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ET122-30 The History and Spread of English

Applied Linguistics
Undergraduate Level 1
Module leader
Richard Smith
Credit value
Module duration
10 weeks
100% coursework
Study location
University of Warwick main campus, Coventry
Introductory description

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.

Module web page

Module aims

This module aims to offer students a comprehensive understanding of the roots of the English language and how it has developed. Students will gain an appreciation of its global influence and awareness of current issues related to its spread.

Outline syllabus

This is an indicative module outline only to give an indication of the sort of topics that may be covered. Actual sessions held may differ.

Term 1:
English and other languages in the world today
Language evolution and change
English -- and other languages -- in Britain today
Dialects and standard languages (with a focus on English in 19th and 20th century England)
Late Modern English (with a focus on Samuel Johnson and Jonathan Swift)
Early Modern English (with a focus on Shakespeare)
Middle English (with a focus on Chaucer)
Old English (with a focus on Beowulf)
Proto-English – and the other languages of Britain in the past
Language contact, with reference to the history of English in England

Term 2:
Overview of world varieties of English, and where they came from
English in Wales, Scotland and Ireland: historical overviews
History of English in North America
History of English in Australia and New Zealand
English in India: from trade to Raj to independence
English in other colonial and post-colonial contexts
Continuing spread? English language learning, teaching and use in the world today
Linguistic imperialism versus demands for English
Linguicide and language ecology
The future of English

Learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students should be able to:

  • Upon successful completion of this course, students should: * demonstrate understanding of the ways in which languages evolve and change* understand processes of standardization, both in relation to English and other languages * demonstrate a knowledge of broad trends in the historical development of English in England* understand the way English has been affected by contact with other languages, and how its learning and use can have an impact on other languages
Indicative reading list

Barber, C., Beal J. C. & Shaw, P.A. (2009). The English Language. A Historical Introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge: University Press.
Baugh, A. C. & Cable, T. (2002). A history of the English language. 5th edition. London: Routledge.
Crystal, D. (1997). English as a global language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Fennell, B. (2001). A history of English: A sociolinguistic approach. Oxford: Blackwell.
Graddol, D. (2006). English next. London: The British Council.
Hough, C. & Corbett, J. (2013) (2nd ed.) Beginning old English Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Phillipson, R. (1992). Linguistic imperialism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Pennycook, A. (1994). The cultural politics of English as an international language. Harlow: Longman.
Pons-Sanz, S.M. (2014). The language of early English literature: From Caedmon to Milton. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Svartvik, J & Leech, G. (2006). English: One tongue, many voices. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

View reading list on Talis Aspire

Subject specific skills
  • Develop an understanding of how English has become a global language.
  • Develop an enhanced awareness of current issues related to its global spread and influence on other languages.
  • Develop an understanding of how the English language has changed over time.
  • Develop a comprehensive understanding of the historical and global complexity of the English language.
Transferable skills
  • Develop ability to analyse how English was / is used in different historical periods and different geographical regions
  • Analyse language in general and the English language in particular at every level from the word to its place in society at large.
  • Develop a solid grasp of the theories and research findings related to language acquisition, language use and applied linguistics.
  • Develop knowledge and understanding of the nature of language and how it is used in communication between people from different linguistic and cultural backgrounds.
  • Develop the ability to learn independently and to gain intellectual breadth and flexibility

Study time

Type Required
Lectures 18 sessions of 1 hour (6%)
Practical classes 18 sessions of 2 hours (12%)
Other activity 4 hours (1%)
Private study 242 hours (81%)
Total 300 hours
Private study description

Reading subject materials
Homework tasks

Other activity description

Revision sessions


No further costs have been identified for this module.

You do not need to pass all assessment components to pass the module.

Assessment group A1
Weighting Study time
3000 words 50%

Portfolio assignment on the spread of English

3000 words 50%

Portfolio assignment on the history of English

Feedback on assessment

Written feedback on the assignment will be provided on the Centre's standard feedback sheets, which conform to Faculty regulations. This will include both summary and detailed feedback. Where appropriate, additional feedback may be provided via personal meetings with the tutor.


This module is Core for:

  • Year 1 of UETA-Q311 in English Language and Linguistics (with Intercalated year)