Judy Montgomery speaks about our “Resilient, Unruly Language”

Students from across campus gathered in the Wilkinson Center on March 28 for the Benjamin Cluff Jr. Annual Lecture. This year’s lecture was given by Judy Montgomery, PhD. She is the founding chair of the communications sciences and disorders program at Chapman University.

Montgomery lectures audience

In her lecture, Montgomery highlighted how the English language has developed, expanded, and changed. As she searched for a topic that would tie together all of the fields represented in her diverse audience and make people smile, she discovered she needed to take a deeper look into the English language.

“I want to take a look at what our unruly, resilient language is all about. I think it will remind you of some ways that we use language and why it is so critical for the young people that we teach, and for our own relationships with each other,” Montgomery told her audience.

Specifically, Montgomery focused her lecture on the four categories of language: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Framing her lecture in such a way allowed her to give the audience interesting bits of information about a wide variety of topics associated with the English language.

Montgomery began her exploration of the English language by explaining that as the category of language becomes more complicated, its vocabulary decreases in size. The largest vocabulary is listening vocabulary, followed by reading, then speaking, then writing. “In the English language, we have about 645,000 words. We don't use them all every day, but that's an awful lot of them,” Montgomery exclaimed. She added that when we speak, we have a vocabulary of only about 6,000 words.

Montgomery explained how English came to be the second most spoken language in the world. As colonizing began during the Age of Enlightenment, English began to spread rapidly across the globe. The naval superiority of Great Britain allowed for the nation’s language to spread faster than others. “English is the fastest growing language in the world to this day, and that's why. It was never the best language, but it could simply travel faster and it could travel farther,” Montgomery said. She also talked about the interesting histories and origins of common words, idioms, and euphemisms.

After Montgomery concluded her thought-provoking lecture, the Benjamin Cluff Jr. Award winnersExcellence in Education Awards began. An overview video introduced the awards, followed by remarks from a member of the Cluff family. Tina Taylor, associate dean of the McKay School, then presented the prestigious awards. The Excellence in Public School Support award was given to John Talmage Patten, the Excellence in Educator Preparation Award was given to Blake E. Peterson, and the Excellence in Educational Research was given to Martin Fujiki and Bonnie Brinton.


Written by: Cole Witbeck