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 from the syllabus by clicking the links.

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
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.

Origins of various data sets of English and German words
- Simple words
- All words, grouped
- All words, full detail

Further materials:
Don Ringe's handouts on:
- How mixed is English?
- Norse influence on English
Tony Kroch's webpage on:
- Scandinavian influence on English

Optional reading on very mixed languages:
- Wikipedia entry on Anglo-Romany
- Thomason 1983 on M'a (Mbugu)

Mugglestone 2012, ch. 1
Algeo 2010, ch. 4
New family tree is constructed for Indo-European
W 1/31
M 2/5  
Sound changes in English
The Great Vowel Shift. The low back merger (caught, cot).

Assignment 1 due by class on M 2/5
A1 survey template
A1 survey results - 12 Feb 2018

IPA vowel chart
Great Vowel Shift (Wikipedia)
Don Ringe's handouts on:
- Uniformitarian principle
- Recovering pronunciation
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. Mugglestone 2012, ch. 3
Algeo 2010, ch. 12
M 2/19
W 2/21
Doublets and related issues
Dubious doublets
Beef vs. cow, etc.

Assignment 2 due by class on W 2/21

  no reading this week
M 2/26
W 2/28
Geographical variation
English in Britain and North America. Differences within North America. English around the world.

Assignment 3 due by class on M 2/26

coming soon...
At this point, you should have a good idea of your paper topic
Sa 3/3 - Su 3/11 Spring break
Syllabus past this point is subject to slight change or reordering.
  Archaic and obsolete words
Why do words die off? Patterns of replacement.
  Strengthening English
What are weak and strong forms? Where do strong forms come from? Why do they persist? Paradigm gaps. Cross-currents of change.
Pinker 1999, ch. 3 (link coming soon)
Pinker 1999, ch. 4 (link coming soon)
Taylor 1994
Don Ringe's handouts on:
- Irregularity in frequent Old English verbs
- Irregular verbs in -ught
- Middle English alternations
- Noun classes in Old English
- Fricative voicing
- [f]-[v] alternations
- Voicing alternation in plurals
  Markedness reversals
Pluralia tantum. Negativa tantum.
Winter 1994
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.
A rare case of pronoun borrowing: they. A big win for politeness: you. New pronouns: some successful, some not.
Don Ringe's handouts on:
- They in Old English and Old Norse
- Sundial inscriptions
  Loaded words
Sources of cathexis: bodily functions, territoriality, danger.
Algeo 2010, ch. 10