Sir William Jones as your personal language tutor

In my last article I already started telling you about the Indo-European or Indo-Germanic languages but in my today’s article I want to tell you more about them or about their discoverer. It was the British lawyer Sir William Jones who also studied languages and in the 18th century went to India to continue his career as a lawyer. While translating legal texts from Indian languages to English he starte discovering similarities between the Indian and most of all European languages which obviously come from the same source. While you study any European or Indian language try to pay attention to this as it might make learning vocabulary and grammatical structures easier for you. You should also pay attention to some phonological structures which developed in a different way in every Indo-European language. Of course this doesn’t Count for Hungarian, Finnish, Estonian and Basque which are the few exceptions in Europe. You will realize for instance that the Swedish word kvinna, the Greek word ginaíka and the Serbian or Croatian word žena all have the same origin and they all mean woman or more generally a person of female sex. Meanwhile the Polish word żona or the Lithuanian word žmona both mean wife. By the way the English word wife is related to the German word Weib which is not a very polite marking for a woman. Or let’s take a verb as another example. The English word to bear or its Swedish equivalent bära are relate to the Polish verb brać which means to take. In a wider sence these verbs discribe a profession you practise with your hands. Another interesting example is the preposition in which you can find in English, German, Dutch or Italian or as en in French or Spanish. All Slavic languages use the form v or w. Linguists say that there has been the preposition ven in the Indo-European source language which has its origins in the Ural mountains in Russia. In the Germanic and Romanic languages this form left as in or en while in the Slavic languages it left as v or w. When people ask me why I am able to learn so many languages without getting them mixd up or forgetting them completely I always tell them that linguistics are a knowledge which make the learning process easier. I always say that the Indo-European language family is one big language with many forms and dialects. Whenever I start learning a new Indo-European language I thank Sir William Jones for that!


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