About this paper

Appears in:
Pages: 5822-5827
Publication year: 2012
ISBN: 978-84-615-5563-5
ISSN: 2340-1079

Conference name: 6th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 5-7 March, 2012
Location: Valencia, Spain


A. Paczkowski

University of Georgia (UNITED STATES)
In the century since the 1909 edition of Liddell and Scott's famous Greek dictionary, advancements in the field of Indo-European Linguistics have greatly enriched our knowledge of Ancient Greek. Armed with these insights, one need not page through the lexicon long before finding fault with certain etymologies (identifying, for instance, the Latin deus as the cognate of Greek θεός, when in truth deus and Ζεύς are cognate). When one finds a prefixed form of a verb, one must look it up by the prefix rather than by the verb. Furthermore there is a great amount of irregularity in Greek which the novice student is forced to master through tedious memorization, and for which the advanced student often craves explanation. This is just one example, but such difficulties abound in the realm of language instruction. Often these seemingly complex variations can be explained in straightforward terms, which ease the burden of memorization, by putting them in a historical context.

My paper addresses the problem of overcoming linguistic irregularity from the perspective of the language learner, and provides historical-linguistic solutions from the perspective of the language teacher, textbook author, and lexicographer. For one of the greatest benefits to studying Historical Linguistics is the ability to derive an underlying regular pattern from a few disparate irregularities. The reason this works is that, contrary to popular belief, languages change in regular ways; and when a sound change occurs ([s] becoming [r] between vowels, for instance), it affects every word equally. And so the same kinds of similarities between forms that allow learners to pick up new systems quickly can be found by peeling back the layers of linguistic change.

Not only is this a critical thinking skill worthy of cultivating in students, but it is invaluable when learning a foreign language, and it provides points of interest which students often find interesting. Although the most direct way for a student to access this skill would be to take a course in Historical Linguistics, a language teacher wielding such explanations can pass the skill on indirectly to his or her students by pointing out to them when certain historical processes have rendered an easy paradigm difficult. A textbook ought to show, though explanation and exercises, why an irregularity exists. A dictionary's etymological notes should work for the user and give information not just about how certain forms are related, but also about the historical processes that operated on the language. As long as the explanations are clear and systematic, a little linguistics goes a long way.
author = {Paczkowski, A.},
series = {6th International Technology, Education and Development Conference},
booktitle = {INTED2012 Proceedings},
isbn = {978-84-615-5563-5},
issn = {2340-1079},
publisher = {IATED},
location = {Valencia, Spain},
month = {5-7 March, 2012},
year = {2012},
pages = {5822-5827}}
AU - A. Paczkowski
SN - 978-84-615-5563-5/2340-1079
PY - 2012
Y1 - 5-7 March, 2012
CI - Valencia, Spain
JO - 6th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
JA - INTED2012 Proceedings
SP - 5822
EP - 5827
ER -
A. Paczkowski (2012) A LITTLE LINGUISTICS GOES A LONG WAY, INTED2012 Proceedings, pp. 5822-5827.