why study word origins? 
Posted: 26 July 2007 11:50 AM   [ Ignore ]
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hi everyone,
I have a question;Why do people study word origins? AND can High School Students take the course or it is only for University and college level students.

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Posted: 26 July 2007 12:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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The evolution of language tells you a lot about the evolution of a culture.  English, with its diverse history and its shameless borrowing of words from other languages, is particularly interesting in that respect.  Words carry their history with them, as well, in subtle shades of meaning; many concepts can be described by more than one English word, and many English words can describe more than one thing, and often these different words and meanings carry different implications based on the origins of the words.  See for example the discussion at the beginning of Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe, about the various shades of meaning between the Saxon word “swine” and the Norman word “pork”.

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Posted: 26 July 2007 02:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I asked my wife, who’s an ESL instructor and PhD student in Linguistics, if she was aware of any etymology classes, and she said no.  That seems to indicate they’re rare even at the university level if you can find one at all, and probably nonexistent at the high school level.

--scot

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Posted: 26 July 2007 03:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Scot gives the reasons most people become interested in word origins.

Linguistically, historical linguistics, which includes etymology, is one of the major disciplines. Language is one of the fundamental characteristics of humanity, and studying where languages come from and how they change over time is important for this reason alone. Although historical linguistics has been deemphasized in the study of linguistics in recent decades. In the 19th century, nearly all linguistics study was in historical linguistics.

Courses in etymology are vanishingly rare, even at the graduate level. More general courses in historical linguistics are available, though. You won’t find it in high school at all, although there may be a unit or two on etymology as part of an English curriculum.

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Posted: 26 July 2007 03:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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To me, a novice at best, I enjoy finding out how many words change their meanings over the years. I like to see how and where words and expressions started. I enjoy the mystery of the unsolved cases, such as “the whole nine yards”. It is fun to learn how we use words from different languages that basically mean the same thing, but have different connotations, such as “chair” and “stool”. It is interesting to find out that some words come about simply because they sound like the things they depict. And, on and on…

So, for me, it is mostly about the entertainment. The fact that I might learn something also, makes for an even better experience.

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