A Journey through English Vocabulary (part 2)

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    Post A Journey through English Vocabulary (part 2)

    Post by nuhru_1098 on Fri Nov 14, 2008 10:58 pm

    English Vocabulary in Modern Times


    The Renaissance arrived to England in around 1500 with a burst of literary works being published in Early Modern English thanks to the developments in mass printing. It was only at this time that some initial consolidation was beginning to occur in the language's vocabulary. After centuries of the church dictating religious guidelines for the cultural and spiritual life of Europeans, an increased nostalgic interest in the humanistic values of ancient Greece and Rome produced a torrent of unparalleled creativity.

    Scholarly research was written in Latin, as English was considered poor in vocabulary and too crude for expressing abstract ideas. A large portion of such words were originally Latin but entered English through their French manifestation. The education of children, however, was now being carried out in English. This entailed the use of new words from Greek, while Latin continued to be a steady source of vocabulary.

    from Greek
    democracy, hexagon, monogamy, physics, rhythm,theory
    from Latin
    client, conviction, index, library, medicine, orbit, recipe


    Key cultural achievements of this period were the first official publication of the Bible in English (the Saint James Bible) and the immense corpus of William Shakespeare's literary enterprise, and that of other writers. Shakespeare contributed a wealth of newly coined and/or borrowed English words.

    from William Shakespeare
    courtship, bedroom, discontent, accused, addiction, amazement, assassination, critic, employer, engagements, savagery, transcendence, urging, watchdog, zany

    The word set for naming a person riding a horse provides an illustrative interim summary for the development of English vocabulary up to this point. The simplest option is rider (from the Anglo-Saxon ritter, horseman entered through the influence of the Vikings' Old Norse *hross. Knight, originally Old English *cniht, began being used around 1300. Cavalier (from French chevalier), or the elegantly elevated equestrian, directly derived from Latin, comprise the more elevated choices here.

    With more published material in English, England's rise to power under Elizabeth 1, and increased English influence on international business and trade, diplomacy, and colonialism, English was brought to the fore as the national language of England, proudly used by all the English people. The year 1650 marks the transition into the Modern English period. Further factors contributed to the growth of English as a powerful language. Political upheavals led to the rise of port towns and former lower classes that further strengthened common English usage. The publication of the first comprehensive and official dictionary of the English language by Samuel Johnson in 1755 began the process of canonizing the written language. As education in English was now being offered to the masses, who also enjoyed access to libraries in English, more and more people could enrich their vocabularies and improve their English language aptitude.

    The scientific revolution and renewed interest in the classics during the 19th century have opened the gate for yet another wave of scientific and technical terms for newly found concepts and discoveries – all derived from Greek and Latin roots, prefixes and suffixes. The current proportion of Latin words in English is 29%, while Greek contributes about 6%.

    from Latin
    aquarium, binoculars, radioactive, ambiguous, intermission, itinerary, rejuvenate, supersonic, quadrangle, submarine, multitude, linguistic
    from Greek
    Zoology, philanthropy, bacteria, chlorophyll, psychosis, cholesterol, cyanide, chromosome, metamorphosis, thermometer, trauma, xenophobia, telegraph, telephone, polymer, orthodoxy


    The British colonization of North America, Australia and parts of Asia and Africa has resulted in the creation of whole continents speaking English, which in turn has been enriched by the mother tongues of locals and immigrants. In 1828, Noah Webster published the first official dictionary of American English, which established differences in spelling between British and American English and further paved the way to differences in vocabulary between these two language varieties. The rise of the mass media during the 20th century: newspapers, cinema, radio, television and The Internet have given the latest push to English in becoming a global language, as English is the main language used. This in turn brings more words into English from just about any other language on the planet but also has the potential to disintegrate English itself to new emerging local English varieties.

    A steady influx of international words has been coming in during the past two centuries. Just think about the words for all food sorts introduced form each origin language! The following table presents some common examples:

    from Spanish
    aficionado, amigo, burrito, canyon, caramba, cargo, embargo, guacamole, guitar, macho, marijuana, mustang, poncho, pueblo, rodeo, taco, plaza, vanilla
    from Modern French
    café, lingerie, connoisseur , coup d'état, en route, hors d'œuvre, panache, sabotage, envelope, and avalanche, not to mention chic, vis-à-vis, attaché, and à la carte, bon voyage, rendezvous
    from German
    kindergarten, poodle, yodel, blitzkrieg, zeitgeist, angst, delicatessen, hamburger, schnitzel
    from Dutch
    brandy, yacht, waffle, apartheid, boss, cookie, dam, drill, tattoo, cruiser
    from Italian
    balcony, casino, umbrella, balloon, carnival, ghetto, graffiti, Madonna, Mezzanine, spaghetti, pasticcio, cappuccino, (and many other foods), concert, piano, maestro, soprano, andante, opera (and other musical terms)
    from Arabic
    alcohol, algebra, candy, lemon, azimuth, elixir, giraffe, gazelle, sugar
    from the languages of India
    chutney, bandana, curry, amok polo, bungalow, jungle, loot, shampoo, pajamas
    from Japanese
    futon, tycoon, kimono, Ninja, Karaoke, Zen, karate, sushi, bonsai, origami
    from African languages
    banana, yam, voodoo, banjo, chimpanzee, zebra
    from Native American languages
    chipmunk, moccasin, tipi (also spelled teepee), skunk, squash, pecan, persimmon, skunk, totem, quinine, avocado, chocolate, wigwam, raccoon, tomato, hurricane
    from languages of the Pacific
    boomerang, kangaroo, sarong, ketchup, koala, kiwi

    In sum, other languages than Germanic, French, Latin and Greek have contributed 6% to the vocabulary of English, while the 4 % remaining derive from proper names.

    The riches of the English vocabulary allow us to use a vast array of word synonyms to express subtle nuances in meaning. Familiarity with the origins of the words and their shades of meaning can help you make the right choice in your English writing. Do you have a job, profession, occupation, vocation, or calling? Does your boyfriend seem male, manly, macho, virile or masculine? The WhiteSmoke synonym dictionary and enrichment database provides an excellent tool for trying to conquer the never-ending English vocabulary.

      Current date/time is Mon Aug 20, 2018 6:04 am