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Etymology

Etymology is the study of the origin of words. Some words have been derived from other languages, possibly in a changed form. Through old texts and comparisons with other languages, etymologists try to reconstruct the history of words - when they entered a language, from what source, and how their form and meaning changed.

Etymologists also try to reconstruct information about languages that are too old for any direct information (such as written texts) to be known. By comparing words in related languages, one can learn about their shared parent language. In this way, word roots[?] have been found which can be traced all the way back to the origin of the Indo-European language family.

The word etymology comes from the Greek Útymos (true meaning of a word) and l˛gos (science).

Etymology of English Vocabulary

As a language, English is derived from Anglo-Saxon, a dialect of Old Low German, although its vocabulary includes words from many languages. The Anglo-Saxon roots can be seen in the similarity of numbers in English and German, particularly six~sechs, seven~sieben, eight~acht, and ten~zehn. Pronouns are also cognate: I~ich; thou~Du; we~wir; she~sie. However, language change has eroded many grammatical elements, such as the noun case system, which is greatly simplified in Modern English; and certain elements of vocabulary, much of which is borrowed from French. In fact, more than half of the words in English either come from the French language, or have a French cognate. However, the most common root words are still of Germanic origin.

French was introduced into England when the Normans conquered England in 1066 (see Norman invasion[?]). During the French reign on the British isles, the ruling class spoke French while the peasants spoke the English of the time. This led to many paired words of French and English origin.

In foods, for example, the ruling class named the meat on the table, and the peasants named the animal in the field. Beef is from the French boeuf, meaning "steer". Veal is from veau, meaning "calf". Pork is from porc, meaning "pig", and poultry from Poulet, meaning "chicken".

English words of more than two syllables are likely to come from French, often with modified terminations. For example, the French words for syllable, modified, terminations and example are syllabe, modifié, terminaisons and exemple.

English has proven accommodating to words from many languages. Scientific terminology relies heavily on words of Latin and Greek origin. Spanish has contributed many words, particularly in the southwestern United States. Examples for include buckaroo from vaquero or "cowboy", alligator from el legarto or "lizard", and rodeo. Cuddle, eerie and greed come from Scots, behemoth from Hebrew, perestroika, balalaika, taiga, tundra and sputnik from Russian, and lagniappe from Quechua. See also loanword.

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