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There are German words Bild (picture/image) and Bildung (education/formation).

In Russian, education is образова́ние [obrazovaniye], whilst obraz in many Slavic languages means either directly picture/image, or somehow related to it (form, shape).

The relationship of these two notions seems quite clear: image, form → forming → education.

My questions:
  • is this etymological relation "naturally built-in into reality" so it evolved independently in Germanic and Slavic languages, or was there any lateral influence (or common inheritance from PIE)?
  • is it observable also in other language groups?
  • is there a similar word pair in English (apart from the obvious form - forming)?

The closest similarity I found in English is the word imago. (But I guess this would be an artificial scientific term created by an early biologist.) I can interpret the adult stage of an insect as a result of its "education", forming according to the "target image" - see https://www.etymonline.com/search?q=imago:

"final or adult stage of an insect," 1797, from Latin imago "an image, a likeness," from stem of imitari "to copy, imitate" (from PIE root *aim- "to copy"). "The name is due to the fact that such an insect, having passed through its larval stages, and having, as it were, cast off its mask or disguise, has become a true representation or image of its species." [Century Dictionary]

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The development in German is the noun Bild “picture, image”, then the verb bilden “to make a picture, form, create”, then figuratively “to educate, to form someone’s character”, Bildung “education” etc. The Slavic words are presumably calqued on German.

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    "The Slavic words are presumably calqued on German." - actually, that is the core of my question! Could you provide sources for it? I can easily believe both theories - calqued from German or evolved independently or from PIE. Aug 25, 2022 at 14:43
  • @HonzaZidek It can be a calque from a language other than German. Aug 29, 2022 at 5:52
  • @AdamBittlingmayer Yes, it can. My question is: and is it? :) Aug 29, 2022 at 7:15
  • The question, answer and comments implied that wasn’t an option. Aug 29, 2022 at 13:52
  • @AdamBittlingmayer "was there any lateral influence" in my opinion includes a calque from one language into another. Aug 31, 2022 at 10:02
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To get the direction of the calque, one has to date the word senses as good as possible.

The quoted sense of German Bildung is astonishingly young: It dates from 1754. But there is a metaphor that is much longer attested, as in die jugend gleichet dem weichen waxe, welches aller bildung fähig ist "the youth is like wax that can be formed in any shape" (1652).

For more information on the German word Bildung look it up in Grimms Wörterbuch (new edition)

This is, of course, only one half of the answer—I have no similar sources on the Slavic languages and someone else will have to fill out that gap.

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Conclusion

It’s almost certainly a calque and almost certainly not originally from Germanic.

So the main question is if it came into Slavic via Germanic.

It seems like it has at some times come into some Slavic languages via German, but it is much less likely it came into many Slavic languages, like Bulgarian, from Germanic.

Why

is this etymological relation "naturally built-in into reality" so it evolved independently in Germanic and Slavic languages, or was there any lateral influence (or common inheritance from PIE)?

Lateral influence seems most likely.

Especially with abstract concepts, the Slavic and Germanic languages evolved under the influence of Romance and Greek, and the Slavic languages also under the influence of continental Germanic.

Some words, like those for photograph or impression are new enough that there is concrete evidence of a calque, others are older and murkier but not all coincidence.

is it observable also in other language groups?

Yes, and it seems more about geography than language family.

Italian has formazione, Greek has μόρφωση (mórphosi), Hungarian has képzés and Polish even has kształcenie - the root is cognate with Gestalt - and wykształcenie - wy- is like the Aus- in Ausbilding.

is there a similar word pair in English (apart from the obvious form - forming)?

No, as far as I can tell. I think image is a red herring.

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  • Your ideas seem plausible, however have you any sources for it? "Seems more likely", with all the respect, is only an opinion. Aug 31, 2022 at 10:08
  • Where is the burden of proof? In my model of the world, if a word sense is in modern German, Polish, Russian, Hungarian, Bulgarian, Greek, Italian... - a contiguous geographic block - but not in English nor Dutch nor Frisian nor Danish - as far as I can tell - then claiming inheritance from PIE or independent evolution is what requires evidence. Until there is such evidence, we can default to the more boring explanation, with caveats. Aug 31, 2022 at 10:39
  • I assume you're not asking for sources for the existence of those words in those languages. Aug 31, 2022 at 10:41

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