I'm trying to compile a list of possible types of word origins as a preliminary work before trying to design a database of etymological relations between words (mainly for Turkish but the ultimate goal is broader).

By types of word origins, I mean things like evolution (with sound shifts from older forms), compounding, derivation (with affixes, ablaut, reduplication, analogy etc.), borrowing, calque, phono-semantic matching, different kinds of semantic shifts etc. I'm equally interested in historical phonological changes and historical semantic changes.

Are there any established classification of etymological relations between words? Can someone refer me to some previous studies on the field?

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    I've often thought about this myself wondering if there could be a way to systematize etymology sections on Wiktionary. Nov 17, 2013 at 4:10
  • @hippietrail +1, that would be the ultimate etymology database/graph.
    – cyco130
    Nov 17, 2013 at 10:43
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    in fact I did think of it as a graph. Sometimes etymologies split when there are two theories at a particular step, and that can make them not always nice and linear. Nov 17, 2013 at 11:04
  • Yes, in my (preliminary) model every word has zero or more theories (on its etymology), and every theory ties the word to zero or more other words with a "relation". I'm sort of looking for a list or classification of those relations. Zero theories could mean unknown origin and zero ties to other words could be used for things like sound symbolisms. So for example the word (group) "flea market" could be tied in one theory to words "flea" and "market" with "compound of" relation (or a finer detailed version of that) and to French "marché aux puces" with "calque of" relation.
    – cyco130
    Nov 17, 2013 at 18:07
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    Sorry to submit this as an answer, don't have enough points to comment yet. Have you considered a machine learning perspective from a Bayesian perspective? Deriving models showing that if features (n1 - nx) are present in word x, there is P(x) change that it originates here. I've never considered potentially applying this to language before. Any thoughts on feasability? Nov 21, 2013 at 17:27

1 Answer 1


One part to an answer:

Semasiology is said to be "the study of the meaning of words regardless of their phonetic expression"

Compare with semasiography, where words and characters are investigated for their origin. Sometimes a word has an origin in natural phenomena themselves.

In this regard, I think that many ancient words were capturing a particular systematic phenomenon, representing an affordance – somewhere between physical, and psycho-social

Linguistic Syncretism also deals with this (common origins).

Here is a related discussion of mine, on Quora.

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