Episode 6: Indo-European Words

A look at words used by the original Indo-Europeans and the clues such words provide to the identity of the first Indo-Europeans.  The etymology of modern English words is explored in relation to the original Indo-European words.

16 thoughts on “Episode 6: Indo-European Words

  1. Hopefully I can say this without being rude because I am loving this podcast. I am very interested to learn why the presenter sometimes pronounces words differently than I do (Southern Alberta, Canada.) Such as the L in words like Old (Owd/Owed is what I hear) and Golf (gough, like cough is what I heard). Its even more interesting that the presenter seems to know this, when saying ‘pen’ ‘kin’ ‘keen’ they spelled it afterwards like they knew their e’s sounded like I’s and vice versa!

    • Hi Nick. The best answer I can give you is that my accent is simply different from yours. At various points in the podcast, I try to explore why accents develop and why various accents pronounce certain sounds differently. This topic will be explored in much greater detail in future episodes which will explore the development of Modern English.

      • Well said Kevin! Our accent is something we absorb from those around us. We can modify in in adult life but can we really explain it? I think of some Scottish actors who lose all trace of their accent when playing a role, yet in an interview they revert to being Scots.

  2. I found this episode very enriching. I happen to be an English language teacher and sometimes when students ask about those irregular plural forms, you don’t know what to answer and end up saying ” that’s the way it is”. In this episode I found the reason why and I will not hesitate to tell my students where those weird forms come from.

  3. Hello, I’m enjoying your podcast very much. I did have a comment for you about the formation of plurals in Old English. You said that

    “at some point after Old English, English adopted the modern rules for making words plural.That included the general rule that the way to make a singular word plural is to add an ‘s’ or ‘es’ at the end and pretty much all newer nows follow this rule.”

    This does not strike me as strictly accurate on two accounts.

    1. Old English had several ways to decline nouns to form the plural and one of them was to ad ‘as’ to a word. This is the old English form of the modern plural rule.

    2. The word for ‘fox’ is an old Saxony word and not a newer word at all. The reason why we say foxes instead of foxen is because the root word for fox simply fell into the class of nouns that declined with an ‘as’ and not an ‘en’ (see https://hord.ca/projects/eow/grammar/noun.php?id=592&output=macron)

    Do you have a

    • Paul,

      Thanks for the feedback. Your observations are correct. I was trying to simplify a complicated process in that one sentence. I discuss the evolution of plural suffixes in some detail in Episode 53.

  4. I’m listening to this series again from the beginning. I have already listened up to the beginning of the old English period, then had to stop for unrelated reasons. I didn’t want to lose the flow, so I decided to start back at the beginning. I can’t tell you how much I enjoy this podcast. It ticks all the boxes for me – erudite, accessible, unpretentious, interesting and well spoken. Thank you so much for the time and energy you pour into this remarkable podcast.

  5. I got sidetracked and started listening to the podcast all over again. I mention this because in one the episodes, I disremember which, you used the word “further” and pronounced it like “mother.” I’m curious what part of the US you’re from It strikes me as mid-western, but I’m no expert in this matter. Thanks and I hope this isn’t too personal a question. (And I just like the word disremember, for any prescriptivists out there.)

    • Hi Sandra,

      I’m from eastern North Carolina, and my native accent drops the ‘r’ in “further.” I have to consciously remember to pronounce the ‘r’ when I come to that word in the podcast. Believe it or not, there are a lot of words like that. I struggle to pronounce “cavalry” as /ca-vel-ree/ and not /cal-va-ree/. Most of us have those little accent quirks, but we don’t realize that they exist until people point them out to us (which is what happened when I started to do the podcast 🙂 ).

  6. Hi Kevin.
    thanks for your interesting podcast. I really love it.
    I just want to make you notice that unfortunately on the smarthphone android version (I use acast as podcast app, anyway) this episode (6) doesn’t work and even if it is downloaded you can’t listen to). It’s a pity. Anyway, just to let you know, good luck!

    • Thanks for the note. I don’t know why that issue is occurring. (I haven’t received any other feedback about that problem, so I am not sure if other listeners are experiencing the same problem.) I will look into it and see if I find a solution.

  7. Hi , this is a great podcast!! However, during this particular podcast, you referred to “shaving” a sheep, but I’m pretty sure it should be “shearing”. Keep up the great work.

  8. Kevin this is really an incredible series. Ever since I took the time to study the Dutch language (because many of my work colleagues were Dutch at the time) and noted so many similarities with English I have been interested in finding out more about the origin and history of English – – I actually did a lot of looking around including courses on line but found your series and it is perfect! Truly appreciate the way you break things down – I am only on episode 6 but there have been “aha” moments in every one! Really looking forward to getting through all of them in time.

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