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NOTE.This course is the only one offered at UMass that fulfills the HEL requirement for STEP. You can also make arrangements to take an independent study with someone in the Education faculty.

What accent do you have?
412 words for "snow"





This syllabus is subject to change. The latest version on this website is the binding syllabus.

Office: South College 455
Office Hours: By appointment.
545-6598 | sharris at english [dot] umass [dot] edu


Description. English 412 is a comprehensive survey of the development of the English language, complete with a brief introduction to phonology, morphology, and syntax. As it is geared towards students of education and literature, the course comprises an introduction to the basic mechanisms of language change and the fundamentals of grammar. With some analytical tools to hand, we will examine the development of English from its distant roots in Proto-Indo European up to the present day.

Objectives: This course promises 1) a broad overview of the English language from the Anglo-Saxon period to the present day; 2) a review of basic linguistic vocabulary; and 3) exposure to comparative method, including the basics of philology.

Check Spire for meeting times.
(Campus Map.)


Books (new or used is fine):

Crystal is available at Amherst Books at 8 Main Street in downtown Amherst.


The course aims to familiarize you with the principles of historical linguistics with specific focus on English. There is a great deal of information you will need to memorize. Class time is split between lecture and discussion. We will often begin with a quiz, then discuss the readings, and finally, turn to new topics. The course proceeds chronologically: we begin with Proto-European languages, then narrow our focus to Proto-Germanic languages, then to Old English, and so forth.

You are expected to complete your readings prior to each class--the readings average 15 to 20 pages per class. If you're not going to do the reading, then this class will be a waste of your time.


Attendance is required. Why bother enrolling in college otherwise? My complete attendance policy is here. Although written for another course, it applies equally to this one.

Late Assignments are not accepted. Make provisions beforehand and speak with me if you anticipate obstacles to punctuality. I will accept officially excused absences.

Electronic devices are unwelcome, but may be used for reference. Please don't browse the internet, use Facebook etc., play games, or email during class. If you are incapable of staying offline, then please sit in the back row.

Conferences. Meet with me at least once during the semester, if only to verify that the grades that you have correspond to the ones in my gradebook.

Office Hours. In 20 years of teaching, only about eight students have ever shown up to office hours. Finally realizing my folly, I don't keep office hours. But, I am usually to be found in my office TTh. (Please let me know beforehand if you want to meet—I may be busy when you pop by, or teaching, or at a meeting.) Otherwise, please make an appointment to meet with me at a time convenient to you and I will certainly try to oblige.


There is a midterm exam, a final exam, and 8 quizzes. Graduate students are also responsible for a research paper which engages secondary sources.

GRADING: The breakdown of your grade is as follows:

  • Midterm 15%
  • Final exam 35%
  • Quizzes 40% (5% each x 8)
  • Participation 10%

Make-up assignments for missed quizzes HERE. (By permission only.)


  • Papers must be handed in at the beginning of class on the date due. Late papers will not be accepted.
  • All missed assignments get an "F." If you foresee being absent, please let me know well beforehand.
  • Plagiarism gets an "F." This may be for the paper or for the course, at my discretion. Please check your student handbook and university or college guidelines for more on plagiarism. See NOTE 4 below.
  • All papers must be typed or word-processed.


Please meet with me at least once during the semester, if only to verify that the grades you have correspond to the ones in my gradebook. I am usually to be found in my office Tuesdays and Thursdays during business hours. (Please let me know beforehand if you want to meet.) Otherwise, please make an appointment to meet with me at a time convenient to you and I will try to oblige.



NOTE 1: Please make and keep a copy of all your assignments. In case any difficulties arise with respect to misplaced assignments or with respect to discrepancies between your records and my own, I will accept the evidence of your computer system's dating function. For your own peace of mind, I suggest that you lock any document on the day it is due. That will prevent your system from associating your document with a later date.

NOTE 2: The schedule of this course is subject to change. It is not to be construed as a substitute for your attendance or as a catalogue of all the information for which you are responsible. All changes will be announced beforehand. This syllabus and the accompanying schedule constitute a binding contract between a student and professor. If you do not agree with any of the provisions set herein and as of this moment, then you are free to drop this class within the time allotted by the administration.

NOTE 3: All material pertaining to this course is copyrighted material and is subject to international and US laws of copyright. No recording devices.

NOTE 4: Since the integrity of the academic enterprise of any institution of higher education requires honesty in scholarship and research, academic honesty is required of all students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Academic dishonesty is prohibited in all programs of the University. Academic dishonesty includes but is not limited to: cheating, fabrication, plagiarism, and facilitating dishonesty. Appropriate sanctions may be imposed on any student who has committed an act of academic dishonesty. Instructors should take reasonable steps to address academic misconduct. Any person who has reason to believe that a student has committed academic dishonesty should bring such information to the attention of the appropriate course instructor as soon as possible. Instances of academic dishonesty not related to a specific course should be brought to the attention of the appropriate department Head or Chair. The procedures outlined below are intended to provide an efficient and orderly process by which action may be taken if it appears that academic dishonesty has occurred and by which students may appeal such actions.

Since students are expected to be familiar with this policy and the commonly accepted standards of academic integrity, ignorance of such standards is not normally sufficient evidence of lack of intent. For more information about what constitutes academic dishonesty, please see the Dean of Students’ website at:

NOTE 5: Disability Statement. [Text from CTFD] The University of Massachusetts Amherst is committed to making reasonable, effective and appropriate accommodations to meet the needs of students with disabilities and help create a barrier-free campus. If you are in need of accommodation for a documented disability, register with Disability Services to have an accommodation letter sent to your faculty. It is your responsibility to initiate these services and to communicate with faculty ahead of time to manage accommodations in a timely manner. For more information, consult the Disability Services website at


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Academic Schedule