Etymology is a course designed to prepare students for disciplines outside what is traditionally considered "classics." The course will provide a strategic presentation of key Latin and Greek roots, constructions, and linguistic frameworks, which pervade the terminology of numerous fields and disciplines: law, medicine, biology, ecology, sociology, religion, and many more.
This course is a history of words: how they are formed, what they mean, and how they change and change us. In addition to teaching how to deconstruct terminology, the course will explore the origins and evolution of many of the commonly used modern terms in their original historical contexts, providing a glimpse into the rich background that gave rise to their use and meaning today.
Each week we will focus on a specific modern discipline, our "unit." Mondays and Wednesdays will be devoted to the workings of the language itself. We will examine how Greek and Latin roots make up the technical language of that discipline, so that students learn to identify, break down, and understand such terminology and its uses. 2020 is an important year: social justice and how we talk about it, language itself, is a political issue as we come to the presidential election. On Fridays we will explore a divisive issue confronting each discipline today and investigate the roots of the problem in antiquity. Topics include: biological race, abortion, debt slavery, climate crisis, extinction, deforestation, the First Amendment, and many others. By thinking about the roots and words that shaped and expressed Greek and Roman ideas, as well as how they negotiated important social, political, legal, medical, and environmental issues, we can understand better the crucial issues facing our own language and society.