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Lecture Summary (11/16 & 23/2006)

These sessions were held by Mr Trippel because of Mr Gibbon's absence. The topic was called "Words and their parts". This includes the different components of words as well as word formation (consisting of simplex words, derived words and compound words).

At the start we tried to define the word "word" wich was a really hard task. We dealt with many different hypotheses and finally concluded that words make up sentences, are pronounced with speech sounds and carry meaning (including the fact that they have a meaningful strcuture).

We moved on to the definition of morphology. Morphology is the study of the formation of words. Morphemes are the smallest meaningful units of a language. One or more morphemes form a word.

After this general introduction we dealt with the basic concepts in morphology. A simple word consists of only one morpheme (e.g. boy, man, house, book, etc.). A complex word contains at least two morphemes (e.g. boys, bookshelf, etc.). A free morpheme can occur as a simple word (e.g. boy, man) whereas a bound morpheme can only occur in connection with other morphemes (e.g. suffixes like the plural -s). An allomoprh is a variant form of a morpheme (e.g. a - an).

Next we analysed the different parts of a word. The root carries the meaning (for example: the root of unbelievable is believe). Affixes are bound morphemes wich occur in most cases before the root (prefixes) or after the root (suffixes). In the word unbelievable "un" is a prefix while "able" is a suffix. Other forms of affixes are circumfixes and infixes.  The form to which an affix is attached is called base.

The next aspect were the different kinds of word formation, especially compounding and derivation (we also mentioned inflection but did not analyse it explicitly). Compounds consist of at least two roots. The second part is the head of the compound and defines its word class whereas the modifier specifies the compound. Derivation is the process of adding a morpheme to a base by which the meaning and/or wordclass of the base changes (e.g. write (verb) plus -er becomes writer (noun)).

Finally we discussed the zero derivation, a special phenomenon in English. In this case words can change their class by adding an empty morpheme (e.g. house (noun) -> to house (verb)).

31.1.07 12:13

Lecture Summary (11/09/2006)

The topic of this week's session was named "History of English: From Old English to Modern English".

First of all we talked again about the Celts and their influence on the English language and Mr Gibbon presented us some Celtic vocabulary (e.g. many place names (toponyms) like London).

Concerning the ancient East Germanic languages there is one major document: the Gothic Bible, a translation of the Holy Bible into Gothic made by Bishop Wulfila about 500 AD. This document has an immense scientific value because it allows us to reconstruct the Gothic language by comparing the Gothic Bible to the Greec original used by Wulfila.

The most important relic of the North Germanic languages are the famous Horns of Gallehus. Unfortunately the real horns do not exist anymore but they were reconstructed on the base of paintings.

After that we concentrated on the English language, starting with Old English. It was spoken about 600-1000 AD and strongly influenced by Old Norse. Then we went on to Middle English. As an example Mr Gibbon used "The Canterbury Tales" written by Geoffrey Chaucer in the 14th century. In the following we tried to translate a little bit of Middle English into Modern English. Mr Gibbon presented a glossary with words of Middle English and their Modern English equals. Further he showed us some pictures displaying the different kinds of dialects in Old English, Middle English and Modern English. We also looked at the colonal language spread of some nations and the spread of English.

30.1.07 14:32

Lecture Summary (11/02/06)

The topic of this lecture was named "The History of English - From Indo-European to Middle English".

At the beginning we learned that there are approximately 6000 languages worldwide wich is an impressive figure.

Afterwards we dealt with the Indo-European Language Family. One can say that almost all European languages are in a way related to each other (the only execptions are Basque, Finnish, Estonian and Hungarian) as well es several languages to be found in South Central Asia (like Farsi/Persian in Iran and Hindi in India). This fact leads to the conclusion that these languages developped from the same original language.

The origins of Indo-European cannot be located exactly but there are several theories considering this aspect.

  • The Baltic Theory: the oldest among the theories; based on shared botanical vocabulary; no reasons for dispersion
  • The South-East European Theory: similar to the Baltic Theory; no reasons for dispersion
  • The Flood Theory: gives a natural catastrophe as a reason for dispersion
  • The Caucasus Theory (the most plausible): the East-West spread of agriculture from Iraq coincided with the East-West spread of Indo-European 

After this we learned more about the expansion of Indo-European during the Hellenic and Roman Empire and the Colonal Expansion after 1492.

Then we took a look at the Celts who are the earliest known inhabitants of the British Isles. We learned for example that the Celts were trading salt and that traces of this can still be found in town names like Halle or Bad Reichenhall.



Why are Portuguese and Spanish the official national languages of South American states?

The reason for this lies in the fact that Spain and Portugal dominated the ocean so they were the first to be able to conquer South America. They defeated the natives and forced them to adapt their respective language.

Why are varieties of Dutch among the official national languages of Indonesia and South Africa?

The Netherlands used to be a big sailing nation as well. The conquered Indonesia and South Africa and stayed there long enough to influence the culture so deeply that it can still be seen today in the use of the language.

Why is English the official national language of the USA, Australia, New Zealand?

Many British people migrated to Northern America because they have been persecuted because of there religiouse beliefs. The East coast of what is now the United States was colonised by the Brits. New Zealand was occupied by them, too. Last but not least Australia was used by the Empire to imprison people.

In which African countries are the following Indo-European languages among the official national languages?

English: Botswana, Cameroon, Eritrea, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria, Rhuanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe

Frensh: Benin, Bukina Faso, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Togo

Portuguese: Angola, Guinea Bissau, Mozambique

Where did the Celts originate?

The earliest traces of the Celts were found in Northern Italy around 400 BC.

Name 3 Celtic town names in the area of modern Germany and give their meanings

  • Halle (Halla), the place of winning salt
  • Remagen (Rigomagos), the King’s field
  • Worms (Brobetomagus), settlement in watery area

Where do the Celts live now?

Nowadays the Celts live in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Brittany, Cornwell and the Isle of Men.

1.12.06 17:10

Lecture Summary (10/26/06)

The topic of the second lecture of this class was named "History of English".

We started with the homework for this week (see last summary).

After that a graphic displaying the development of English was shown to us. There have been several important influences on the English language in the course of the centuries. In most cases these are closely connected with invasions of the British Isles. It started with the Celts (1000 BC) followed by the Romans. The result was a certain influence on English by Celtic respectively Latin. The next events of this kind was a series of invasions by Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Danes and Frisians (between the first and fourth century) which brought elements of Anglo-Saxon and Danish into the English language. The invading Vikings brought Old Norse to Britain. In 1066 the Normans (led by William the Conqueror) entered Britain and with them the Norman French language. The next major influence was not connected to an invading people but to a cultural movement or age: the Renaissance (beginning in the 15th century). The main idea of this epoch was the rivival (in fact Renaissance means rebirth) of the Antic which affected the language, too. Many words of latin or greek origin sprang from this period.

Subsequently we had a look at the Etymology, the history of words. There are two categories of historical changes of words: sound changes and semantic changes.

First we dealed with the most important sound changes that occured in the past. First of all Grimm's Law: Proto-Indo-European voiceless stops became Proto-Germanic voiceless fricatives, Proto-Indo-European voiced stops became Proto-Germanic voiceless stops and Proto-Indo-European voiced aspirated stops became Proto-Germanic voiced fricatives. Another one is the so called Verner's Law which is not of great importance to us. The High German Soundshift affected especially the consonants p, t and k. They were shifted depending on the position within the word: p to pf or f, t to ts or s, k to kx or x/c) The last major aspect in this respect is the Great Vowel Shift, a change in pronunciation of the long vowels of Middle English that began in the 15th century and continued into the 16th century in which the high vowels were diphthongized and the other vowels were raised.

Semantic changes on the other hand are created by certain mechanisms: generalisation, specialisation and metaphor. As an example we looked at the german word Schürze and the english words shirt and skirt. All three spring from the same origin but have developed very different meanings since then which means they have specialized.

14.11.06 18:33

Lecture Summary (10/19/06)

The first aspect at the very beginning of our first meeting was the different languages of the world. A world map displayed where exactly which language is spoken. Another map pointed out where the different language families are located.

Afterwards we were told about the organisation of the course. The most important aspect was the creation of a website or at least a blog website to be able to publish a web portfolio (including summaries of lecture, tasks, reports and a glossary) every week on the internet. This technique contains several advantages compared to the use of paper or e-mail. A web portfolio makes the access and interaction easier and can be a source of material or tasks for the class because of its permanent availability via internet. Furthermore it gives the students the opportunity to use electronic media frequently and to improve their skills in this respect.

If you want to launch a website there are some options. You can run your own web server (for example by using the Apache server and saving your HTML files), use the university website or another web service provider (which means you have to upload your HTML files) or simply create a weblog (blog). But in every case the site has to be professionally formatted, look good and be user-friendly!

Having cleared the last details of the organisation Mr Gibbon gave an overview on the different topics to be expected in this semester.

After that the lecture focused on the definitions of "website", "hypertext" and "text".

A website is a hypertext document on the World Wide Web containing embedded document objects, linked document objects, texts, pictures, etc. It is available everywhere at any time (the onely condition: you have to be connected to the internet) and can be linked with other websites.

The word hypertext describes any text document on the internet (for example electronic dictionary, blog,etc.) as well as a help document for a computer application.

A text has to be seen as a group of sentences standing in context. These sentences consist generally speaking of words (which consist of letters). 

A text features three properties: meaning (semantics, pragmatics), formulation (text structure) and appearence (media). Meaning and appearance belong to the so called shared world, formulation to the world of the mind.



What are the following and how old are they?

Indo-European: a large family of languages spoken from South Asia to Western Europe and the United States, comprising the Balto-Slavonic, Germanic, Italic, Indo-Iranian, Celtic, Greek, Albanian, Armenian, Anatolian, and Tocharian branches. This language family includes many modern languages such as Bangla, English, French, German, Spanish, Russian, Hindi, and Urdu. According to Wikipedia the Anatolian languages (the first branch) were spoken in the 18th century BC.

Proto-Germanic: the reconstructed ancestor of the Germanic languages, descended from Proto-Indo-European. It was spoken during the Iron Age.

Old English: the earliest form of the English language, used from the fifth to the twelfth century. It was first written using the runic alphabet.

Middle English: the form of the English language spoken and written between the 12th and the beginning of the 16th centuries. The leading dialects of this period were Kentish, West Saxon, West Midland, East Midland, and Northern.

Early Modern English:the English language represented in printed documents of the period starting with Caxton (1476) and ending with Dryden (1700)

What are the main differences between English and German?

  • In German every noun is capitalized while in English only names (of persons, countries, companies) are written with a capital letter at the beginning.
  • There are three different articles in the German language (der/die/das), the english language has only one (the).
  • In English the 2nd person in the singular and plural is identical (you), german speakers employ 2 different forms (singular: du; plural: ihr).
  • If you adress someone in German you have to choose between 2 forms (du/sie), in English there is only one form (you).
24.10.06 19:38






A bound morpheme, which joins a stem


A form of a morpheme varying in pronunciation (plural -s)


Two words with an opposite meaning, but they share the same hypernym

Bound morpheme

A grammatical unit never occurring by itself. Instead it is always attached to another morpheme


A word with at least two roots (i.e. fire engine)


Alphabetically ordered list of words, also showing their context


Has to be defined


What a thing or word defines


A modifier expressing the reference


Process of adding an affix to form a new word


A collection of texts which are defining words and things

Differentia Specifica

Specific differences


A book or set of books giving an overview about a topic

Free morpheme

A grammatical unit which can occur by itself

Genus Proximum

General kind of something


A text connected with other texts in a electronically way


A superordinated word (e.g. dog is the hypernym of poodle)


A subordinated word (e.g. poodle is a hyponym of dog)


Relates words to their contexts (e.g. Subject-verb-agreement), word class is not changed

KWIC concordance

“Keyword in Context”, a special kind of dictionary, Google is the world’s largest system using KWIC concordance


Smallest unit of language which can be semantically interpreted


A collection of words and knowledge


The arrangement of lexical entries in the megastructure


Overall structure of a dictionary


A smaller unit that is related to a greater part


The arrangement of lexical information


Gives information about the dictionary to identify it


To talk about language itself


The internal structure of an entry in the macrostructure


A word which specifies the compound (e.g. arm in armchair)


Smallest unit of a word carrying meaning


The study of word forms

Onomasiological dictionary

A dictionary where one is looking for a word


The study of human sounds


Studies the sound system of a specific language


A word with many different meanings (i.e. bed as in river bed or room bed)


An affix in front of a stem


Is not reducible into more elements. Same as stem or base


A meaning referring to the text

Semiological dictionary

Words ordered by alphabetical order, synonyms for this word

Semiotic Relations

Interpretation and realization relations


The study of signs

Structural Relations

Syntagmatic and paradigmatic relations


An affix behind a stem


Two words have the same meaning


Formation of sentences


A list of columns and rows


Genus Proximum hierarchy

Text Theory 

Studying with a basic method a text


Dictionary, taxonomy based hierarchy


A text is split into word tokens


Online document which is usually available for everyone

Word Formation

The study of how words are constructed

1.2.07 22:50

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