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What is philology?
- The study of words
- The study of language in general, how language works
What does “philology” mean?
- Philo = love
- Logy = words
- Philology = love of words
Four aspects of language
- Words - but in philology, we call these “vocabulary items”
- History – language is a inherited from parents, not “made up” like a computer “language”
- Not Natural – language is a cultural product that can change, even die out. As such, it is not natural – what is natural is the need to communicate. If language were natural, then there would be only one, like the natural process of pregnancy. Like food, language is necessary, but it is different everywhere.
4 things ALL words have
- Phonics = sound, used to transmit the meaning of language
- Semantics = literal meaning of words
- Figurative use = non-literal meaning of words
- Connotation = added semantics; meanings usually not listed in the dictionary
3 things SOME words have (that is, only words in written languages)
- Orthography = spelling. Ex: tire (US) = tyre (UK). Orthography is conventional (it’s been decided), but it is not variable by individuals. This goes back to 5000 BCE, the beginning of recorded history (the previous period called “pre-historic” because history is written history). The first to use writing may have been the Chinese, then the Egyptians, but they both used pictographic symbols. It wasn’t until the Babylonians and Phoenicians that phonetic symbols were used.
- Shape or Appearance = Advanced readers see words (even sentences) as a whole (“gestalt”). A child sees b-o-y, but an adult sees boy.
- Etymology = history of words, family tree of words
What are diacritical marks?
- Marks added to words that change the sound of the words
- Ex: tilde, accents
- Ex: canyon (English) = canon (Spanish)
What is the etymology of “father”?
- 5000BCE - *patir (reconstructed form)
- 411CE – vaedir
- 911CE – fadir (Anglo-Saxon = Old English)
- 1311CE – fader (Middle English)
- 1711CE – father (Modern English)
- This is an example of how English is part of the Germanic family of languages. Ex: vater = “father” in German
Why has modern English not changed much in the last 500 years?
- The invention of the printing press in 1450 made it necessary for the orthography of our language to become fixed, so our pronunciation has changed a lot, but our spelling hasn’t changed much.
- In general, semantics often changes, but rarely spelling.
What is the etymology of “harlot”?
- 1311CE – harlotte = naughty person
- 2011CE – harlot = slutty woman
- The meaning has narrowed over time.
What is the etymology of “meat”?
- Bible – Jesus said that we must give them “mete and drink,” where mete = food
- Modern English – meat = animal flesh for eating
What is the problem with trying to trace the etymology of Chinese words?
Chinese characters are not phonetic, so we don’t know how the pronunciation has changed.