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The University of Southampton

LING1006 The Making of Modern English

Module Overview

The module looks at the development of the English language, and examines its relationship with other, potentially rival, languages that have been spoken in the British Isles. It examines the effect of successive waves of conquest on the sociolinguistic situation which led to a situation of of diglossia or even triglossia, with English one of a number of varieties used in a set of socially determined domains. Using Haugen’s standardization model, we examine the factors which led first to selection and later acceptance of English as the dominant variety, and consider the associated linguistic processes of codification and elaboration of function. Working with short texts from different time periods, the module then introduces how and why grammatical changes occurred in Anglo-Saxon, Old and Middle English (e.g. loss of case marking, gender, weakening of the verbal paradigm) and their consequences for the modern language. We will also consider phonological changes (e.g. the Great English Vowel Shift) and their consequences for dialect differentiation. Throughout the module we make parallels with contemporary English by exploring ongoing change, including dialect loss and dialect levelling.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • Have gained essential knowledge and skills to evaluate primary sources in linguistics.
Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Have knowledge of the external sociolinguistic history of British English, including the social factors which led to its dominance in the British Isles.
  • Have an understanding of the internal history of British English, showing how dialectal divisions emerged.
  • Understand a case study of linguistic standardization.
  • Have a good understanding of sociolinguistic phenomena which play a crucial role in the processes of linguistic variation and change;
  • Have gained essential skills in analysing linguistic data, including sociolinguistic
  • Understand methodology for academic practice applied to the study of language and society.



Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include • Interactive Lectures; • Seminar group presentations; • Group discussion in seminars. Learning activities include • Organisation of material and own ideas for oral presentation; • Developing own interpretation of theoretical texts and concepts; • Debating ideas in class • Independent study. Innovative or special features of this module: you will be asked to join a topic group to discuss and present individual research and you will need to provide a group introduction to the topic under discussion. Guidance will be provided by the teachers. The lectures will serve to introduce, analyse and investigate key aspects of language change with respect to English. The weekly seminar will be mostly student-led and will offer an opportunity to discuss key themes through discussion of various activities prepared individually and in groups. Collaborative research on chosen topics to lead to production of a study-notes style document which will be peer-reviewed and tutor-reviewed (using the discussion board on Blackboard). See further details below.

Wider reading or practice10
Preparation for scheduled sessions70
Completion of assessment task26
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Smith, J. (2007). Sound Change and the History of English. 

Horobin, S. (2010). Studying the History of Early English. 

McMahon, A (1994). Understanding Language Change. 

Milroy, J. and Milroy, L. (1993). Real English: The Grammar of English Dialects in the British Isles. 

Burnley, D (1992). The History of the English Language: A Source Book. 

Hughes, A., Trudgill, P., & Watt, D. (2013). English accents and dialects: an introduction to social and regional varieties of English in the British Isles. 

M Bragg (2003). The Adventure of English. 

Beal, J. C. (2010). An introduction to regional Englishes: dialect variation in England. 

Aitchison, J. (2013). Language change: progress or decay?. 

Fennell, B. A (2008). A History of English: a Sociolinguistic Approach. 

Culpeper, J. (2005). History of English. 

Jeffries, L. (2006). Discovering Language. The Structure of Modern English. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Assignment  (1400 words) 50%
Critical Reflection 20%
Text analysis 30%


MethodPercentage contribution
Reflective essay  (2500 words) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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