December 4th, 2004

syntax tree

etymology entertainment

Yesterday's talk about exploring ancient Chinese etymologies was neat. A prof from the East Asian Studies department is looking at using a (modern) synonym set as a way of getting a "core sample" of languages-of-influence. He compared it to using "words for clothing" in English:
clothes (from Old English clath)
clothing (also from clath, deverbally)
shirt (from Scandinavian skyrt)
skirt (from Scandinavian skyrt also)

Then I noticed that when a word is borrowed twice, this professor called them doublets which was funny in the context of "clothing words", because apparently (according to the OED), doublet has both meanings:
1. a. A close-fitting body-garment, with or without sleeves, worn by men from the 14th to the 18th centuries.
2. b. Philol. One of two words (in the same language) representing the same ultimate word but differentiated in form, as cloak and clock, fashion and faction.

So skirt and shirt are doublets and doublets are an example of clothes or clothing, which are also doublets...
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