Daniel Mosser
ENGL 4054 Sp 2014
CRN: 13276
Office Hours:
10-11 Tues, 9-11 Wed. 10-11 Thur. & by appt.
Shanks 229
(540) 231-7753
Class time:
12:30-1:45 PM TTH
PAM 3008

This syllabus is located online at:
and at

It will be updated as warranted.


Ever wonder why many of our names for governmental and judicial activities are based on French borrowings (e.g., “impeach,” “judge,” “treason,” “court,” “state")? Or why the French use words like “le weekend,” “le parking,” or “nonstop"? Why we contract “We are not” but not “I am not"? Why we don’t say “thou” but do say “y’all”? Do you know the origins of the word “maverick,” or the genetic relationship between this coinage and “gobbledegook”;? The answers to these and other questions lie in the history of the English language and its users, from the language’s Germanic roots, through its origins in England, its spread throughout the Empire, and, finally, to its present-day status as a de facto “World Language."


Texts & Materials

Online Text

Other Resources


Small Group Work (seven, 5 points each, minus two lowest)


Quizzes (seven, 5 points each, minus two lowest)


Midterm (15 points)




Final Exam


*Graduate students will be asked to turn in a short (5-8 pp.) paper or some other work in addition to the above. (Talk to me about this.)

*Small Group Work: we well break up into groups of 4-5 for work on exercises (handouts or overhead projections). At the end of the period, the group will turn in one set of responses (though dissenting members may turn in individual responses if that should become an issue). Normally, the same grade (5 points possible) will be assigned to every member of the group based on the group’s production. It is crucial that you be in class for these activities.


Cell phones, pagers, and all other class-disruptive devices and technologies must be silenced before class begins. If you need adaptations or accommodations because of a disability (learning disability, attention deficit disorder, psychological, physical, etc.), if you have emergency medical information to share with me, or if you need special arrangements in case the building must be evacuated, please make an appointment with me as soon as possible.

Students are responsible for observing the tenets of the Honor Code. If you have questions about the interpretation of the stated violations and how to avoid them, please ask.

The Department of English endorses Virginia Tech’s Principles of Community and these principles are observed in this class.

Late work is generally not allowed without penalty unless negotiated in advance.

Assigned readings are expected to be completed before class on the day for which they appear in the Schedule below.

Schedule: subject to change with notification

 [Please bring your textbook to each class meeting.]

Tuesday, January 21

Introduction to Course; “A History of English in 10 Minutes” (youtube)

Thursday, January 23

"The Human Language,” Pt. 1 (DVD 4255 Oversize); Crystal, “Grammatical Mythology,” pp. 190-197

Tuesday, January 28

"Brief Overview"; “case & inflections"; Crystal, pp. 198-205

Thursday, January 30

Small Group Ex. 1; Crystal, “The Sound System,” pp. 236-241 (Vowels); “The Sound System,” pp. 242 -247 (Consonants, Connected Speech); sounds handout

Tuesday, February 4

"Indo-European and the Pre-History of English"; “In Search of the First Language” (transcript); Prof. Debra Stoudt, “The Germanic Pre-History of English”

Thursday, February 6

Small Group Ex. 2

Tuesday, February 11

Take Quiz 1 by midnight; Crystal, pp. 6-23; The Beginnings of English in England

Thursday, February 13

Outside Influences; Crystal, pp. 24-29; DVD no. 233, “Birth of a Language”

Tuesday, February 18

Old English, cont.

Thursday, February 20

OE cont.; Small Group Ex. 3

Tuesday, February 25

Crystal, pp. 30-45; The Norman Conquest and Early Middle English”; Sumer is i-cumen in; DVD 3351: “English Goes Underground"; Take Quiz 2 by midnight

Thursday, February 27

Crystal, pp. 46-55; Late Middle English; Discuss Projects

Tuesday, March 4

ME, cont.; Small Group Ex. 4

Thursday, March 6

DVD 3350: “This earth, this realm, this England”; Crystal, pp, 56-69; "Early Modern English"; Take Quiz 3 by midnight

March 8-16
Spring Break

Tuesday, March 18

Early Modern English cont.; Review for Midterm

Thursday, March 20

Midterm Exam

Tuesday, March 25

Crystal, pp. 70-77; 452-53 The Evolution of English Dictionaries; The Development of English Grammars; Crystal, pp. 78-79; 366-369

Thursday, March 27

Grammar & Dictionaries, cont.; Take Quiz 4 by midnight

Tuesday, April 1

Grammar & Dictionaries, cont.; DVD no. 217, “Speaking Proper”

Thursday, April 3

Take Quiz 5 & Quiz 6 by midnight; The American (English) Language”; US Regional Speech Map; MLA Language Map

Tuesday, April 8

Crystal, pp. 80-85; 92-97; 306-311; Small Group Ex. 5; also due by midnight: e-mail me () a proposal for your project

Thursday, April 10

Crystal, pp. 298-305; Crystal, pp. 312-339; DVD 4555: “American Tongues; Interview with William Labov, “American Accent Undergoing Great Vowel Shift”

Tuesday, April 15

Small Group Ex. 6

Thursday, April 17

Take Quiz 7 by midnight; the “English Only Movement”; Crystal, pp. 115; video & audio recordings; NPR April 1, 2002: “Origins of ‘OK’

Tuesday, April 22

Crystal, pp. 340-363; Small Group Ex. 7

Thursday, April 24

World Englishes; Crystal pp. 106-115; Crossing East: Proud to Speak Pidgin, Brah; Interview with John McWhorter, auther of The Power of Babel

Tuesday, April 29

Projects Due; DVD 3559: “The Language of Empire"

Thursday, May 1

Review for Final Exam; “A History of English in 10 Minutes” (youtube)

Tuesday, May 6

Last day of class

Saturday, May 10, 1:05-3:05 PM

Final Exam




























The quizzes for this class will be made available online at the Scholar site. You will be able to take a quiz as many as two times, with the highest grade being the one recorded. Be advised that it is unlikely you will be presented with the same quiz twice as the quiz tool draws randomly from pools of questions to construct your quiz. Any quizzes taken after the due date will receive no higher than half credit. [back]