Etymology of opaque languages?

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Etymology of opaque languages?

Postby Xenops » Fri Mar 31, 2023 12:13 pm

Here’s a question for you: do you study the etymology of a language that’s opaque to you? Or do you learn it word-by-word, using brute memorization?
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Re: Etymology of opaque languages?

Postby Iversen » Fri Mar 31, 2023 4:53 pm

I don't think of my wordlists as brute memorization, but they definitely are used for memorization. Memorization builds on repetition, but also on every possible kind of 'memory hooks' as I call them. And the etymology of a word is a very useful memory hook - IF you have a place to look it up. And if you think it's worth spending time on. The problem is that when I do wordlists I typically do at least one full half page, and that's around 100 words. Even if I had a etymology dictionary for each and every one of my languages it would take forever to look all those words up - and looking things up pn the internet also takes time. So in practice I only look a fraction of them up. One reason to check etymologies could be that there is a bunch of words that clearly represent different core meanings (and then probably also different origins), another could be that a certain word somehow looks foreign OR very opaque or that an idiomatic expression suggests a lost meaning - but again if I had to look all such items up I would get nowhere.

Apart from that: some of you out there might not find my languages particularly opaque, but I don't really think that degree of 'opacity' is of paramount importance here.
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Re: Etymology of opaque languages?

Postby sporedandroid » Fri Mar 31, 2023 5:06 pm

Wiktionary is pretty good for this. Especially for Finnish. It just breaks down each part of the word or tells me if it’s related to any words I already know. I also just find words easier to memorize if I know the story behind the word. A lot of times the older meaning of the word is more concrete, so that makes it easier to visualize the word.
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Re: Etymology of opaque languages?

Postby lichtrausch » Fri Mar 31, 2023 5:40 pm

The way I see it is that no matter how you slice it, language learning involves an awful lot of rote memorization, so why not systematize your knowledge where possible, such as by making connections through etymology. But only if the word is somehow unintuitive and its etymology is not convoluted. For example, I don't see any point in immersing yourself in the etymology of the word farm unless you're an etymology enthusiast.
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