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I naively thought that the 400s would be quick to cover, as each major class has generally the same types of materials (etymology, dictionaries, and grammar), just in different languages. But, as it turns out, there’s quite of lot of diversity in each of the language groupings, and I very much enjoyed learning about language families that I knew little to nothing about!

400 (Language)

Book on language as a concept, as well as on theory and philosophy of language can all be found here. Also, books about linguists and the origins of language are shelved in the base 400s.

410 (Linguistics)

Linguistics is the study of languages. Etymology, grammar, phonetics, writing systems, and even sign language can be found here.

420 (English and Old English)

Classes 420-490 are dedicated to specific languages and language families. We start with 420, which is English and Old English (Anglo-Saxon). Contrary to popular belief, Old English does not refer to the writings of Shakespeare or Chaucer (Shakespeare wrote in modern English and Chaucer in Middle English). Nor is it made up of “ye olde” this and “thee and thou” that. Rather, Old English (or Anglo-Saxon) is a Germanic language that is not easily understood by modern English speakers. It’s also the language that Beowulf was written in!

430 (German and Related Languages)

In addition to German, this class also covers Germanic languages, such as Frisian and Old Saxon, Yiddish, Dutch and Flemish, Scandinavian, Old Norse, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, and Gothic.

440 (French and Related Romance Languages)

440 not only contains information on standard French (as well as historical and geographic variations), but adjacent languages, such as Occitan, Catalan, and Franco-Provençal.

450 (Italian, Dalmatian, Romanian, Rhaetian, Sardinian, and Corsican)

There’s lots of languages to be found in the 450s! We start of course, with Italian, which should be familiar enough to everyone here. Italian covers 450-458.9 in some capacity. This includes Dalmatian, which is classified under 457.94 (Geographic Variations in Europe). 459 covers Romania, Rhaetian, Sardinian, and Corsican.

460 (Spanish, Portuguese, and Galician)

Spanish covers 460-468.9. After that, we have fellow Romance languages Portuguese and Galician.

470 (Latin and Related Italic Languages)

Latin is the granddaddy of all the Romance languages, although Sardinian and Italian are the closest to it. Whether you’re studying Classical, Vulgar, or Medieval Latin, resources would be shelved under the 470 classification.

480 (Classical Greek and Related Hellenic Languages)

“Hellenic” refers to Greece, so this section is for Ancient Greek and adjacent Greek languages. Most of the class is focused on Classical (Modern Greek doesn’t come up until 489.3)!

490 (Other Languages)

I’ve come to find that the X90 classes are my favorites, since they have such a fascinating mix of content. In this case, 490 contains any language that is not English, French, Spanish, Italian, Greek, or Latin (or something adjacent to them). So, you’ll find everything else here. Just to give you a sample: Sanskrit, Urdu, Old Persian, Irish and Scottish Gaelic, Manx, Welsh, Cornish, Breton, Russian, Polish, Serbian, Slovak, Czech, Assyrian, Babylonian, Hebrew, Arabic, Egyptian, Coptic, Somali, Chinese, Karen*, Korean, Japanese, Burmese, Vietnamese, Ibo, Yoruba, Xhosa, Zulu, Navajo, and more!

*No, this wasn’t hidden in here to test you. The Karenic languages are a collection of tonal languages spoken in Tibet. I just learned about them as I was writing this post!

Erin

I'm the Reader's Advisory Librarian at WPPL. My interests include old horror films, classic novels, manga and anime, paper-crafting, and plants. If you like my suggestions, you can request personalized recommendations from me on My Librarian page.