Language

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I am a foreigner in English language.

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Dictionary

Language dictionaries contain translations of words from one language to another. But this does not work very well for the meaning of the words. Each word can have several different meanings in each language. During the translation process this has to be taken into account. Consider the German word "Geist". It translates into the following English meanings:

Geist

animus
apparition
esprit
genie
ghost
intellect
mind
nous
phantom
psyche
specter
spirit
wit
wraith

If you look up each of those translated words individually you create a snowball of meaning.

animus

 die Abneigung
 die Absicht
 der Animus
 die Feindseligkeit
 der Geist
 der Groll
 der Hass
 die Neigung
 belebender Geist
feindselige Stimmung

apparition

 die Erscheinung
 der Geist
 die Geistererscheinung
 das Gespenst

...and so on. Then one can translate those words back to English.

Abneigung

 animosity
 animus
 antipathy
 averseness
 aversion
 deviation
 disfavor
 disinclination
 dislike
 disrelish
 idiosyncrasy
 indisposition
 objection
 reluctance
 repugnance
 resentment
 bibliophobia

Look at what happens to the meaning. It is pretty amazing.

Geist

    animus
          Feindseligkeit  
                       animosity
                       hostility
          Neigung
                       affection
                       bent
                       bias
                       notion
                       propensity
                       tilt
                       warp
    apparition
          der Geist
          das Gespenst

Etymology

Finding out about the roots of language.

Wikipedia Definition

Etymology is the study of the history of words and how their form and meaning have changed over time.

For languages with a long written history, etymologists make use of texts in these languages, and texts about the languages, to gather knowledge about how words were used at earlier stages, and when they entered the languages in question. Etymologists also apply the methods of comparative linguistics to reconstruct information about languages that are too old for any direct information to be available. By analyzing related languages with a technique known as the comparative method, linguists can make inferences about their shared parent language and its vocabulary. In this way, word roots have been found which can be traced all the way back to the origin of, for instance, the Indo-European language family.


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