Brick composing vocabularies: Etymology
Brick composing vocabularies: Etymology
  • Reporter Lee Il-bong
  • 승인 2016.09.07 17:22
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While learning a new language, the biggest obstacle learners struggle with is the vocabulary. Grammar is also both difficult and important, but it is impossible to communicate in a foreign language without sufficient vocabulary. Eventually, people spend a lot of time practicing various words. However, the ocean of vocabulary is so deep and many people flounder in the ocean. The Postech Times would like to introduce a special life vest, “Etymology,” that will keep you from sinking in the ocean.
Etymology is the study of the origin of words. To research the footprint of a language, it is essential to remember the history. Originally, English is a language of England. Puritans in England immigrated to America and founded the United States of America. England is geologically close to Germany, so old English was similar to Germanic. In the Middle Ages, English was affected by French, which stems from Latin. Meanwhile, many words, including academic terms, were adopted from Greek and Latin. Therefore, in English, many words are based on Latin and Greek. It sounds reasonable since the Roman Empire and ancient Greece were the two biggest countries in the era. Basic vocabularies for fundamental communications (have, go, etc.) and descriptive vocabularies for depicting daily lives (itchy, befuddled, etc.) are usually believed to be derived from Proto-Germanic (old English), and the sophisticated words and technical terms are usually from Latin and Greek.  
Similarly, in Korean, there are Chinese characters (Hanja) which consist of most Korean vocabularies. According to the National Institute of the Korean Language, 57% of Korean vocabularies in the Standard Korean Dictionary are Sino-Korean words, which are composed of Chinese characters.       
Prefixes and suffixes are the well-known examples of etymology. Prefixes like “de-”, “re-”, “inter-”, “sub-” and suffixes like “-able”, “-tion”, “-ment” originate from Latin. They change the part of speech of original terms, or add specific meanings. The prefix “de-” is famous for its meaning: down, away, or removing. Usages of roots like “qui”, “pug”, “port” are conspicuous. The root “port” came from the Latin verb portare, which means “to carry”. The root “port” evolved into various words like “export”, “import”, “porter”, “report”, “transport”, etc. When looking at those words and combining the information of the root and each prefix, one can understand the meaning of the vocabulary. One more, the root “pug (n)” came from the Latin verb pugnare, which means “to fight”. Even though you have never heard about the word “pugnacious”, now you might guess what it means. “Pugnacious” is a synonym of “aggressive” or “hostile”. The verb “impugn” also has the same root. The last example is root “qui”, which came from Latin noun quies. It means rest and quiet. The English word “quiet”, “quit”, “acquiesce”, “requiem” came from this root.
Likewise, analyzing words according to roots, prefixes, and suffixes offer a hint toward. Etymology will show the way to deeply understand the subtle nuance of each word. Good luck.