Реферат: The etymology of english words (Этимология английских слов)

ЕФЕРАТThe Etymology of English Words




Survey of certainhistorical facts                                      

Structural elements of borrowings                                                                

Why Are Words Borrowed?                                                                        

Do Borrowed Words Change or

do They Remain the Same?                                                                         

International Words                                                                                    

Etymological Doublets                                                                                


Are Etymological and Stylistic Characteristics ofWords Interrelated?            

Survey of certain historical facts

It is true that English vocabulary, which is one of the most extensiveamong the world's languages con­tains animmense number of words of foreign origin. Explanations for this should besought in the history of the language which is closely connected with the histo­ryof the nation speaking the language.

The first century B.C. Most of the territory now known to us as Europe wasoccupied by the Roman Em­pire. Among the inhabitants of the Europe are Ger­manictribes.  Theirs stage of devel­opment was rather primitive, especially ifcompared with the high civiliza­tion of Rome. They are primitive cattle-breeders and know almost nothing about land cultiva­tion.Their tribal languages contain only Indo-European and Germanic elements.

Due to Roman invasion Germanic tribes had to come intocontact with Romans[1]. Romans built roads, bridges, militarycamps. Trade is carried on, and the Ger­manic people gainknowledge of new and useful things. The first among them are new things to eat.It has been mentioned that Germanic cattle-breeding was on a primitive scale.Its only products known to the Ger­manic tribes were meat and milk. It is fromthe Romans that they learn how to make butter and cheese and, as there arenaturally no words for these foodstuffs in theirtribal languages, they had to use the Latin words to name them(Lat. “butyrum”, “caseus”). It is also to the Romans that the Germanic tribesowe the knowledge of some new fruits and vegetables of which they had no ideabefore, and the Latin names of these fruits and vegetables entered theirvocabularies: “cherry” (Lat. “cerasum”), “pear” (Lat. “pirum”), “plum” (Lat.“prunus”), “pea” (Lat. “pisum”), “beet” (Lat. “beta”), “pepper” (Lat. “piper”).

Here are some more examples of Latinborrowings of this period: “cup” (Lat. “cuppa”), “kitchen” (Lat. “coquina”),“mill” (Lat. “molina”), “port” (Lat. “portus”), “wine” (Lat. “vinum”).

The Germanic tribal languages gained a considerable num­ber of new wordsand were thus enriched.

Latin words becamethe earliest group of borrow­ings[2] in the future Englishlanguage which was — much later — built on the basis of theGermanic tribal languages.

The fifth century A.D. Several of the Germanic tribes (the most numerous amongthem were the An­gles, the Saxons and the Jutes) migrated across the sea to theBritish Isles. There they were confronted by the Celts, the originalinhabitants of the Isles. The Celts desperately defend­ed their lands againstthe invaders, but nevertheless gradually yielded most of their territory. Theyretreated to the North and South-West (modern Scotland, Wales and Cornwall).Through numerous contacts with the defeated Celts, the conquerors borrowed anumber of Celtic words (bald, down, glen, bard, cradle).Especially numerous among the Celtic borrowings were place names, names of riv­ers,hills, etc. The Germanic tribes occupied the land, but the names of many partsof their ter­ritory remained Celtic. For instance, the names of the riversAvon, Exe, Esk, Usk, Ux originate from Celtic words meaning «river»and «water».

Ironically, even the name of the English capitaloriginates from Celtic “Llyn+dun” in which “llyn” is an­other Celtic word for«river» and “dun” stands for «a for­tified hill» -  themeaning of the whole is «fortress on the hill over the river».

Some Latin words entered the Anglo-Saxonlan­guages through Celtic, among them such widely-used words as “street” (Lat.strata via) and “wall” (Lat. vallum).

The seventh century A.D. This centurywas signifi­cant for the christianization of England. Latin was the officiallanguage of the Christian church, and con­sequently the spread of Christianitywas accompanied by a new period of Latin borrowings. These borrowings no longercame from spoken Latin as they did eight centuries ear­lier, but from churchLatin. Also, these new Latin bor­rowings were very different in meaningfrom the earli­er ones. They mostly indicated persons, objects and ideasassociated with church and religious rituals: e. g. priest (Lat. presbyter),bishop (Lat. episcopus), monk (Lat. monachus), nun (Lat. nonna), candle (Lat.candela).

It was quite natural that education­alterms were also Latin borrowings, for the first schools in England were churchschools, and the first teachers priests and monks. So, the very word “school”is a Latin borrowing (Lat. schola, of Greek origin) and so are such words as“scholar” (Lat. Scholar(-is) and “magister” (Lat. magister).

From the end of the 8th century to the middle of the 11th century England underwent severalScandinavian inva­sions. Here are some examples of early Scandinavianborrowings: call (v.), take (v.), cast (v.), die (v.), law (n.),husband[3] (n.),window[4](n.), ill (adj.), loose, (adj.), low (adj.), weak (adj.). Some of Scandinavianborrowings are easily recogniz­able by the initial (sk-) combination. E. g.sky, skill, skin, ski, skirt.

Certain English words changed their meanings under theinfluence of Scandinavian words of the same root. So, the old English “bread” which meant «piece» acquired its modern meaning by association withthe Scandinavian “braud”. The old English “dream”  which meant «joy»assimi­lated the meaning of the Scandinavian “draumr’’.

1066. With the famous Battle of Hastings, when the English were defeated bythe Normans under William the Conqueror, began the eventful epoch of the Norman Conquest. The Norman culture of the11th century was certainly superiorto that of the Saxons. The result was that English vocabulary acquired a greatnumber of French words. But instead of being smashed and broken by the powerfulintrusion of the foreign element, the English language managed to preserve its essentialstructure and vastly enriched its expressive resources with the new borrowings.England became a bilingual country, and theimpact on the English vo­cabulary made over this two-hundred-years period isimmense: French words from the Norman dialect pene­trated every aspect ofsocial life. Here is a very brief list of examples of Norman Frenchborrowings.

Administrative words: state, government, parlia­ment,council, power.

Legal terms: court, judge, justice, crime, prison.

Military terms: army, war, soldier, officer, battle, enemy.        

Educational terms: pupil, lesson, library, science, pen, pencil.

Terms ofeveryday life: table, plate, dinner, supper, river, autumn, uncle, etc.

The Renaissance Period. In England, as in all Euro­pean countries, this periodwas marked by significant developments in science, art and culture and, also,by a revival of interest in the ancient civilizations of Greece and Rome andtheir languages. Hence, there occurred a considerable number of Latin andGreek borrowings. In contrast to the earliest Latin borrowings (1stcentury B.C.), the Renaissance ones were rarely concrete names. They weremostly abstract words (e. g. major, minor, moderate,intelligent, permanent, to elect, to create). There were numerous scientificand artistic terms (e.g. datum, status, phenomenon, philosophy, meth­od, music). Quite a number of words were bor­rowed into Englishfrom Latin and had earlier come into Latin from Greek.

The Renaissance was a period of extensive cultural contacts between themajor European states. There­fore, it was only natural that new words alsoentered the English vocabulary from other European languag­es. The mostsignificant were French borrow­ings. This time they came from the Parisiandialect of French and are known as Parisian borrowings.Exam­ples: routine, police, machine, ballet, matinee, scene, technique,bourgeois, etc. Italian also contributed a considerable number ofwords to English, e. g. piano, violin, opera, alarm, colo­nel.

The historical survey above shows the ways in whichEnglish vocabulary developed and of the major events through which it acquiredits vast modern re­sources. Summary is shown in the table 1.

The second column of the table contains more groups, but it also impliesa great quantity of words. Modern scholars estimate the per­centage of borrowedwords in the English vocabulary at 65—70 per cent which is an exceptionallyhigh figure. It means that the native element[5] doesn’t pre­vail. This anomaly isexplained by the country's event­ful history and byits many international contacts.

Considering the high percentage of borrowed words, one would have to clas­sifyEnglish as a language of international origin or, at least, a Romance one (asFrench and Latin words obvi­ously prevail). But here another factor comes intoplay: the native element in English comprises a large number ofhigh-frequency words like the articles, prepositions, pronouns,conjunctions, auxiliaries and, also, words denoting everyday objects and ideas (e. g. house, child, water, go, come, eat, good, bad,etc.).

Furthermore, the grammatical structure is essen­tially Germanicand it remains unaffected by foreign influence.

The Etymological Structure[6] of English Vocabulary


The native element

The borrowed element

1.Indo-European element

I. Celtic (5th – 6th c.A.D.).

2.Germanic element II. Latin

       1st group: 1st c.B.C.

       2st group: 7th  c.A.C.

       3st group: the Renaissance period

3.English Proper element (no earlier than 5th c.A.D.)

III. Scandinavian (8th – 11th c.A.D.)

IV. French

       1. Norman borrowings: 11th–13th c.A.D.

2. Parisian borrowings (Renaissance) V. Greek (Renaissance) VI. Italian (Renaissance and later) VII. Spanish (Renaissance and later) VIII. German IX. Indian X. Russian and some other groups

The first column of the table consists of three groups, only the thirdbeing dated: the words of this group appeared in the English vocabulary in the5th century or later, that is,after the Germanic tribes migrated to the British Isles. The tribal languagesof the Angles, the Saxons, the Jutes, by the time of their migration, con­tainedonly words of Indo-European and Germanic roots plus acertain number of the earliest Latin bor­rowings.

By the Indo-European elementare meant words of roots common to all (or most) languages of the Indo-Eu­ropeangroup. The words of this group denote ele­mentary conceptswithout which no human communi­cation would be possible. The following groupscan be identified.

1.   Family relations: father, mother, brother,son, daughter.

2.   Parts of the human body: foot, nose, lip,heart.

3.   Animals: cow, swine, goose.

4.   Plants: tree, birch, corn.

5.   Time of day: day, night.

6.   Heavenly bodies: sun, moon, star.

7.   Numerous adjectives: red, new, glad, sad.

8.   The numerals from one to a hundred.

9.   Pronouns — personal (except “they” which isa Scandinavian borrowing) and demonstrative.

10. Numerous verbs: be, stand, sit, eat, know.

TheGermanic element represents words of roots common toall or most Germanic languages. Some of the main groups of Germanic words arethe same as in the Indo-European element.

1.   Parts of the human body: head, hand, arm,finger, bone.

2.   Animals: bear, fox, calf.

3.   Plants: oak, fir, grass.

4.   Natural phenomena: rain, frost.

5.   Seasons of the year: winter, spring, summer[7].

6.   Landscape features: sea, land.

7.   Human dwellings and furniture: house, room,bench.

8.   Sea-going vessels: boat, ship.

9.   Adjectives: green, blue, grey, white, small,thick, high, old, good.

10. Verbs: see, hear, speak, tell, say, answer, make, give, drink.

The English proper ele­ment  is opposed tothe first two groups. For not only it can beapproximately dated, but these words have another distinctive feature: they are specifically English have no cognates[8]in other lan­guages whereas for Indo-European and Germanic words such cognatescan always be found, as, for in­stance, for the following words of theIndo-European group.

Star: Germ. — Stern,Lat. — Stella, Gr. — aster.

Stand:Germ. – stehen, Lat. — stare, R. – стоять.

Here are some examples of English proper words: bird,boy, girl, lord, lady, woman, daisy, always.

Structural elements ofborrowings

There are certain structuralfeatures which enable us to identify some words as borrowings and evento de­termine the source language. We have already estab­lished that theinitial (sk) usually indicates Scandinavian origin. We can also recognize wordsof Latin and French origin by certain suffixes, prefixes or endings. Here aresome typical and frequent structural elements of Latin and French borrowings:

Latin affixesof nouns:

The suffix(-ion): legion, opinion, etc.; the suffix (-tion): relation, temptation, etc.

Latin affixes of verbs:

The suffix(-ate): appreciate, create, congratulate, etc.; the suffix (-ute): attribute,distribute, etc.; the remnant[9]suffix (-ct): act, collect, conduct, etc.; the prefix (dis-): disable,disagree, etc.

Latin affixes of adjectives:

The suffix (-able): detestable,curable, etc.; the suffix (-ate): accurate, graduate, etc.; the suffix (-ant): constant,important, etc.; the suffix (-ent): absent, evident, etc.; the suffix (-or): major,senior, etc.; the suffix (-al): final, maternal, etc.; the suffix (-ar): solar,familiar, etc.

Frenchaffixes of nouns:

The suffix(-ance): endurance, hindrance, etc.; the suffix (-ence): consequence, patience,etc.; the suffix (-ment): appointment, development, etc.; the suffix (-age):courage, marriage, village, etc.; the suffix (-ess): actress, adventuress, etc.

French affixes of verbs:

The prefix (en-):enable, enact, enslave, etc.

French affixes of adjectives:

The suffix (-ous): curious,dangerous, etc.

It’s important to note that later formations derived from native roots borrowedLatin and French affixes (e.g. eatable, lovable).

Why Are Words Borrowed?

Sometimes it is done to fill a gap in vocabulary.When the Saxons borrowed Latin words for «butter», «plum»,«beet», they did it because their own vocabu­laries lacked words forthese new objects. For the same reason the words “potato” and “tomato” wereborrowed by English from Spanish when these vegetables were first brought toEngland by the Spaniards.

But there is also a great number of words which are borrowed for otherreasons. There may be a word (or even several words) which expresses someparticular concept, so that there is no gap in the vocabulary and there doesnot seem to be any need for borrowing. However a word is borrowed because itsupplies a new shade of meaning or a different emotional colouring though itrepresents the same concept. This type of borrow­ing enlarges groups ofsynonyms and provides to enrich the expressive resources of the vocabulary.That is how the Latin “cordial” was added to thenative “friendly”, the French “desire” to “wish”, the Latin “admire” and theFrench “adore” to “like” and “love”.

The historical circumstances stimulate the borrowing process. Each timetwo nations come into close contact. The nature of the contact may bedifferent. It may be wars, invasions or conquests when foreign words areimposed upon the conquered nation. There are also periods of peace  when theprocess of borrowing is due to trade and international cultural relations.

Do BorrowedWords Change or

do They Remain the Same?

When words migrate from one languageinto another they ad­just themselves to their new environment and get adaptedto the norms of the recipient language. They undergo certain changes whichgradually erase their foreign features, and, finally, they are assimilated.Sometimes the process of assimilation develops to the point when the foreignorigin of a word is quite unrec­ognizable. It is difficult to believe now thatsuch words as “dinner”, “cat”, “take”, “cup” are not English by origin. Others,though well assimilated, still bear traces of their foreign background.“Distance” and “development”, for instance, are identified as borrowings bytheir French suffixes, “skin” and “sky” by the Scandinavian ini­tial (-sk),“police” and “regime” by the French stress on the last syllable.

Borrowed words are adjusted in the three main areas of the newlanguage system: the phonetic, the grammatical and the semantic.

The lasting nature of phonetic adaptationis best shown by comparing Norman French borrowings to later (Parisian) ones.The Norman borrowings have for a long time been fully adapted to the phoneticsystem of the English language: such words as “table”, “plate”, “courage”,“chivalry” bear no phonetic traces of their French origin. Some of the later(Parisian) borrowings, even the ones borrowed as early as the 15thcentury, still sound surpris­ingly French: “regime”, “valise”, “matinee”,“cafe”, “ballet”. In these cases phonetic adaptation is not completed.

Grammatical adaptation consists in acomplete change of the former paradigm of theborrowed word.  If it is a noun, it is certain to adopt, sooner or later, a newsystem of declension; if it is a verb, it will be conjugated according to therules of the recipient language. Yet, this is also a lasting process. TheRussian noun “пальто” was borrowed from French early in the 19th century and hasnot yet acquired the Rus­sian system of declension. The same can be said aboutsuch English Renaissance borrowings as “datum” (pl. da­ta), “phenomenon” (pl.phenomena), “criterion” (pl. crite­ria) whereas earlier Latin borrowings suchas “cup”, “plum”, “street”, “wall” were fully adapted to the grammati­calsystem of the language long ago.

By semantic adaptation is meant adjustmentto the system of meanings of the vocabulary. Sometimes a word may be borrowed«blindly» for no obvious reason: they are not want­ed because thereis no gap in the vocabulary nor in the group of synonyms which it could fill.Quite a number of such «accidental» borrowings are very soon rejectedby the vocabulary and forgotten. But some “blindly” borrowed words managed toestab­lish itself due to the pro­cess of semantic adaptation. The adjective“large”, for in­stance, was borrowed from French in the meaning of«wide». It was not actually wanted, because it fully co­incided withthe English adjective “wide” without adding any newshades or aspects to its meaning. This could have led to its rejection. Yet,“large” managed to establish itself very firmly in the English vocabulary by se­manticadjustment. It entered another synonymic group with .the general meaning of “big in size”. Still bearingsome features of its former meaning it is successfully competing with “big”having approached it very closely, both in fre­quency and meaning.

International Words

It is often the case that a word is borrowed by several languages, notjust by one. Such words usually convey concepts which are significant in thefield of com­munication. Many of them are of Latin and Greek origin.

Most namesof sciences are international (e. g. philosophy, mathematics, physics,chemistry, biology, medicine, linguistics, lexicology). There are also numerousterms of art in this group: music, theatre, drama, tragedy, comedy,artist, primadonna, etc.; and the sports terms: football, volley-ball,baseball, hockey, cricket, rugby, tennis, golf, etc. It is quite natural that political terms frequently oc­cur in theinternational group of borrowings: politics,policy, revolution, progress, democracy, communism, anti-militarism. 20th century scientific and technologicaladvances brought a great number of new international words: atomic,antibiotic, radio, television, sputnik (a Russian borrowing). Fruits andfoodstuffs imported from exotic coun­tries often transport their names tooand become inter­national: coffee, cocoa, chocolate, banana, mango, avocado,grapefruit.

The similarity of such words as the English “son”, theGerman “Sohn” and the Russian “сын” should not lead one to the quite false conclusion thatthey are international words. They represent the Indo-European group of thenative element in each respec­tive language and are cognates, i. e. words ofthe same etymological root, and not borrowings.

Etymological Doublets

The words originating from the same etymological source, but differing inphonemic shape and in meaning are called etymological doublets.

They may enter the vocabulary by different routes. Someof these pairs consist of a native word and a borrowedword: “shrew”, n. (E.) – “screw”, n. (Sc.). Others are represented by twoborrowings from dif­ferent languages: “canal” (Lat.) — “channel” (Fr.), “captain”(Lat.) — “chieftain” (Fr.). Still others wereborrowed from the same language twice, but in different periods: “travel” (Norm. Fr.) — “tra­vail" (Par. Fr.),“cavalry” (Norm. Fr.) — “chivalry” (Par. Fr.), “gaol” (Norm. Fr.) — “jail”(Par. Fr.).

A doublet may also consist of a shortened word and theone from which it was derived: “history” — “story”, “fantasy” — “fancy”,“defence” — “fence”, “shadow” — “shade”.

Etymological triplets (i. e. groups of threewords of common root) occur rarer, but here are at least two ex­amples:“hospital” (Lat.) — “hostel” (Norm. Fr.) — “hotel” (Par. Fr.), “to capture”(Lat.) — “to catch” (Norm. Fr.) — “to chase” (Par. Fr.).


By translation-loans we indicate borrowings of a special kind. They arenot taken into the vocabulary of another languagemore or less in the same phonemic shape in which they have been functioning intheir own lan­guage, but undergo the process of translation. It is quiteobvious that it is only compound words (i. e. words of two or more stems). Eachstem was translated separate­ly: “masterpiece” (from Germ. “Meisterstuck”),“wonder child” (from Germ. “Wunderkind”), ”first dancer” (from Ital.“prima-ballerina”).

Are Etymological and Stylistic Characteristics

of Words Interrelated?

The answer must be affirma­tive. Among learned words andterminology the for­eign element dominates the native.

It also seems that the whole oppositionof «formal versus informal» is based on the deeper underlyingopposition of «bor­rowed versus native», as the informal style,especial­ly slang and dialect, abounds in native words even though it ispossible to quote numerous exceptions.

In point of comparing the expressive and stylistic value of the Frenchand the English words the French ones are usually more formal, more refined,and less emotional. “to begin” – “to commence”, “to wish” — “to desire”, “hap­piness"— “felicity”.

English words are much warmer than their Latin synonyms,they don’t sound cold and dry: “motherly” — “maternal”, “fatherly” —“paternal”, “childish” — “infan­tile", “daughterly” — “filial”, etc.

1.    Г.Б.Антрушина, О.В.Афанасьева.Лексикология английского языка. — М. Изд. Дрофа. 19992.    F.R.Palmer. Semantics. A new outline. — M. V.Sh.1982
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