All posts for the month August, 2016

By Jerry Bailey with props to Doc Larrick

We’re big fans of morphology, not only for vocabulary acquisition, but because it helps with spelling and grammar too. Suffixes can affect spelling and change parts of speech. This table illustrates that the simple little suffix –ING isn’t so simple!  morphology
Camilla was walking. The girl walking in the rain is Frank’s sister. Walking is good for the body.
Fritz is eating a hotdog. The boy eating a hotdog is Fritz’s friend. Fritz loves eating.
We’ll be skiing there tomorrow. The kids skiing in the mountains are having fun. Mickey is crazy about skiing.
We were studying bugs. The class studying bugs has more fun. Try studying bugs!

There are some rules that will help you understand which is which:

There will always be some form of the verb be when an –ing verb form is used:

I walk to school.  but…

I am walking to school.

I was walking to school.

I will be walking to school.

Adding –ing to verbs without using the verb be will create adjectives, known as present participles. Notice in the following sentence the word running is used to describe the child. A true verb (looked) must also be used to create a sentence.

The running child looked scared.

The third usage of the suffix –ing creates nouns, called gerunds. Gerunds are the act, the process, or the result of their original verbs.

I love reading!

Substitute dogs or chocolate for reading and it becomes clear that it is a noun.

runner As you can see, the study of morphology is very helpful with some parts of speech and some spelling rules – did you notice the doubling principle when –ing was added to run?

By Doc Larrick, first published March 3, 2016 in the Dynamic Literacy newsletter

I had the great fortune for many years to enjoy conversations about words with my grandmother, bright-eyed and witty to the day she died at age 96. Not only was I listening back in time to language usage from the early 1880’s throughout the first 75 years of the twentieth century, but–even more astounding–my grandmother had learned much about words and English usage from HER grandmother, who had been born in 1803!

And so on many occasions I would look up a word that my grandmother had casually used and find the entry was marked obs., or, as I came to discover, obsolescent–going out of modern usage. There are hundreds, even thousands, of words that were once commonly used in English but have all but disappeared (or dis-sounded) from the language.

I’m not going to entertain you (for now) with the joy of such words–for that, let me direct you to two wonderful resources: Mrs. Byrne’s Dictionary of Unusual, Obscure, and Preposterous Words, by Josepfa Heifetz Byrne (1974), and The Word Museum: The Most Remarkable English Words Ever Forgotten, by Jeffrey Kacirk (2000).  mrsbyrne

Instead, I’ll share with you a word family revealed in the suffix of obsolescent, using WordBuild’s greatest strength: using familiar words to enlarge your vocabulary without having to memorize useless word lists.

So, if obsolescent means “becoming obsolete”, what, for example, is adolescent? An adolescent, it turns out, is someone “becoming an adult.” A convalescent is someone who is “becoming strong (valid)” again.

Observe how the meanings of these –escent adjectives become clearer as you associate other, more familiar, words with them:

iridescent becoming like the RAINBOW, or the iris
luminescent becoming LIGHT, or illuminated
senescent becoming OLD, or senior or senile
tumescent becoming SWOLLEN, or like a tumor
rubescent becoming RED, like a rubric or rubella (measles)
liquescent becoming LIQUID (melting!)
mollescent becoming SOFT, like a mollusc
There are over 40 other -escent adjectives in modern English usage (to say nothing of ones who have become obsolete). And, they all can turn into nouns by changing -escent to -escence. For example, something phosphorescent has the quality of phosphorescence. phos

But wait–there’s more. Every one of these can be turned into a verb by changing the -escent or the -escence simply to -esce. For example, things that are opalescent have the quality of opalescence, and what they do as they become a shimmering display of color is to opalesce. By the way, all such words, having the suffixes -esce, -escent, or -escence, have a name. They are called INCHOATIVES, or words indicating the process of beginning. If you feel as if you’re getting an inchoative love for obsolete words, just say, “Thanks!”

By Jerry Bailey

One of the great things we’ve discovered about using morphology to teach vocabulary is that the approach seems to work with virtually every type of learner. The segmented nature of morphology seems to help everyone digest vocabulary better, just like it is easier to remember this phone number 8886968597 when you see it like this: 888-696-8597.  brain
High Achievers – I showed WordBuild to two high school seniors a few years ago, and within three minutes they were both upset because they hadn’t used it! These students were about to attend Princeton and The University of Virginia, and one of them said “Man, if I’d had this I would have done so much better on the SAT!”
Struggling Students – A number of years ago we were asked by the NYC Public Schools Department of Academic Intervention to do a short pilot using WordBuild. In just 12 weeks everyone improved reading comprehension dramatically, and the gap between low performing students and top students narrowed significantly! gap
Learning Challenges – The segmented approach of WordBuild helps many students with dyslexia use WordBuild very successfully. Now we have evidence of success with autism! I confess that I teared up when I read this review: The Open Window Autism Blog

What kind of student do you have?

Bonus Video: The prefix RE + the suffix ED