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ET122: History and Spread of English


The English language has become a global phenomenon, with the number of speakers who learn it as a second language outnumbering those who acquire it as a first language. How did this situation develop? Where did English come from and how has it changed over time? What has happened to English as it has internationalised? This module will give you a comprehensive understanding of the historical and global complexity of the English language. You will learn about its roots and how it has developed. You will also gain an enhanced awareness of current issues related to its global spread and influence on other languages.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this module, you will be able to:

  • Develop a deeper understanding of and appreciation for how language carries social meaning.
  • Learn and critically evaluate theoretical concepts that help to explain the relationship between language use and society.
  • Be able to comment on sociolinguistic practice by applying theoretical concepts to the linguistic practices of a range of social groups, communities, cultures and/or countries.
  • Explore the social consequences of decisions about the use of language at macro (country-wide) and micro (in smaller social groups) levels.
  • Debunk stereotypical views of language and society.

Learning Experience


Core content will be presented during weekly 2-hour lectures.


We will meet in a weekly 1-hour small-group seminar to practice and apply course concepts.



3000 word assignment


3-hour written examination (50%)

Preparatory Reading

  • Baugh, A. C. & Cable, T. (2002). A history of the English language. 5th edition. London: Routledge.
  • Svartvik, J & Leech, G. (2006). English: One tongue, many voices. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Academic Staff

Richard Smith