Mon 1:00PM - 3:00PM , 29 Sep 2014 to 24 Nov 2014
Did you know that the word "travel" is derived from an instrument of torture? That "tragedy" originally had something to do with goats? That hotels and hospitals have something in common? The fascinating history of the English language is full of such surprises. This course is a survey of the influences that have shaped English vocabulary over the years, covering the Anglo-Saxon and Viking origins, the influx of Norman French and Central French, later Latin and Greek borrowings, standardization and French borrowing in the 18th century, and international borrowing since the 18th century. We will tie linguistic developments in with the social and political events with which they coincided. Topics will include why English spelling is so difficult, why we have such a large wordstock, and how dictionaries are written
PREREQUISITE(S) : none
By the end of this course, you will have greater knowledge of and familiarity with:
1. The various stages in the development of Modern English
2. The historical reasons for the oddities in spelling, pronunciation and grammar of English
3. The role of dictionaries and how they are researched
4. The etymology of many common words
Sept 29 Celts and Anglo-Saxons:
Celtic and Latin relics from pre-5th century Britain. The Germanic origins of our essential vocabulary and grammar. Why we have "feet" instead of "foots" and why we use apostrophe s for the possessive. Relics of Anglo-Saxon dialects in Modern English.
Oct 6 The Vikings:
Old Norse borrowings into English. Why we wear skirts and shirts. Why the verb "to be" is so ridiculous.
A brief history of French. Middle English. Why we have "pigs" in the open and "pork" on the plate. The origins of chaotic English spelling.
Oct 20 The Renaissance: Early Modern English
Spelling and pronunciation don't jibe. The Great Vowel Shift. Why is there a "b" in "debt" and an "h" in "ghost"? Why do some folks say "y'all"? The effect of Shakespeare and the King James Bible on the vocabulary
Oct 27 The 18th Century:
The prescriptive grammarians of the 18th century at the origin of our present grammar “rules”. The original dictionaries and Samuel Johnson. Re-examining our pet peeves. Why are British and American spelling different?
Nov 3 The 19th Century to the Present :
The influence of Sir Walter Scott, the industrial revolution, and the expansion of the British Empire. Why some people pronounce "herb" with an "h" and others without. Why Lufthansa supplies its first class passengers with "body bags".
Nov 10 American & Canadian English:
Have Americans corrupted the language? Noah Webster and his dictionary.The history of Canadian English. Are we more British or more American? How we can be very confusing to other English speakers.
Nov 17 Writing Dictionaries :
How do new words enter the language? What do lexicographers do?
P.S. If you are fascinated by the English language, you might enjoy regular updates about English usage and word origins from Wordlady. Receive every new post delivered right to your inbox! Sign up here.
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