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DATNG IN ETYMOLOGY1 ROBERT K. BARNHART Of all the facts given in a dictionary of etymology, the one type of information that is most tenuous, most subject to revision, is the date listed for the appearance of a given word or sense. Therefore, it seems logical to ask, why give a date, especially a precise year, as distinguished from a decade or a century. It has seemingly little to do with the process of borrowing and even less with the development of native words. That, however, is not altogether the case. There are a number of useful facts that can be inferred from precise dating ; some facts will change as revised dates are discovered, but generally any dating enhances the conclusions or reinforces a point taken, even suggesting particular conclusions and confirming associations with various other forms. There are two kinds of dating—one is a comprehensive dating traditionally tabulated by century; the other is precise dating attributed to the source of first recorded appearance. Because of our work in the dictionaries of new English, we have been accustomed to dating a word by the year of its first appearance in our records. That practice quite naturally led to the same style in our etymology dictionary, which is also the practice of historical dictionaries, as found in the OED, the two dictionaries of American English, the Middle English Dictionary, and various etymological dictionaries, such as Van Wartburg's French etymology dictionary (FEW). Because of this editorial policy anyone interested in verifying or 53 54Robert K. Barnhart tracing our dates can match them with those dates given in scholarly sources. Besides indicating which scholarly sources were used for reference, listing a precise date reflects the written documents for the evidence given. A general or comprehensive date masks the part of a century that a particular form was introduced or became current, which may be significant information either in tracing the history of multiple forms that appear at different times in the same century or when the path or development of a term is dependent on a specific appearance , as we shall see in the case of automate and cork, and as we already know in the case of Allen W'alker Read's findings for OK. Li the compilation of our dictionary of English etymology, dating provided evidence that helped to resolve many uncertain origins, uncovered specialized vocabulary coming into general use, and revealed back formations, revivals, shifts in part of speech, and development of meanings . I. Back Formation 1. First, there is Leonard Bloomfield's observation that "... nouns in -tion appear in our records at an earlier time, on the whole, than the verbs in -f" (416). This is a wellknown statement in his book Language and is derived from a count of 108 pairs of such terms in the OED for the letter A. While one might take exception to some of Bloomfield's examples, because the elements of the pairs appear over a relatively short period of time, in the distant past, some as far back as 600 years ago, there is only the occasional example that can be objected to, not his theory, which affirms itself in instance after instance: Dating in Etymology55 abomination (1350)abominate (1644) donation (1425)donate (1785) AmE gestation (1533)géstate (1866) hibernation (1664)hibernate (1802) illustration (1375)illustrate (1526) lactation (1668)lactate (1889) orientation (1839)orientate (1849) (orient, v. 1727) and in our own time automation (1948) automate (1954) 2.Not all words in -ate are back formations. There is a path of borrowing verbs in -ate into English. It is by way of the adjective or past participial form in Latin. These Latin past participles are the source of such forms in English as subordinate, adj. (cl449) from which developed subordinate, ? (1597), and then subordination (?al600). The path of these formations is generally agreed upon, chiefly by virtue of the successive date of appearance of each form. And there are others that seemingly follow the same pattern, such as complicate , v. (1623), which has one earlier, though now obsolete, adjective form in English. However, there is in this case a suggestion of a dual path of development in English. That...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2160-5076
Print ISSN
0197-6745
Pages
pp. 53-63
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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