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Words Throughout History - History Throughout Words

Class at Faculty of Arts |

This text is not available in the current language. Showing version "cs".Syllabus

Week 1

Introduction. Words and their histories.

What is etymology. Revealing some interesting etymological connections (lord, sad, friar).  

A brief history of historical-comparative linguistics.

Plato. Middle Ages. The founders of historical linguistics. 20th century.  

Required readings:

Reader 8-14.  

Week 2

Languages of the world.

Indo-European languages and their classification. Other language families.   

Required readings: Reader 14-23. Barber 58-87.  

Language change.

Internal and external development. Reconstruction of the primitive languages. The historical comparative method.  

Required readings: Reader 23-27. Campbell 125-136.  

Week 3

Sound change.

Regular changes. Germanic consonant shift and English Great vowel shift. Sporadic changes. The cause of sound changes.  

Required readings: Reader 27-30. Campbell 16-49  

Irregular formal changes

Analogy and its types, reanalysis, contamination  

Required readings: Reader 30-34. Campbell 103-113, 117-121  

Week 4

Folk etymology.

Discussion of the term. Conditions. Examples. The types of FE.  

Required readings: Reader 34-38, Campbell 114-116.

Word-formation (derivation, composition)

About the suffixes. Backformation. Compound names. Opaque compounds.  

Required readings: Reader 38-41, Campbell 116-117.  

Week 5

Semantic change.

The types of semantic change. Broadening, narrowing, pejoration, amelioration and a shift of the meaning.  

Required readings: Reader 41-45, Campbell 252-256, 260-262  

Metaphor and metonymy

Definitions of the terms. Metaphors in the language. Metonyms and synecdoches.  

Required readings: Reader 45-47, Campbell 256-260.  

Week 6

Words as evidence of social, cultural and technological changes.

Examples of technological change - motorization. What we can learn about old technologies and customs from today’s words.  

Required readings: Reader 47-49, Campbell 266-268.  

Linguistic taboo.

The primitive taboo. Sacral taboo. Convention. The ways of taboo replacement. Political correctness.  

Required readings: Reader 49-53, Campbell 262-264.  

Week 7

Midterm test.  

How we call neighbors

Ethnonyms - given by peoples themselves and given by neighbors. Ethnic names meaning ‘giants’, ‘sodomites’ etc..  

Required readings: Reader 53-56  

Week 8

The words of imitative (onomatopoeic) origin

Words imitating sounds - differences in languages. Bird names. Grouping of imitative words. Nursery words.  

Required readings: Reader 56-60, Campbell 353-355.  

Language contact I

Substrate, superstrate, adstrate. Old English and Celtic. Latin influence.  

Required readings: Reader 60-63, Barber 98-107, Vachek I 73-75.  

Week 9

Language contact II

Scandinavian influence. Norman conquest and influence. English and American Indian languages.  

Required readings: Reader 63-68, Barber 127-136, 145-150, Vachek II 74-76.  


Motivation for the borrowing. Cultural words. Chain borrowings. Multiple borrowings.  

Required readings: Reader 68-73, Campbell 62-82  

Week 10

Czech words in the world.

Hussite weapons. The story of "dollar". Polka, robot and others.  

Required readings: Reader 73-76  

English influence on Czech and other languages.

Influence of  English and other languages on Czech. Orthographic and morphological adaptation. Communicative spheres with English borrowings.  

Required readings: Reader 76-79.  

Week 11

Proper names and their "deproprialization".

Special character of proper names. Common nouns from personal names, place-names etc.  

Required readings: Reader 79-81, Campbell 273-274  

Etymological curiosities

Coincidental resemblance. Some unexpected etymological equations. Incidental names.  

Required readings: Reader 81-83.  

Week 12

Indo-European linguistic prehistory.

What we can learn from the language - thinking, religion, technology, social structure, etc.  

Required readings: Reader 83-85  

Final test.  

Week 13

Discussion to the essays, course wrap-up   

This text is not available in the current language. Showing version "cs".Annotation

The course introduces the basics of etymology and language history in an accessible and understandable way. It explains why and how words and languages change and goes over various processes that can cause the changes (analogy, folk etymology, taboo, metaphor etc.).

It reveals surprising and sometimes curious changes of the words in the course of time (e.g. the "Czech" origin of American dollar). Special attention is paid to the question of language contact, borrowings and the influence of one language on another one.

All the language phenomena are demonstrated mostly on the English lexical material, but also other languages are used to illustrate certain issues.