Linguistics 110, S18, The history of words

Time: M W 2-3:30
Place: Williams 301
Instructor: Beatrice Santorini

All readings for the class are (or will be made) available online. The chapters from Mugglestone 2012 are available online as a e-resource through Franklin (the Van Pelt Library catalog). The other readings are available directly via the links on the syllabus.

Date Topic Reading
W 1/10 Preliminaries
What do we mean by "word"? Who decides what is a word? A notorious case: how many Eskimo words for snow?
Woodbury 1991
Pullum 1991, ch. 19
M 1/15 Martin Luther King Day - no class.
W 1/17 What do we mean by "English"?

History of the Lord's Prayer in English (Matthew 6:9b-13).

  • 1928, Anglican Book of Common Prayer
  • 1611, King James Version
  • 1526, Tyndale
  • 1389, Wycliffe
  • 995, Old English
  • 650, Northumbrian
no reading
M 1/22 How can we tell the history of words?
Linguistic competence vs. etymology - two very different kinds of knowledge. Definitions and basic facts concerning language acquisition and change. The role of writing and tradition. Folk etymology.
Don Ringe's handouts on
     - Definitions and basic facts
     - Language change
W 1/24
M 1/29
Where does English come from?
The comparative method and linguistic reconstruction. Probabilistic considerations and the importance of the arbitrary character of words. The Germanic consonant shift (Grimm's law). Verner's law. The High German consonant shift.

Further materials:
New family tree is constructed for Indo-European
Origins of various data sets of English and German words
     - Simple words
     - All words, grouped
     - All words, full detail
Don Ringe's handouts on
     - How mixed is English?
     - Norse influence on English
Tony Kroch's webpage on
     - Scandinavian influence on English

Algeo 2010, ch. 4
Mugglestone 2012, ch. 1
Crystal 2004, interlude 1
Crystal 2004, interlude 3
W 1/31
M 2/5  
Sound changes in English
The Great Vowel Shift. The low back merger (caught, cot).

A1 survey template
A1 survey results - 12 Feb 2018

Don Ringe's handouts on
     - Uniformitarian principle
     - Recovering pronunciation
Great Vowel Shift (Wikipedia)
IPA vowel chart
Herold 1997
W 2/7
M 2/12
W 2/14
How do new words enter the language?
From inside.
Algeo 2010, ch. 11
From outside. Algeo 2010, ch. 12
Crystal 2004, ch. 6
Mugglestone 2012, ch. 3
M 2/19
W 2/21
Doublets and related issues
Dubious doublets
Beef vs. cow, etc.
no reading
M 2/26
W 2/28
Geographical variation
English in Britain and North America. English around the world.
Crystal 2004, ch. 17
Jenkins 2003, extract from B
Trudgill and Hannah 2017, extracts
At this point, you should have a good idea of your paper topic.
Sa 3/3 - Su 3/11 Spring break
M 3/12 New York Times dialect quiz no reading
W 3/14 Pronouns
A rare case of pronoun borrowing: they. A big win for politeness: you. New pronouns: some successful, some not.

Further materials:
Don Ringe's handouts on
     - They in Old English and Old Norse
     - Sundial inscriptions
     - Aldbrough sundial
     - Kirkdale sundial

Crystal 2004, interlude 12
Crystal 2004, interlude 17
Baron 1981
M 3/19 Numbers
Cardinal numbers: Not enough fingers. Ordinal number countdown. Digits out of order. Obsolete and unusual number terms. Counting in French. Big numbers in English and other languages.
no reading
W 3/21 Class canceled due to weather
M 3/26
W 3/28
Markedness reversals
Pluralia tantum. Negativa tantum.
Winter 1994
W 3/28
M 4/2
Semantic change. Algeo 2010, ch. 10
W 4/4 Archaic and obsolete words
Why do words die off? Patterns of replacement.
no reading
M 4/9
W 4/11
Strengthening English
What are weak and strong forms? Where do strong forms come from? Why do they persist? Paradigm gaps. Cross-currents of change.

Further materials:
Don Ringe's handouts on
     - Noun classes in Old English
     - Voicing alternation in plurals
     - [f]-[v] alternations
     - Fricative voicing
     - Irregularity in frequent Old English verbs
     - Irregular verbs in -ught
     - Middle English alternations
Taylor 1994

Pinker 1999, ch. 3
Pinker 1999, ch. 4
M 4/16
W 4/18
Loaded words
The concept of taboo. Use vs. mention. Sources of cathexis. Functions of swearing: abusive, cathartic, dysphemistic, emphatic, idiomatic. Euphemism, dysphemism. The euphemism treadmill.
Pinker 2007, ch. 7
M 4/23
W 4/25
Functions of slang.
no reading
T 5/8 Paper due at 11:59 p.m. See Requirements for formal details.