Reading: / Summary Completion / Part 5

The Origin of Words

A         Etymology is the study of the origin of words and how their meanings have changed over time. In response to necessity, words evolve, change in form and meaning and often ‘leap’ from one language to another. ‘Etymology’ is derived from the Greek word 'etymon' meaning ‘true sense’ and 'logos' meaning 'speech'. By examining the origins of a word, it is possible to decipher the true meaning of it but understanding meaning is only one reason why the study of etymology is useful. When words can be traced back to their origins, the path they have taken also tell a lot about the changing fortunes of mankind.

B         A few thousand years ago, Spanish was not spoken in Spain, Italian was not spoken in Italy nor French in France. Not only were the geographical borders different then but also the languages that were heard within those borders. These languages were all in the process of evolving from an earlier language, Latin, and for this reason there are certain similarities between them. For example, the word for 'hand' is similar in Spanish and Italian - 'mano' and Rumanian 'min?' ; which derive from the Latin - manus. In English, Danish and German, however, the word becomes haend, haand and hant, respectively, indicating a different language source. In Russian, Polish and Serbo-Croatian, ‘hand’ becomes ruka and reka; so these languages were placed in different families. The three families these groups of languages fall under are called Romance, Germanic and Slavic, respectively.

C         Not every word is different in the three families, however. Many words are similar across different families which led etymologists to suppose that there was an even older single language from which these words originated. This is known as the Indo-European family and almost all European languages as well as the languages of Iran, Pakistan and India are based on it. In fact, the Indo-European language is the foundation of 13 branches including French, Armenian, Greek and Albanian. In these highly disparate geographical and cultural places, there is a common bond from which etymologists and historians have been able to trace the movements of early man.




Questions 1-4

Complete the summary of Paragraphs A-C below.

Choose NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS from the passage for each answer.

Write your answers in boxes 1-4 on your answer sheet.

In etymology, origin and 1 ………………… of words are connected in that by tracing the first, it is possible to understand the second. Similarity in language can be found in countries like Russia and Poland which share the 2 ......................... family whiles the 3........................... family is the source of German and Danish. Those that study the origin of words have been able to discover the 4 ………………… of people who lived long ago.