How did an obscure, marginal Germanic language become, over the course of one and a half millennia, the most widely spoken world language on earth?
This is a course concerning the historical development of English, including the earlier incarnations of the language that are known as Old and Middle English, as well how modern English came to be. (Modern, in this context, means 16th century and later. From a linguistic standpoint, Shakespeare’s language is modern English.)
This course will also examine large language structures in general, both written and spoken, and the many factors that helped English develop as it did: cultural history, geography, and especially, in a very broad sense, politics. Because it is strongly tied to personal and national identities, languages are inherently and intensely political. This course will show you how and why.
Finally, this course will introduce you to the discipline of linguistics, or the comparative study of language. We won’t cover all aspects of linguistics, but we will cover many of those relevant to the history of English: grammar, language variations, linguistic change, and so on.