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A Dictionary of Selected Synonyms in the Principal Indo-European Languages: A Contribution to the History of Ideas 1st Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0226079370
ISBN-10: 0226079376
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press; 1 edition (June 15, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226079376
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226079370
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 1 x 11 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #533,535 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
You can pick this book up and flip to any page at random and learn something that will make you go "huh!". I recommend this book for anybody at all interested in language or thought, either just getting into linguistics or a tenured professor.
The entries are from basic vocabulary, grouped by topic (food, familial relations, etc.), though there's an alphabetical index in the back. For each entry, Mr. Buck gives the word (sometimes a couple different words) in Ancient Greek, Modern Greek, Latin, the Romance languages, the Celtic languages, the main Germanic languages (incl. Old, Middle, and Modern English), Balto-Slavic, and usually Indo-Iranian (occasionally Armenian).
But the cool thing is that then he gives an always-enlightening discussion below on how they are related, what ideas lie behind different word-choices, how they've changed, and so forth. This discussion is usu. about 2-3 times the length of the list and is the best part.
This book used to be a big hefty lieberry book, but the University of Chicago has reprinted it into a handy paperback, with four of the old pages on each new one. One reviewer said you'd need a magnifying glass, but I have terrible vision and I can read it just fine.
It's a great book to read on the toilet, or whenever you're just sittin' around waitin' for somethin' to happen. You'll learn something every time you read it, and at this price it's one of the best book-deals you'll get anywhere.
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Format: Paperback
This is the classic work in comparative IndoEuropean words, word origins, expressions, semantic change, and the development of lexemes. A comprehensive survey of up to 80 current and dead IndoEuropean languages in over 1,000 groupings. The groupings are organized into 22 chapters, with each chapter dealing with a concept, such as: the physical world, agriculture, time, mind (thought), law, warfare, etc. As good or better than Porkorny's, at 1/20th the price. NOTE: Prospective uses should be aware that THERE is a significant downside to this edition (and thus my 9 rating). The book is printed with 4 reduced pages from the original text onto one page. The result is that you are looking at slighlty less than 4 point print for the explanatory text (and the IndoEuropean synonyms are in 2.5 point italics!). A magnifying glass is definitely required (I have 20:20, and it is a serious strain trying to read the italics).
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By A Customer on December 18, 2003
Format: Paperback
I wouldn't dream of dissuading anyone with an interest in IE lingustics from buying a copy of this fascinating tome, but at the same time would point out that it has some glaring errors, mainly due to its age:
I see another reader complaining about underrepresentation of non-European IE languages. He's not bad on Sanskrit, but point taken on Iranian (which he seems to regard as a minor dialect of Sanskrit). Hittite and Tocharian, Albanian and Armenian are underrepresented too. At the same time, some Western languages are underrepresented, such as Portuguese and Catalan. Maybe not a problem where forms are cognate with Spanish/French/Italian, but it is when they aren't.
My main problem with Buck, however, is that he by and large ignores connections with other language families, assuming that everything can be explained within IE. This sometimes pushes him into absurd assertions - he can't find an Old Irish word for dancing, so he claims that there was no dancing in Ancient Ireland.
Granted, this work was written at the end of the 1940s, before the work on long-distance comparisons of Brunner, Ilyich-Svitych, Greenberg, Bomhard et al. Not a defect in itself, but his etymologies can no longer be taken at face value.
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Format: Paperback
Far be it from me to suggest that those who claim this book is not difficult to read must work for the U of C Press but, of the many thousands of books I have read and consulted, this is the first I've ever seen that required a magnifying glass for me to be able to read it. Even with a strong magnifying glass I still find it extremely difficult to make out some of the words, especially the Greek.

I can't think what made the U of C Press take the 1515 pages of the original edition of this book, reduce them to microscopic size, and cram 4 of these reduced pages on each single page of this cheaply produced (though not cheaply priced) glued spine paperback. Is there a world shortage of paper I haven't heard about?

If Hackett Publishing Company can give us a clothbound 1808-page 'Complete Works of Plato' (ISBN 0872203492), a book in a clear and legible typeface which is not a mere reprint and which is sewn in the traditional manner so that it opens flat, and do all this for little more than the price of this U of C paperback - what's wrong with the U of C Press?

Unlike Hackett Publishing, the U of C Press didn't have to pay anything for editing, typesetting, proof-reading, etc., since all they've done is to run off extremely poor reduced copies of a book first published almost sixty years ago. All they really had to pay for was the paper and ink.

Content-wise the book is interesting enough and deserves 5 stars, but since the format is atrocious and an insult to readers and the world of learning I have given it only 1 star and I will be returning my copy to Amazon today for a refund.
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