A. Katz amnfn at
Sat Mar 19 19:36:51 UTC 2011


If the only thing that had happened here is the loss of a single morpheme, 
el-, then speakers might be interpreting the word elbow as X-bow, where 
X stands for an unknown morpheme. After all, the word "bow" is still part of 
the active English vocabulary. It is available as a noun, and with a 
slightly different pronunciation, as a verb.

The massive borrowing into English from latinate sources weakened the 
ability of English speakers to recognize subcomponents of words, even when 
all the subcomponents are commonly used, as in the example of "rooster" 

It's one thing not to know what part of a word means, because that part 
has disappeared from the lexicon. It's another thing not to be in the 
habit of parsing words at all.

This is why I speak of psychological componential opacity as opposed to 
circumstantial componential opacity.



On Sat, 19 Mar 2011, Östen Dahl wrote:

> I have some difficulty understanding the arguments around the words "ell" and "elbow". It is rather questionable if "ell" was really ever primarily the name of a bone; in Old English,
> "eln" seems to have been mainly a unit of measure, with the earlier 
>meaning 'forearm'; likewise, the Latin word "ulna", which is obviously 
>cognate, is translated in dictionaries as 'forearm' and 'arm'; in other 
>IE languages, the meaning 'elbow' also shows up. I do not understand what 
"massive borrowing" could have helped erasing the morpheme boundary in "elbow"; rather, I assume the meaning became opaque once "ell" was replaced in its concrete sense by the transparent but entirely Germanic "forearm". In Swedish, the cognate of "elbow" has been eggcornified into "armbåge", or 'arm-bow'; hardly anyone makes a connection to the now obsolete measure "aln" 'ell'.
> - östen

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