GENED 1183. The English Language Today, Yesterday, and Tomorrow

Instructor: Daniel Donoghue
Monday &Wednesday, 3:00-4:15pm | Location: Boylston 110 

How does the English language shape our world, and how does the world shape English?

How does the English language shape our world? And how does the world shape English? Our “world” includes our most intimate thoughts and feelings, but it also can expand into an ever-widening social network; either way, whether personal or global, the English language has a profound and reciprocal relation with its speakers. This is not a traditional grammar course, warning against dangling participles. Instead, you will discover that notions of correct grammar have a surprising and whimsical history. But our inquiry goes much further: Why is English spelling so weird? Is the language morphing online? Will innovations in HipHop and Spanglish become standard? How did an obscure medieval dialect expand to become a world language? What did Shakespeare sound like? How do we know? Is the spread of world Englishes endangering its coherence as a language? Is that a problem? The course is guaranteed to unsettle some common assumptions, and the English already familiar to you will become more quirky and fascinating. Besides thrilling your inner word geek, the knowledge you gain will sharpen your writing skills and make you a more perceptive reader. You will also gain greater confidence about the place of your English in your world.