Words in English
Linguistics/English 215
Rice University
Prof. S. Kemmer


The Final Examination is comprehensive but will focus most on Chapters 10 (The Early Relatives of English) and 8 (Usage and Variation), as well as class material on linguistic prehistory, linguistic variation, standardization and prescriptivism, slang and jargon, and neologisms and their types.

Some abilities you should have by now:

  • Ability to recognize morphemes in words despite their occurrence in somewhat different forms (allomorphs)

  • Increased parsing ability

  • Increased understanding of word formation processes, particularly for new words
  • Increased ability to judge the likeliest source language for a given word, based on knowledge of characteristics of loanwords from different languages
  • Ability to recognize and produce examples of words illustrating sound processes, like assimilation, rhotacism, s-deletion, etc.
  • ability to recognize and produce examples of various types of semantic change
  • ability to discuss the cognitive processes underlying semantic change, particularly metaphor and metonymy
  • knowledge of some specific word histories

  • 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, the Indo-European language family
  • ability to describe some of what we know about the Proto-Indo-Europeans

  • 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 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 third of the course:

    Language Variation and Language in Society

    standard, nonstandard
    standardization and education
    writing vs. spoken language
    orthography; sound vs. spelling
    compounding: phrasal compounds, rhyming compounds
    folk etymology

    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  
    Canute (Cnut)                     King James Bible       
    Danelaw, Watling Street	          Shakespeare

    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            deletion
    filler, linker morpheme           rhotacism  
    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                         euphemism
    polysemy                          taboo
    widening (generalization)         amelioration
    narrowing (specialization)        degeneration, pejoration
    metaphor                          eponymy

    © 2004 Suzanne Kemmer
    Last modified 2 Dec 03