Words in English public website
Ling/Engl 215 course information
Rice University
Prof. S. Kemmer


Fall 2007

  • Recognition of particular morphemes and parts of morphemes in English words that reflect categories of Latin and Greek morphology

  • ability to recognize and produce examples of various types of semantic change

  • understanding of the cognitive processes underlying semantic change, particularly metaphor and metonymy

  • knowledge of some specific word histories

    Knowledge of classical expressions and abbreviations in English will not be tested.

    Abilities developed since the second midterm

  • knowledge of how linguistic relationship is established (via the comparative method) and ability to recognize the major languages and language subfamilies of the large family containing English, namely the Indo-European language family
  • knowledge of which languages of Europe are NOT in the Indo-European family

  • ability to describe some of what we know about the Proto-Indo-Europeans based on evidence from linguistic reconstructions

  • some conception of the more distant linguistic relationships found in the world, and where the Indo-European family fits into the global linguistic picture

  • awareness of the ubiquity of language variation and the kinds and range of variation and language varieties found in English, including geographical varieties (dialects), writing vs. speech, standard vs. non-standard, slang, cant and jargon, etc.

  • an understanding of the uses of variation and linguistic variants in speech communities to build group solidarity and/or exclude others from the group

  • an appreciation of the creativity of speakers in producing new lexical units

  • ability to understand and describe the major types of word formation processes found not only in established words, but in neologisms

  • an understanding of the reasons speakers produce neologisms, and how the English language facilitates their creation


    Following is a list of keywords that can help you recall and study the course material in the last portion of the course.

    Indo-European language family; language classification

    Sir William Jones
    genetic relationships
    'family tree' model of linguistic relationships
    stability of basic vocabulary
    regularity of sound change
    reconstruction (of lexical items)
    cognates vs. loanwords
    characteristics of Indo-Europeans
    Indo-European language subgroups:
      Italic, Romance
      Hellenic, Greek
      Baltic and Slavic  (or Balto-Slavic)
      Anatolian, Hittite
      Indic and Iranian (or Indo-Iranian)
    non-Indo-European families in Europe
      Altaic  - Turkish
      Finno-Ugric (a Uralic family) - Finnish, Estonian, Hungarian
    isolates - Basque 
    Language families in the Americas:
      Na Dene  - Navajo and other Athapaskan languages (Amer. SW and Brit. Columbia)
      Amerind - all others in N. and S. America
    Language Variation and Language in Society
    prescriptivism, prescriptive rules
    descriptivism, descriptive rules or patterns
    standard, nonstandard varieties
    folk ideas about nonstandard varieties ("substandard")
    standardization and education
    written vs. spoken language varieties  (genres)
    orthography; sound vs. spelling
    kinds of variation: geographical, economic/social class; other
      group-based varieties
    jargon, characteristics of
    slang, characteristics of
    surfer's slang; Cockney rhyming slang; rapper slang
    thieves' argot (also called thieves' cant)
    taboo language
      conventional derivation
      nonconventional derivation - application of existing derivational
        ending to a root it does not conventionally go on (e.g. dissage)
    zero-derivation (e.g. google, v.)
      phrasal compounds 
      rhyming compounds (chiller-killer)
    clippings  (exam, bus)
    acronyms  (scuba, snafu, fubar)
    reanalysis/recutting - realignment of morpheme boundaries from their
      original position, by re-understanding the morphemes. (hamburger, glitterati)
    folk etymology - often comes along with reanalysis (sparrowgrass); or 
      made up as 'just-so' stories (posh) 
    analogy - derivation on the basis of a specific model word or pattern
    novel creation, de novo creation - 'out of thin air' coinage (googol)
      (sometimes these can have some sound symbolism as well)
    sound symbolism (ka-ching; bling; bada-bing; perhaps blimp)
    reduplication (bling bling)
    partial reduplication  
      reduplication with vowel change (hip-hop)
      rhyming reduplication (higgledy-piggledy)

    Keywords from material prior to Midterms #1 and #2

    The following material will not be focused on but I will assume you know what the things mentioned are, and who the people are.

    History of English

    Old English (Anglo-Saxon)         Normans
    Middle English                    Norman conquest
    Early Modern English              Battle of Hastings
    Present Day English (PDE)         Edward the Confessor
    Celts                             Harold Godwinson
    Romans                            William of Normandy (William the Conqueror)
    Anglo-Saxons                      Norman French   
    Beowulf                           Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales
    King Alfred (Alfred the Great)    William Caxton, printing press
    Vikings, Danes                    Great English Vowel Shift  
    Ethelred the Unready              King James Bible       
    Canute (Cnut)                     Shakespeare
    Danelaw, Watling Street	          

    Words in English

    nativized, nativization	     
    loanword, borrowing           


    morpheme                          parse, parsing
    root                              allomorphs, allomorphy
    affix                             assimilation
    prefix                            ablaut                           
    suffix                            metathesis
    inflection                        weakening 
    derivation                        insertion
    compounds, compounding            rhotacism  
    filler, linker morpheme           deletion
    transparent, opaque morphemes     s-deletion


    consonants                        fricative
    voicing                           affricate
    larynx (voice box), vocal chords  nasal
    place of articulation             liquid
    lips, bilabial                    approximant
    labiodental                       lateral
    interdental                       voicing assimilation
    alveolar, alveolar ridge          place assimilation
    palatal-alveolar                  manner assimilation
      ( = alveo-palatal)              partial, total assimilation
    hard palate, palatal              vowels
    soft palate (velum), velar        vowel frontness: front/central/back
    glottis, glottal                  vowel height: high/mid/low
    manner of articulation            diphthong
    stop (plosive)                    


    synonyms, synonymy
    homonyms, homonymy
    Semantic change
    etymology                         taboo
    polysemy                          euphemism
    widening (generalization)         amelioration
    narrowing (specialization)        degeneration, pejoration
    metaphor                          synechdoche
    metonymy                          eponymy
    Latin and Greek morphology
    inflection, inflectional          case
      categories                      nominative (subject case)
    grammatical gender                accusative (direct object case)
    masculine, feminine, neuter       genitive (possessive case)
    noun declension                   dative (indirect object case)
    grammatical number                singular, plural, [dual]
    stem                              verb conjugation classes
    stem vowel (= thematic vowel, theme vowel) (said of the distinguishing vowel in
      conjugation classes)
    participle                        present participle
    past passive participle

    © 2007 Suzanne Kemmer
    Last modified 7 December 07