‘The air is always thick with our verbal emissions. There are so many things we want to tell the world. Some of them are important, some of them are not. But we talk anyway. A life without words would be a horrendous privation.’
(from the Introduction)
Words and language, keys to human identity, are fascinating subjects. The aim of this book is to arouse curiosity about English words and about the nature of language in general, especially among students who are not intending to specialise in linguistics.
The book covers a wide range of topics, including the structure of words, the meaning of words, how their spelling relates to pronunciation, how new words are manufactured or imported from other languages, and how the meaning of words changes with the passage of time. It also investigates how the mind deals with words by highlighting the amazing intellectual feat performed routinely when the right word is retrieved from the mental dictionary during conversation. Words of all sorts are examined—from great poetry, nonsense verse and journalism to advertising. It is demonstrated that in their very different ways they are all worthy of serious study.
This textbook is an accessible descriptive introduction, suitable for students of English language and communication, showing how the nature of words can be illuminated by insights from a broad range of areas of linguistics and related subjects.
Francis Katamba is Lecturer in Linguistics at Lancaster University. His publications include Morphology (1993) and Introduction to Phonology (1989).
London and New York
First published 1994
11 New Fetter Lane, London EC4P 4EE
This edition published in the Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2005. “To purchase your own copy of this or any of Taylor & Francis or Routledge’s collection of thousands of eBooks please go to www.eBookstore.tandf.co.uk.”
Simultaneously published in the USA and Canada
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© 1994 Francis Katamba
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British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data
English words/Francis Katamba
Includes bibliographical references.
1. English language—Lexicology. I. Title
423 .028–dc20 93–33393
ISBN 0-203-20528-6 Master e-book ISBN
ISBN 0-203-20531-6 (Adobe eReader Format)
ISBN 0-415-10467-X (hbk)
ISBN 0-415-10468-8 (pbk)
Francis and Helen
Key to symbols used
Why study words?
Overview of coming chapters
What is a word?
Words are like liquorice allsorts
Words as vocabulary items
Close encounters of a morphemic kind
The quest for verbal atoms
Close morphological encounters: zooming in on morphemes
Morphemes and their disguises
Allomorphs: morph families
Freedom and bondage
Sound symbolism: phonaesthemes and onomatopoeia
Tiny words (isolating languages)
Get the glue (agglutinating languages)
Labyrinthine words (synthetic languages)
References: Francis Katamba
Auden, W.H. ‘Musée des Beaux Arts’. In W.H.Auden (1968) Collected Poems. Edited by Edward
Bliss, A.J. (1966) Dictionary of Foreign Words and Phrases in Current English. London: Routledge &
Burns, R. (1786) ‘Address to the devil’ in W.Beattie and H.W.Meikle (eds) Poems and Songs of Robert
Carroll. L. (1982) Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. Harmondsworth:
Chaucer, G. (1964) The Canterbury Tales, edited by A.Hieatt and C.Hieatt. New York: Bantam Books.
Chirol, L. (1973) Les ‘mots français’ et le mythe de la France en anglais contemporain. Paris: Editions
Cole, W. and U. and Ungerer, T. (1978) Oh, What Nonsense! A Collection of Nonsense Verse. London:
Crystal, D. (1987) The Cambridge Encyclopaedia of Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Dahl, R. (1982) The BFG. Harmondsworth: Puffin Books. BGF text and cartoon.
Eliot, T.S. (1963) Collected Poems (1963). London: Faber & Faber. ‘Rhapsody on a Windy Night’
English children’s rhyme ‘Beg parding’ in W.Cole (1968) Oh, What Nonsense, London: Methuen, p. 85.
Fantoni, B. (1984) Private Eye’s Colemanballs 2. London: Private Eye/André Deutsch.
Gairdner, J. (ed.) (1983) The Paston Letters. Gloucester: Alan Sutton. Vol. 2, pp. 46–8.
Gleason, H.A. (1961) An Introduction to Descriptive Linguistics. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.
Hopkins, G.M. (1970) ‘Spring and Fall’ in W.H.Gardner and N.H. MacKenzie, The Poems of Gerald
Lawrence, D.H. (1960) ‘Love among the Haystacks’ (1930) in Love among the Haystacks and Other
Milligan, S. ‘Questions, Quistions & Questions’ in W.Cole (1972) Oh, That’s Ridiculous. London:
Mr. Punch’s Victorian Era (1888) ‘Humble Pie’ (1872). London: Bradbury, Agnew.
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