LG443 Assessment Exercise 2012 (Undergrads only) Normally I wait till near the end of term to give this out, but in response to popular demand I am posting it by degrees from now on my webpage. It will not be complete until the end of term

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LG443 Assessment Exercise 2012 (Undergrads only)
Normally I wait till near the end of term to give this out, but in response to popular demand I am posting it by degrees from now on my webpage. It will not be complete until the end of term. You should only submit it after you complete the whole exercise.
-- This constitutes one third of your assessment for this course. The rest is the essay/project.

-- Answer all questions

-- Nominally it is 2000 words, so don't write vast essays on each question! Many of the answers can be quite short.

-- Some of these questions may be best answered with the aid of visits to the Library to use the etymological dictionaries, dictionaries of Middle English, and other reference books. Some require you to go online via my website.

-- Not all questions here have unambiguous single correct answers.
Assessment criteria:

Remember this is an exercise so not to be written up as an academic essay, or series of essays, of the type often required for our modules, and described in your Dept booklet. E.g. There is no need for introductions, conclusions, references. You just put the number of the question and answer it, rather like in a school exam.

Questions are equally weighted, and the max possible score, as usual in the Dept, is 80. Every year some of you score almost full marks on this.

Things we are looking for:

- Use of terms and concepts from the course where appropriate, rather than talking in ‘lay’ terms only

- Care not to leave out anything asked for

- Care not to confuse spoken and written forms, and use of proper conventions to refer to them (see webpage)

- Use of phonetic symbols and OE letters typed where appropriate (see webpage on Old English letters and phonetic symbols if you don’t already know how to type them)

- Enterprise in seeking an answer (in items where the answer is not directly in a handout)

  1. Put these scenarios in correct historical order. Then for each say briefly if it could possibly have happened, or not, and why/in what respects.

a. Geoffrey Chaucer is delighted to hear that the King has just sanctioned the Statute of Pleading, whereby court cases can be conducted in English at last.

b. St Augustine writes to King Alfred, complaining about his poor attempts to translate bits of the Bible into English.

c. Dr Johnson has an argument with William Caxton about which is the most attractive typeface to use for his dictionary.

d. Shakespeare bumps into John Hart the ‘orthoepist’ in a tavern and they have an animated discussion of how the word delight should be pronounced – [deli:t] or [delait]

e. Tired of unsuccessfully commanding the tide not to come in, and getting his feet wet, King Canute has an early night, and a good read of Beowulf

f. Boadicea sends a letter to the emperor Claudius complaining about her bad treatment by his soldiers.

  1. The following OE words all had a short /a/ sound in the first syllable (which is the stressed syllable). They do not end up with the same sounds in modern RP.

  1. Give the modern descendent of each word (you may want to check using an OE dictionary such as http://home.comcast.net/~modean52/oeme_dictionaries.htm but remember for an OE word the dic gives the modern translation, which may not be the word actually descended from the OE word. If you can guess what the modern word might be then you can check it by looking in the modern English > OE side)

  2. What different modern sounds can OE /a/ develop into?

  3. Suggest a rule capturing in general terms where this OE /a/ develops to each modern sound.

ONLY deal with first syllable /a/

nama macian standan talu sacc salt

þancian alswa bacan brand sanc lamb

mannes baðian scamu halt all alter

manu lane
3) Here are some words recently added to the big Oxford English Dictionary

a) Say what they mean. If you don’t already know, check on the internet (Google!)

b) What reason(s) can you suggest for why each is innovated?


quad bike

comfort break


person Friday

4) Find out what the words for skyscraper, hotdog and laptop are in three other languages (including your own L1 if you are not a native speaker of English; but only one Romance language please). You can use online dictionaries or Google language tools to provide translations but you may need to ask a native speaker on campus to explain the word.
Explain the form of each word carefully, showing which languages have chosen to coin a fully native word/expression (from what morphemes?), which to borrow the English word (with what adaptation of sounds, spelling etc?), which to form a loan translation.
5) What is the plural of formula?

a. Check the two possibilities in the BNC (via quick link on my webpage). Which plural is more common? Give figures.

b. From the sample examples you get from the BNC try to identify the word formula used in different meanings. Suggest a generalisation about how the word is more likely to have a particular plural form in a particular meaning.

c. Do the examples support the hypothesis that newer meanings have the native English plural, older ones have the loaned Latin plural?

d. Check the two possibilities for the whole WWW via Google. Do you get a similar relative frequency result to the BNC? If not why not?
6) For each of the following sets of examples:
a) Identify the likely meaning of the targeted word in the set of examples

b) Give a 'modern' translation of one of the examples in each set

c) In each set the usual modern meaning of the word is different from the one seen here. Say what kind of meaning extension links the new to the old meaning.

The proud peacock, overcharged with pens (B. Johnson)

Right as the pennes of the pecok (1377)

delyuered ye cytie by appoyntement, that he with the people myght departe thens without bodely harme. (1494)

Straunge desyryd to knowe what appoyntementys he desyryth to haue in the trety, ... (Paston letters 15th cent)


It is against my free-hold ... to drink such balderdash (B Johnson 1629)


In the same tide He tok his hors and rod anon (John Gower 1390)

Thus have I lete time slyde For Slowthe, and kepte noght my tide (1390)
This rurall mous in to the wynter tyde, Had hunger, cauld, and ... grit distres (1450) Farewele Thomas, I tarie no tyde here (1440)


All fysshe...fede and kepe theyr byrdes (1398)

The Woolfe and Woolfe-birdes suld be slaine (1597)

And þe turtil [findes]... a neste þar he mai with his briddes reste (1300)
7) Study the OED entry for pea / pease and answer the following questions:

  1. In which periods of English (OE, ME, ENE, NE) were the following current? (Disregard Scottish and dialectal English occurrences)

a. The plural with n

b. The plural with ses

c. The singular with s in it

  1. Around what year is the modern plural peas first recorded?

  2. Describe and name the process that seems to have swept away the n plural of this and many other English words: give another example of a lost n plural.

  3. What modern term is used for the process by which ‘a new singular PEA arose’? Give another example.

8) For each of these statements say

a. whether you agree with it based on your intuition about current English (there is no right answer here)

b. whether in fact it is historically true (there is a right answer here, from an etymological dictionary)

For those where you agree under (a) but they are not true under (b), what principle/process of lexical change is involved?

Expresso coffee is so called because it is small so you can drink it fast - at express speed

Crockery is so called because it is a collection of crocks (an old word for pots etc.)

Your nostril is so called because it is part of your nose

When you parboil something you part boil it, so that explains the form of the word

The belfry of a church is so called because it has the bells in it

Cutlery is so called because you cut things with it

Miniature things are called that because they are small (cf. minimum, miniskirt etc.)
9) Research (in the OED) the pairs: flower and flour; log meaning ‘block of wood’, log meaning ‘record of a journey etc.’

  1. Each pair is felt as two different words (homonyms) today, but were they always homonyms, or at one time seen as two meanings of one word (polysemy)? Support your explanation with OED quotes.

  2. The words flower and flour are now differentiated in spelling, but not the two words log. Were variant spellings available that could have been used to differentiate the two words log? What were they?

  3. How late was it before the spellings flower and flour came to be used exclusively for the words they are now associated with? (Look closely at the spelling information in OED excluding Scotland, USA, dialects)

  4. Is it really valuable that English has different spellings for flower and flour? Are there any contexts where ambiguity might arise if they were not spelt differently? Do we suffer from ambiguities because log does not have different spellings in the different meanings?


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