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The Oxford Guide to Etymology Reprint Edition

6 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0199691616
ISBN-10: 0199691614
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Editorial Reviews


"A very readable, informative, content-packed introduction for the beginner; for the initiated it provides an incentive to ponder the many open questions presented. As such it can be unreservedly recommended."--Elmar Seebold, Anglia

About the Author

Philip Durkin is Principal Etymologist of the Oxford English Dictionary. He trained as a medievalist and historian of the English language at the University of Oxford, where he completed a doctorate on previously unedited Middle English prose texts. He is a well-known speaker on English etymology. His publications include articles in scholarly journals, such as Transactions of the Philological Society, Dictionaries, and Critical Quarterly. He is Honorary Treasurer of the Philological Society, the oldest learned society in Great Britain for the study of language and languages

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Reprint edition (July 14, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199691614
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199691616
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 0.8 x 6.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,411,233 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Christian Lüer on January 1, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An excellent and comprehensive book. This book is for anyone who wants to know what etymology is all about, how it works and what problems it faces. If you ever browsed an etymological dictionary or looked at the brief etymologies in a regular dictionary and wondered, "How did they come up with this?", then you should read this book.

The writing is very accessible and readable. If only most other language scholars wrote like this.

The book really expects no prior knowledge, but it would help if the reader is familiar with the basics of grammar and knows a foreign language.

One of the best points of the book: it discredits the common misconception that etymology is about finding the "true" or "original" meaning of a word. There is no such thing, since language changes all the time, and always did so. For a reader who is not familiar with the history of the English language, it can be quite fascinating to see how dramatically it changed.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Simon Esposito on October 20, 2011
Format: Paperback
A clear, rather formal presentation of the science of etymology, which is in many ways like archaeology or landscape history (only of words). The book's strength is its reasonably pain-free presentation of the latest research on the science's theoretical foundations. But any dryness is alleviated through plenty of fascinating (and often delightfully surprising) examples and case studies.

I suppose it may be a little heavyweight when compared to a number of recent books, which are basically just collections of curious word histories (e.g. The Etymologicon). But it shows more of the practical workings of the subject, and does better at helping make the most of the etymological entries in the larger dictionaries. It also fills a need for an accessible introductory guide to methods and practice for someone who wants to actively work in the field. This is especially important, because of all the linguistic sciences this one is the most open to amateur contributions and independent study.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By John Kay on April 22, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a wordsmith, etymology has always been an important topic for me and I have often wondered "how do they know that". Durkin explains in rich detail just how he does it and as a general interest book I shall keep it by me. He writes very well, as one would expect, and the book has value on that account for anyone who wishes to express themselves well. Durkin uses many examples to illustrate the various processes and procedures in word research but this is not an etymological dictionary. It's more of a "How To" book.
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