Thursday, May 12, 2011


Something very strange happened to the grade reporting for this class.  Apparently on Tuesday while I was entering my grades, the grade-report system decided that this class was clearly a figment of my imagination and deleted everything I entered (and the link to the class itself).  I didn't realize this until yesterday when students began to ask me about their (lack of) grades.  So at 7 pm last night, I emailed the registrar's office.  I heard from the RO this morning at 8 am and immediately resubmitted my grades via fax.

  • How soon will your grade appear on your record?  Fairly soon, I hope.  
  • How/why did this happen?  I dunno.  
  • How is this different from having a dog eat my homework?  Well, it really happened and it's unprecedented in my experience with this system.  
My apologies to one and all.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Friday, Week 15

Answered questions mostly about the final exam.

Reminder: The final exam is due either electronically or pushed under the door to 347 Avery by 5 pm next Wednesday.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Wednesday, Week 15

We continued working through the history of English relative clauses (including Early Modern English relative clauses).

I distributed the final exam.

Final Exam Rules:

  1. The final exam can be turned in electronically or on paper to my office (347 Avery) by 5 p.m. on Wednesday of Finals Week.  
  2. Please do not collaborate on the final or discuss it with anyone other than me.  
  3. You may use any written materials you want, but they must be cited in the exam.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Monday, Week 15

We started working through relative clauses throughout the history of English.

On Wednesday, we will continue working on relative clauses, and I will distribute the final exam.  On Friday, I will answer any questions you may have about the class and the final exam.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Friday, Week 14

We discussed and collected the homework.  Then the class did teaching evaluations.

The final exam is going to be take-home, distributed on Wednesday of dead week and due by 5 pm on Wednesday of finals week.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Wednesday, Week 14

We worked through negation from OE to PDE:

Monday, April 18, 2011

Monday, Week 14

We talked about the Great Vowel Shift -- using this site Look it over before class on Wednesday.

New homework due on Friday: pp. 19-21 in HEL: problems 1 (comparing the Queen Elizabeth version with the Chaucer version), 4, 5, 7, 9.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Wednesday and Friday of Week 13

We finished working through the last homework assignment and collected them. We are starting on Early Modern English on Monday.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Friday, Week 12 and Monday, Week 13

On Friday, the class did another quiz, identifying Old English vs. Middle English versions of a text and then identified the dialect of another ME text.

I returned the graded quizzes and we went over them as a class and then we started working through the homework.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Wednesday, Week 12

We returned and discussed quiz 3. I announced quiz 4 for Friday: it will cover the same material as quiz 3, with different texts AND it will ask students to identify texts from different ME dialects using the same kind of evidence.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Friday, Week 11, and Monday, Week 12

On Friday we did quiz 3--it will be returned and discussed next Wednesday. On Monday, we worked on ME dialects, using page 6 of the homework distributed in class (due on Friday).

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Monday and Wednesday, Week 11

>We discussed the rest of the homework and I collected them.

We continued looking at differences between Old English and Middle English and among the Middle English dialects, using the handout illustrating differences among Middle English dialects.

There will be a quiz on Friday. It will consist of an OE and a ME version of a text and questions about how the text can be identified as OE or ME, like this (answers here).

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Friday, Week 10

We started looking at a range of differences between Old English and Middle English and illustrations of differences among Middle English dialects.  We began looking at Chaucer's prologue to the Canterbury Tales

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Monday and Wednesday, Week 10

On Monday, we talked about dialects in general and in Middle English in particular.

On Wednesday, class was cancelled, but there is a new homework assignment from HEL:

p. 109 question 6, using the website at the University rather than the one in the question.
p. 139 questions 1-4

Homework is due in class on Monday, 28 March.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Friday, Week 9

We discussed the changes in phonology from the late OE period through the ME period, touching on the changes in morphology and the lexicon.

We did an attendance quiz.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Wednesday, Week 9 and Paper Topics for 554 Students

On Wednesday, we talked about the history of the period from late Old English (1000-1100 roughly) through the Middle English (1100-1500) and talked about how that history resulted in general cultural changes.

For students in English 554, I've written up some possible paper topics:
  1. Here are several lexical or syntactic changes in progress happening in English now.
    a.   The development of “be all” and “be like” as forms marking quotation, as in “She was all ‘I won’t do that!’”
    b.  The development of “my bad” as a response to a mistake
    c.  The development of [iz] plurals for forms like processes and premises.

    Pick one of these changes in progress (or another one if you’ve observed one and confirmed it with me) and collect data about it: Collect all the live forms you can – privilege those in spontaneous speech, but include those found in writing, in dramatic presentations, in other pre-thought-out contexts. Who uses the form? Who doesn’t use it? Are people’s introspections about whether they use the form reliable? Does everyone use it in the same contexts? To mean the same things?

  2.  Pick out a short text (500-1000 words) that exists in Old English, Middle English, and Early Modern English (New Testament texts work well for this. It may be hard to find suitable texts outside of the Bible, but, for example, Boethius’ Consolations of Philosphy entirely or in part, was translated from Latin by Alfred the Great, Chaucer, and Elizabeth I. ) Select an interesting continuous section of each text of about 100 words (the same chunk for each version) and annotate it—for OE, for example, prepare the texts the way the class texts were prepared (give a gloss for the lexical meaning and then note the grammatical properties, gender, number and case for nouns, adjectives, and demonstratives; tense and agreement for verbs, etc). Any interesting or curious lexical uses, for example, should be noted. Then write a description of some of the ways in how the text is treated changes from OE to ME to EME. (You can compare EME to Present Day English if you like, but it isn’t required.)

  3.  Read the introduction, the last chapter and at least one sample word study from Lewis’ Studies in Words. Following Lewis’ model, pick a word or groups of words and discuss its development in English (i.e., from Old English to Modern English, not back into Latin or Greek or Proto-Germanic).

  4. Anything that shows change across time in English is fair game, but you have to get to approve a specific proposal (maximum 1 page), due by 1 pm on Friday, 25 April. (If you suspect that your proposal may need discussion, try to get in earlier so we can discussed it before the due date.)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Sunday, Week 8

  • On Wednesday, we discussed homework #4.
  • On Friday, we did quiz 2 and discussed the answers.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Monday, Week 8

We worked through an Old English version of the parable of the Good Samaritan (Gospel of Luke), discussing the syntax and lexicon as we go, using through a selected glossary.

Remember: Homework 4 is due Wednesday. Quiz 2 is scheduled for Friday.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Friday, Week 7

We finished working our way through the first eleven lines of the prolog to Beowulf.  Then using the homework distributed in class (due next Wednesday), we talked a bit about the next nine lines.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Wednesday, Week 7

We discussed some of the distinctive properties of OE alliterative poetry and then worked through the first nine lines of the prolog to Beowulf working out the structure of the sentences and noting the poetic properties of the lines.

You may want to visit to hear readings of parts of Beowulf which are presented in the generally accepted OE pronunciation.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Friday, Week 6

Today we visited the Oxford English Dictionary on-line.  We looked at the history of knight and knave (particularly interesting as both words began in the same semantic space and them shifted in opposite directions), and at boy and girl.

Reminder: As students at WSU, you have access to this website.
(1) Just go to the WSU libraries website (,
(2) then click on the Griffin Catalog tab and search for Oxford English Dictionary. 
(3) When the search results show up, click on the Oxford English Dictionary [electronic resource] link.
(4) Then click on the Oxford English Dictionary -- Oxford Univ Pr Oxford English Dict link and
(5) log in with your network id and password.  
Then you will find yourself logged in at the OED on-line website.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Wednesday, Week 6

We worked through the Old English syntax practice handout.

We began to work through semantic change, talking about broadening/widening (generalization), narrowing (specialization), and other changes (amelioration, pejoration, other kinds of shifts including bleaching).

Monday, February 14, 2011

Monday, Week 6

We worked through homework #3 (answers here) and I concluded that another phonetics/orthography handout might be useful for the consonants (available here).

We just started working on the Old English syntactic data, distributed in class.

Note: At 4 pm on Tuesday, I updated the "Spelling and Pronunciation of Old English Consonants" handout (mostly adding some detail). If you have already downloaded this document, please take a look at the current version.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Friday, Week 5

We discussed and collected homework 2. We finished working through the Practice with OE Case handout.

Remember homework #3 is due in class on Monday.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Wednesday, Week 5

Reminder: Homework 2 (questions 1 and 2 on p. 77 of HEL) is due on Friday.
New: Homework 3 (distributed in class on Wednesday) is due next Monday.

We discussed the functions of cases in Old English, using the OE case handout, then went on to start identifying the functions of noun phrases in Old English in sentences.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Monday, Week 5

We finished the background history for Old English and worked through the phonology and orthography of OE and began looking at the morphology (starting with pronouns).

Homework: Questions 1 - 2 on p. 77 in HEL due in class on Friday.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Friday, Week 4

We did and discussed the first quiz.

We began discussing Old English chronology.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Wednesday, Week 4

We discussed and collected the homework.

I distributed a new phonetics handout and we discussed it briefly and then we did some more phonetics practice.

Quiz on Friday: The quiz on Friday will give you some transcribed English words you will have to identify, some groups of sounds you will have to characterize and some changes you will have to identify.  All quizzes are open book, open notes.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Tuesday, Week 4

Here are some more useful links: (another IPA chart linked to sounds) (a cool moving sagittal view of the vocal tract, somewhat exaggerated, but memorable) (instructions for typing IPA symbols on your computer) (A wide range of English dialects recorded and transcribed; for more variation than you ever imagined check out this page)

Monday, January 31, 2011

Monday, Week 4

Today we talked some more about phonetics:
brought to you by Livescribe

(Once the recording starts playing, if you click on any place in the written notes, the recording will move to that place and start playing.)
Remember questions 4-8 are due in class on Wednesday.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Friday, Week 3

We continued talking about phonetics.

For a standard IPA chart (for all languages, not just English), check here: This chart is particularly useful, because it allows you to click on a sound to hear a recording of it.

The first homework assignment is questions 4-8 pp. 27-8, due in class on Wednesday, 2 February.

For those who have not been able to get the textbook yet, check your e-mail.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Wednesday, Week 3

Today we started to discuss phonetics. We talked about the structure of the vocal tract. We discussed places of articulation, manners of articulation, and voicing.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Monday, Week 3

We continued to work through from PIE to Old English, using this presentation.

Assignment: Read chapter 2 in HEL. The first written assignment will be given on Friday, to be due next Monday.

Monday, Week 3

Just a note: Visit the BBC language timeline to get a brief overview of what this class will be looking at.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Friday, Week 2

Class canceled Friday.

Review the materials going over what we talked about in class on Wednesday, available here.

Read chapter 2 in A History of the English Language, that should help with your understanding of some of what we talked about on Wednesday. We'll be looping on some of this and discussing it in detail next week.

A useful resource is the companion website for A History of the English Language. I recommend visiting it and taking a look around.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Wednesday, Week 2

We discussed language families and language change. We began working through Proto-Indo-European to Proto-Germanic (add the pdf linked here to back up your notes).

Friday, January 14, 2011

Friday, Week 1

We finished discussing universal properties of language. Then we moved on to synchronic variation, registers, accents and dialects. We talked about geographic and social dialects and about synchronic variation as the seedbed for diachronic change.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Monday, January 10, 2011

Monday, Week 1

I've corrected the syllabus.  If you already have a copy, then you should download the new version. Notice on the corrected syllabus, the first week of readings are the first chapter of A History of the English Language and the introduction to The Stories of English.

We discussed the syllabus and course requirements in general for both 454 and 554.  Then we began working on what language is.  Click here to see the presentation we started today.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Before the First Week

Welcome to English 454 and English 554!

The course syllabus is available here for English 454 and here for English 554.

Please fill out the student information form below before the end of the first week of classes.