A Level English Language Change Workshop

We spent a large part of last week using six books from the Library’s collections to explore how the English Language has changed in the company of some wonderful A Level students and their teachers from across Greater Manchester*.

Photo of text from Caxton's EneydosThe students particularly seemed to enjoy getting close up to an edition of Caxton’s Eneydos from 1490. They had a go at deciphering the well-known passage in the preface where Caxton discusses the problems of writing and publishing in a world where the “englysshe that is spoken in one shyre varyeth from a nother”.


Caxton tells that language diversity was so great the word used for “egges” in London was unknown to a “good wyf” in Kent who used the term “eyren”.

The students were also enthused by the chance to scrutinize a first edition of Johnson’s Dictionary and now have a good understanding of what it really means to be a lexicographer.

Photo of text of Johnson's definition of a lexicographer

Thanks to the University’s School-University Partnership Initiative the workshops were enhanced with input from Mary Begley, one of the University’s PhD students. Mary gave the students a sense of the curiosity that drives her research into the language used to describe insanity in Middle English texts. More information about Mary’s research is here: http://manchester.academia.edu/MaryBegley

We asked the students for feedback about the workshop: 90% graded it as excellent or good. 97% said they’d learnt something new. The teachers’ feedback was even more positive and we intend that the workshop will become a permanent part of the Library’s education programme.

We,the education team, also learnt a lot and now have a better understanding of how we can use some of the treasures in the Library’s collections to inspire and enrich A Level English Language studies. We will apply what we have learnt when we next offer the workshop for limited periods in the summer and autumn terms.

Contact us or see the Education Visits pages on our website for details.

(*Well done Manchester High School for Girls, Altrincham Grammar School for Girls, Ashton Sixth Form College, Trafford College and Manchester College – it was a pleasure to work with you all.)


2 thoughts on “A Level English Language Change Workshop

  1. Pingback: School pupils get to grips with language change | Manchet

  2. Pingback: Qian Zheng – John Rylands Library | Institute for Cultural Practices

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