cogitation, cognition - same meaning, different origins
Posted: 02 July 2007 12:04 PM   [ Ignore ]
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These words are almost identical in meaning, and at first glance appear to have the same etymology; but according to OED, they came from two very different origins.

“Cogitation” comes from a Latin word which was a contraction of co- + the Latin for “agitate” (one of the senses of “agitate” being “to turn over in the mind, revolve, weigh, consider"), so co-agitare became cogitare.

“Cognition” is basically co- + the Greek for “know” (co-gnostic).

So we have an example of two different Latin words evolving toward eachother. Is this a coincidence? Could the contraction of the former occur as a result of influence from the latter? I don’t have dates for the earliest examples of these words, so I can’t verify anything. Anyone else?

Are there other examples like this that people can find?

--

Lost for Words

[ Edited: 03 July 2007 05:35 AM by etymolog ]
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Posted: 02 July 2007 11:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Mortar, mortal and mortice have, it appears, completely different etymologies. From etymonline:

Mortar: “mixture of cement,” c.1290, from O.Fr. mortier, from L. mortarium “mortar,” also “crushed drugs,” probably the same word as mortarium “bowl for mixing or pounding” (see mortar (2)). Mortarboard “academic cap” (1854) so called because it resembles a mason’s square board for carrying mortar.

Mortal: c.1368, “deadly,” also “doomed to die” (c.1374), from O.Fr. mortel “destined to die,” from L. mortalis “subject to death,” from mors (gen. mortis) “death,” from PIE base *mor-/*mr- “die” (cf. Skt. mrtih “death,” Avestan miryeite “dies,” O.Pers. martiya- “man,” Lith. mirtis “mortal man,” Gk. ambrotos “immortal,” O.C.S. mrutvu “dead,” O.Ir. marb, Welsh marw “died,” O.E. morþ “murder").

Mortice c.1400, “hole or groove in which something is fitted to form a joint,” from O.Fr. mortaise (13c.), possibly from Ar. murtazz “fastened,” pp. of razza “cut a mortise in.” Cf. Sp. mortaja.

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Posted: 03 July 2007 01:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Bayard

Etymolog was pointing out the different origins of two words that people might think are related. You seem to make the same point about ‘mor-’ (or perhaps you make a very sophisticated joke). Either way I’m afraid I didn’t get it.

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Posted: 03 July 2007 07:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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“Cognition” is basically co- + the Greek for “know” (co-gnostic).

No, actually it’s not.  Latin was not in the habit of sticking Latin prefixes on Greek words; this word is pure Latin.  In the words of the OED:

cognitiōnem a getting to know, acquaintance, notion, knowledge, etc., n. of action f. L. cognit-, ppl. stem of cognōscere

And cogitare is not a “contraction” in the sense I think you mean; if it’s from co- + agitare (which is only a guess), the collapse of -oa- into long o was a perfectly normal historical process.

It’s just a coincidence; there are zillions of them out there.

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Posted: 03 July 2007 08:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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24450239 - 03 July 2007 01:35 AM

Bayard

Etymolog was pointing out the different origins of two words that people might think are related. You seem to make the same point about ‘mor-’ (or perhaps you make a very sophisticated joke). Either way I’m afraid I didn’t get it.

Well I thought they might be related until I looked them up and was quite surprised to find that they were not. (Original research inspired by a line in a song (Bonzo Dog Doodah Band?) “I’m bored to death, like mortar board")

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Posted: 03 July 2007 12:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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So we have an example of two different Latin words evolving toward eachother. Is this a coincidence? Could the contraction of the former occur as a result of influence from the latter?

As languagehat has pointed out, and as far as I’m aware and can see in my Latin dictionary, there’s no link between the Latin words cogito and cognosco.  These two words are from different roots, but just happen to start with the same suffix and relate to thinking or knowing.  Cogito is derived from the prefix co- and the verb agito (agito being the frequentative of the Latin verb ago), as are many -it- verbs.  Re cognosco - as languagehat said.  There’s no basis therefore for your assumption that the two Latin words evolved towards each other, neither is there any evidence that contraction of any one Latin word influenced the contraction of any other Latin word.  It’s simply easier and quicker to say ”cogito” than to say ”co-agito”.

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Posted: 03 July 2007 04:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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ElizaD - 03 July 2007 12:56 PM

So we have an example of two different Latin words evolving toward eachother. Is this a coincidence? Could the contraction of the former occur as a result of influence from the latter?

As languagehat has pointed out, and as far as I’m aware and can see in my Latin dictionary, there’s no link between the Latin words cogito and cognosco.  These two words are from different roots, but just happen to start with the same suffix and relate to thinking or knowing.  Cogito is derived from the prefix co- and the verb agito (agito being the frequentative of the Latin verb ago), as are many -it- verbs.  Re cognosco - as languagehat said.  There’s no basis therefore for your assumption that the two Latin words evolved towards each other, neither is there any evidence that contraction of any one Latin word influenced the contraction of any other Latin word.  It’s simply easier and quicker to say ”cogito” than to say ”co-agito”.

You misunderstood me. I’m simply saying that two English words that currently appear to have the same origin (since, after all, they have the same meaning and the prominent “cog” that is common to that meaning) don’t have the same origin. And I was asking for other examples, or an explanation for the contraction; it’s obviously simpler to say it one way, but there are plenty of examples of words that could’ve been contracted that weren’t. So is it possible that cognosco influenced the contraction of coagito? We would need to look at the earliest occurrences of these words, but I don’t have that information. Thus my request made here.

I made no hypotheses - just asked for more information.

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Posted: 03 July 2007 05:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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The process you’re thinking about is folk etymology. The wikipedia article has some examples.

I think your examples (cogitation and cognition) are interesting from the point of view of modern English speakers’ intuitions about their relatedness. I’m sure plenty of people think of them as sharing a morpheme cog that has something to do with mental processes (and perhaps relate it to little cogwheels grinding away in the brain?). Of course, that doesn’t mean that Latin speakers felt the same way, and languagehat’s post suggests that there are no unusual phonological processes of the sort that usually provide the strongest evidence for folk etymology.

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Posted: 03 July 2007 05:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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(since, after all, they have the same meaning and the prominent “cog” that is common to that meaning)

So you believe that thinking and knowing are the same thing? Interesting. I believe you have fallen down the well of subjectivism and all hope is lost.

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Posted: 03 July 2007 09:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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I must be missing something here. I don’t agree that the two words mean the same thing. Knowing something and thinking about something are not the same.

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Posted: 03 July 2007 10:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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So we have an example of two different Latin words evolving toward eachother. Is this a coincidence? Could the contraction of the former occur as a result of influence from the latter?

I based my reply on these sentences, the first of which clearly states that one Latin word evolved towards another.  The following sentence asks if the contraction of of the former (presumably we’re still discussing Latin words since there wasn’t any mention of English words in the first sentence I’ve just cited) has been influenced by the latter.

I’m simply saying that two English words that currently appear to have the same origin (since, after all, they have the same meaning and the prominent “cog” that is common to that meaning) don’t have the same origin. And I was asking for other examples, or an explanation for the contraction

I agree with the previous posters who said that thinking and knowing are very different concepts.  I really don’t understand the reasoning behind your question - unless you’re just asking for examples of folk etymology, as nomis said.

So is it possible that cognosco influenced the contraction of coagito? We would need to look at the earliest occurrences of these words, but I don’t have that information. Thus my request made here.

I don’t see how the contraction of a Latin word meaning “know” could have influenced the contraction of a word meaning “do”, or why it might be presumed to have.  Maybe someone else will elucidate.

edited for clarity

[ Edited: 03 July 2007 10:36 PM by ElizaD ]
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Posted: 03 July 2007 11:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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You have been skewered, and are ready for the fire, Etymolog. Enjoy the aroma.

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Posted: 04 July 2007 02:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Eyehawk - 03 July 2007 11:43 PM

… ready for the fire,

Consider it your baptism, Etym.

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