WORD BY WORD An exciting presentation of how words come to be
Dates/Events important to OE(449-1100) 55BC-410AD: Romans occupy what would become Great Britain 449AD: Warriors from Germanic tribes (from PD Denmark and northern Germany) begin invasions, driving the original British to the “Celtic Fringe.” 597AD: Christian missionaries begin converting Brits (one of the “cultural revolutions” mentioned in our readings)
Dates/Events important to OE(449-1100) • 750-1050AD: Viking invasions (Note that Thomas and Tchudi indicate the invasions started in 793) • 878: King Alfred the Great forces Danes to withdraw to the North in the battle of Etandune
ME: 1100-1500--“A Brief History” 1066: Norman Invasion 1200: “Great Silence” connected with written English ended with reassertion of English 1337-1454 (‘54 according to “Brief History”): Hundred Years War with France 1340-1400: Chaucer 1476: Introduction of the printing press to England
Present-day English: 1500 -now • In The Story of English (the book), Robert McCrum, William Cran, and Robert MacNeil extend and complicate our vision of English as the outcome of a series of encounters between peoples by exploring the evolution of the language as tied to historical developments that span about 70 years (91).
Three historical waves • “The reasons for this great surge in English language and literature lie in the unprecedented rate of change experienced by European society during those years” (93), change tied to the following in the 16th and 17th centuries: • The Renaissance • The Reformation • England’s new naval prowess
English Renaissance marked by a “communications revolution” (93) • William Caxton brought printing press to England in 1476 (Thomas and Tchudi 160) • Before 1500, total number of books printed in Europe: about 35,000, mostly Latin (McCrum, Cran and MacNeil (93). • 1500-1640 in England, about 20,000 books printed in English (McCrum, Cran and MacNeil 93). • By 1600, about half the English population had some degree of literacy (McCrum, Cran and MacNeil 93).
Weight of popularity • With so many writers and readers, the English began to take an interest in words. • Writers began BORROWING words from classic literature and science to give themselves options • Now a pause for a digression on the processes of word coinage, not all of which will be connected explicitly to the time period under discussion.
Historically, English has been open to the admission of new words • Borrowing has been one of the most productive sources of new words as English encounters other languages and embraces them. Some borrowings were taken more or less unchanged from their original languages—Latin and Greek during the Renaissance, but many times classic literature and science employed root words re-tooled to fill in a blank in the lexicon.
Some examples • For example, English writers, hungry to make their lexicon more agile, borrowed words well, such as “lexicon” (Grk) and “agile” (Latin), as well as “habitual,” “catastrophe,” “thermometer,” “atmosphere,” “pneumonia,” “skeleton,” “encyclopedia,” “explain,” “gravity” (93).
Latin and Greek were just the beginning • The Story of English points out that Italian was mined for new architectural terms (stucco, portico), Spanish was a source for words denoting conflicts (embargo, deperado), Dutch lent vulgarisms (95). French, a source for new words since the Norman Conquest also provided a fresh source of descriptions (bigot, detail).
The effect of all this was astonishing • “The importance of the Renaissance to the English language was that it added between 10,000 and 12,000 new words to the lexicon” (95).
New words come into the languague, then, by these processes: • Borrowing • Making a word from one form class do the work of another (for instance, a noun becomes a verb). • Narrowing or broadening
The War of the Words • With language so lively, debate was intense over the matter of style. Which was better, plain Anglo-Saxon words for fancy imports, often Latinate, “plainnesse” or “inkhorn terms.”
Shakespeare’s genius • The Story of English points out that one of Shakespeare’s great talents was his flexibility in choosing from both menus (102).
An example: • Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood • Clean from my hand? No; this my hand will rather • The multitudinous seas incarnadine • Making the green one red
Another talent • Shakespeare was also willing to make any form-class word do the work of any other category of form-class words: “uncle me no uncle,” “he could Out-Herod, Herod,” “Lord Angelo dukes it well in his absence” (96). • Note: Add “change class of nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs” to your list of how new words are added to English.
Occupying the Middle Earth • From the Midlands of England himself, Shakespeare also freely borrowed from Northern and Southern dialects: tells or telleth; speaks or speaketh.
Innovation from without • Innovation came not from the interaction of an expanding cultural identify but from encounters with the New World inspired both by England’s sense of itself as an emerging naval power and later, by religious conflicts that pushed the British across the sea.
The effects of the Reformation King James Bible—the result of the earlier 1534 break with the Catholic Church, led to the publication of several English language Bibles, most notably, the creation of the King James Bible (published in 1611), designed to ease tensions between the Anglicans and the Puritans.
American English as a dialect • Early European settlers, isolated from Great Britain, tend to exhibit pronunciations and vocabulary frozen in time or they transferred old words to new objects.
Narrowing or Broadening • Corn: in America, meant what was called “maize” in Great Britain; originally meant “grain” in general • Barn: originally, a storehouse for barley • Deer: originally, animal • Hound: originally, dog • Meat: originally, food • Starve: originally, to die
OF course, there were new borrowings as well • Native American words: chipmunk, moose, terrapin, totem, moccasin, tomahawk.
Pejoration and amelioration • boor, originally meant peasant • vulgar, originally associated with “the common people” • Silly, from happy • Praise, from “put a value on” • nice, from ignorant • knight, originally servant • Mistress, a woman with authority
Made-up words • Gas (by the Dutch chemist Van Helmont • Electricity, literary, hallucination—century scholar Sir Thomas Browne • Minimize, detachable, cross-examination Jeremy Bentham--
Compounds • Definition: new words created by stringing together two existing words, be they adjectives, nouns, or verbs • Bittersweet • Rainbow • Sleepwalk
Acronyms • Definition: These are words derived from the initials of several words • Radar: radio detecting and ranging • Laser: light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation • Scuba: self-contained underwater breathing apparatus • ATM: Automatic Teller Machine
Blends • Definition: They are compound words in that they combine two words, yet they do not use the full word, but rather blend the two together
A closer look at blends • web (1) + log (1) = blog • breakfast (2) + lunch (1) → brunch (1) • camera (3) + recorder (3) → camcorder (3) • information (4) + commercial (3) → infomercial (4, exception) • motor (2) + hotel (2) → motel (2) • simultaneous (5) + broadcast (2) → simulcast (3, exception) • smoke (1) + fog (1) → smog (1)
More examples of shortening • Nark, from narcotics agent • Piano, from pianoforte • Ad, from advertisement • Bike, from bicycle • Phone, from telephone • Gas, from gasoline
Words from names • Definition: Words that have been derived from proper names of individuals or places. • Sandwich: from the Earl of Sandwich • Gargantuan: from Garguntua, the creature created by Rabelais • Jumbo: from one of Barnum’s elephants • Hamburger (from Hamberg, Germany)
Words from brand names • Levis • Kleenex • Googled • Jello • Aspirin • Laundromat • Crock Pot
Hybrids from current culture • McMansion • Troopergate • Wikipedia, Wikiphobia, Wikiholic • Californication • (Notice that there are elements of blending in all of these.)
Shortening • When a short new word is derived from a longer common word: • air-condition from air conditioning • bartend from bartender • creep (as a noun for a person) from creepy • diagnose from diagnosis • enthuse from enthusiasm
Use a derivational affix to create a new word • Nouns: er, ment, ness, ion, ity • Verbs: ify, ize • Adjectives: y, ful, ious, able, ish, less • Adverbs: ly, wise
Summary of word coinage • Here are the processes we’ve discussed: • Borrowing • Changing word class (the verb “contact” becomes a noun, for instance) • Pejoration/amelioration • Compounding • Creating acronyms • Blends • Shortening • Making names and brand-names into common nouns • Creating hybrids based on popular culture • Using derivational affixes to create new workds