A Deep Dive into the Roots of our Language

145 TUTOR: Susan Brockman (PhD)

This course title is completely Germanic until the last word, language. Here, Latin lingua (tongue) enters. Tongue, however, is Germanic, but polyglot is a Greek word for a multilingual person or someone who speaks many tongues. How did this all get to be so complicated, or 'much folded' in Latin? On this course, you will study the Germanic roots and Latin origins of all sorts of English words. Find out why your recalcitrant friend keeps digging in her heels (from calcar, the Latin for heel) or why you are 'full of care' (cura) if you are curious. Moreover, the tutor certainly hopes that the course will be ludicrous, which once meant simply 'full of fun'.

3 PM
PM course

Course Notes

Over the 5 days of our course, we will try to learn how and why English vocabulary came to be a so-called "polyglot stew.” We will look into the history of English, its various language, families, ancestors, and lineage. We'll need to learn a bit of how Latin and Greek work as well since more than half of English words trace their roots back to those two ancient languages. Latin entered mostly through Norman French, and Greek mostly through Renaissance neologisms-but not entirely. A nice example is the word "stew” itself-a mix of Greek, Old French, Vulgar Latin, and a bit of German, too. What follows is a suggested course outline, which can easily be modified to match student curiosity.

Day 1: Introduction: The English Language: A History of "Polyglot Stew;”

Language Per Se: Family Trees of Language, Fun Linguistics Factoids, Indo-European?

Day 2: The Germanic Connection: "Old” English?

Middle and Modern English; English spelling!

How Latin works: Beginning and endings, prefixes and suffixes and the like;

Latin into English: half of our words...but none here!

Day 3: How Greek works: The Greek Alphabet

Greek into English: Prefixes, Suffixes, and "Learnèd Borrowings”?

Day 4: Pick a topic: Government and Politics

Psychology; Human Biology and Medicine, I

Day 5: Human Biology and Medicine, II

Myth, Religion, Philosophy...and onwards

Course Tutor

Susan Brockman


About Susan

With a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature, Susan has taught at the City University of New York and at Stuyvesant High School for 35 years. She likes to say that she's taught "many things to many people" but mostly Classical Literature in translation, Latin and Greek, and Linguistics. She delights in helping students find how completely alive the Classical world is today. No need to make it relevant; it requires only some keys to the workings of ancient minds and being human. She hopes to enlighten and entertain, and welcomes moments of awe whenever she and her students can find them.

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All courses run for 5 days

WK 1 11 Jul - 15 Jul

WK 2 18 Jul - 22 Jul

WK 3 25 Jul - 29 Jul

WK 4 1 Aug - 5 Aug

Morning Courses

9.15AM to 12.15PM

Afternoon Courses

1.45PM to 4.30PM

All Day Courses

9.15AM to 4.30PM