This one is for you word nerds out there. Stanford linguist William Leben offers a lively romp through the history and structure of the English language in Structure of English Words (iTunes) on iTunes U. Even if you hated grammar and diagramming sentences back in school, Leben may well get you hooked on the joys of English.
An emeritus professor of linguistics, Leben puts lots of common English words under his figurative microscope, and shows where they came from and how their meanings changed over the centuries.
Along the way, he answers questions like these:
- Why does English have such a huge vocabulary (roughly 1,000,000 words)?
- How can linguists reconstruct the pronunciation of Old English and Middle English?
- What is correct English, and who gets to decide?
The podcasts are “enhanced,” which means that if you have a video-capable mp3 player, you can view Leben’s slides as he lectures.