Professor Sheds Light on Origin of Words, Language

Article excerpt

Byline: J. Hope Babowice

You wanted to know

Patty Rottinghaus of Lake Zurich wanted to know:

Everybody uses words, so I was wondering how do people think of words and use them?

If you have a question you'd like Kids Ink to answer, write Kids Ink, c/o the Daily Herald, 50 Lakeview Parkway, Suite 104, Vernon Hills, IL 60061. Along with your question, include your name, age, phone number, hometown, grade and school.

For further reading

To learn more about words, Ela Area Public Library in Lake Zurich suggests:

- "Alphabetical Order: How The Alphabet Began" by Tiphaine Samoyault

- "The Beginning of Writing" by Lois Warburton

- "The Story of Writing" by Andrew Robinson

- "Language and Writing" by Julian Rowe

"Everybody uses words, so I was wondering, how do people think of words and use them?" asked Patty Rottinghaus, 10, a fifth-grader at Isaac Fox Elementary School in Lake Zurich.

"The question identifies two problems," said Chris Kennedy, assistant professor of linguistics at Northwestern University in Evanston. "Psychology and linguistics."

Psycho-linguistics is the study of how people select particular words. Linguistics is the scientific study of language.

"The language that you've grown up learning dictates the range of possible uses, possible ways of putting words together," Kennedy said. "Languages differ, but they all use the same type of building blocks. …