The Evolving English Language

Another quick English project idea:

Discuss how language evolves as people progress; that is why some of the books we read sound different. (Especially useful when studying works whose language is as different as Shakespeare!)

Talk to them about how new words are formed, and then slowly adopted into the language. Have them look at ways that their language changes according to who they’re around – “Are there words you can use around your friends that your parents would not understand?”

Then tell the students about how the dictionary updates (yearly?) to include new words that have become adopted.

Print a list of the newest words added to the dictionary, and discuss them with the class. “You know what a selfie is, right? That’s a new word that has been adopted, and would not have been possible (however many) years ago…” Research a little on old photographs to explain why selfies would not have been possible even with the first cameras. Then point out how the English language evolved to adapt to this new procedure.

Then note that the new words are not just randomly selected – they’re submitted.

“What words do you use that are not in the dictionary – but should be?”


Students select a word they use which is not in the vocabulary.

Students write a definition, determine which parts of speech it is, etc. (Get what information they require from the web site.)

The students’ final, polished definitions will be submitted to the dictionary… and, just perhaps, their definitions could possibly be chosen.

Goal: Better understanding of language itself. Understand that language is not stagnant. Hopefully better understanding of parts of speech, as they have to determine what function the word serves. Creative outlet.

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