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Current Trends in West Germanic Etymological Lexicography: Proceedings of the Symposium Held in Amsterdam, 12-13 June 1989.

Pp. x + 166. Leiden, New York, Koln: E. J. Brill, 1993.

THE proceedings of the symposium have been supplemented by other contributions so as to make it a useful recent survey of the etymological lexicography of West Germanic languages. Most work has been done on German; English and Dutch lag behind, while Frisian still lacks adequate etymological description -- as entries in other egymological dictionaries show. The ~historiography of the etymological traditions' and etymological problems of particular WGmc languages are discussed, as are the practical issues of whether to present an etymological dictionary alphabetically or thematically. Case studies examine the interfacing of etymology with historical dialectology and semantics. The four sections deal with the individual languages -- Dutch (five contributions), German (four), English (two), and Frisian (one).

Willy Pijnenburg discusses the traditions of Dutch etymological dictionaries, particularly the successors of Joseph Vercoullie, Johannes Franck and Nicolaas van Wijk, and Jan de Vries, as preliminary to a new etymological dictionary focusing more on Dutch. Past Dutch etymological dictionaries have largely followed German or English models and disregard material available from Dutch linguistic history, which mostly derives only from the period after 1250. A specimen entry (glossed in English) for the indefinite pronoun elk, ~each' (8) illustrates the role of the proposed new etymological dictionary, it is expanded in relation to other cognate formations in Germanic *lika-, with various prefixes and variously stressed: *ga-lika-, *swa-lika-, xwalika-, xwaiwa-lika-, *iz-lika-, *aiwa-lika-, *aina-lika-. By careful comparison of related formations and cognates in the various dialects and WGmc languages Pijnenburg shows plausibly that Dutch elk is derived from *aina-lika rather than from *aina + ga-xwalika or *aina + ga-lika, and moreover, that English each is likely to be from a relatively ~simple' formation in *aina- or *aiwa + lika (NOT + *ga-lika). However, the difference between an early combination of different prefixes with different suffixes at the ~Germanic level' (at pre-individual language level?) may be contrasted with the ~contamination' or blending which may arise within a language which possesses several related formations. Hence, the forms OHG eogiwelih, MLG iogewelk, MDu ieghewelc, OE *aeg(e)hwilc, ME ewilch/ euch suggest that the combination *aiwa-ga-xwalika is likely to be old, possibly an older combination of *aiwa-xwalika and *ga-xwalika. At the same time, variants co-exist in individual languages -- the documents adduced from Friedrich Wilhelm's Corpus der alt-deutschen Originalurkunden bis zum Jahr 1300 show how the form ielich in one document is replaced by the equivalent (?) form iuuelich because the difference in meaning/function is immaterial -- but this does not mean that ielich actually derives from (better: ~reflects') the same underlying form as iuuelich (presumably *IEWELICH?). (Incidentally, the element-for-element translation of the MHG ~Och git ir ilicher. . . ' as ~Also gives each of them. . .' is misleading since it fails to mark ~each of them' as the subject.) Moreover, Pijnenburg neglects the interesting syntax of indefinite pronominal forms with prepositioned genitive plural of the dependent nouns: the OHG Muspilli shows several instances -- alero manno uelich, etc.

Rolf Bremmer's discussion of the North Sea Germanic/~Ingvaeonic' contribution to Dutch etymology stresses the neglect of Frisian. Dutch zacht, German sanft, and English soft illustrate phonological issues, while, for morphology, the existence of strong past forms in Middle Dutch (Flemish) of the verbs of the type Dutch draaien, kraaien (German drehen, krahen) with cognate forms in English threw, crew may imply that such strong forms are old WGmc. The word-geographical implications of English oat(s), Flemish ate/ote, and Dutch (Zeelandic) oot(e) hint at a possible change of earlier *ai > Dutch o, which is puzzling. Finally, the Frisian component of English and Dutch is treated -- for example, a hitherto neglected Frisian form el [c. 1400, eelis] supplements the available early forms for a disputed etymology. Frisian weijnscot of 1517 illuminates English wainscot < Dutch wagen-scot as containing a first element ~wain' < wagen = ~cart'; or else Old Frisian supplies a ~missing' form hwynden from a decree of c. 1480 to support WGmc *xhwindas an etymon for the ~greyhound', rather than linking it to the Slavic tribe of the Wends.

In a complementary article, Arend Quak assesses the status of the thinly attested Old Dutch remains for the proposed Dutch etymological dictionary. His contribution centres on the controversial but valuable collection of supposedly Old Dutch evidence by Maurits Gysseling: despite the difficulties of distinguishing between OS, OLF, and OLG (if indeed it is valid to do so), few will want to attribute the Heliand to Old Dutch (or Frisian). As Quak implies (40-1), given the mixed nature of many of the texts, the time has come for a judicious consideration of possible Dutch forms deriving even from texts which cannot be unequivocally claimed as Old Dutch (or Old Low Franconian). Thus, the Wachtendonck Psalms, the Leiden Williram, and the glosses -- which regularly show mixed HG and LG features -- still have contributions to make. At the same time, Quak draws attention to an entry in the chartulary from Werden which may well be Old Dutch, given that the place-names in it are identifiably so: toponymic and onomastic elements along with early, if isolated, ~Dutch' forms like lampreythe ~lamprey' (mod. Dutch lamprei) in the Leiden manuscript of Williram can deepen our knowledge of the etymology of words only attested much later.

Marlies Philippa deals with the more recent material from the 50 per cent of the Dutch lexicon (48) which involves loanwords. Innovation, fashion, the prestige of donor languages, and euphemism are among the factors motivating borrowing. Given the sliding scale between loanwords and foreign words (~the words which clearly look allochthonous', 50), the difficulty is to decide which to include, and which to relegate to dictionaries of foreign usage. How much glossing to provide? The noun ayatollah, if not its precise significance in Persian, is currently widely known, but this may change, and some background information is necessary, even if it now appears trivial. On the other hand, some specimen entries, in Dutch, from the Etymologisch woordenboek der Nederlands taal (EWNT), show lexicographical overkill -- for example shoarma (55), where less would have brought more. . . . Her conclusion that ~there exist no standard loanwords: all loanwords need a specific treatment' (55) is puzzling: no etymological dictionary can present all the recent material bearing upon the use of its entries, yet paradoxically, criteria for the inclusion of individual lemmata can be established only from usage -- frequency, orthographical and phonological habitus; morphological and syntactic elaboration; and semantic and stylistic adaptation. The fuller analysis of the words in their sociolinguistic, pragmatic, and structural settings (contexts, situations of use, co-texts and collocations, antonymic and synonymic relations) can only be effected in conspectual studies in learned articles, which both form the basis of such etymological dictionaries and draw inspiration and examples from them: on the changing relationship between dictionary and learned article, see Wolfgang Pfeifer (81).

The contribution of Dutch to Proto-Germanic etymology provided by Edgar Polome is not as out-of-place as at first appears, since he examines what Dutch has to offer the Indo-Europeanist by way of having preserved older, possibly substrate forms, including, perhaps, the words for ~eel' and ~toad'. Attention is also drawn to the whole question of substrate words beginning with initial p- in Dutch, as adduced by Gysseling, criticized by Polome.

Rudolf Hiersche's account of preliminary work for his new etymological dictionary of German addresses the major issues of selection of lemmata and their presentation, and gives an overview of the current resources available. Various -- impressive -- specimens (7 3-4) exemplify the systematic layout for ~Erbworter', ~Lehnworter', and ~Fremdworter'-- but perhaps English thatch could have been added under Dach? Unfortunately, Hiersche needs more assistance to produce this dictionary of an estimated five volumes for some 10,000 words of the basic German vocabulary. To judge by the specimens from letter ~D', there is extensive, indeed excessive, listing of secondary sources, some (the Slavonic tides) in full form, unnecessary for the general reader. Surely, only those sources actually evaluated for any given article need be listed.

Wolfgang Pfeifer, on the other hand, in his readable account of the new East German etymological dictionary (which has now appeared), has judicious comments on the temporal and spatial constraints imposed by his task: the over 8,000 lemmata and 21,600 additional words (85) assembled in some ten years required the completion of four entries per day, or one every two hours.

Willy Sanders draws attention to the Etymologisch-sprachgeschichtliches Sachworterbuch der deutschen Sprache currently being written by him and Stanislaw Szlek and J. Niederhauser at Bern. Three basic problems of the existing etymological dictionaries are the isolation of words through the choice of alphabetical presentation, the neglect of substandard, dialectal, and historical material and the lack of structuring of the vocabulary (92). An ordering according to topic groupings, much as in Isidore of Seville or the Comenius-tradition of ~vocabularia rerum' deriving from medieval ~Sachglossen' perraits a more structured approach -- and would integrate non-standard, dialectal or colloquial or technical variants in an appropriate place, without cluttering the dictionary with obscure lemmata. The onomasiological and semasiological aspects offer escape from the blinkered alphabetical presentation, and enable dialectal and substandard forms to be structured -- invariably round the standard language, which represents the concrete or abstract core, as exemplified from the article MAULWURF, ~mole' (99) -- where Upper German forms like Scher, Schermaus, as well as other dialectal and popular names occur -- Wandewerp, Frote, Gohr, Moll, Mauerwolf, etc. The aim is to produce a readable dictionary, with accurate but limited citing of the major relevant articles, with major lexicographical aids being relegated to the bibliography. The whole to encompass two volumes: however, the ~eigentliche Fremdworter' (whatever that may mean!) have not been included, which surely means moving away from the language as used by speakers. . . .

Elmar Seebold, who recently refurbished Kluge's Etymologisches Worterbuch der Deutschen Sprache is well placed to review the ordering of lemmata in an etymological dictionary, based on a thorough consideration of recent theoretical work and his own experiences. As Seebold points out, a strictly onomasiological structuring will separate forms which belong together, because words often have more than one meaning and some are homonyms (105). Word families, word fields, structural relations, and word-formational types might all find entry into an etymological dictionary, but Seebold prioritizes the needs of the users looking to find information quickly and in easily surveyable form, uncluttered by interpretamenta. The alphabetic arrangement emerges as the most successful, however isolating -- word-families are too delimited by morphology, word-fields too indeterminate, while onomasiological structures are not thoroughgoing, nor universally acknowledged; they are as abstract and arbitrary as the alphabet. Whereas a ~micro-organization' into wordfields is possible and linguistically appropriate, ~macro-organization' in terms of a hierarchy of word-fields is not (109-10). Moreover, only some parts of the lexicon can be allocated to word-fields, many other words are isolates. The use of word-families emphasizes the morphological Component at the expense of the semantic linking (111). Treating all lemmata alphabetically may isolate them, but does not preclude drawing attention to both morphological and semantic links -- and the other members of a word-family can easily enough be cross-referred to. At the same time, word-fields can be indicated, and explicitly set forth under one of the relevant lemmata. Seebold also rejects the division into ~Erbworter' and ~Fremdworter' -- as though the users would necessarily know which category the word whose history they are seeking falls into. Besides, treating historically ~foreign' words would also form part of any serious and semantic discussion of word-fields, as well as corresponding to the daily usage of the speakers, who are largely unaware of the forms they use. Finally, we might add in respect of the articles by both Sanders and Seebold, that the semantics of word-fields in particular are dynamic and liable to metaphorical expansion and semantic shifts which are beyond the control of the lexicographer, as everybody knows: but this seriously vitiates any lexicographical structuring of the basis of word-fields, since the primary lay-out of the data would become obsolescent. Alphabetical presentation, on the other hand, does not date.

Terry Hoad considers the semantic aspects of the entries in an etymological dictionary, however organized, and shows by the examples of the words leaf and great some of the complexities involved. In the instance of great, the Microfiche Concordance suggests the etymology is a good deal less clearly established than would appear.

Anatoly Liberman explicates his and J. Lawrence Mitchell's projected analytic dictionary of Modem English, a type which ~discusses the most important bibliography for every word and expresses an opinion of conflicting hypotheses' (134). He envisages collecting and comparing the available etymological evidence for English, going beyond and behind Skeat and NED to older sources. The secondary literature, books and articles must be evaluated, and finally, the etymological dictionaries of other Germanic (and occasionally non-Germanic) languages need to be ~screened', bearing in mind that ~etymological explanations sometimes differ depending on the national tradition' (136) -- because scholars tend to stay within the confines of ~their' language? The task assumes daunting proportions when other linguistic literature of historical but non-etymological focus is included, along with studies on material culture, artefacts, and ~words and things'. Moreover, this vast ~bibliographical tool' (137) will also produce a series of interim monographs charting the progress of English etymological study. About a third of the some 20,000-25,000 words will fill the first volume presenting English words of Germanic origin. Expense and assistance are major obstacles in such a project.

Klaas F. Van der Veen proposes an etymological dictionary for West Frisian, that part of the language still spoken by up to 400,000 residents of the western Netherlands area, Lauwers, comprising several dialects and also mixed forms. The dictionary would give etymological analyses of the modem forms of this Frisian used in the Netherlands, and also Middle Frisian, from about 1550-1800. Van der Veen's experiences as lexicographer of the Wurdboek fan de Fryske Taal (WFT) have revealed many lacunas because etymological dictionaries of Dutch focus on the standard Dutch language, not Dutch dialects, West Frisian or the mixed dialects of Frisian and Dutch, while Low German dialect dictionaries seldom provide much etymological information. Again, the first step is to evaluate all the relevant word studies of West Frisian, then collect the available material, including the mixed dialects and the ~Town Frisian' (Stedfrysk) dialects, and Old Frisian data, exploiting also ongoing complementary studies of North and East Frisian. Guidelines are then given for the presentation of individual words (the ~Microstructure') and the choice of material (the ~Macrostructure') -- the latter commencing with monomorphemic words (~roots'?), prefixes and suffixes and compounds whose morphemes have not been listed among the monomorphemic words. Foreign words adapted to fit Frisian and the most common internationalisms of daily usage would find limited treatment, but technical jargon would not. Under the microstructural guidelines, oldest forms and dialectal variants would be given, but the West Frisian dictionary will economize on space by cross-reference to other works and languages: from here it is but a short step (not explicitly made) to the position that the West Frisian etymological dictionary might draw on a common data-base. Its overall size is estimated at between some 9,600 and 13,200 entries (152). The article concludes with a provocative list of etymologically obscure words from the first six volumes of WFT. The volume itself has a useful select index of words discussed (155-8) and an Index of Names and Subjects (159-63).

It is to be hoped that these articles will stimulate further interest in the etymological study of Germanic languages, not least because the study of the individual word's history leads to a consideration of the wider sociolinguistic context which is part of linguistic history, which provides in turn ~testing ground' for suitably ~distanced' theories of how languages work. At the same time, it is perhaps odd that the Conference did not consider more fully the implications of the electronic media revolution in the computer age? Eventually all the relevant dictionaries need entering on CD-ROM or the later equivalents, so that a perpetually updated electronic data-base can facilitate both the entry of new data and the re-evaluation of the existing interpretations. All major dictionaries, including the Woordenboek der Nederlandsche Taal and the Middelnederlandsch Woordenboek should eventually ~network' with OED and others. The individual scholars could then draw upon this vast array at will and for various purposes, including the construction of diatopic and chronologically layered vocabularies -- an aid to the etymologist and the historical novelist alike. . . . Smaller, more ~popular' etymological or historical dictionaries could extract material from this store to put it into ~permanent' printed form; so could the writers of individual ~Wortgeschichten'. Such issues already confront the Editors of OED as they work towards its third edition. Possibly the full-scale, fixed-format printed etymological dictionary may be dead: the etymological ~programme' or ~hyper-text' procedure applied to a non-print database could be the way forward. The entries in the database still need to be tagged appropriately for retrieval, but the user would be free to demand only such information as is strictly required. Above all, the copious but sometimes obfuscating secondary literary accretions could be relegated to the electronic bibliography, to be called up only when necessary. Nested searches broadening out from the individual language to the language group and family would also lighten the sifting of information. Printed-out etymological dictionaries need only give the consensus-view of the main outlines of a form's ~etymology' at any given time, but the full weight of detail might fie in the electronic entrails, to be pored over by the scholars. A future ~sic et non' electronic solution combines the alphabetical and the alternative structures, thesaurus-like, assigning elements to classes and clusters. If ever a general -- probably semasiological -- ordering or hierarchy could be agreed, some meta-dictionary could provide alphabetical lemmatization, with the possibility of other orderings in terms of word-families and -fields. This is no more ~pie in the sky' than the saecular requirements of some of those who are proposing etymological dictionaries compiled in the traditional manner.
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Author:Wells, C.J.
Publication:Notes and Queries
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 1, 1993
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