Like Biosphere, Biology, And Biotic, Orthography Breathes Life Into Our Studies!

In our recent investigation of the word <biosphere> we found that the most likely hypothesis is <bi> + <o> + <sphere>.  The base <bi> is from the Greek bios meaning life.  In searching for some other words that share this same base students found:


The word biotic was an unfamiliar one until we added the prefix <anti> to it.  When I asked if anyone had ever taken an antibiotic, almost all hands went up.  With the shared understanding that an antibiotic was a medicine, we could talk about the word’s denotation or literal definition.  The prefix <anti> means against and the base <bi> means life.  An antibiotic is against (destructive to) micro-organisms (living organisms) in the body.

The word biotic took on another meaning last week when we went to the creek to see what kinds of macroinvertebrates live there.  Our task was to use the Biotic Index to determine the quality of the water.  The students each had a tally sheet that listed the types of macroinvertebrates we might find.  On the tally sheet, the macroinvertebrates were grouped by how sensitive or tolerant each was to pollution.

Two students from each class wore waders and got in the water with me.  We demonstrated how scientists take kick samples using a D frame net.  Then the samples were carried to the waiting white pans.  The rest of the class spent time examining the macroinvertebrates in the pans and marking down the types and numbers of macroinvertebrates they found.  The calculations would come later when we returned to the class.  In the meantime, we were looking at the insects living in the creek (biotic) knowing that their numbers and sensitivity to pollution would be what would determine the water’s quality.

Here are some pictures from our trip to the creek.

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3 thoughts on “Like Biosphere, Biology, And Biotic, Orthography Breathes Life Into Our Studies!

  1. Fantastic blog, Mary Beth! The students are so engaged with hands on learning. Thanks for sharing your splendid work with students!

    While I am familiar with ‘clips’ I had no idea that (bio) was a clip of (biological) . Just thought the (o) was a connecting vowel and the base was (bi) and that was it. Thanks for the in-site, Michel!

  2. Thanks for these joyous photos; the students are clearly as happy on land as in the water – amphibians indeed.

    ‘Amphibians’ – Aha! – ‘amphi + bi + an’. This is further proof that the real base element is simply ‘bi’ – “life”. When we do use ‘bio’ to construct new words, it is actually a ‘clip’ of ‘biological’.

    Clips are a particular sort of abbreviation. Here are some examples.

    pop (popular)
    fan (fanatic)
    doc (doctor)
    prof (professor)
    demo (demonstration)
    memo (memorandum)
    hi-fi (high fidelity)
    cred (credibility)

    You will notice that the point at which the word is ‘clipped’ often does not necessarily correspond to the real structure of the word as revealed by its word sum.

    So here is a definition of a ‘clip’. A clip is a shortened form of a word in which the original complete word is broken at a point that need not correspond to the word’s morphology.

    Often, then, a clip can form a new base of its own, and take its own affixes. Another interesting property of ‘clips’ is that the pronunciation of the clip is not necessarily the same as it was when it was part of the word it was clipped from.

    How about starting your own collection of ‘clips’ as you come across them?

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