ENGL 4301
Winter 2000-01

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SHORT ASSIGNMENTS #5 & #6

Both these assignments are based on the following passage from Ben Richards's Throwing the House out of the Window. #5 is due on Wed. 3 January; #6 is due on Thurs. 4 January.

#5: For each word in the passage, use the Oxford English Dictionary to discover how the word entered the English language. Note two things: (1) the immediate source language (which the OED will usually preface with "a." for "ab," "from"), and (2) the date of entry into English. Note: if a dictionary gives the source of a word simply as "Old English," then that's the immediate source for that word. The date of entry in that case is not "entry" per se but of first attestation in an Old English text.

Make a chart. What percentage of these words are originally Old English? What percentage entered from other languages?

Note very carefully the distinction between sources and cognates. Many English words are cognate to words in Latin, Greek, Sanskrit, Gothic, and Old High German, but did not enter the English language from those languages. Others did enter from Latin or Greek and therefore truly trace their source to those languages. Almost no English words come from Old High German or Gothic. Where historical dictionaries note forms in those Germanic languages, they are cognates.

#6: Go back and study, with the OED, as many words in the passage as you can, particularly the long and/or interesting words. Trace the historical changes in meaning that the words have undergone. Most words have several different but related meanings, and most have undergone semantic shifts during their history in English. Note borrowed words that have changed in meaning from their source language meanings.

PASSAGE (from Ben Richards, Throwing the House out of the Window [London: Headline, 1995, p. 41]):

She picks up books, hesitating from time to time, sometimes throwing them back like a discerning angler unwilling to bother with minnows. . . . The next book she picks up is a guide to Madrid, where we went on holiday two years ago. It was September and we stayed in a cheap hotel opposite the Prado listening at night to the perpetual whine of cars and motorbikes in the busy street below. We would wander for miles around the city, stopping in tiny bars to drink beer and eat tapas.