new middle school class???

Barnhart barnhart at HIGHLANDS.COM
Thu Apr 7 02:09:51 UTC 2005

Roger Shuy's suggestions are very good.  I have a high school student and
a middle school student in my house.  In addition to dialect, you may wish
to talk about new words (one's not in the dictionaries yet).  "Among the
New Words" in _American Speech_, _The Barnhart Dictionary Companion_
focus on new words.  _America In So Many Words_ (Houghton Mifflin, 1997)
deals with the development of American vocabulary.  _The World In So Many
Words_ (also Houghton) shows how much like a sponge English is by focusing
on borrowings from many other languages.  _How We Talk: American Regional
English Today_ (Houghton) is another useful source for dialect.  Students
in the middle grades are always titillated by slang.  Another subject that
they might find interesting would be trademarks and their fate.  Harry
Homa (a high school teacher in the South Bronx--now there's a tough
audience) challenged his students to examine slang and neologisms for
their appropriateness for entry in a dictionary.  His observation for them
was "Some words fly, others die."  Perhaps there is a local author whom
you could entice to come and talk about his or her choice of words in
composition.  Gathering evidence of usage can be a very useful exercise.

David K. Barnhart

barnhart at

American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> on Wednesday, April 06,
2005 at 9:30 PM -0500 wrote:
>---------------------- Information from the mail header
>Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>Poster:       Roger Shuy <rshuy at MONTANA.COM>
>Subject:      Re: new middle school class???
>on 4/6/05 7:08 PM, Jan Kammert at write at SCN.ORG wrote:
>> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>> -----------------------
>> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>> Poster:       Jan Kammert <write at SCN.ORG>
>> Subject:      new middle school class???
>--> -
>> Those of you on this list have always been fantastic about answering my
>> questions.  I hope you can help me out again.
>> I teach 8th grade, and my principal has invited teachers to come up with
>> new elective classes for grades 6 through 8.  I'm thinking about a
>> on language.  I'm thinking of having a bit of vocabulary, grammar, and
>> history of English.  The course would be one semester (18 weeks).
>> I have to write a course description by noon on Friday.  Teachers only
>> this request yesterday.  I don't know how anyone can write anything very
>> thoughtful in that amount of time, but I'm going to give it my best try!
>> Do any of you have thoughts about what topics could be covered in this
>> course?  Thoughts about printed resources?  Thank you in advance for any
>> ideas you have.
>> Jan
>Back in the old days, when linguistics seemed to be important to the
>schools, the NCTE asked me to write a little booklet for high school
>teachers and students--about dialects. I did (in 1967) and it was
>by NCTE and became a best seller for a number of years. It even included a
>checklist of dialect features that young people could gather from their
>families and friends. Discvering American Dialects is out of print now
>as linguistics seems to have gone out of style in the secondary
>but your question prompted me to think of it again. There is so much about
>language that can be made exciting to young students. I had taught 7th
>graders in my early teaching and I had them find out whether the wh in
>"which" was used by their school principal, their teachers and their
>As it turned out, in this Midland dialect community where I taught,
>I mean nobody, used the wh in those words. Purists claimed that they
>couldn't tell the difference between a female who rode a broom from a
>relative pronoun. Bosh. They knew full well whitch was which. Kids are
>a lot smarter than we are.
>Roger Shuy

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