Greek Influence on English Language

Topics: Greek language, English language, Indo-European languages Pages: 5 (1699 words) Published: November 3, 2012
Indirect and direct borrowings
Since the living Greek and English languages were not in direct contact until modern times, borrowings were necessarily indirect, coming either through Latin (through texts or various vernaculars), or from Ancient Greek texts, not the living language. Some Greek words were borrowed into Latin and its descendants, the Romance languages. English often received these words from French. Their phonetic and orthographic form has sometimes changed considerably. For instance, place was borrowed both by Old English and by French from Latin platea, itself borrowed from Greek πλατεία (οδός) 'broad (street)'; the Italian piazza and Spanish plaza have the same origin, and have been borrowed into English in parallel. The word olive comes through the Romance from the Latin word olīva, which in turn comes from the Greekἐλαίϝᾱ (elaíwā).[1][2] A later Greek word, βούτυρον (bouturon)[3] becomes Latin butyrum and eventually English butter. A large group of early borrowings, again transmitted first through Latin, then through various vernaculars, comes from Christian vocabulary: bishop < ἐπίσκοπος (epískopos 'overseer'), priest < πρεσβύτερος (presbýteros 'elder'), and church < ? κυριακόν (kyriakón).[4] In some cases, the orthography of these words was later changed to reflect the Greek spelling: e.g. quire was respelled as choir in the 17th century. Many more words were borrowed by scholars writing in post-classical Latin. Some words were borrowed in essentially their original meaning, often transmitted through classical Latin: physics,iambic, eta, necromancy. A few result from scribal errors: encyclopedia < ἐγκύκλιος παιδεία 'the circle of learning', not a compound in Greek; acne (skin condition) < erroneous ἀκνή < ἀκμή 'high point, acme'. Others were borrowed unchanged as technical terms, but with specific, novel meanings: telescope < τηλεσκόπος 'far-seeing' refers to an optical instrument for seeing far away; phlogiston < φλογιστόν 'burnt thing' is a supposed fire-making potential. But by far the largest Greek contribution to English vocabulary is the huge number of scientific, medical, and technical neologisms that have been coined by compounding Greek roots and affixesto produce novel words which never existed in the Greek language: utopia (1516, οὐ 'not' + τόπος 'place'), zoology (1669, ζώον + λογία), hydrodynamics (1738, ύδωρ + δυναμικός), photography(1834, φώς + γραφικός), oocyte (1895, ωόν + κύτος), helicobacter (1989, έλιξ + βακτήριον). Such terms are coined in all the European languages, and spread to the others freely—including to Modern Greek. Traditionally, these coinages were constructed using only Greek morphemes, e.g. metamathematics, but increasingly, Greek, Latin, and other morphemes are combined, as intelevision (Greek τηλέ- + Latin vision), metalinguistic (Greek μετά + Latin lingua + Greek -ιστής + Greek -ικος), and garbology (English garbage + Greek -ολογία). These hybrid words were formerly considered to be 'barbarisms'. Many Greek affixes such as anti- and -ic have become productive in English, combining with arbitrary English words: antichoice, Fascistic. Most learned borrowings and coinages follow the classical Latin Romanization system, where 'c' represents κ etc., with a few exceptions: eureka (cf. heuristic), kinetic (cf. cinematography),krypton (cf. cryptic). Some Greek words were borrowed through Arabic and then Romance: alchemy (χημεία or χημία), elixir (ξήριον), alembic (άμβιξ), botargo (ᾠοτάριχον), and possibly quintal (κεντηνάριον < Latincentenarium (pondus)). Curiously, chemist appears to be a back-formation from alchemist. In the 19th and 20th centuries a few learned words and phrases were introduced using a more or less direct transliteration of Ancient Greek (rather than the traditional Latin-based morphology and dropped inflectional endings), e.g. nous (νοῦς), hoi polloi (οἱ πολλοί). Some Greek...
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