I have been trying to find an accessible book for the general reader that focuses particularly on questions like:

  1. How words are created? (morphology, etymology, popular PIE roots etc.)
  2. How words change their meaning? (semantic changes that happen over time - broadening, narrowing, metaphorical usage etc.)

Does anyone know of a book that fits this description (that focuses more on the meaning-and-usage area of words than the formal systems involved)? I feel like this is an interesting area even for general readers and there must be some books that elucidate on this but I wasn't able to find many popular reads.

There are popular books like 'The Language Instinct' that touches generally on many aspects of languages but I wasn't able to find any that focuses on just words. Is there a go-to book that linguists suggests for beginners in this space?

This question is the closest I could find for my requirement: What books to read about lexical semantics?

  • 1
    There's a set of 3 books that I used to recommend in my etymology class: Carl Darling Buck's Dictionary of Selected Synonyms in the Principal Indo-European Languages (available in pb), Lewis Thomas's Et Cetera, Et Cetera; Notes of a Word Watcher, and Calvert Watkins' The American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots. To them I would add Larry Trask's Historical Linguistics, which explains everything very well.
    – jlawler
    May 27, 2021 at 14:56
  • Have you tried reddit.com/r/linguistics/wiki/index?
    – user5306
    May 30, 2021 at 0:02


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