDF format. You need the Adobe Reader to view these files. If you haven’t got it, please download it by clicking on the icon on the right.

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Sometimes I will use the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet). The font that I use is Times New Roman Phonetic. If you haven’t got the font in your system, you will encounter problems in displaying the characters. You can download this font by clicking on the icon on the right.

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