The Origins of English: Learning to Think Like an Etymologist


Mark Sundaram

Thursdays, Mar 4 - Mar 25, 4pm-5pm PT / 7pm-8pm ET
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The Origins of English: Learning to Think Like an Etymologist
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Where do words come from? How are languages related to one another? How do languages change over time? And how have linguists and etymologists pieced together the story of English and its roots?


In this four-session seminar, we will learn some of the basic principles of etymology. Through a series of linguistic puzzles we will follow in the footsteps of etymologists and historical linguists to reconstruct the relationships between languages and long-forgotten roots English words.


This seminar is divided into four sessions: 

  • 1. Sorting out the Family Tree
  • 2. Fairy Tales & Phonology
  • 3. Something Borrowed
  • 4. The Unbearable Instability of Meaning.


In each, Mark will introduce a linguistic puzzle and guide the you through the process of discovering one of the underlying rules that governs the relationship between languages or the specific development of English. We will work through each puzzle together, and then Mark will explain the concept and its history. By the end of these sessions, you will better understand the historical discoveries that led to the concept of Proto-Indo-European, the methodology of historical linguistics, and the particular history of English language change.

What to expect at this event