ENGL 4301:501
Winter 1998-99

back to the syllabus


This assignment will be done in class on Thursday 17 December.

Look up the 50 words in the list given below in four languages: French, Italian, Spanish and German. There are several multilingual dictionaries on-line. You might also use AltaVista's translation service to translate this entire page; but beware when doing so of the vagaries of machine translation. You might want to translate the page back into English if you do use AltaVista's translator, just to see if that translation "wobbles."


Which of the five languages (including English) that you have data for are most closely related? Which are more distantly related? How many of these words are derived from a common source that feeds all five languages? How many lower-order sources can you identify (i.e. sources for words in two or three of the languages, but not in the other two or three)? Can you identify specific problem words, words that don't seem to fit your tree (see below), words that are "contaminants" from other sources?


Make a family tree of languages based on the data from these fifty words. Your tree might look something like this:

  1. arm
  2. ear
  3. eye
  4. tail
  5. foot
  6. lungs
  7. head
  8. heart
  9. knee
  10. leg
  11. back
  12. neck
  13. nose
  14. shoulder
  15. friend
  16. dog
  17. wheat
  18. egg
  19. wine
  20. ice
  21. deer
  22. cow
  23. apple
  24. spoon
  25. sheep
  26. axle
  27. cotton
  28. iron
  29. copper
  30. gold
  31. silver
  32. battle
  33. king
  34. brother
  35. sister
  36. night
  37. day
  38. sky
  39. drink
  40. eat
  41. water
  42. heaven
  43. winter
  44. star
  45. summer
  46. olive
  47. strike (as in "job action")
  48. knife
  49. river
  50. sea