I was checking out some artwork on the walls in the house of a new scholar and was asking about these landscape drawings, writing down a few of the words in the descriptions he was giving me.
Landscape is not a word I have studied before. It seems fairly straight-forward from first glance. A compound of land + scape. I am always nervous when I meet someone for the first time, so I thought this would be a good word to start with, not too overwhelming and can go through all four questions while building confidence for both of us.
Question 1: What does it mean?
A short dialogue:
Me: Can you tell me what a landscape is?
Scholar: I drew a landscape that included plants and houses.
Me (in the back of my head): I know you know what a word means when you can use it in a sentence.
Question 2: How is it built?
A short dialogue:
Me: Can you think of some other words that have land? (I write out land + scape → landscape. I am not sure if this student has seen the lexical algorithm before, so I am doing a lot of heavy lifting, making everything explicit).
Scholar: Portland! (In chess, when a good move is made, they annotate it with an exclamation point, I am annotating this response with an exclamation point because BOOM! what a great connection!)
Me: (port + land → portland) What else?
Me: If you have more than one homeland, you have _______?
Me: What did you add to make that plural? (I don’t use fake terminology if I can help it).
Scholar: s (he named the letter).
Next, I showed him the word sums I had made from his connections. I explained the morphemes and asked him to write out the word sums, vocalizing the names of the letters as he went:
home + land → homeland
home + land + s → homelands
port + land → portland
land + s → lands
land + ing → landing
land + ed → landed
land + scape → landscape
Now we can make a matrix (the metaphor for this is a house with rooms for all the siblings)
Question 3: What are its relatives?
This is where things always get interesting for me. We typed in landscape into etymonline.com and it gave Dutch as the origin of this word, spelled landschap.
Not only do I love that this word has Dutch origins, but that morpheme -scape is linked to the morpheme -ship.
So we clicked on to -ship (a feature available from the brilliant Doug Harper).
We found these examples of that piece -ship:
dealership, citizenship, censorship, dictatorship, fellowship
None of these have anything to do with the boat homophone ship.
In fact, Doug cites the elements -ship and -scape as being cognate elements.
So cool! This scholar has already unpacked more than I would have seen on my own in investigating this word!
Question 4: What aspects of pronunciation help construct meaning?
I usually just think of this as patterns within graphemes. And boy is this connection between the elements -ship and -scape interesting. An sh in Present-Day English could have derived from a Germanic sc. The LEX Old English class helps clear this up further, but the connection is made when comparing Germanic-origin words with their PDE counterparts:
Old English Present-Day
We both had a great time looking at patterns and connections that are real and accessible through the four questions. I can’t wait to work with this scholar again to see what we can find. Afterall, we were just getting the lay of the land in our first session studying together.