Back in March I described my shift to vocabulary from grammar as a pillar of my language learning. It has reached new highs of craziness. Here’s my latest:
A mid-range language (in terms of proficiency) for me is Urdu. A low-range language is Greek. I was looking over my next stage Greek reading and noticed the topic and therefore vocabulary was similar to what I was reading in Urdu. So I began to mentally compare vocabulary for words related to this topic viz. the role of language in the formation of a civilization and its literature, e.g. civilization, consequently, education, mental, intellectual, function, etc. I decided to match the vocabularies in the Greek chapters with those in the Urdu chapters, a chapter by chapter listing of matching vocabulary.
Why? The real reason is that I like to make lists. Last night it dawned on me I should write the English word in one color ink if I had got it out of the Urdu chapters and in another if they came from the Greek. That sounds really bizarre, but as I peruse these lists, I want to know the source of the words. Obviously, I will eventually have the word in both languages, but I like to know the initial impetus for choosing it. OTOH, and maybe this is the real, real reason: it is soothing and currently it distracts me from the pain in my knees following surgery.
Comparing words in this way, and I have seven or eight such lists based primarily on frequency but some on synonymity, on semantic grouping, on cultural context, etc., I find my word hoard growing as the lists reinforce each other. One list feeds another; for instance, I love to know certain words, my favorites, like lap, eaves troughs, button hole, threshold, tree hollow, etc. So as I come across these words and record them, it alerts me to them in other languages. Then you have lexical issues, e.g. can threshold be used metaphorically or is it always concrete, can lap be extended, as in ‘the lap of luxury’, and what is the source of the word e.g. button hole in Russian means loop, going back not to a hole in the fabric but to a loop that gets looped over the button. In Russian, there’s a word for a window within a window, whereby fresh air can be let in during winter without opening the whole window and letting the outdoors in.
See? I love lists.
I haven’t abandoned grammar by any means. I just started a model for laying out verb paradigms in languages that deserve them (Dutch, Norwegian and Kweyol have paltry systems, not much worth making a chart for). I plan to put them on huge posters I have so I can look at the chart and in a glance see where a verb form fits. Languages with “bristling morphology”, to use McWhorter’s term, are Latin, Russian, Spanish, Urdu, French, Italian, Greek – IOW about all of them.
April 25 Another project re vocabulary: read my Circuit books from the beginning, writing down any words I don’t know. The redundancy inherent in these various lists will cross-fertilize……… one hopes.