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LING1000 Invitation to Linguistics

Tutorial After Lecture 2


What makes a word real?
In this tutorial, we will watch a TED talk entitled What makes a word real? by
Prof. Anne Curzan from the University of Michigan (around 17 minutes, filmed
March 2014).
Links: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F6NU0DMjv0Y or
http://www.ted.com/talks/anne_curzan_what_makes_a_word_real
Part 1: Discuss the following questions BEFORE watching the talk (<10
minutes)
1. What comes into you mind when you hear the word dictionary? What do
people use dictionaries for? How do people view the information listed in a
dictionary?
2.

What criteria do you think dictionary editors use to decide whether a word
should be included in or deleted from a dictionary?

3.

Is creation of new expressions common among your peers or internet users?


Can you cite some examples? How do older people (like your
parents/teachers like Felix ) usually view these expressions? Have you
ever thought about these expressions being included in dictionaries some
day in the future?

Part 2: Discuss the following questions AFTER watching the talk (15
minutes)
1. Why do people ask questions like To defriend? I mean, is that even a real
word?
2. People tend not to be critical about whats in a dictionary. Why?
3. According to Prof. Curzan, what do dictionary editors do?
4. Prof. Curzan has meetings with other lexicographers every year to vote
whether certain new words can be included in dictionaries. In 2014 she found
that their list of potential new dictionary entries actually overlapped
somewhat with the list of banished words from the Lake Superior State
University. What does that mean? Why does this happen?

5. What has happened to the English word peruse, according to Prof. Curzan?
What does this word illustrate?
6. Prof. Curzan said she needs to put aside her own likes and dislikes when she
fill out the ballot that asks her about whether new uses, new pronunciations,
new meanings are acceptable. Why? How does she fill out the ballot then?
7. How does a word get into a dictionary?
(Students are also strongly encouraged to watch another 6-minute TED talk
entitled Lets put the awe back in awesome by Jill Shargaa filmed in July 2014.
In the talk, she expresses her worries about the meaning broadening of the
word awesome, in a hilarious way. Her attitude towards language change is
more of a prescriptive nature. Fun to watch, I promise. Transcripts and subtitles
in different available).
http://www.ted.com/talks/jill_shargaa_please_please_people_let_s_put_the_awe_
back_in_awesome or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uSD6RlqHwOk Jill
Shargaa: Please, please, people. Let's put the 'awe' back in 'awesome')