July 31st, 2007

  • pne

"Prototypical" verb

The other day, two Maltese verbs came to mind (wizen jizen and wiret jiret -- "to weigh" and "to inherit", IIRC), and I thought about how in some languages, some verbs may be sort-of well-known, not because they are widely used but because they are one of the few that exemplify certain conjugations (w- initial verbs, in this case; another case might be wera juri, the only form IV verb in Maltese).

And that made me think about "prototypical" verbs, that are commonly used as an example when demonstrating how to conjugate a verb -- or, for that matter, prototypical nouns that are commonly used as an example when demonstrating how to decline a noun.

For example, I think that كتب kataba "to write" is such a prototypical verb in Arabic (and I think also its relative kiteb "idem." in Maltese). For Latin first conjugation verbs, I have an idea that amō/amare "to love" is a commonly-used verb. And my Ancient Greek grammar has λύω/λύειν lýô/lýein "to loose", which may be a common example (Nick Nicholas says in his blog that it is favoured in textbooks as an exemplar (because its root ends in upsilon, one of the few consonants or vowels not to cause grief when it is juxtaposed to the tense suffixes) (though if you want to be completely strict, the stem upsilon does change vowel length depending on the form; however, this is usually not reflected in writing).

As for nouns, I think that talo "house" is pretty popular in Finnish for demonstrating noun cases.

What about other languages? Are there verbs and/or nouns that are commonly used as exemplars for demonstrating inflections?

  • Current Mood
    curious curious

Semantic Change

I think this is my first post here!

I came across the following etymology for "liberty" here.

Liberty - The Latin words "Liber," "Libera," and "Liberum" -- with a Long I -- came from the root meaning, "to pour." From this, we get the word "Liberty" (hence pronounced with a short I), from the freedom we feel when we get drunk.

As far as I can tell from my Internet explorations, this isn't true, and they're mixing up "liber" with "libare." However, I'm not very knowledgeable about Latin, so I thought I'd get a second opinion.

If it's not true, I'd be interested in other examples of words that have gone through really startling semantic change. Specifically words that involve ideology or value judgments (sophisticated and heresy are examples I've got so far.)

Asterix Translations

I was reading my Estonian Asterix books today, and I noticed that they used footnotes to carefully explain the meaning of words like "centurion" or "vale" and explain jokes based on famous Latin quotes. They definitely don't do this on my French or English ones (I've got the British English versions) and my Estonian edition is an authorised one, not one of the communist era knock-offs with badly lined up typewritten translations on the speechbubbles (those ones seem to sell for a lot of money in Tallinn these days anyway). I mean I can see why they do it, as I guess Estonian junior school children don't spend the large amounts of time studying the Romans that kids who live in countries that were in the Roman empire do, but it has got me wondering if any other translations bother to do all that explaining?