I often wonder when my fascination with the English language began.. Possibly at a young age, and it has only grown stronger over time. One aspect of this fascination is the diverse origins of English words. English takes words from a variety of languages, including Greek, Latin, French, Arabic, and German. When I encounter a new word, I seldom know what its origins are, what its meaning & pronunciation will be, and this uncertainty makes it exciting for me to discover.
The roots and origin of a word can have a significant impact on its meaning and pronunciation. English is not a phonetic language, and as a non-native speaker, every new word I encounter seems like an adventure.
For example, the word ‘amazing’ is used to describe a wide range of emotions, from real amazement to delight. The word has its roots in the Old English word ‘āmasian‘ which meant to confuse, astonish. Hence, amazing actually means something confusing or confounding.
Amazing can express a range of emotions from real amazement to delight. It’s not a surprise to see words such as ‘amazing’ being used in situation much farther from their meaning. English is a living language that is constantly evolving. Many words that were once used in a particular sense now have different meanings.
For example: The word fantastic comes from old French fantastique meaning “existing only in imagination, produced by (mental) fantasy,” Over time it became ‘wonderful, marvelous’. Now, we use the word fantastic to express our admiration for something extraordinary.https://www.etymonline.com/search?q=fantastic
The origins of a word can also impact its pronunciation. I spend much of my time diving into this area of the English language combining my love for pronunciation and a pursuit of a deeper understanding of the language. And, it doesn’t disappoint.
For example, the compound words “breakdance”, “breakoff”, and “breakup” are pronounced by giving full weight to the word “break”, while “breakfast” is pronounced differently, with the word “break” staying true to its Old English pronunciation ‘breck’ and the word “fast” being unstressed. So, we pronounce it like ‘Brek-fust’.
Exploring the origins of words and their impact on meaning and pronunciation can be both exhausting and delightful. It continues to amaze me in both a confounding and delightful way (See what I did there..?). We discuss the diversity of English words, their usage, and their pronunciation in our English Learning audio conversations on the Mentza app. Come, join us!
nicely written piece Nancy!