Syllabus: History of the German Language

German 520: History of the German Language: Syllabus


INSTRUCTOR: Prof. Albrecht Classen, Dept. of German Studies, 318 Learning Service Building, tel.: 520 621-1395; fax: 520 626-8286; e-mail:

: Tue 4-6:30 p.m.

OFFICE HOURS: TR 11-11:50 and after appointments (feel free to stop by any other time; if my door is open, you are most welcome to visit me)

Classroom: Conference Room in LSB 346

Class Content: This course covers the history of the German language from the time of the age of migration to the present. We will work together to unravel the fascinating and complex history of how modern German evolved from the ancient origins, went through many different stages in its development, receiving material from many different sides, and reflecting at the same time the cultural, historical, and literary development.

Class Goals: Once you will have completed this course, you should be able to identify the major stages in the development of the history of the German language; you should know what the two major sound shifts were, when they happened, and what they meant. You should be able to correlate specific periods of the German language with the history of literature and culture at large. And you should also have a good handle on the most recent developments in the German language, including the influence of modern American, the relevance of youth language, jargon, dialects, etc.

Class Structure: We will use both a textbook and online material. I expect you all to to read the assigned chapters at home before class and be prepared in class to discuss, analyze, question, and illuminate what the author has presented or what the issue might be. Since this is a graduate course, I expect you all to participate actively in our discussions, to give oral presentations, and to write exams and submit a final paper based on thorough research.

Textbook: Peter von Polenz, Geschichte der deutschen Sprache. 10th ed. (Berlin and New York: De Gruyter, 2009)

Also, regularly consult the weblinks on the webpage for Ger 520.

Special Needs: Students with special needs who are registered with the S.A.L.T. Center ( or the Disability Resource Center ( must submit appropriate documentation to the instructor if they are requesting special accommodations.

Although it is assumed that you will attend all class sessions, you are informed hereby that excessive absences will have consequences: More than two unexcused absences lead to a drop of one grade in this course, and more than four unexcused absences will lead to an automatic grade of E (failing). If justified circumstances prevent you from attending, please inform me in writing either before or after the event, and provide satisfactory documentation (e.g., doctor’s note).

Please treat each other with respect and tolerance. People do have different views and opinions, but all these can only contribute to the rich learning experience I hope you all will have in this class. You are strongly encouraged to participate in class as much as possible. The one class meeting per week will only be of profit for you if you respond to my questions and those of your classmates.
For information on the University of Arizona Policy on Threatening Behavior by Students, click on this link. [download PDF]

CELL PHONES: You are not allowed to have your cell phones on during class because a ringing will disturb everyone strongly. Either turn them off or mute them. All other electronic gadgets not pertinent to this class, such as iphone, ipads, etc., must also be off. They must all be put away. No playing around with texting, etc., openly or secretly. Laptops are ok, or any other media to write down notes, or any others needed for your presentations.

SPECIAL NEEDS: Students with disabilities who require reasonable accommodations to participate fully in course activities or meet course requirements must register with the Disability Resource Center. ( Students need to submit appropriate documentation to the instructor if they are requesting reasonable accommodations.
If you use secondary material for your papers, make sure that you indicate clearly where you took it from. Plagiarism and cheating violate the Code of Academic Integrity. For further information, see:
Do not ever copy from the work produced by your classmates or by other students who might have taken this course in previous semesters. If you receive help in writing your papers, make sure that the final outcome still represents your own work. You can discuss your papers with your fellow students, but at the end they need to consist of your own ideas and words! Be advised that the Web is a great search tool, but never, never copy from there without identifying very clearly what you used.  At this point the scholarly value of web-based material still is not totally reliable, and the chances that you might stumble upon a most dubious webpage with untrustworthy information are very high.  When you quote from a secondary source, clearly identify the quote and tell the reader in a footnote where you quoted from.  Every year more than 100 students at the UA are caught having committed the crime of plagiarism, resulting in penalties that could be as severe as expulsion from the University!  You are smart enough not to copy from other people without crediting them.

If there is any doubt in your mind whether you might commit plagiarism, see:

Plagiarism and the Web
If you commit plagiarism, you could either receive a 0 on your specific assignment, or an F for the entire course.  Depending on the gravity of the case, you might even be expelled from the University. Every plagiarism case must be reported to the Head of my depart., to the head of your dept., and to the Dean of Students.
Help with writing: The Writing Skills Improvement Program offers a number of valuable workshops at 1201 E. Helen Street.  Please consult with them if you have a need to improve your writing skills (no walk-ins).  For perhaps more immediate help, see the Writing Center (walk-ins allowed). Tel.: 621-5849

Writing Center: The Writing Center is a free resource for UA undergraduate and graduate students as well as faculty and staff.  At the Writing Center, a trained peer consultant will work individually with you on anything you’re writing (in or out of class), at any point in the writing process from brainstorming to editing. Appointments are recommended, but not required.  For more information or to make an appointment, visit their website at, stop by at Nugent Building, main level, or call (520) 626-0530.

Grading: Active class participation is simply expected.

A. Two written exams in class: 20% each; 40%

B. Two oral presentations in class: 20% each: 40% (alone or in a group of two)

C. One term paper based on one of your presentations: 20% Here I expect a research paper of ca. 15 pp. Since we are in German Studies, I would like you to write in German as a practice, but I will not grade your paper on the basis of your language skills, unless grammatical issues prevent the understandability. There needs to be a separate page with the bibliography. I prefer Chicago style.

Schedule of Class:

Jan. 17: Introd., history of language, world languages, language family tree, etc. Read Polenz X-XVI

Jan. 24: Polenz Kap. I

Jan. 31: Polenz Kap. II

Feb. 7: Polenz Kap. II

Feb. 14: Polenz Kap. III, 1-3

Feb. 21: Polenz Kap. III, 4-5

Feb. 28: Exam One

March: 6: Polenz Kap. III, 6-7

March 10-18: Spring break

March: 20: Polenz Kap. IV, 1-3

March 27: Polenz Kap. IV, 4-6

April 3: Polenz Kap. IV, 7-8

April 10: Polenz Kap. V, 1-3

April 17: Polenz Kap. V 4-5

April 24: Exam Two

May 1: last day of class: Polenz Kap. V 6-7

May 10: due date for your term pape (or earlier)r. Make sure that you have a bibliography of at least 10 titles, and that you engage in your paper with those sources.

Possible Changes:
The information contained in the course syllabus, other than the grade and absence policies, may be subject to change with reasonable advance notice, as deemed appropriate by the instructor.

Final Grade Review: If there might be a problem with your grade, you can ask me for a review until May 7, 12 p.m. Beyond that, there will not be any opportunity to revisit your grade.

Bibliography: Consult Peter von Polenz, 183-216