Abstract and Keywords
Etymology is an essential tool in tracing the origin and development of individual words. It is also indispensable for identifying, from a diachronic perspective, what the individual words of a language are, e.g. whether file ‘type of metal tool’ and file ‘set of documents’ share a common history or show different origins. However, words do not develop in isolation from one another. In extreme cases, complete lexical merger or lexical split can occur; such events can challenge the identification of words as entities with a single, discrete history. Etymological method depends on an interaction between arguments based on word form and word meaning. Regular sound changes are a cornerstone of etymology. Analysis of regular sound correspondences between languages, resulting from the operation of sound changes earlier than the surviving written records, is at the heart of the historical comparative method, by which proto-languages such as Indo-European have been identified.
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