After having listened to Seth Lehrer's audio recordings discussing the history of English and Indo-European, I'd like to show you a couple of tricks you can now use to make your own writing voice sound more academic.
Using the Quirks of English to Your Own Advantage
THE THREE “PARENTS” OF
• Old English: Germanic. Used in
personal, working-class, and casual
conversation. Language of the “folks”.
• Norman French: Romance. Used in
legal, regal, and upper-class situations.
Language of the “gentry”.
• Latin/Greek: Languages of
antiquity. Used in the church and in
the sciences. Language of the
• Formed like this: verb +
•Get over •Think back
• Most common slang •Get through •Think through
verbs in English. •Get by •Think over
• Severaldeﬁnitions, and •Get into •Think about
new ones are constantly •Get at •Think up
formed. •Get away
MAKE SOME MORE:
CHOOSE A VERB FROM BOX “A” AND ONE OR MORE PREPOSITIONS FROM BOX “B”. SEE
HOW MANY PHRASAL VERBS YOU CAN MAKE FROM EACH MAIN VERB.
• Do • Lose
• Kick • Drop • In
• Go • Pick • At
• Make • Work • Back
• Find • Fly • Away
• Hit • Slip • To
• Take • Break • From
• Give • Turn
• Verbs here might have • It’squite easy to form slangy,
different meanings, even for idiomatic, and even vulgar
the same combination—for verbs this way—most
example, “make up” can English slang verbs are in fact
mean “invent,” “reconcile/ formed this way.
apologize,” or “decorate (as
in, a face). • It’s
possible to replace
almost any of these verbs
• Theytend to be extremely with more speciﬁc, more
casual. academic words.
WHAT WAS THAT LAST BIT?
• Indeed, youcan replace
almost any phrasal verb with
a more speciﬁc, more • Take off
academic single-word verb. • Take over
• Take back
• Takea look at the following • Take in
and see if you can replace • Take up
them with more speciﬁc
HOW’D YOU DO?
For “take off ”: remove,
• Take off depart, withdraw, etc.
• Take over
For “take over”: assume
• Take back
(power), usurp, arrogate,
• Take in
• Take up (as in,
For “take up”: occupy (as
“take up tennis”)
in: space), embrace,
SPEAKING OF “ACADEMIC
• You probably already knew most of the “academic” words
listed on the last slide (except, maybe, “arrogate,” the verb
form of “arrogant”: to claim w/o justiﬁcation)
• Rareand extremely multisyllabic words are great, but aren’t
always necessary for a convincing academic voice.
• Words originating from French, Latin, and Greek (the language
of the “gentry” and the Academy) naturally sound more formal
in Modern English, because of old biases.
ONE LAST THING:
HOW DO WE FORM LATIN VERBS?
WHAT DO THESE TWO
WORD PARTS DO?
The preﬁxes: The sufﬁxes:
• Are often Latin or Greek • Change the form of the
prepositions root verb—to an abstract
• Change the quality, noun (-tion, -ism, -ness), and
direction, or other adjective (-ive, -ous), and to
meaning-aspect of the root different verb tenses (-ed, -
• Can sometimes be • Are often combined for
combined for new more complex forms (-
meanings ousness), (-tionism), (-
• Englishhas roots in many • Tosound more academic,
languages—especially Old you can simply shift Old
English (Germanic), Norman English words over to Latin
French, Latin, and Greek and French forms.
• Each historical language has • Changing two-word verbs—
its own associations—even verb+preposition—into
today. Latin verbs—preﬁx/root/
sufﬁx—is a good place to
• Youprobably already know start.
multiple forms of English