The English Language

About 70% of English vocabulary is derived from Greek and Latin roots and affixes.It is easier to learn new words if you know the meanings behind them. The spelling-meaning connection is an important tool to decode a word. Look at the word health for example. If you remove the last two letters, you have the word heal. So health is related in meaning to heal. Many critics of the English spelling system don’t realize that the system evolved to represent both sound and meaning. If you know a little about spelling, you can actually improve your vocabulary. Another example is the word sign. There are several words related to sign, such as signal, design, and insignia. These words are derived from the Latin root, signum which means a symbol or mark. They all share a common core.

Our minds organize information, including words, according to our mental file folders. Language has a system for organizing words just like our mind organizes language. The Oxford English Dictionary second edition includes more than 600,000 definitions. Most of us know only a portion of these words. We understand them if we encounter them in reading. Most of us feel comfortable using a smaller portion in expressive language in speech and writing. An average high school graduate uses approximately 40,000 words compared to a college graduate of 75,000 words. People acquire large vocabularies through reading. We shouldn’t give up on studying vocabulary.

Studies have shown that active minds to learning new things actually helps us as we age.  My suggestion is to learn a new word everyday. Try it in your writing or bring it up in a conversation. It couldn’t hurt.

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