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Etymology. The role of native and borrowed elements. Etymological doublets

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Etymology (a branch of lexicology) explores the origin of words – the history and development of individual words in a language. Etymology asks and tries to answer a question “where did this word come from?” Native words constitute only 30% of the English vocabulary, but they are most frequently used words.

Native words are subdivided into 2 groups: Indo-European and Common Germanic. The oldest layer of words in English are words met in Indo-European. There are several semantic groups of them:

· Words denoting kinship: farther, mother, son, daughter

· Words denoting important objects and phenomena of nature: The Sun, water

· Names of animals and birds: cat, goose, wolf

· Names of parts of a human body: heart

· Some of the most often used verbs: sit, stand

· Some numerals: two, three

A much larger group is Common Germanic words (German, Norwegian, Dutch, Icelandic) : summer, winter, storm, rain, ice, ground, bridge, house, like, shoe. The verbs: bake, buy, drive, hear, keep, learn, make, meet, rise, see. The adjectives: broad, dead, deep. Native words have a great word building capacity, form a lot of phraseological units, they are mostly polysemantic.

More than two thirds of the English vocabulary are borrowings. Mostly they are words of Romanic origin (Latin, French, Italian, Spanish). English history is very rich in different types of contacts with other countries: the Roman invasion, the adoption of Christianity, Scandinavian and Norman conquests of the British Isles, the development of British colonialism and trade served to increase immensely the English vocabulary. The majority of these borrowings are fully assimilated in English in their pronunciation, grammar, spelling and can be hardly distinguished from native words.

The term source of borrowing is applied to the language from which the word was taken into English. The term origin of borrowing refers to the language to which the word can be traced (“paper” – borrowed from French, but it is Greek in its origin). Borrowings can be classified according to different criteria:

· According to the aspect which is borrowed

· According to the degree of assimilation

· According to the language from which the word was borrowed



a). - Phonetic borrowings (loan words proper) – are borrowed with their spelling, pronunciation and meaning. Then they undergo assimilation: each sound is substituted by the corresponding sound of the borrowing language. Sometimes spelling and the structure of the word, the position of the stress, meaning, paradigm is changed. Such words as labour, table are phonetic borrowings from French; bank, soprano – from Italian.

- translation loans are word-for-word (morpheme-for-morpheme) translations of some foreign words or expressions. The notion is borrowed from a foreign language, but it is expressed by native lexical units: to take the bull by the horns (Latin), pipe of peace (Indian).

- semantic borrowings are such units when a new meaning of the unit existing in the language is borrowed. It can happen when we have 2 relative languages which have common words with different meanings. For example, there are semantic borrowings between Scandinavian and English, such as the meaning “to live” for the word “to dwell” which is in Old English had the meaning “to wander”. Semantic borrowings can appear when an English word was borrowed back into English (pioneer®Russian®English).

- morphemic borrowings – borrowings of affixes which occur in the language when many words with identical affixes are borrowed from one language into another, so that the morphemic structure becomes familiar. We can find a lot of Romanic affixes in the English word-building system. e.g. goddess (native root+Romanic suffix –ess), unmistakable English prefix un+English prefix mis-+Scandinavian root+Romanic suffix –able).

b). - The degree of assimilation depends on several factors: from what group of languages the word was borrowed (if it belongs to the same group of language – assimilation is easier); in what way the word is borrowed: orally or in the written form (words borrowed orally are assimilated quicker); how often the borrowing is used in the language (the greater the frequency® the quicker it is assimilated); how long the word lives in the language (the longer it lives, the more assimilated it is).

- completely assimilations are not felt as foreign words (French word «sport» and the native word «start»). Completely assimilated verbs belong to regular verbs, e.g. correct -corrected. Completely assimilated nouns form their plural by means of s-inflexion, e.g. gate- gates. In completely assimilated French words the stress has been shifted from the last syllable to the last but one.

- partly assimilated borrowings are subdivided into the following groups: a) borrowings non-assimilated semantically, because they denote objects and notions peculiar to the country from the language of which they were borrowed (sari, sombrero, taiga, kvass). b) borrowings non-assimilated grammatically, e.g. nouns borrowed from Latin and Greek retain their plural forms (phenomenon - phenomena, datum –data). c) borrowings non-assimilated phonetically: e.g. words with the initial sounds [v] and [z] - voice, zero. In native words these voiced consonants are used only in the intervocal position as allophones of sounds [f] and [s] (loss - lose, life - live). Some French borrowings have retained their stress on the last syllable, e.g. police. In many cases it is the whole pattern of the word’s phonetic make-up that is different from the rest of the English vocabulary (Indian: confetti, incognito, opera). d) borrowings can be partly assimilated graphically (in Greek borrowings «y» can be spelled in the middle of the word (symbol), «ph» denotes the sound [f] (phoneme), «ch» denotes the sound [k] (chemistry),«ps» denotes the sound [s] (psychology).

- non-assimilated borrowings (barbarisms) are used by Englishmen rather seldom (addio - Italian, tete-a-tete - French).

c). Latin (when British Isles were part of the Roman Empire: street, port, wall).

· adoption of Christianity®Greek (church, angel) and Latin (alter, dean)

· middle period®Great Revival of learning (Greek and Latin: memorandum, minimum, veto)

· modern English – words formed with the help of Latin and Greek morphemes: acid, antenna, militarism)

· French (the largest group of borrowings) – most came during the Norman conquest (words relating to government – administer, empire, state, government; military – army, war, soldier; jurisprudence – advocate; fashion – luxury, coat, collar; jewelry – topaz, pearl; food – lunch, dinner.

· Italian: bank; geological – volcano, granite, bronze

· Spanish: trade terms – cargo, embargo; dances – tango, rumba; vegetables and fruits – tomato, apricot.

· Germanic, Scandinavian: sister, fish, fellow, cake, ill, happy; same, both, them, they

· Dutch (more than 2000 words): skipper, pump, reef

· Russian: vodka, taiga, tundra, duma

Etymological doublets – 2 different words with different spellings and meanings but historically they come back to one and the same word. The verbs drag and draw both came from OE “dragan”. French doublets: castle (замок) and chateau(загородный дом).

Etymological doublets can be result of borrowings of different grammatical forms of the same word: superior and supreme are etymological doublets formed from different grammatical forms of the Latin adjective “super”.

 

 


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