Computing Magazine

Visualizing Our Word Origins

Posted on the 27 February 2013 by Expectlabs @ExpectLabs

imageMike Kinde of Ideas Illustrated set out on an etymological visualization project to better understand how foreign words have shaped the English language. According to Kinde’s blog, he started his exploration by selecting excerpts from American and British literature, along with legal and medical publications. Kinde then used Douglas Harper’s Etymology Dictionary to connect the words, prefixes, and suffixes found in each passage with their language of origin. Each word and fragment was then coded with a color and definition to allow for easy comparisons across different kinds of writing. For example, the pie chart explaining the word origins of the medical article shows how large of a role Latin and Greek play in the field’s terminology. It’s no surprise that many people find medical texts so difficult to comprehend, since Old English accounts for only half of the words’ origins.

These portraits of where our language comes from enable us to better appreciate the history inside every single word we use. Take a look at Kinde’s blog to explore more of his results.

(Source: Ideas Illustrated)



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