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The American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots Second Edition Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0618082506
ISBN-10: 0618082506
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Calvert Watkins is the Victor S. Thomas Professor of Linguistics and the Classics, Emeritus, at Harvard University, and Professor-in-Residence in the Department of Classics and the Program in Indo-European Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. He specializes in Indo-European comparative linguistics, especially Latin, Greek, Celtic, Hittite, and comparative morphology and poetics. He wrote the “Appendix of Indo-European Roots” for the first edition of The American Heritage Dictionary and has revised it for the third, fourth, and fifth editions.
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Product Details

  • Series: American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots
  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Second Edition edition (September 14, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618082506
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618082506
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #892,094 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Theodore Keer on December 22, 2005
Format: Paperback
This beautiful and scholarly tome has more facts per inch in its 149pp than in almost any other work in my library. The second paperback edition is easily worth three times its cover price, and except for one flaw, (minor, and noted by other reviewers) this work is as near perfection as one could ask in a work of linguistic reference.

First, in praise:

To the scholar (or layman) studying the Indo-European roots of the English lexicon, there is no other work (in the English language) of comparable value to this book.

(View the index pages available above to see the English words referenced in the work.)

Each word is derived from its putative IE root, and each root is exemplified by its various reflexes in English, whether native or borrowed. For example, if we look up "deal" in the index, it gives two roots, *dail- (from which we get the meaning "portion out") and *tel- meaning plank or flat stone:

"*tel- Ground, floor, board. 1) DEAL from Middle Low German and Middle Dutch dele, "plank," from Germanic *thil-jo. 2)Suffixed form *tel-n-, TELLURIAN ...[also tile, title].... From Latin tellus "earth, the earth.....[Pokorny 2. *tel- 1061.]"

Hence, Watkins gives us the modern English exemplars of the root, whether they come through Germanic directly or indirectly, or through another PIE sister language such as Latin, Greek, Sanskrit, etc.,. For each root Watkins refers to the proto-form as it is given and numbered (i.e., here 1061) in Pokorny's authoritative "Indogermanisches Etymologisches Woerterbuch" or notes its absence therein.
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Format: Paperback
The original and revised editions of this text bring to a wider public the results of over two centuries of work in historical linguistics. For many decades the typical books on Indo-European were dense tomes of closely-argued etymological debate and learned controversy over the finer points about how the original language may have sounded. Of greater interest to most readers with an interest in word origins and the history of English are the reconstructed words themselves and the progress of a word or word-root through 60 centuries of use and transformation to the present day. As Watkins notes in his introduction, this dictionary "is designed and written for the general English speaking public and not for specialists in the field of Indo-European linguistics." The author, a Harvard professor of Classics and Linguistics, popularizes without diluting. By restricting his focus to English and its close Germanic relatives and forbears, Watkins can include a comprehensive catalog of 1300+ word roots and their development without causing the book to run to thousands of pages. Some of the most interesting entries are the "language and culture" notes for particularly significant words. Especially in the slim paperback edition, this is a welcome book for anyone in love with words and curious about their origins.
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Format: Hardcover
This excellent and concise dictionary is wonderful and affordable. The only criticism I have is that it is too English-oriented. Only IE roots and their reflexes which appear in English (even if in weird and wonderful ways) show up in this dictionary. Worse, there is no way to look up the IE root of words in other languages. This would be OK if there were good alternatives, but Pokorny is extremely expensive and partly superceded, and bilingual dictionaries don't include etymologies. Not even most student-edition monolingual dictionaries include etymologies, especially not tracing back to IE.
My guess is that the marketing department at Houghton Mifflin believes that these features have limited appeal, but imagine the book being recommended in foreign-language classes.... True, most commonalities with Romance languages come from post-IE borrowings, and English is a Germanic language, but as far as I know, there is not even a good reference source for these. If the Italian word 'fretta' (haste) appears on your vocabulary list, how are you going to know to look under English 'friction' for its relationship? Similarly: German 'loeffel' (spoon) <> English 'lap (up)'; French 'aube' (dawn) <> English 'albino' <> IE *albho-; Irish 'dubh' (black) <> English 'deaf' <> IE *dheu-bh-; German 'hals' (neck) <> English 'collar' <> IE *kwel-; Spanish 'ladrillo' (brick) <> English 'lateral'; etc.
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By A Customer on March 11, 2004
Format: Paperback
It's a great book for fans of Indo-European, of course. The other reviewers have commented on that. I must comment on one aspect of the book which is disapointing: the binding. It is the most poorly-bound hardback I have seen recently. Parts of the binding are falling apart. Also, some of the ink transfered from one page to the opposite page. These kinds of flaws should never happen with modern bookbinding technologies. It is a shame that such a wonderful book was let down by the printers. Don't let this stop you from buying it, though.
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Format: Paperback
A bought this book in a very unpretentious manner, thinking it would a mere aditional item in my library, mainly focused on dictionaries and languages. I was totally mistaken.
This is in fact a book that lets you deep-dive in the ocean of the English words and everyone can use it many ways. You can read it all the way to the end, flipping ramdomly all the pages, or you can utilize it whenever you want to search for the very early origin of some English word you just read about.
It is amazing! To go beyond Latin or Greek in the search of the meaning of a word, and almost never be let down by the dictionary, which even includes a English word index to facilitate your search? Yes, and a lot more.
This is one that I truly recommend for everyone interested in learning a little more on the origins of English.
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