Vocabulary across texts


Examine the following texts and consider the lexical choices made: core v non-core items; native v loan words. You will need to look up the lexical items in a dictionary with etymological information such as the OED.


Prologue from The Canterbury Tales (extract)

      Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote

The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,

And bathed every veyne in swich licour

Of which vertu engendred is the flour;

When Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth

Inspired hath in every holt and heeth

The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne

Hath in the Ram his halve cours yronne,

And smale foweles maken melodye,

That slepen al the nyght with open ye

(So priketh hem nature in hir corages),

Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,

And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes,

To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes;

And specially from every shires ende

Of Engelond to Caunterbury they wende,

The hooly blisful martir for to seke,

That hem hath holpen when that they were seeke.

        When April with his sweet showers

The drought of March has pierced to the root,

And bathed every vein in such liquid

By the power of which is engendered the flower;

When Zephirus also with his sweet breath

Has inspired in every wood and heath

The tender crops, and the young sun

Has in the Ram his half course run,

And small birds make melody,

That sleep all night with open eye

(So nature inspires them in their hearts),

Then long folk to go on pilgrimages,

And pilgrims to seek strange shores,

To distant shrines, known in sundry lands;

And specially from every shire’s end

Of England to Canterbury they wend,

The holy blissful martyr to seek,

Who has helped them when they were sick.

                                                            Geoffrey Chaucer (1340?–1400)



Gather ye Rose-buds


Gather ye rose-buds while ye may,

            Old Time is still a-flying:

And this same flower that smiles to-day,

            To-morrow will be dying.


The glorious Lamp of Heaven, the Sun,

            The higher he’s a-getting

The sooner will his race be run,

            And nearer he’s to setting.


That age is best which is the first,

            When youth and blood are warmer:

But being spent, the worse, and worst

            Times, will succeed the former.


Then be not coy, but use your time;

            And while ye may, go marry:

For having lost but once your prime,

            You may for ever tarry.

                                    Robert Herrick (1591–1674)



Sonnet XIX


When I consider how my light is spent,

            Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,

            And that one talent which is death to hide

            Lodg’d with me useless, though my soul more bent

To serve therewith my Maker, and present

            My true account, lest he returning chide,

            ‘Doth God exact day-labour, light deny’d?’

            I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent

That murmur, soon replies: ‘God doth not need

            Either man’s work or His own gifts; who best

            Bear His mild yoke, they serve Him best. His state

Is kingly: thousands at His bidding speed

            And post o’er Land and Ocean without rest;

            They also serve who only stand and wait.’

                                    John Milton 1608–1674


(Milton began losing his sight at 36, and this became complete at 43. The poem seems to express Milton’s first reaction to total blindness.)


The Tiger

Tiger! Tiger! burning bright

In the forests of the night,

What immortal hand or eye

Could frame thy fearful symmetry?


In what distant deeps or skies

Burnt the fire of thine eyes?

On what wings dare he aspire?

What the hand dare seize the fire?


And what shoulder, and what art,

Could twist the sinews of thy heart?

And when thy heart began to beat,

What dread hand? and what dread feet?


What the hammer? what the chain?

In what furnace was thy brain?

What the anvil? what dread grasp

Dare its deadly terrors clasp?


When the starts threw down their spears,

And water’d heaven with their tears,

Did he smile he work to see?

Did he who made the Lamb make thee?


Tiger! Tiger! burning bright

In the forests of the night,

What immortal hand or eye,

Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

                                    William Blake (1757–1827)


The Love Song of J. Alfred Profrock (extract)


Let us go then, you and I,

When the evening is spread out against the sky

Like a patient etherised upon a table;

Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,

The muttering retreats

Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels

And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:

Streets that follow like a tedious argument

Of insidious intent

To lead you to an overwhelming question …

Oh, do not ask, ‘What is it?’

Let us go and make our visit.

                        T S Eliot (1888–1965)


The parable of the prodigal son (beginning; Authorised Version, original spelling)


11 And hee said, A certaine man had two sonnes:

12 And the yonger of them said to his father, Father, giue me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he diuided vnto them his liuing.

13 And not many dayes after, the yonger sonne gathered al together, and tooke his iourney into a farre countrey, and there wasted his substance with riotous liuing.

14 And when he had spent all, there arose a mightly famine in that land, and he beganne to be in want.

15 And he went and ioyned himselfe to a citizen of that countrey, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.

16 And he would faine haue filled his belly with the huskes that the swine did eate: & no man gaue vnto him.

17 And when he came to himselfe, he said, How many hired seruants of my fathers haue bread inough and to spare, and I perish with hunger?

18 I will arise and goe to my father, and will say vnto him, Father I haue sinned against heauen and before thee.

19 And am no more worthy to be called they sonne: make me as one of thy hired seruants.

20 And he arose and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ranne, and fell on his necke, and kissed him.

21 And the sonne said vnto him, Father, I haue sinned against heauen, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy sonne.

22 But the father saide to his seruants, Bring foorth the best robe, and put in on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shooes on his feete.

23 And bring hither the fatted calfe, and kill it, and let vs eate and be merrie.

24 For this my sonne was dead, and is aliue againe; hee was lost, & is found. And they began to be merie.


When you’re ready to take the quiz based on this topic, go to the IVLE page and click on ‘Assessment’ on the left, and then on ‘Vocabulary’.


A. What is lexicology?

B. How can lexis be organised?

C. Patterns of lexical change

D. The sources of English words



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