July 21st, 2008
Millions of words in hundreds of languages (spoken by half of the humanity) are derived from just a thousand words spoken by the tribes of the Indo-Europeans.
These inherited words have undergone through countless changes in their morphology and phonetics, have been borrowed to and fro, have been mixed with non-Indo-European languages and of course, they changed their meanings many times.
Here we have an example for such a changing of meaning from a Latin word, magister. This Latin word, meaning “teacher” or “master”, is derived from magis, a word meaning “greater”.
Six words in Romanian language are derived from the same Latin word, but they were borrowed at different times and have different forms and meanings:
măiestru - skilful, artful, magic (inherited from Latin)
maistru - a foreman (borrowed from German)
meşter - a craftsman (borrowed from Hungarian)
maestru - a maestro, a skilled artist (borrowed from Italian)
master - master’s degree (borrowed from English)
magistru - a teacher (learned borrowing from Latin)
Also, Romanian has the word metresă, borrowed from French maîtresse, related in both form and meaning to English mistress, which, along with the word mister is derived from this fruitful Latin word.
April 8th, 2008
Where do new words come from? Do people just make them up using random sounds? Surprisingly, no! Most of them are thousands of years old, but evolving: they changed the way they sound, their meaning, their form, but in a constant evolution. For new meanings, people made up new meanings for old words, often using suffixes and prefixes.
Modern technology is described using words that are perhaps more than 3000 years old: an antenna is a “sailyard”, a monitor is a “reminder”, a computer is a “thinker” and so on. The words for “wheel” and “car” are derived from the words which our ancestors used thousands of years ago when they just acquired the new technology from Mesopotamia.
Most of the words used nowadays to describe technology are from Latin and Greek,
the languages which were for a long time the lingua franca, that is, the standard language used in the sciences. So, don’t be surprised when your Digital Versatile Disc is derived completely from Latin and Greek.