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Passages Written From Words of Different Origins
Posted: 28 February 2017 07:04 PM   [ Ignore ]
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I was reading Philip Durkin’s excellent book Borrowed Words recently, and came up with an idea for an experiment.  I thought people on this forum might like it.

Durkin used the British National Corpus’ (BNC) list of common words in many places.

On the book’s companion website, he gives an etymological origin for the top 1000 BNC words that are borrowed, after removing proper names.

471 words are counted as native English words.  The top borrowings are from French (220), a combination of French & Latin (209), Latin (58), Scandinavian (32), Italian (4) and miscellaneous others (6).

My idea was to randomly sample words from the top categories and to try to write a passage with them, to get a better subjective sense of them.  I sampled 50 words from English and French origins (excluding hybrid French & Latin words), and tried to use all the Latin and Scandinavian words in one passage each.

I also tried to use only function words from English in the other passages (it’s impossible to write without them).  Here is the result:

English:

There was a fire at night within the town hall.  A father saw his own son on top of the west wall.  Following with his eyes, he said the word and a long ladder was put on the wall.  The father climbed up, and brought his son down on his back, the child holding on. He thus made short work of leading him down.  So that this would not happen again, the townsfolk filled a big well with water.  Yet since others did not know this, the folk also told towns farther away. Soon the news spread among the land, and yesterday the folk opened the town.  And when others came by whatever way, the townsfolk said “yes, whoever you are, you are welcome here”.

French:

An award of honorable mention was made to an officer of the international war department.  A fine sir, he maintained composure in service despite close cover from foreign enemies.  He was received in the royal court.  At the army base, people carried him to his hotel.  We should also remember the scientist who was awarded because of her medical treatment for late state disease, which, once available, will maintain the size of the community.  Also the bank officer, who established total control over the oil affair, which we can all agree is an excellent story.  Because of this oil measure, demand will be increased, and a basic rule can be used for saving money.  At the finish of the proceedings, several park police were listed for simple honor for improving our safety.

Latin:

The fund analysis of this sector provides individual investors with a series of ideas.  Many successful products are in the picture.  Units of cups and boxes have turned into a normal investment.  Private schools offer significant opportunities.  The street population has recently been included in more churches, which suggests success in area project spending.  One should discuss how to produce appropriate results, indicating them to a secretary.  Previously, if one could produce a pound per mile, one would not stop or introduce other opportunities.  A political basis can be described for these occurrences, although not in exact facts. 

Scandinavian:

It takes skill for husbands to raise themselves to happiness.  They should not want to give wrong, or forget the law.  They should like the same main things, and they should not seem low and call at the window.  Although they will get theirs, they should perhaps take a seat on both their legs, rather than hit and club until they die.

[ Edited: 28 February 2017 07:11 PM by Tungol ]
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Posted: 01 March 2017 04:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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A warm welcome to the board, Tungol. I did find your post interesting and I’m sure others here will also.

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Posted: 01 March 2017 05:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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It would be neat to try and write the same passage using words from different sources. The direct comparison would be more illustrative. But you’d have to go beyond the top 1000 words to find enough synonyms.

And welcome to the board!

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Posted: 01 March 2017 08:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Tungol, are you familiar with “Uncleftish Beholding” [edit:  corrected overly Germanic -ung), a short story (very loosely speaking) by Poul Anderson?  It’s an excerpt from a text on atomic theory from an imaginary world in which English apparently never received the infusion of Romance words and roots from the Norman invasion.  I think you would enjoy it.

[ Edited: 01 March 2017 10:13 AM by Dr. Techie ]
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Posted: 01 March 2017 09:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Uncleftish Beholding.

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Posted: 01 March 2017 01:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Thanks for the welcome everyone.  I have read Uncleftish Beholding before, and it’s fantastic.

I took your suggestion to heart Dave and tried to “translate” my English passage with words from French and Latin. 

Native English words:

There was a fire at night within the town hall.  A father saw his own son on top of the west wall.  Following with his eyes, he said the word and a long ladder was put on the wall.  The father climbed up, and brought his son down on his back, the child holding on. He thus made short work of leading him down.  So that this would not happen again, the townsfolk filled a big well with water.  Yet since others did not know this, the folk also told towns farther away. Soon the news spread among the land, and yesterday the folk opened the town.  And when others came by whatever way, the townsfolk said: “yes, whoever you are, you are welcome here”.

French/Latin:

There was a conflagration at dusk in the interior of the city assembly chamber.  A sire percieved his very boy on the ceiling of the port facade.  Pursuing visually, he voiced the phrase and an elongated scale was placed on the facade.  The sire mounted vertically, and carried his boy down on his reverse, the infant seizing on. He thus made a brief task of guiding him inferiorly.  So that this would not result afresh, the city people gorged a large reservoir with aqua.  Despite this, because additional people did not apprehend, the people also informed remoter cities.  Rapidly the story disseminated around the territory, and the previous diurnal course the people unbarred the city. And when additional people came by unspecified routes, the city people declared: “affirmative, regardless of the person, you are desired in this place.”

The hardest words I found were: eyes, whatever, whoever and yesterday.  Boy is an uncertain borrowing, but it’s much less clumsy than “male descendent”!

[ Edited: 01 March 2017 02:41 PM by Tungol ]
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Posted: 01 March 2017 02:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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That was a very interesting and instructive exercise, Tungol. Congratulations, and welcome to this forum. 
“Male offspring” might be a slightly less clumsy, and more precise, term for “boy” than “male descendant”.

Thanks for Uncleftish Beholding, Dr. T and lh. I’d never seen it (I stopped reading SF, some time after New Maps of Hell was published)

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Posted: 01 March 2017 02:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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“Male offspring” might be a slightly less clumsy, and more precise, term for “boy” than “male descendant”.

Ah, good idea, but offspring comes from Old English springan “to leap, burst forth, fly up; spread, grow.”

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Posted: 01 March 2017 04:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Fun post. Welcome to the forum, Tungol.

Couple of previous wordorigins threads you might like to peruse:
http://wordoriginsorg.yuku.com/topic/10315#.WLdrYdyGPRY
http://www.wordorigins.org/index.php/forums/viewthread/4392/

[ Edited: 01 March 2017 04:48 PM by OP Tipping ]
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Posted: 01 March 2017 06:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Thanks for the links OP.

In the second link, Dr. Techie says:

There’s also the fun of recognizing (or, depending on how much you knew beforehand, discovering the reasons behind) Anderson’s brilliant calques, like “bernstonebits”.

I think this word is cool as well, but I looked it up and apparently Anderson was inspired by the German bernstein meaning burning-stone or amber.  This is because electron comes from Greek Elektron meaning amber, plus Greek ion meaning go.

However, Old English had it’s own word for amber, which was glær.  That gave us modern glare. 

Also, go in Old English was gan. I think another interesting calque would actually be glærganbit.  Or in modern English, glaregobit (glaringbit?).

Incidentally, the color yellow is derived from a related word in Old English, ġeolu, meaning “amber colored”.

[ Edited: 01 March 2017 06:33 PM by Tungol ]
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Posted: 02 March 2017 04:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Ah, good idea, but offspring comes from Old English springan “to leap, burst forth, fly up; spread, grow.”

Of course, silly mistake on my part.

[ Edited: 02 March 2017 04:50 AM by lionello ]
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Posted: 02 March 2017 05:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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I took a stab at it, using the opening lines from a famous, twentieth-century book:

I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids—and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination—indeed, everything and anything except me.

Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison

Then rendered into words that have roots in Old English. Movie , substance, and simply were tough ones. OE had words for these of course, but none of them survive in present-day English (not literally movie, obviously, but the verb to move; no OE word for picture has present-day analogues either, so I invented a compound).

I am an unseen man. No, I am not a ghost like those who abided with Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood stirring-gravenwork ghost-makings. I am a man of timber, of flesh and bone, sinew and blood—and I might even be said to own a mind. I am unseen, understand, onefoldly for folk forsake to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in ring-seat sideshows, it is as though I have been ringed by looking-glasses of hard, bending glass. When they come near me they see only my setting, themselves, or ghosts of their mind—indeed, everything and anything that is not me.

Then rendered into borrowings from Norman French. I did have to keep all the function words, prepositions, pronouns, and the like, as well as the verb to be. The challenges here were head, body, and bone. For the last I had to go with the archaic os.

I am an invisible human. No, I am not an apparition like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie spiritual forms. I am a human of substance, of tissue and os, fiber and liquids—and I might even be supposed to possess reason. I am invisible, judge, simply because people refuse to perceive me. Like the pates sans trunks you perceive occasionally in entertainment attractions, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of obdurate, perverting crystal. When they approach me they perceive only my surroundings, themselves, or illusions of their imagination—indeed, the sum except me.

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Posted: 02 March 2017 06:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Dave Wilton - 02 March 2017 05:26 AM


....... one of your Hollywood stirring-gravenwork ghost-makings.

Wonderful!

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Posted: 02 March 2017 07:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Then rendered into words that have roots in Old English. Movie , substance, and simply were tough ones. OE had words for these of course, but none of them survive in present-day English (not literally movie, obviously, but the verb to move; no OE word for picture has present-day analogues either, so I invented a compound).

Nicely done.  I like stirring-gravenwork for movie.  I think if you wanted to cheat a little bit you could have used film, which descends from the OE word for skin.

Apparently the OE word for simple was “bile-hwít”, which in modern English would be “bill-white”.  Billwhitely for simply then perhaps?

One OE word for substance was æt-wist.  Wist meant something like “provisions” and survives in modern English in wistful, originally “well-supplied”.  So a modern construction for substance could be at-wist or with-wist.

“I am a man of with-wist, of flesh and bone, sinew and blood—and I might even be said to own a mind.”

[ Edited: 02 March 2017 09:38 AM by Tungol ]
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Posted: 02 March 2017 08:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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I avoided words that would be unintelligible in present-day English, hence no bill-white.

I missed film. That would have been a better choice, but then I wouldn’t have stirring-gravenwork.

(I think I’ve just discovered an activity for the linguistics course I’m teaching next year.)

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Posted: 02 March 2017 08:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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What are the rules here? Can you include words that existed in OE that derive from Latin, Celtic, Norse etc?

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