The American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots
Fully revised and updated, THE AMERICAN HERITAGE® DICTIONARY OF INDO-EUROPEAN ROOTS remains an indispensable resource for anyone interested in the history of English and its place in the Indo-European language family. More than 13,000 words are traced to their origins in Proto-Indo-European, the prehistoric ancestor of English that was spoken before the advent of writing. In Calvert Watkins’s skilled hands, Proto-Indo-European language and society are rendered as alive and compelling as they must have been six thousand years ago. His introductory essay shows how words in an unrecorded ancient language can be reconstructed and offers a wealth of fascinating information about Proto-Indo-European culture. The dictionary that follows contains nearly 1,350 reconstructed roots, plus two dozen new Language and Culture” notes that explore interesting sidelights to the etymologies presented in many entries.
As Near Perfection As One Could Ask
By Theodore Keer - December 22, 2005
This beautiful and scholarly tome has more facts per inch in its 149pp than in almost any other work in my library. The second paperback edition is easily worth three times its cover price, and except for one flaw, (minor, and noted by other reviewers) this work is as near perfection as one could ask in a work of linguistic reference.
First, in praise:
To the scholar (or layman) studying the Indo-European roots of the English lexicon, there is no other work (in the English language) of comparable value to this book.
(View the index pages available above to see the English words referenced in the work.)
Each word is derived from its putative IE root, and each root is exemplified by its various reflexes in English, whether native or borrowed. For example, if we look up "deal" in the index, it gives two roots, *dail- (from which we get the meaning "portion out") and *tel- meaning plank or flat stone:
The original and revised editions of this text bring to a wider public the results of over two centuries of work in historical linguistics. For many decades the typical books on Indo-European were dense tomes of closely-argued etymological debate and learned controversy over the finer points about how the original language may have sounded. Of greater interest to most readers with an interest in word origins and the history of English are the reconstructed words themselves and the progress of a word or word-root through 60 centuries of use and transformation to the present day. As Watkins notes in his introduction, this dictionary "is designed and written for the general English speaking public and not for specialists in the field of Indo-European linguistics." The author, a Harvard professor of Classics and Linguistics, popularizes without diluting. By restricting his focus to English and its close Germanic relatives and forbears, Watkins can include a comprehensive catalog of... read more
Fabulous, but why so English-oriented?
By Stavros Macrakis - June 20, 2002
This excellent and concise dictionary is wonderful and affordable. The only criticism I have is that it is too English-oriented. Only IE roots and their reflexes which appear in English (even if in weird and wonderful ways) show up in this dictionary. Worse, there is no way to look up the IE root of words in other languages. This would be OK if there were good alternatives, but Pokorny is extremely expensive and partly superceded, and bilingual dictionaries don't include etymologies. Not even most student-edition monolingual dictionaries include etymologies, especially not tracing back to IE.My guess is that the marketing department at Houghton Mifflin believes that these features have limited appeal, but imagine the book being recommended in foreign-language classes.... True, most commonalities with Romance languages come from post-IE borrowings, and English is a Germanic language, but as far as I know, there is not even a good reference source for these. If the Italian... read more