Approaching the big bad word “bad”

In the near future I’ll have more than enough to say about bad, an adjective whose history is dismally obscure, but once again, and for the umpteenth time, we have to ask ourselves why there are
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In the near future I’ll have more than enough to say about bad, an adjective whose history is dismally obscure, but once again, and for the umpteenth time, we have to ask ourselves why there are words of undiscovered and seemingly undiscoverable origin. Historical linguists try to reconstruct ancient roots. However, roots need not be looked upon as generators of words. It is far from obvious that at one time, however remote, complexes like bher, bhel, and so forth were the main units of human speech, flying or floating around Peter Pan-like, and that only later they added suffixes and began to resemble modern words. However, this is what some nineteenth-century scholars, who were inspired by the structure of languages like Chinese, thought. Yet Chinese reached its present stage after centuries of development, and in this respect it resembles English, with its predominantly monosyllabic native vocabulary. At least in the Indo-European family the oldest languages known to us have long,. . .

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News source: OUPblog » Linguistics

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