English / Year 5 / Language / Language variation and change

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Curriculum content descriptions

Understand that the pronunciation, spelling and meanings of words have histories and change over time (ACELA1500)

Elaborations
  • recognising that a knowledge of word origins is not only interesting in its own right, but that it extends students’ knowledge of vocabulary and spelling
  • exploring examples of words in which pronunciation, writing and meaning has changed over time, including words from a range of cultures
General capabilities
  • Literacy Literacy
  • Intercultural understanding Intercultural understanding
ScOT terms

Language conventions,  Spelling variations,  Pronunciation

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Year level 5-6
Resource type
Learning area English
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Where did English come from?

This short video for students traces English from the present day back to its ancient roots, showing how English has evolved through generations of speakers

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From possessive apostrophes to discombobulation!

People often worry about the use of apostrophes. See how Professor Kate Burridge answers a question about how to use the apostrophes after certain names, telling us how the rule has changed over time. She also explains the origins of the word 'discombobulate' and why the plural of house is not 'hice'.

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Words and sayings over time

Have you ever wondered where sayings like 'hanging by the skin of your teeth' come from? Professor Kate Burridge explains the origin and meaning of this saying. She also explains the opposite word (antonym) to 'misogynist' (someone who hates or has a long and deep prejudice against women) and the origins of the word 'goodbye'.

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Golly gosh, what do those sayings mean?

Have you ever wondered where sayings like 'golly gosh', 'by gum' or 'drat' come from? In this video, Professor Kate Burridge explains the origins and meaning of these and other sayings. She also explains the history of the pronoun 'you'.

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Got or gotten? What a nightmare!

Words have a history. Knowing their history helps us to understand what they mean and why some people use them in different ways. Professor Kate Burridge explains how the use of the past tense of the verb 'get' (gotten) has changed, but is still in use by many people. She also discusses the history of the word 'nightmare'.

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Word histories: how extraordinary!

Words can change over time and so can their meanings. The word 'extra' broke away from other words to become a word on its own. Professor Kate Burridge explains how this impacts on words like 'extraordinary'. She also explains the origins and meanings of the words 'hearse' and 'rehearse''.

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Plum puddings, yelks to yolks and elfs to elves

Why are Christmas puddings called 'plum puddings' when they have no plums in them? How did the egg yolk get its name and why are the plurals for 'hoof' and 'roof' are spelt differently? Find out how Professor Kate Burridge answers these questions that the audience of 'Wise Words' send in for her.

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Why do we say the words the way we do?

What kinds of things might influence the way we pronounce words in English? Professor Kate Burridge explains why knowing when 'kilometre' came into English helps us to understand why it is pronounced differently from similar words such as 'kilogram' and 'centimetre'. She also explains what it means to 'barrack' for a team.

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'Bought' or 'brought' and radio code

Changes in the use, pronunciation, and meaning of common everyday English words happen all the time. Professor Kate Burridge explains that we can see this in the way people increasingly switch the past tense of the verbs 'buy' and 'bring'. She also answers a viewer's question about why 'Roger' is used on two-way and CB radios.

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A song about snakes

Do you know any songs about Australian animals? Listen to this song about snakes performed by Don Spencer. Watch and listen, as the clip shows different types of snakes and even some trained people trying to catch a snake.

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Changing letter sounds and butterflies

Have you ever wondered why you can't just add a prefix such as 'in-' to the beginning of a word to make its opposite? Professor Kate Burridge explains how a prefix is influenced by the sound of the letters that come after it. She also gives two explanations about the origins of the word 'butterfly'.

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Challenging grammar rules, darlings and crowbars

Find out that what appears to be a straightforward grammar rule behind the use of the words 'fewer' and 'less' may not be as straightforward as it seems! Professor Kate Burridge explains that this grammar rule has been under challenge for centuries. She also explains the origins of the word 'darling' and why the 'crow' ...

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Subjunctivitis! Fact or 'Furphy'?

Why is 'were' used in 'If I were king' and what is the subjunctive? What do water sources and gossip have in common? If you don't know then you need to watch and listen as Professor Kate Burridge and Peter Rowsthorn explore these questions.

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Dude: American words and pronunciations

Where does the word 'dude' come from? Why do speakers of English often pronounce words differently depending on their country of origin - not only because of their accent? Find out with Professor Kate Burridge when she takes on these questions from viewers.

Interactive resource

Show and tell: here, boy!

Watch a short cartoon about a dog in a backyard. Select phrases to create sentences and build a basic factual recount. Rearrange the phrases to create the best word order in the sentences. Who was involved? What did they do? When, where or how did they do it? Add adjectives and adverbs to make the story clearer and funnier. ...

Tablet friendly (Interactive resource)

Finish the story: bushfire

Edit a comic book story to make it more exciting and complete. Look closely at a narrative about an adventure where a couple driving home are trapped by a bushfire. Choose an ending. Improve the story by adding adverbs, choosing verbs and changing nouns to pronouns. Choose a title and image for the cover.

Interactive resource

Dream machine: similes

Build a dream bike using fantasy parts such as a 'time-travel frame' and 'supersonic jet pedals'. Look at a model text that uses similes to describe a 'Wish-come-true bike'. Choose similes to make an interesting description of your own fantasy bike. This learning object is one in a series of two objects.

Interactive resource

Koala control: points of view

Explore facts and opinions about controlling populations of koalas. Interview people expressing a range of opinions. Use a model structure and sample text to summarise each point of view. Look at ways in which language is used to convince an audience or reinforce a position. For example, one person expresses negative feelings ...

Interactive resource

Dream machine: metaphors

Build a dream bike using fantasy parts such as a 'time-travel frame' and 'supersonic jet pedals'. Look at a model text that uses metaphors to recount a journey on a 'Wish-come-true bike'. Choose metaphors to make an interesting recount of an adventure on another fantasy bike. This learning object is one in a series of two objects.

Interactive resource

Point of view: editorial

Explore a newspaper editorial to learn about structure, purpose and persuasive language. Read two letters that express different points of view on a recent skateboard accident. Build an editorial by choosing opinion adjectives and modal verbs to express a point of view. This learning object is one in a series of five objects. ...

Interactive resource

World Wonders TV show: thunderstorm

Build a script about thunderstorms for a television show. Help a researcher to sort facts and pictures. Use a model structure, sample text and images to build an explanation. Include sections on causes, processes and effects. Make ideas in the script clearer and more interesting by choosing adjectives to make noun groups ...

Tablet friendly (Interactive resource)

Rainforest: make a walking track

Mark the route for a walking track on a map of a rainforest. Choose a section of track based on instructions about distances, compass directions and grid references. Keep adding sections of track to get to the rest house. As you go, look up the meaning of tricky words.

Tablet friendly (Interactive resource)

Show and tell: that cat

Watch a short cartoon about a cat chasing a bird. Select noun groups, verb groups and phrases to create sentences and build a basic factual recount. Rearrange the word groups to create the best order in the sentences. Who was involved? What did they do? When, where or how did they do it? Add adjectives and adverbs to make ...

Assessment resource

Super stories: verbs and adverbs: assessment

Assess your ability to choose effective verbs, adverbs and illustrations to increase the impact of a horror story and make it scarier. Explain the reasoning behind some of your choices.