Etymology gleanings for November 2016

I keep receiving this question with some regularity (once a year or so), and, since I have answered it several times, I’ll confine myself to a few very general remarks. Etymology is a branch of
Philosophy News image
I keep receiving this question with some regularity (once a year or so), and, since I have answered it several times, I’ll confine myself to a few very general remarks. Etymology is a branch of historical linguistics dealing with the origin of words. It looks at the sound shape and meaning of words and at the cultural milieu in which words were coined. Quite often a word has related forms in several languages, and all of them have to be compared. The most time-consuming part of an etymologist’s education consists in learning which sound correspondences look helpful and which should be discarded. But even in this area one should not be dogmatic, because words are not soldiers marching forward in serried ranks and tend to escape the prescribed formations. Comparative semantics is based on vaguer rules, but they too have to be explored. By contrast, isolated words are hard because they are isolated! Words are not like soldiers in serried ranks. The usefulness of the historical milieu. . .

Continue reading . . .

News source: Linguistics – OUPblog

blog comments powered by Disqus