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Learning about our Language. Word origins Levels of Language Dialect Meanings and Connotations. How Words Enter Our Language.

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learning about our language

Learning about our Language

Word origins

Levels of Language


Meanings and Connotations

how words enter our language
How Words Enter Our Language

Since its beginning over 1,500 years ago, English has grown to be the largest language in the world, containing over 790,000 words. Our language continues to grow as new words are borrowed and created.

borrowed words
Borrowed Words
  • When another language has a word for which we have not term of our own, we may borrow the word.
  • The borrowed word may enter the English language unchanged, or it may change somewhat in spelling or pronunciation.
    • Example: cowboys of the Old West, handling angry herds of cattle, changed the Spanish word estampida to stampede.
people and place names
People and Place Names
  • Some words have been taken from proper names of people and places
    • Examples:
      • Saxophone – from Adolph Sax, the Belgian inventor
      • Leotard – from Jules Lestard the 19th Century French trapeze who invented the garment
      • Paisley- from Paisley, Scotland where wool shawls with colorful, intricate patterns were made
      • Jeans – from Genes, French for the city of Genoa (Italy) where the sailors wore cotton trousers
      • Vandal – from the Vandals, a Germanic tribe that sacked ancient Rome.
compound words
Compound Words
  • A compound word is made by combining two existing words to form a new word. People develop compound words to describe new ideas or things while still using familiar terms.
    • Example: Spacewalk
  • If two words are combined, but some of the letters are dropped, the resulting word is called a blend.
    • Example: sitcom is formed from the words situation comedy
clipped words
Clipped Words
  • Sometimes one or more parts of a word are dropped, and the remaining part is used alone as words. Clipped words are used in less formal situations.
    • Example: gym for gymnasium
  • A new word created from the first letters of a group of words.
    • Example: Scuba is an acronym for “self contained underwater breathing apparatus.”
more examples
More Examples
  • Compounds
    • Loud + speaker = loudspeaker
    • Skate + board = skateboard
    • Knee + cap = kneecap
    • Red + wood = Redwood
  • Blends
    • Motorcycle + cross-country = motocross
    • Splash + surge = splurge
    • Telescope + photograph = telephoto
even more examples
Even More Examples
  • Clipped Words
    • Teen-agers = teens
    • Cabriolet = cabs
    • Examination = exam
    • Pianoforte = piano
  • Acronyms
    • Radar = radio detection and ranging
    • COBOL = Common Business Oriented Language
exercise 1 word origin
Exercise 1- Word Origin
  • On a clean sheet of paper, use a dictionary to find the origin of the following words if it is borrowed write the country it is borrowed from if it is from a person or a places name write the person or place it came from.

1. Ensemble 2. Boycott 3. Calico

4. Tea 5. Jaguar 6. Tangerine

7. Khaki 8. Mosquito 9. Wednesday

10. Cardigan 11. Turquoise 12. Braille

13. Veldt 14. Diesel 15. Gusto

exercise 2 compounds blends clipped words acronyms
Exercise 2 – Compounds, Blends, Clipped Words, & Acronyms
  • On a clean sheet of paper, use a dictionary to identify each of the words as a compound, blend, clipped word, or acronym. Then write the word or words from which each one is made.

1. Paratroops 2. Fence 3. Typewriter

4. Laser 5. Brunch 6. Dorm

7. Chortle 8. Gasohol 9. Sonar

10. Bookkeeper 11. Smog 12. Telex

13. Wristwatch 14. Flu 15. Airport

levels of language
Levels of Language
  • Some words enter English and become part of the main body of commonly used word
  • Other words, although also considered part of English, may be used only by particular groups of people or only in informal situations
levels of language1
Levels of Language
  • No speaker or writer of English uses the language in the same way all the time
  • Examples:
    • You speak on way with your friends
    • Another way when speaking in class
    • Another way when giving a formal speech
  • The same language variation occurs in written speech as well.
levels of language2
Levels of Language
  • The types of language that are used in different situations are called Levels of Language:
    • Standard English
      • Formal
      • Informal
    • Nonstandard English
standard english
Standard English
  • Standard English follows accepted grammatical rules and guidelines.
  • It is the language of most professional writing in magazines, books, and newspapers, and of most professional speaking on television and radio.
  • The rules and guidelines of standard English enable all speakers and writers to communicate clearly
formal and informal english

Also known as conversational or colloquialEnglish.

Appropriate in everyday situations

Dialects may also be considered part of informal usage


Found in writing but is appropriate in any situation that is serious, dignified, or ceremonial

Formal and Informal English
  • Standard English can be divided into two levels formal and informal.


Formal: No written law has ever been more binding than unwritten custom supported by popular opinion

Informal: Traditions and habits are both hard to break.

what is your audience and purpose
What is your Audience and Purpose?

When decided between Formal and Informal English you must consider your Audience and your Purpose



Conversation; letters between friends

Writing for magazines and news papers; Speaking for radio or television

Formal speeches; Professional documents; Reports for serious occasions

characteristics of informal english
Characteristics of Informal English
  • Presence of certain kinds of conversational expressions, such as idioms and slang
    • Idioms: have a meaning different from the exact meaning the word suggests.
      • Examples: hold your tongue; tickled pink; hands down.
    • Slang: expressions coined by members of a group and often serves as s sign of belonging to that group
      • Examples: groovy; far out; hassle
a note about slang
A note about SLANG
  • Slang is appropriate only in VERY informal situations
  • It can help enliven conversation with friends or dialogue in a short story, but it is inappropriate in a classroom discussion or a business letter
nonstandard english
Nonstandard English
  • Describes language that does not follow the grammatical rules and forms of standard English
    • Examples
      • He ain’t right
      • I don’t need no help
      • Any written English that contains errors in punctuation, spelling, capitalization, and manuscript form is also considered nonstandard
regional dialects
Regional Dialects
  • Language that is spoken in a particular region or by a particular social group is called dialect
  • Differ in vocabulary, pronunciation, and in grammar
    • Example: a metal container in New York is a pail and in Missouri is a bucket
    • Greasy might be pronounced Greezy or Greecey
    • The past tense of the work dive might be dove or dived
regional dialect
Regional Dialect
  • Everyone speaks a particular dialect
  • There is no one “correct” dialect
  • Dialect is appropriate in certain situations
  • Adds to the uniqueness of each person’s language
  • Important to be able to adapt your language to more formal situations when dialect may not be appropriate
multiple names due to dialect
Multiple Names due to Dialect
  • Insect that glows at night:

firefly, glowworm, lightning bug, candle bug

  • Large sandwich meant to be a meal in itself

hero, submarine, hoagy, grinder, poor-boy

  • Vehicle for small baby

baby buggy, baby cab, baby carriage, baby coach

  • Become Ill with a cold

catch cold, get a cold, take cold, come down with a cold

  • Grass strip between sidewalk and street

berm, boulevard, parkway, sidewalk plot, tree lawn

  • Amusement park ride (on tracks):

coaster, roller coaster, rolly-coaster, shoot-the-chutes

multiple meanings
Multiple Meanings
  • Effective use of English involves not only using levels of language comfortably but also being sensitive to the multiple meanings of many words.
  • For Example: Three uses of the word court
    • Helen and Alice went to the tennis court for a game.
    • The strolling players performed in the inner court of the castle
    • The judge presided over night court.
denotation and connotation
Denotation and Connotation
  • The dictionary definition of a word is its denotation
  • A word may also have a connotation, the emotional meaning attached to a word because of the thoughts or feelings it creates.
  • It is important in writing and speaking to consider not only the denotative meaning of a word, but also its connotation. Persuasive writing is especially dependent upon the connotation of words.