A Question for You — Accessible Linguistics?

Violet is fascinated by linguistics — which languages are related to each other, how they traveled around (we just finished reading about Samuel Champlain and French colonies in Canada), why they die out. Another question — why don’t we have English accents anymore?
I would love to give her some independent reading on this — any thoughts? Seen any great shows on PBS or Discovery?

I might attempt a college textbook, since if she doesn’t get every nuance, who cares, but I’d love to find something designed to be more engaging to start with. The textbook could follow up if she is truly fascinated.

By the way, the carnival of homeschooling will be up tomorrow! Thanks much to all who have contributed — you still have a few more hours . . .

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6 Comments

Filed under Curriculum, Gifted Ed, Schoolday Doings

6 responses to “A Question for You — Accessible Linguistics?

  1. Meg

    Delurking here…

    “The Story of English” was a PBS series (I think it was PBS, anyway)–you may try looking for it at your library, or perhaps at a university library if you have access to one. I believe there are a number of episodes, and also a pretty great book by the same title that was made to accompany the series. Also try “The Mother Tongue” and “Made in America,” both by Bill Bryson. “The Story of English” and “The Mother Tongue” each go through the origins of language and hit on some fairly complicated stuff like phonemes and … well, I forget the rest. However, I think a kid who is interested in the subject would certainly find much of the information accessible. “Made in America,” of course, traces the development of language specifically to the quirks of American English.

  2. shaun

    Ooh, I love the Bill Bryson idea — although geez, he can have some pretty interesting language himself. I nearly suffocated from laughing so hard at one of his travel books . . . something about the “adult” shops in Germany . . .

    I’ll look for that PBS series — I’m sure I would enjoy it, at least!

  3. refincher

    Hi! Just came over with the CoH, and am enjoying your blog. Violet might want to investigate the Ethnologue (just google it; it’s online) which is a catalogue of the world’s living languages. It also details which languages are related to others, where they are spoken, how many speakers, etc. She might also want to research Noah Webster, and the political reasons that we speak and spell words differently from the Brits (some of it is natural language shift due to separation over time and space, but some has to do with a purposeful formation of a separate national identity). And just for fun, you could watch the musical My Fair Lady — you can discuss how many variations in British English there are (Professor Higgins can place anyone in England by his accent, and in London within 3 blocks) and how language affects social status. These are great questions; whole doctoral dissertations have been written on these topics! I have some training in linguistics (B.A. in Spanish and English, some post-graduate studies with SIL International. ) and would be glad to answer some questions personally.

  4. J

    My undergraduate degree was in Linguistics, and I have thought about doing a homeschool class on the subject several times! I just never quite get around to doing it.

    I’ll second the recommendations for Bill Bryson’s books. Those are great. The Teaching Company has two programs – one on the History of English, and another on the Story of Human Language. The latter is taught by one of my former professors 🙂 I haven’t actually seen either, though.

    Here is the latest edition of the textbook used in my first Linguistics course: http://tinyurl.com/2wf8se They just keep requiring new editions for that class – it’s such a great book. It’s a good overview of the entire Linguistics field, but it IS a college textbook. It sounds like the aspect of linguistics she is really interested in is really historical linguistics. That is a really fun topic! But it is easiest to make sense of the history if you know the basics of general linguistics.

    Lastly, we just got Wicked Words, a Horrible History book. We haven’t read it, but it looks pretty good and it is the ONLY kid book I’ve ever seen on the topic. So, I’m hopeful!

  5. J

    Here is one more potential book I saved once upon a time. It got pretty mediocre reviews, though.
    http://tinyurl.com/2k2zxp

  6. We’re brand new to this space, but I love language too. Violet might like to take a look at English itself, and how it has evolved. You can move backward from the modern English ‘Morte d’Arthur’ about King Arthur (by Mallory) toward the same stories in Middle English, in ‘King Arthur’s Death,’ edited by Larry Benson. Pushing further back, once you get the language, is Tolkein’s “Gawain and the Grene Knight,” and then of course ‘Beowulf.’ If you’re doing anything with medieval history (fun, with its castles and courts), excerpts of these can be really fun.

    It’s also interesting to learn that the U.S. ‘southern’ accent, especially Appalachia, is very close to the original English (British) accent of the immigrants who settled there.

    You might think about encouraging her analytical skills (e.g., how to think critically about work she can currently read). One great place to find material for this is poets.org, and I’m constantly going to Read Write Think (resources): http://www.readwritethink.org/resources/index.asp
    The MLA publishes a cool language map, too, at http://www.mla.org/resources/census_main.

    Rock on, mama. 🙂

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