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Where do words come from?

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tophat
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Er...

Could you expand on what you mean?

I was thinking, who said that the word say dog,will be called dog. And that the image of a dog we see will be a dog. we went from a grunt and pointing to a object , to just saying the word or seeing the image and accept the word for fact. what person/s started thinking that man needed words in his world and put togather

A.B.C. ect... D,o,g. word and sound formations.

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There are some researchers trying to determine how initial languages developed, and there are a few linguists on the forum. Generally, though, languages tend to change over time, which is why we're not all speaking ancient Sumerian.

English is an Indo-European language . . . in the Germanic branch. Don't quote me, I have no idea if I got that terminology right, though.

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I was thinking, who said that the word say dog,will be called dog.
That's still about etymology. The general answer is, "We don't know his name". The origin of "dog" is a bit murky -- it originally was the name of a particular breed of canine, but the meaning changed over time to mean "dog" in general, and the earlier word which exists as "hound" got edged out. The reason why the word is "dog" in the 21st century is because that's what we call it, and people learning English know that fact passed on to them by people born before them. We can reconstruct the form of the word "dog" in quite a number of language phylla, and the earlier root for Indo-European languages is *kuon (hence "hound" through Germanic and "canine" through Romance). In Bantu languages, the reconstructed root is *mbua, which is probably onomatopoeic (we tend to think of dogs as saying "Woof" but in many parts of the world they are claimed to say "woo woo" or "boo boo"). The Inuit word "qimmiq" derives from the verb "pull", which has a nice functional explanation; the Proto-Uralic word is something like *penä, and it's not impossible that this has the same source as the Indo-European word.

So the answer is extremely specific, and a lot of it is lost in ancient history, for example we don't know the cultural events that took place between the Old English and Early Modern English periods that resulted in this shift in usage. Most of the time, there is just no way to know. However, you might get somewhere by noticing the creation of new words in modern English slang. Even then, I don't know if there's a good record of who created words like "sorostitute". There are dozens of stories about the creation of "crunk". We know, on the other hand, that Chester Carlson created the word "xerox".

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To be fair, I don't think humans ever grunted and pointed at anything. Animals have been communicating for a lot longer than humans have been around, and as human intelligence evolved, the symbolic language that codes for concepts probably evolved with them. I mean, humans communicated before Shakespear, who invented such notable words as "bubble" and "moonbeam," along with a whole bunch of others. As language evolves, intelligence is less hindered. I hope I'm not flat wrong about all of this, because I dropped linguistics after about two lectures, so I'm no expert! :P

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There are some researchers trying to determine how initial languages developed, and there are a few linguists on the forum. Generally, though, languages tend to change over time, which is why we're not all speaking ancient Sumerian.

English is an Indo-European language . . . in the Germanic branch. Don't quote me, I have no idea if I got that terminology right, though.

Thank you for your reply. also i do very much injoy reading your post, keep up the good work.

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so it would be safe to say that words are invented, and here is where the ideas of God/s came from yes.
Words are created, and this is not where ideas come from. For example, the English word "god" originated from a verb *gheu meaning "to call". (A more plausible common Indo-European root meaning something like "god" would be *deiwos, the source of words like Zeus, Jupiter, divine, Tuesday and Sanskrit deva- which shows up in personal names of a lot of folks from India and Sri Lanka). The idea of "god" in the form of a mysterious supranatural force (which could be called upon) is extremely old, and it morphed much later into more concrete god-type ideas like Zeus et al., Indra et al. and Odin et al. The concept of "god" as we understand it now derives from Semitic tradition and not Indo-European -- in other words, the origin of the name and the idea are from completely unrelated sources.
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  • 2 weeks later...

A very good book on theory of how language has evolved is "The unfolding of language" by Guy Duescher. Sorry if I mispelled that name as I have let a friend borrow it and can not check the spelling for myself. The book goes into etymology and the structures of many differing languages and how they are interelated, but it also has a lot of theories about how certain words and languages do arise. For example, by simply witnessing the fact that the word "gonna" has arisen to mean the future indicative "will" as in: "I am gonna party"/"I will party". It arises out of the contraction "going to", but in the process of being used in the sense of "I am going to party" it loses its ability to simply replace the phrase "going to" as seen in the inability to us it in the sentence: "I am gonna New York."

He then theorizes that all word construction is a process of such contraction and reduction. Just like concept formation, two or more concretes are integrated. (This is a very basic overview of the book's points. I recomend you read the book because it goes into much greater detail and also has examples from a much wider number of languages and instances.

By the way, since I love this emoticon, I wanted to use it in my first post, so here goes: :P

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For example, by simply witnessing the fact that the word "gonna" has arisen to mean the future indicative "will" as in: "I am gonna party"/"I will party". It arises out of the contraction "going to", but in the process of being used in the sense of "I am going to party" it loses its ability to simply replace the phrase "going to" as seen in the inability to us it in the sentence: "I am gonna New York."

There are multiple words which are pronounced "tu", including:

1. "to" a preposition indicating travel or action which arrives at a place or thing. Converts noun into adverb.

2. "to" forms infinitives. Converts verb to noun.

3. "too" same as "also". Connective.

4. "two" the natural number after one. Noun or adjective.

5. "tu" second person singular (intimate) in some languages. Pronoun.

Your author is confusing the first and second of these. "Gonna" is a contraction of "going" with the second, not the first.

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It arises out of the contraction "going to", but in the process of being used in the sense of "I am going to party" it loses its ability to simply replace the phrase "going to" as seen in the inability to us it in the sentence: "I am gonna New York." He then theorizes that all word construction is a process of such contraction and reduction.
A more clever example would be "Bill is the guy I want to see" and "Bill is the guy I want to die" where to is the infinitive complementizer in both cases, but can contract only in the former (where Bill is the logical object of "see"), compare "Bill is the guy I wanna see" and *"Bill is the guy I wanna die". The idea that word construction often involves contractions is an old theory -- it's not even a theory, it's a statement of fact. It certainly is not how all word formation works. However, it is true that all word formation involves combining existing elements such as morphemes and sounds.
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However, it is true that all word formation involves combining existing elements such as morphemes and sounds.

Not to be pedantic, but surely this is wrong? If all word formation involved combining existing elements then wouldnt it be impossible for (eg) the morphemes and sounds of a language to change over time?

On a sidenote, are smiley faces like :) and :( considered by linguists to be morphemes? Theyve became an almost standard feature of written English communication due to the rise of the internet and they certainly carry semantic meaning.

Edited by Hal
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A very good book on theory of how language has evolved is "The unfolding of language" by Guy Duescher. Sorry if I mispelled that name as I have let a friend borrow it and can not check the spelling for myself. The book goes into etymology and the structures of many differing languages and how they are interelated, but it also has a lot of theories about how certain words and languages do arise. For example, by simply witnessing the fact that the word "gonna" has arisen to mean the future indicative "will" as in: "I am gonna party"/"I will party". It arises out of the contraction "going to", but in the process of being used in the sense of "I am going to party" it loses its ability to simply replace the phrase "going to" as seen in the inability to us it in the sentence: "I am gonna New York."

He then theorizes that all word construction is a process of such contraction and reduction. Just like concept formation, two or more concretes are integrated. (This is a very basic overview of the book's points. I recomend you read the book because it goes into much greater detail and also has examples from a much wider number of languages and instances.

By the way, since I love this emoticon, I wanted to use it in my first post, so here goes: :P

Thanks for the Tip on this book i will buy it asap.

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Not to be pedantic, but surely this is wrong? If all word formation involved combining existing elements then wouldnt it be impossible for (eg) the morphemes and sounds of a language to change over time?
Don't call me Shirley. ;) It's not a highly profound claim, btw. Suppose all English speakers decided to make plurals of nouns a new way, with a prefix whork. It's still make up of existing sound elements. You can create new sounds in language, but that isn't done as part of the word formation process, rather it comes about as part of learning and producing existing words. Once those sounds exist in the language, they can be elements for making new morhemes.
On a sidenote, are smiley faces like :) and :( considered by linguists to be morphemes? Theyve became an almost standard feature of written English communication due to the rise of the internet and they certainly carry semantic meaning.
Please don't make that suggestion too publically: it's quite possible someone will take you up on that. So far, I've never seen anyone say that, and one reason is that they aren't (exactly) pronounced. I suppose the day that people start actually saying "That's a good argument smileyface", or "We've been over this a million times dough", then the case could be made. But whoever named the bashing head icon "dough" doesn't know how to spell "D'oh" or how it's used. I'd say they are punctuation? Punctuation conveys meaning! A lot of those cute pictures convey no clear meaning :pimp:B):smartass::P They suggest things, but I don't know the real meaning of :yarr: . Is that a threat to blow up your ship?
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Okay, but why?

Apologies, I meant to reply to the original question by tophat.

how did say a tree or god, or dog start does anyone have any ideas about this?

My recommendation is to acquaint yourself with St. Augustine's philosophy of language, then Locke's Philosophy of Language, then Wittgenstein's philosophy of language (Tractatus then Philosophical Investigations, but if you only want to read one, read Philosophical Investigations).

Here are the first 100 aphorisms of Philosophical Investigations (which will introduce you to St. Augustine as well): http://www.galilean-library.org/pi1.html

Edited by NewYorkRoark
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Suppose all English speakers decided to make plurals of nouns a new way, with a prefix whork. It's still make up of existing sound elements. You can create new sounds in language, but that isn't done as part of the word formation process, rather it comes about as part of learning and producing existing words. Once those sounds exist in the language, they can be elements for making new morhemes.

I thought he might have been thinking of borrowing and the occasional creation of a word out of whole cloth, like Kodak. In other words, I think he was thinking of word creation when you said word formation, which is pretty much by definition the process of building bigger words out of smaller preexistent units.

Edited by Adrian Hester
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Not to be pedantic, but surely this is wrong? If all word formation involved combining existing elements then wouldnt it be impossible for (eg) the morphemes and sounds of a language to change over time?

Not really. Imagine English as it is, then imagine that there's a change in one of the sounds--say t comes to be pronounced d in the middle of words. Then morphemes containing t in the middle will come to contain d in its place: -ity, for example, will be pronounced -idy. All the words formed by compounding with it will change too: rapidity will become rapididy, for example. (Of course, for many Americans, including me, something like this has already happened, so that writer and rider are almost identical.) Mind you, there are other sources of words than word formation: You can borrow them from other languages, form new smaller words from larger words (to laze from lazy, for example), and even make up new ones, but words formed in these ways all use the sounds already existing in the language. (Except that very rarely foreign sounds are borrowed as well.)

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I understand that the sound "tu" has many different meanings, and I can see how you would think that "my" author has confused them, but like I said, I gave you guys a basic overview. The author does not simply give the example "gonna" from nowhere. He gives example of how the phrase first came up in writings and actually meant "I am going to new york, in order to fight so and so." The "going to" in this sentence is not then reducible to "gonna" or its meanign right away. "Going to" a place came to mean, conceptually, the future indicitve of an action, namely in this example the action of fighting so and so. So at first, one would only use the phrase "going to" strictly when speaking of going to a place in order to do soemthing. Eventually the place was to be assumed and one could say " I am going(to new york is assumed) in order to fight so and so" which reduces to "I am going(to new york) to fight so and so." which is then: "I am going to fight so and so" Which reduces to "I am gonna fight so and so." (the new york has been removed in both of these last cases even conceptually) For clarity, in the first cases the actual action of moving (of going) is still involved, as in "I am actually moving myself to a place in order to fight so and so." But when one says "I am gonna fight so and so", one says "In the future I will fight so and so." Believe me, the book is less convoluted than I am.

The real issue of the word gonna, is not how the sound came into being, although that is of interest, but of how the concept "going" came to be the future indicitive of a word.

The same thing occurs in spanish, where the verb "Ir" (to go) is used to indicate a future action, as in "Voy a comer" Voy (I am going, I go) a (to) comer (to eat, eat, eating). I believe if one wants to say "I will eat" One needs a single word which is: "Comeré"

Edited by IAmMetaphysical
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