The seminar deals with variation in English, including both diachronic variation (language change over time) and synchronic variation (variation in current English). The diachronic part of the seminar gives an overview of the origins of English, from its earliest known ancestor (Proto-Indoeuropean) up to recent developments in English in the British Isles, North America and other English-speaking areas. Apart from learning basic historical facts about English with which students of English and American studies would be expected to be familiar, course participants will be introduced to some important ideas about how and why languages change. The synchronic part of the seminar introduces students to a selection of central topics about linguistic diversity in current English, particularly as it relates to language-external factors such as geography, gender and social factors. To cater for the needs of students of both American Studies and English Studies, the general principles introduced in this seminar will be illustrated with phenomena and examples from American English as well as other varieties.