The Literary Salon

A free salon wherein patrons and passers-by may view or contribute ideas on literary and generally intellectual matters. The blog will strive to maintain its commitment to wit, humour and perspicuous analysis.

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Location: Toronto, now Ottawa, Ont, Canada

Monday, August 22, 2005

Indo European revisited

Laudator Temporis Acti's recent post (or is it Actii recent post?) reminded me of my interest in Indo European linguistics. I wrote a paper on the subject in fourth year, one of the few papers I really felt was well done. Mr. Gilleland refers to Pokorny's Indo-Germanisches Worterbuch, the only, as far as I know, Indo European dictionary in existence. I recall referring to it as well as Klein and Skeat's Etymological dictionaries (Skeat should be familiar to you modernists out there: his dictionary was the very one James Joyce is supposed to have read daily). One fascinating book that just took my breath away, one which few indeed have heard of, was an Indo-European thesaurus, whose title was something like Thesaurus of synonyms of selected Indo European Languages. I'm probably wrong, but the author's name was Burke. The book, a massive tome, would list words in English alphabetically, and on the same page or two would give all the syonyms (in most cases cognates) in most Indo European languages (Latin, Greek, Russian, etc). In some cases, it would go so far as to include the cognates in Lithuanian, Armenian and even Avestic!

This is a fascinating book and I couldn't put it down. That's even more dorky than my habit of reading the OED for pleasure. For those of you even remotely interested in the subject, I highly recommend it.
At times I wish I were in linguistics instead of English. No offense to the latter, I love it, but I sometimes wish I were in a more "scientific" and less subjective field.


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