Notes of Lessons: Literature, Class III

Notes of Lessons: Literature, Class III

[We have thought that it might be of use to our readers (in their own families) to publish from month to month during the current year, Notes of Lessons prepared by students of the House of Education for the pupils of the Practising School. We should like to say, however, that such a Lesson is never given as a tour de force, but is always an illustration or an expansion of some part of the children’s regular studies (in the Parents’ Review School), some passage in one or other of their school books.—Ed.]

Subject: Influence of Latin on the English Language • Group: English • Class III • Time: 20-30 minutes

By Winifred Tibbits
The Parents’ Review, 1904, pp. 465-468


I. To interest the children in the study of their own language.

II. To show them what a great influence history has upon a language.

III. To show them how it is that we have so many Latin words in our language, as they are just going to take Latin prefixes.

IV. To connect the past with the present.


Step I.—Ask the children what foreign elements we have in our language and see if they know how they came to us.

We have French, German, Italian, Spanish, Scandinavian, Greek and Latin words, besides many others. To-day we will find out how we came to have so many Latin words in the English language.

These Latin words did not all come at the same time, but at four different periods.

Step II. Latin of the First Period.—Question the children as to the events of the year 55 B.C. Romans in Britain over 400 years, and during this time conferred many benefits upon the ignorant Britons. Made good roads, gave good laws, built ramparts and forts, and founded colonies. When they left the country in 410 A.D. to defend Rome against the Goths, they left these benefits behind them, and the Roman names remained with the things. Thus we have castra, a camp; fossa, a ditch; strata, a paved road; vallum, a rampart; portus, a harbour.

Ask children for names of places with the word “castra” in, which in some cases has been altered to “cester” and “chester.” Examples—Manchester, Doncaster, Leicester.

Then take “strata” in the same way, telling them about the great Roman road from Richborough into Scotland, which went over a ridge of hills in this district known as the High Street till this day. Such towns as Stratford-on-Avon, Stretton, Stretford and Stradbrook must have been on or near this great military road.

Wall is the only word we have from “vallum.”

From “fossa” we have Fosbrooke, Fossway, etc.

Portus” appears in Portsmouth, Portsea, Bridport, etc.

The children are to find out as many words as possible that are derived from each Latin one.

Step III. Latin of the Second Period.—Ask the children if they know who came to England in 597, and how they would influence the language. St. Augustine and forty monks sent from Rome to convert Angles and Saxons, and as they were missionaries it is chiefly words relating to church matters which they introduced. Thus we have priest from presbyter, sacrament from sacramentum, sanctify from sanctus, etc.

Christianity always tends to civilize a nation, and renders the people more sociable, and so the English began to have intercourse and to trade with the countries of Europe, and in that way new things were brought into the country, and new names came with them. Ask what word we get from caseus, from tunica, from ficus, from leo, from ostrea, from pondus, from candila.

With regard to those words which have been introduced directly from the Latin, it must be noticed that they are often greatly changed in form. Examples—debitum and debt, potio and poison, traditio and treason.

Step IV. Latin of the Third Period.—Question the children as to the events of 1066, and what the Norman Conquest has to do with the Latin in our language.

French is really Latin with many of the inflections lost and the vowel sounds very much altered, and so the words we have taken from the French are really of Latin origin. This Norman French which William and his followers brought into the country became the language of the ruling classes, of the court, lawyers and priests, and even the country people began to speak French. But about the end of the 14th century there came a reaction, and the Frenchmen began to learn English from their English wives and children. But by this time many French words had been almost universally adopted, and they have remained in the language till this day.

Get the children to give words derived from the Latin in the following order:

English French Latin
duke duc dux (acc. ducem)
chivalry cheval callabus
fidelity fidelité fidelitas

The names of cattle, etc., were Saxon while the animals lived, but when they were killed they became Norman. Ask children for examples of this.

English French Latin
(ox) beef bœuf bos (acc. bovem)
(calf) veal veil vitellus
(pig) pork porc porcus
(sheep) mutton mouton mueto
(hen) pullet poulet pulla

Words relating to the church:

friar frère frater
ceremony cérémonie cærimonia
relic reliques reliquæ

Step V. Latin of the Fourth Period.—The Norman French Latin was spoken Latin. It was the every-day speech of the people for many years, and underwent many changes. But the Latin of the 4th period was written. It was brought to England by the powerful movement known as the Revival ofLearning. When the Turks took Constantinople in 1453, all the learned men fled with their precious Greek and Latin manuscripts to the different countries of Europe. Many came to England and taught in the Universities, and soon the study of Greek and Latin became quite fashionable, and in this way thousands of Latin words came pouring into the language.

Unlike the Latin of the 3rd period, however, it did not undergo any great changes. Thus the Latin opinio simply had “n” added to it, and became opinion, suggestio became suggestion, separatum became separate, notio became notion.

Step VI.—Show how just in the same way that Latin words have crept into our language, so, many of our English words are creeping into the languages of the peoples with whom we trade. Thus the French use the words tramway, waggon, roast beef, club, speech, pick-pocket, lunch, toast, etc.

Recapitulate, if time, by means of a few questions.