Michael J. Price Lab for Digital Humanities

Etymological Database for Indo-European Languages

Etymological Database for Indo-European Languages

Rolf Noyer

Associate Professor of Linguistics

Funding Period: 
July, 2015July, 2016

The Penn Linguistics/Price Lab Etymological Database System (PLEDS) is a fully searchable set of relational databases that trace the historical derivation of and relationship among words. Designed both for research in historical linguistics and as a tool for instruction in modern and ancient languages, PLEDS integrates detailed linguistic information with hyperlinks to a wide range of other free internet lexical resources.

The Etymological Database of Indo-European Languages (EDIEL) includes over 1300 roots, which can be reconstructed for proto-Indo-European (pIE), along with over 7000 derived etyma and (currently) over 38,000 word forms continuing these etyma in over 250 languages. EDIEL is further integrated with the PROPION database (Proto-Romance and Proto-Italic Online), which includes over 6450 reconstructed forms for Proto-Romance (pRom) and their descendants in over 650 different Romance languages and dialects.

Several examples are helpful. If, say, the user is interested in words meaning ‘earth’, a search of pIE forms will return a page with the pIE etymon *dʰegʰ-em [EDIEL 0], with a list of its derivative forms, as well as grammatical information, cognate forms in English, and the distribution of descendants in branches of the language family. Clicking on the derivative *dʰég̑ʰ-om- ‘earth’ reveals a new page [EDIEL1], with a further list of descendant words. Clicking on *dʰg̑ʰ-om-on- ‘human, inhabitant of the earth’ will reveal a different derivative [EDIEL2] with its descendant words. From there, clicking on Latin homō hominis ‘person’, the user is taken to a page with information about this specific word [EDIEL3]. Where a word is historically continued in the Romance languages, a further table on this page shows the derivatives in pRom. Clicking on pRom *hòmo, *hòm·ne then takes the user directly to a page from PROPION [PROPION1], which includes a list of Romance language descendants. Each such word is then linked to a separate page containing grammatical information, date of first attestation, textual citations, and so on.

Additional links provide immediate access to information in scholarly monolingual and multilingual on-line dictionaries where available. For example, a link from Latin homō will takes the user to this lemma in the Latin dictionary of Lewis and Short, digitized as part of the LOGEION project at the University of Chicago. A link from French homme takes the user to this lemma in the Trésor de la Langue Française informatisé, and so forth.