H19 - 
Roots: English Etymology through Language and Literature
  In this seminar we will look at some significant ways in which the English language has developed over the last thousand years. How did Old English "cniht" become Modern English "knight," with both a different pronunciation and spelling, and with a modified meaning-- and what about those silent letters? Why do we have the word "motherly," from the native word "mother," but also "maternal," from the Latin "mater"? We'll look at how English has "borrowed" thousands of words from other languages, especially Latin and Greek, and how they have enriched the language. We'll also consider how, by dropping most of its grammatical inflections--no more tables of verbs or nouns to learn--English has become much less flexible in its word order. As well as looking at individual words, we'll read passages from various periods of English literature, such as Beowulf, Sir Gawain, Chaucer, Spenser, Milton, Shakespeare, Wordsworth, and T. S. Eliot, observing how English has changed from being a virtually "foreign" language into the familiar vernacular we use today. We'll spend some time reading these extracts aloud, so as to get a better feel for the language at each stage of its development.
Harvard University
1/7/2019, 1/14/2019