You are not currently logged in. Please create an account or log in to view the full course.

Language Change

6. English Spelling Today

This is the course trailer. Please create an account or log in to view this lecture.

  • Description
  • Cite

About this Lecture


In this module, we think about what's happening to English spelling today, focusing in particular on: (i) two spelling exercises –is it 'wrack and ruin' or 'rack and ruin'? do you 'wrack' your brains or 'rack' them?; (ii) the importance of s a word's etymology in decided how it should be spelt vs. how the word is pronounced; (iii) the history o the calls to reform the spelling of the English; (iv some issues with reforming spelling reform; (v) the impact of loanwords of how words are spelt and pronounced, with a focus on the digraph 'ch' (think of the words 'cheese', 'chef', and 'chaos'; (vi) the extent to which the introduction of the printing press led o a greater standardisation in English spelling; and (vii) the extent to which social media and other modern forms of communication may herald a destandardisation on English spelling.


In this course, Professor Simon Horobin (University of Oxford) explores language change in the English language. In the first module, we think about why we should study language change at all. In the second module we provide an introduction to the history of the English language, from Old English (650-1100) to Late Modern English (1750-present). In the third module, we think about one of the most important structural changes in the history of the English language – the shift from inflection to non-inflection – and why it happened when it did. In the fourth module, we think about the emergence of standard written English, before turning in the fifth module to the concept of semantic change – focusing in particular on the word 'literally'. Finally, in the sixth module, we think about some issue relating to spelling in modern English.


Simon Horobin is Professor of English Language and Literature and Tutorial Fellow at Magdalen College at the University of Oxford. He specialises in the history of the English language, especially in the Medieval period. Some of his recent publications include How English Became English: A Short History of a Global Language (2016), The English Language: A Very Short Introduction (2018), and Bagels, Bumf, and Buses: A Day in the Life of the English Language (2019).

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Horobin, S. (2022, April 11). Language Change - English Spelling Today [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Horobin, S. "Language Change – English Spelling Today." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 11 Apr 2022,

Get instant access to over 5,800 lectures