Course Syllabus

HEL Header.jpg

LIN 4105. Spring 2022. History of the English Language. 

Department of English, College of Arts and Humanities

3 hours

Hello, and welcome to HEL (History of the English Language)! On this page, you will find the syllabus, which outlines our course policies and schedule. You can also find a syllabus in pdf format (with a calendar!) here: Hopkins HEL Syllabus Spring 2022.pdf  .

Read this page carefully so that you understand how this course will work and what is expected of you. After that, head on over to Module 1.

Instructor Information 
Instructor: Dr. Stephen Hopkins (About Your Instructor) 
Office Location: Trevor Colbourn Hall 253H
Office Hours: email me to make an appointment 
Digital Contact: or Webcourses@UCF messaging
Course Information
Term: Spring 2022
Course Number & Section: LIN 4105
Course Name: History of the English Language 
Credit Hours: 3 credit hours
Class Meeting Days: W
Class Meeting Time: W
Class Location: W
Course Modality:  W

Enrollment Requirements 

Course Prerequisites (if applicable): As the UCF catalog states, “LIN 4105 CAH-ENG 3(3,0). History of the English Language: PR: Sophomore standing, and C (2.0) or better required in ENC 1102. Study of the English language and its development from Old English to Modern.” 

Course Description

If someone came up to you and said “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares,” would you know what they meant? How about, “I kan nat geeste ‘rum, ram, ruf,’ by lettre”? How’s this: “Þæt wæs god cyning”? Believe it or not, these are all plain English sentences; the thing is, they come from different times in the language’s history. The first is a Bible verse (Hebrews 13:2) from the King James Version, written about 1610. The middle one comes from a poem by Geoffrey Chaucer, from about 1400; two centuries makes quite a difference, no? The last is from Beowulf, a thirteen hundred year old poem in Old English. It looks like a foreign language. What happened to English? How did we go from Beowulf’s “god cyning” (good king) to today’s “keeping it 100”? This course will introduce basic linguistic concepts while we explore the answers to these questions and more. We will journey through the history of the language, learning about its linguistic nuts and bolts, as well as how language and culture interact with each other in the past and present by sampling literature from each era. Topics to be covered: what is grammatical gender? Is English harder or easier than other languages? Why did our pronouns change (then and now)? Why is spelling such a mess? Why do words die? Where do new words come from? Is “bad English” really a thing? 

A constant lesson in this course is this: language is always changing. It’s our job as educated speakers to try to keep up. To that end, our class will journey together through the various stages of the language via readings from Seth Lerer’s Inventing English and Smith’s and Kim’s This Language, A River, supplemented with additional readings and videos posted on our course website. The latter book provides a linguistic-based understanding of how language works and what makes English tick. The former provides us with glimpses at English in historical periods, helping us figure out how language and culture shape each other. Words can shape the world, but the reverse is true, too. By the end of the semester, you will have a good grip on how our language got where it is now, but you will also understand why people have the attitudes toward language use that they do. 

Minor in Medieval & Renaissance Studies
This course fulfills a requirement for UCF’s Interdisciplinary Minor in Medieval and Renaissance Studies. Students interested in earning a minor in Medieval and Renaissance Studies, or merely learning more about the program, should consult the website at You may also contact Dr. Tison Pugh, Department of English,,for more information.

Minor in Linguistics

This course fulfills a requirement for UCF’s Linguistics Minor. Students interested in earning a minor in Linguistics, or in learning more about the program, should consult the website at . You may also contact Dr. Stephen Hopkins (Dept of English), or Dr. Beth Young (Dept. of English) for more information.

Course Materials and Resources

Required Materials/Resources

  • This Language, A River, K. Aaron Smith & Susan M. Kim, 9781554813629
  • Inventing English: A Portable History of the Language, Seth Lerer, 9780231137942
  • Online Readings posted to our Canvas Webcourse in Files


Student Learning Outcomes

By the end of the semester, you will be able to:

  • tell whether a text is written in Old, Middle, Early Modern, or Modern English
  • Accurately read and transcribe words using the International Phonetic Alphabet
  • Understand and use sound change laws to identify cognate words across related languages
  • understand how and why languages change
  • see that as a good (and inevitable) thing
  • know the difference between grammatical prescriptivism and descriptivism
  • appreciate the complicated interactions between language and culture
  • appreciate the beauty of English dialects different from your own, past and present
  • decide when “good grammar” is a good option

Course Activities

Participation is mandatory and vital to the community of our classroom. You all have unique perspectives and smart things to add to our conversations. That is why I expect you to take part thoughtfully in discussions in a timely fashion, and eager to ask follow up questions. There will be a series of homework assignments (15% of your final grade). There will also be three tests of equal value (10% each), two short research projects (10% each), a presentation of one of your two research projects (10%), and a final cumulative exam (25%).

Activity Submissions

Activities will be completed through Webcourse Modules or through our course discussion board. Any other form of submission will be explained to you by the instructor in an Announcement as needed (for example, submission of the final project). 

No f2f meetings: Because this class is offered as W class, we won’t ever meet f2f. All work will be completed here on Webcourses. Please check Webcourses daily to be sure you don’t miss anything. If you haven’t used Webcourses before, review the information at to an external site. . You will need reliable access to a computer with internet access. In a pinch, there are computers accessible to you in all UCF's computer labs, and most public libraries provide computers connected to the internet. 


Since this is an online course, attendance will mean active participation in each two week module, including relevant discussions, quizzes, and assignments. You must complete each module before the next one will be unlocked for you; so, in a sense, attendance is mandatory.  

Make-up Exams and Assignments

Per university policy, you are allowed to submit make-up work (or an equivalent, alternate assignment) for authorized university-sponsored activities, religious observances, or legal obligations (such as jury duty). If this participation conflicts with your course assignments, I will offer a reasonable opportunity for you to complete missed assignments and/or exams. The make-up assignment and grading scale will be equivalent to the missed assignment and its grading scale. In the case of an authorized university activity, it is your responsibility to show me a signed copy of the Program Verification Form for which you will be absent, prior to the class in which the absence occurs. In any of these cases, please contact me ahead of time to notify me of upcoming needs.

Assessment and Grading Procedures


Percentage of Grade

Group Discussions and Materia Activities


Exams (3 of these)

10% each

30% total

Short Papers (2 of these)

10% each

20% total

Final Research Presentation


Final Exam (cumulative)





Letter Grade



94 – 100 points


90 – 93 points


87 – 89 points


84 – 86 points


80 – 83 points


77 – 79 points


74 – 76 points


70 – 73 points


67 – 69 points


64 – 66 points


60 – 63 points


59 and below


Consult the latest Undergraduate or Graduate catalog for regulations and procedures regarding grading such as Incomplete grades, grade changes, and grade forgiveness.

University Services and Resources

Academic Services and Resources

A list of available academic support and learning services is available at UCF Student Services. Click on "Academic Support and Learning Services" on the right-hand side to filter.  

Non-Academic Services and Resources

A list of non-academic support and services is also available at UCF Student Services. Click on "Support" on the right-hand side to filter.  

If you are a UCF Online student, please consult the UCF Online Student Guidelines for more information about your access to non-academic services.


Policy Statements

Academic Integrity

Students should familiarize themselves with UCF’s Rules of Conduct. According to Section 1, "Academic Misconduct," students are prohibited from engaging in:

  • Unauthorized assistance: Using or attempting to use unauthorized materials, information or study aids in any academic exercise unless specifically authorized by the instructor of record. The unauthorized possession of examination or course-related material also constitutes cheating.
  • Communication to another through written, visual, electronic, or oral means: The presentation of material which has not been studied or learned, but rather was obtained through someone else’s efforts and used as part of an examination, course assignment, or project.
  • Commercial Use of Academic Material: Selling of course material to another person, student, and/or uploading course material to a third-party vendor without authorization or without the express written permission of the university and the instructor. Course materials include but are not limited to class notes, Instructor’s PowerPoints, course syllabi, tests, quizzes, labs, instruction sheets, homework, study guides, handouts, etc.
  • Falsifying or misrepresenting the student’s own academic work.
  • Plagiarism: Using or appropriating another’s work without any indication of the source, thereby attempting to convey the impression that such work is the student’s own.
  • Multiple Submissions: Submitting the same academic work for credit more than once without the express written permission of the instructor.
  • Helping another violate academic behavior standards.

For more information about Academic Integrity, students may consult The Center for Academic Integrity.

For more information about plagiarism and misuse of sources, see “Defining and Avoiding Plagiarism: The WPA Statement on Best Practices”.

Responses to Academic Dishonesty, Plagiarism, or Cheating

Students should also familiarize themselves with the procedures for academic misconduct in UCF’s student handbook, The Golden Rule. UCF faculty members have a responsibility for students’ education and the value of a UCF degree, and so seek to prevent unethical behavior and when necessary respond to academic misconduct. Penalties can include a failing grade in an assignment or in the course, suspension or expulsion from the university, and/or a "Z Designation" on a student’s official transcript indicating academic dishonesty, where the final grade for this course will be preceded by the letter Z. For more information about the Z Designation, see

Course Accessibility Statement

The University of Central Florida is committed to providing access and inclusion for all persons with disabilities. Students with disabilities who need disability-related access in this course should contact the professor as soon as possible. Students should also connect with Student Accessibility Services (Ferrell Commons 185,, phone (407) 823-2371). Through Student Accessibility Services, a Course Accessibility Letter may be created and sent to professors, which informs faculty of potential access and accommodations that might be reasonable.Determining reasonable access and accommodations requires consideration of the course design, course learning objectives and the individual academic and course barriers experienced by the student.

Campus Safety Statement

Emergencies on campus are rare, but if one should arise in our class, everyone needs to work together. Students should be aware of the surroundings and familiar with some basic safety and security concepts.

  • In case of an emergency, dial 911 for assistance.
  • Every UCF classroom contains an emergency procedure guide posted on a wall near the door. Please make a note of the guide’s physical location and consider reviewing the online version at
  • Students should know the evacuation routes from each of their classrooms and have a plan for finding safety in case of an emergency.
  • If there is a medical emergency during class, we may need to access a first aid kit or AED (Automated External Defibrillator). To learn where those items are located in this building, see (click on link from menu on left). 
  • To stay informed about emergency situations, sign up to receive UCF text alerts by going to and logging in. Click on "Student Self Service" located on the left side of the screen in the tool bar, scroll down to the blue "Personal Information" heading on your Student Center screen, click on "UCF Alert," fill out the information, including your e-mail address, cell phone number, and cell phone provider, click "Apply" to save the changes, and then click "OK."
  • Students with special needs related to emergency situations should speak with their instructors outside of class.
  • To learn about how to manage an active-shooter situation on campus or elsewhere, consider viewing this video. You CAN Survive an Active Shooter

Deployed Active Duty Military Students

If you are a deployed active duty military student and feel that you may need a special accommodation due to that unique status, please contact your instructor to discuss your circumstances.


This course may contain copyright protected materials such as audio or video clips, images, text materials, etc. These items are being used with regard to the Fair Use doctrine in order to enhance the learning environment. Please do not copy, duplicate, download or distribute these items. The use of these materials is strictly reserved for this online classroom environment and your use only. All copyright materials are credited to the copyright holder.

Third-Party Software and FERPA

During this course you might have the opportunity to use public online services and/or software applications sometimes called third-party software such as a blog or wiki. While some of these could be required assignments, you need not make any personally identifying information on a public site. Do not post or provide any private information about yourself or your classmates. Where appropriate you may use a pseudonym or nickname. Some written assignments posted publicly may require personal reflection/comments, but the assignments will not require you to disclose any personally identity-sensitive information. If you have any concerns about this, please contact your instructor.

Course Summary:

Date Details Due