fullscreen background
Skip to main content

Winter Quarter

Winter Quarter Underway
Late-Start Classes
Still Available
shopping cart icon0


« Back to Liberal Arts & Sciences

LIN 06 W — The Story of English: A 1,500-Year Journey (CANCELLED)

Quarter: Winter
Course Format: Online (System Requirements)
Duration: 8 weeks
Date(s): Jan 16—Mar 9
Drop Deadline: Jan 19
Unit: 1
Tuition: $425
Instructor(s): Asya Pereltsvaig
Limit: 45
Status: Cancelled
Please Note: Online courses have a new refund policy. The full tuition refund deadline for this course is 1/19 at 5:00 pm (PT); 50% tuition refund deadline is 1/24 at 5:00 pm (PT).
Jan 16—Mar 9
8 weeks
Drop By
Jan 19
1 Unit
Asya Pereltsvaig
Please Note: Online courses have a new refund policy. The full tuition refund deadline for this course is 1/19 at 5:00 pm (PT); 50% tuition refund deadline is 1/24 at 5:00 pm (PT).
Why are “heel” and “heal” pronounced the same but “heed” and “head” are pronounced differently? Why is there a silent “k” in “knife” and a silent “s” in “island”? Why is the plural of “foot” “feet” and of “tooth” “teeth,” but the plural of “book” is not “beek”? And why is there subject-verb inversion in “Never have I enjoyed grammar”?

In this course, we will shed light on these and other questions concerning the peculiarities of English pronunciation and spelling, word forms, grammar, and regional variation by examining its fifteen-century-long history, from humble beginnings as a dialect of Germanic tribes in northwestern Europe, through its tempestuous medieval history, to its development as a spoken and literary language in the times of William Shakespeare and Samuel Johnson, and as a language of technology and worldwide communication in modern times. We will explore the influences on English of other peoples and their languages, including the Romans, Celts, Vikings, and Normans, as well as native peoples of various countries and territories colonized by English speakers. We will also investigate ongoing changes such as the novel use of “anymore” in positive sentences and the rise of “because” as a preposition. Last but not least, we will examine the present-day diversity of English and its role as a global lingua franca.


  • Course sizes are limited.
    You won't have 5,000 classmates. This course's enrollment is capped at 45 participants.

  • Frequent interaction with the instructor.
    You aren't expected to work through the material alone. Instructors will answer questions and interact with students on the discussion board and through weekly video meetings.

  • Study with a vibrant peer group.
    Stanford Continuing Studies courses attract thoughtful and engaged students who take courses for the love of learning. Students in each course will exchange ideas with one another through easy-to-use message boards as well as optional weekly real-time video conferences.

  • Direct feedback from the instructor.
    Instructors will review and offer feedback on assignment submissions. Students are not required to turn in assignments, but for those who do, their work is graded by the instructor.

  • Courses offer the flexibility to participate on your own schedule.
    Course work is completed on a weekly basis when you have the time. You can log in and participate in the class whenever it's convenient for you. If you can’t attend the weekly video meetings, the sessions are always recorded for you and your instructor is just an email away.

  • This course is offered through Stanford Continuing Studies.
    To learn more about the program, visit our About Us page. For more information on the online format, please visit the FAQ page.

Asya Pereltsvaig, Linguistics Scholar

Asya Pereltsvaig received a PhD in linguistics from McGill and has taught at Yale, Cornell, Stanford, and several European universities. Her areas of specialization include historical linguistics, Slavic languages, and the history of Yiddish. Her latest books are Languages of the World: An Introduction and The Indo-European Controversy: Facts and Fallacies in Historical Linguistics (co-authored with Martin W. Lewis).

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) Barber, Charles; Joan C. Beal; and Philip A. Shaw, The English Language. A Historical Introduction (2nd Edition) (ISBN 978-0521670012)
(Required) Millward and Hayes, Workbook for Millward/Hayes' A Biography of the English Language 3rd Edition (ISBN 978-0495910091)