In my previous blog I suggested establishing links between words in a comprehensive alphabetic dictionary by looking up their definitions, selecting key words from those definitions, looking up further to see how those key words are defined, and going this way until you feel you’ve got enough to ruminate over your “collection” for the next few days.

Another way of finding relationship between lexical unites is to look into their origin (etymology). By way of example, I’ve picked up the word table. It comes from the Latin word tabula meaning a flat slab made of wood (also, of metal or stone). This original meaning stood later for tablet: “… asked for a writing table and wrote… His name is John” (Luke 1:63, KJV). Incidentally, the word tablet itself developed from table too. Later the word table started to mean a set of laws inscribed on such tablets: “The Twelve Tables of the Roman Law”, “The Ten Tables (from the Old Testament)”, “Tables of the Decalogue.” The final stage of the word’s development along this line was the meaning a tabular arrangement of data, a condensed enumeration: “the results of the survey are given in tables in the appendix; table of weights and measures, multiplication table, table of contents.”

The second line of the development was the meaning piece of furniture. Germanic horse riders carried small wooden boards (Old English tabele) with them, which they used as supports to have meals on. By contrast, Slavic tribes had fixed raised platforms to dine on. Linguists find at least three main semantic components in the early Slavonic, and also Indo-European, word столъ /stol/ (compare with the English stool or the German Stuhl): stand, spread and high. Hence, there developed in my Ukrainian language such historical derivatives as stilets (a chair), stolivka (a cloth), stolytsia (a capital city, i.e. the city which is “higher” than others), prestol (a throne, an altar). Interestingly, the obsolete Ukrainian stil (table) was also used to mean the high position held by a prince or a hetman: “Коли допомогли залізти на гетьманський стіл, дак зумієм і зі столу зіпхнути” = As we helped him rise to the position of Hetman, likewise we’ll be able to topple him – the author: Panteleymon Kulish”” Verbally: “…we helped him climb up Hetman’s table…, we’ll be able to push him down from that table.”

Conclusion: links between words and their meanings also depend on the origin of the initially selected word. Due to the different origin, chains of related words vary from language to language.


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