New ROOTs?

Discuss word origins and meanings.

New ROOTs?

Post by Eleonor » Wed Apr 06, 2005 5:14 pm

New roots - do they exist - not new Prefixes and sufffixes,Phrasal verbs,Compounds,Portmanteau words,Loan words or New meanings, but a new root which cannot be traced back
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New ROOTs?

Post by dalehileman » Thu Apr 07, 2005 4:49 pm

That's a good Q and I will try to think of an example. Meanwhile, try http://www.langmaker.com/db/eng_a2z_index.htm
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Post by russcable » Thu Apr 07, 2005 5:27 pm

Depends on what you mean by "new" and "cannot be traced back."
If by "cannot be traced back," you mean "cannot be traced back to some ancient language like Sanskrit", then yes. For example, "new" roots are formed from acronyms, e.g. the verb lase from the noun laser which is from the acronym Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation.
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Post by Eleonor » Mon Apr 18, 2005 11:04 am

My English Grammar teacher claims that no new roots can appear; all languages have a limited number of roots and different words develope from them; if a new word is introduced it would be only for a short period of time in a limitted group of people and in some twenty years it will disappear entirely. Anyway, I do not agree. With all the new means of communication, a new word can appear and spread around the world in 24h and yet become a part of history, as an experiment, for instance. But for now I'm trying to find a 20-years old word which has developed into a new root.
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Post by dalehileman » Fri Apr 22, 2005 1:42 am

dongle (1982) mosh (1987) phwoar (1980) spod (1989) yomp (1982)
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Post by russcable » Fri Apr 22, 2005 4:57 pm

laser maser (1957) robot (~1923) scuba (~1939) radar sonar (circa WWII)
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Post by dalehileman » Fri Apr 22, 2005 5:42 pm

Russ: On Eleonor's behalf, I thank you. However, doesn't each of your examples itself have roots of some sort? I got the impression she was seeking only terms totally made-up or so obscure as to mask possible derivation
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Post by haro » Fri Apr 22, 2005 9:01 pm

Russ, Dale is right. Robot comes from Czech 'robota,' which means compulsory labor, servitude, or drudgery, directly related to German 'Arbeit' = work, Latin 'orbus' = orphaned and Greek 'orphanos' = orphan. The others are acronyms. I don't think acronyms can be counted as new roots.
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New ROOTs?

Post by russcable » Sat Apr 23, 2005 5:04 pm

Robota in Czech means "labor" and not a mechanical being, and besides if "words from other languages" can't influence roots in English then I say there are very few or possibly no "roots" in English. Acronyms are "made-up" words, just because there is a explanation for it. Many people use scuba without knowing that it's "self-contained underwater breathing apparatus". My opinion is it's not necessary for a "new root" not to have a source, it just has to not be made from other pre-existing roots, e.g. we've discussed bot which is made from robot as a new word but not a root.

And since we're being picky, dongle is computer jargon - no one who hasn't used one will have heard of it. Phwoar is only found in one slang dictionary, and spod and yomp are listed in most of the dictionaries as British only or British slang - not a very convincing argument for Eleonor's teacher. Mosh is a variation of mash so by your own picky standards, I say it doesn't count either.
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Post by haro » Sat Apr 23, 2005 8:37 pm

Russ, since you mentioned the correct year when 'robot' first appeared in English, I'm sure you also know how it got there, namely directly as 'robot' in Karel Capek's play U.R.U.. At that point in time it already meant a mechanical being. For instance, The American Heritage Dictionary traces 'robot' back to the Indo-European root 'orbh-.' Granted, Capek twisted the meaning a bit, but that doesn't make it a new root. Eleonor was asking for new roots "which cannot be traced back," not for new meanings. To mention another example, the English word 'school' comes from Greek 'scholé,' which originally meant leisure time, break, quite the opposite of what it means now. But the pretty substantial change of the meaning doesn't change the etymological root. Many words have completely changed their meaning in the course of time, but their etymological roots are still the same.

I guess you call me picky because I criticized your suggestions but left Dale's alone. That, however, was just because slang is not my field. I'm not commenting on matters I know very little about. By the way, I'm sure many more people know what a dongle is than a maser.

As for acronyms, which, of course, can "be traced back" (and that's not what Eleonor is looking for) - I wrote "I don't think acronyms can be counted as new roots," just because this is my opinion, possibly subject to modification if proved wrong. It depends on how the word 'root' is defined in this context. There are others in our circle who know better than I. We are here to learn, aren't we?
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Post by Phil White » Sun Apr 24, 2005 9:41 am

The absolute contention that "no new roots can appear" is questionable, but it is certainly a relatively rare occurrence, at least in a well-established language.

Nevertheless, many trade names become perfectly acceptable roots (xerox, hoover, google); occasionally something new arrives from science (quark, quasar) although as has been pointed out, these can often be traced to a certain extent. But the point is that they now function fully as roots which did not previously exist. Add to these a few from the realms of slang (zap, humongous) and we see that there is in fact a constant, slow appearance of new roots.

The fact that we can trace the genesis of the roots does not mean that they are not new roots.
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Post by haro » Sun Apr 24, 2005 11:09 am

Phil, I agree to most of that, although I wonder if a verb that's based on a trade name that can be traced back to another root can be called a new root. 'Google' is said to have been derived from 'googol,' which, by the way, was a genuine new root. 'Xerox' is a clipped-down version of 'xerography.' 'Quasar' is a contraction of 'quasi-stellar.' As I said, it depends on the definition of the term 'root,' for which my sources are insufficient. You are in the linguistic trade, so you know better. However, not matter how linguists handle the term, Eleonor's initial question was about roots "which cannot be traced back." So Xerox, radar, mosh etc. are not what she's looking for.
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Post by Phil White » Sun Apr 24, 2005 3:21 pm

As Russ said, it depends whether "cannot be traced back" means "cannot be traced back to an existing root in the relevant language (or one of its progenitors)" or "is not in any way derivative (of anything)". Either way, it's something I'd never really considered, and the fundamental argument by and large stands, which I find interesting. Despite the huge social and technological changes (some might say "advances") of the past couple of hundred years or so, we still use the same fundamental linguistic building blocks that we have for centuries.
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Post by mongrowl » Mon Apr 25, 2005 12:38 pm

We are here to learn, aren't we?
Hans Joerg Rothenberger

I am not so sure. "Learning" what? Old stuff, or New stuff. Form or Function? Is it learning or training?
I am getting to be only mildly interested in this forum's raison d'ete.
I begin to wonder if this love of a language is more of the stage door johny kind of love.
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Post by Ken Greenwald » Mon Apr 25, 2005 5:01 pm

Mongrowl, You're onto us. The evil Wordwizards are here not to inform but to perpetrate their hidden evildoers agenda to train and corrupt the innocents who unwittingly stumble into our lair (in our secret meetings we call this brain-cleansing). Flee Mongrowl, flee before it is too late and you too have been lulled into complacence with the siren call of this evil empire of stagedoor Johnnies. The door is open. Do not be afraid. Take the leap and escape our corrupting influence so as to be free to roam this land in your unrestrained purity, spreading truth and beauty, and never letting your mantra and great and profound truth at the core of it all be forgotten – “words don’t have meaning, people do!”
____________________

Ken G – April 25, 2005
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