Linguistics 110, S18, The history of words

Course information and syllabus

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

All readings for the class are available online. The chapters from Mugglestone 2012 are available online as a e-resource through Franklin (the Van Pelt Library catalog). For all other readings, click 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
Algeo 2010, ch. 4
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. 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

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
M 2/19
W 2/21
Doublets and related issues
Dubious doublets
Beef vs. cow, etc.
Mugglestone 2012, ch. 3
M 2/26
W 2/28
Geographical variation
English in Britain and North America. English around the world.

Students briefly present their plans for their final paper.

Crystal 2004, ch. 17
Jenkins 2003, extract from B
Trudgill and Hannah 2017, extracts
Sa 3/3 - Su 3/11 Spring break
M 3/12 New York Times dialect quiz
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
M 3/26
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. 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.