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HD: Where Do English Words Come From? 
Posted: 04 June 2014 06:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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Therefore, it seems that the true origin of English words come from Latin or Greek and all the other languages are just intermediaries.

Mmh. That statement reminds me rather of an annoying little snippet I once encountered in stocking-filler book of ‘odd facts’ to the effect that “Most people think that when they say ‘adieu’ they’re speaking French, but they aren’t - it’s actually Latin, from the phrase ‘ad deum te commendo’” . Which is, of course, nonsense; adieu is from French, and the fact that the French word is in its turn from a Latin phrase is a separate issue.

It would be nonsensical to lump French words of Latin origin borrowed into English from French, like route, issue and annoying, with words taken directly from Latin such as separate, phrase and origin. I think there’s no ‘just’ about the proximate source of a borrowing. It’s also not even true to say that Latin is the ultimate origin of any of these words, PIE being that, as far as we can tell. (And phrase at least was borrowed into Latin from Greek.)

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Posted: 04 June 2014 10:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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Dave Wilton - 03 June 2014 08:31 PM

I believe that the majority of English words draw from Latin or Greek, and Latin being predominant. Is this an inaccurate interpretation?

The majority of English words come from Germanic roots, not Latin.

Many words borrowed from French, German, Italian, Dutch etc. were in turn borrowed from Latin or Greek. 

German and Dutch words are not likely to be from Latin, although words borrowed into English direct from German aren’t many in the scheme of things. (Note the difference between Germanic, which denotes the larger language family that includes English and Old English, Dutch, and German, which refers to the modern language spoken between the Rhine and the Oder.)

French and Italian words are predominantly from Latin. In fact, you can consider French and Italian to be “modern Latin.”

Therefore, it seems that the true origin of English words come from Latin or Greek and all the other languages are just intermediaries.

I’m not sure what a “true origin” is, unless the phrase is being used to denote a correct, as opposed to incorrect, etymology. Latin is just an “intermediary” for an even older language, just as Old English is an intermediary between modern English and proto-Germanic. It’s turtles all the way down, and where you stop tracing is an arbitrary decision. (Although after a bit evidence drys up. We really can’t trace words further than Old English or Latin. We can figure out a pretty good approximation of what proto-Indo-European words were, but the reconstructed PIE roots probably don’t represent a real language; they resemble somewhat the ancestor languages (note the plural; there was probably not a single dialect of PIE). There are no reliable guesses as to what ancestors of the PIE languages might have looked like.)

But that being said, there are really two different questions. Where does English borrow its words from? And, What proportion of English words stem from the various major language families?

[Edited to correct typos--dw]

I appreciate the information, thank you.

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Posted: 04 June 2014 08:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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Which is, of course, nonsense; adieu is from French, and the fact that the French word is in its turn from a Latin phrase is a separate issue.

I don’t agree that it’s a separate issue when discussing word origins; it might be when discussing from where words were borrowed, but not when discussing their origins.

Dictionary.com
or·i·gin [awr-i-jin, or-] Show IPA
noun
1.
something from which anything arises or is derived; source; fountainhead: to follow a stream to its origin.
2.
rise or derivation from a particular source: the origin of a word.
3.
the first stage of existence; beginning: the origin of Quakerism in America.

Therefore, if we follow the history of adieu from English to its source, it would be French, but the origin is Latin(as far as we know). English could not have borrowed it from French, without French having borrowed it from Latin.

Online Etymology Dictionary
c.1400, “ancestry, race,” from Old French origine “origin, race,” and directly from Latin originem (nominative origo) “a rise, commencement, beginning, source; descent, lineage, birth,” from stem of oriri “to rise, become visible, appear” (see orchestra).

It would be nonsensical to lump French words of Latin origin borrowed into English from French, like route, issue and annoying, with words taken directly from Latin such as separate, phrase and origin.

I think nonsensical is an overstatement. Again, when discussing origin, as the word is defined, one seeks the source. I understand that in many cases the source might be ambiguous and as Dave said:” It’s turtles all the way down, and where you stop tracing is an arbitrary decision.(Although after a little bit of evidence drys up. WE really can’t trace words further than Old English or Latin.” ]

It’s also not even true to say that Latin is the ultimate origin of any of these words, PIE being that, as far as we can tell.

I never stated that Latin is the ultimate origin; I was submitting an idea and seeking edification.

Wikipedia

Many of the most common polysyllabic English words are of Latin origin, through the medium of Old French.

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Posted: 05 June 2014 03:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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English could not have borrowed it from French, without French having borrowed it from Latin.

Technically, French didn’t borrow it from Latin. Latin became French (and Italian, Spanish, Romanian, etc.). Similarly, English doesn’t borrow words from Middle or Old English.

I don’t agree that it’s a separate issue when discussing word origins; it might be when discussing from where words were borrowed, but not when discussing their origins.

Words don’t exist outside the context of their language. If you are discussing the English use of adieu, then Latin doesn’t enter it at all. English got the word from Norman-French in the fourteenth century. (The etymology in the OED doesn’t even mention Latin.)

If you are discussing the origin of the French word adieu, then Latin becomes relevant.

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