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Spanish Vocabulary: An Etymological Approach Paperback – 1 Feb 2008

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Product details

  • Paperback: 654 pages
  • Publisher: University of Texas Press; Bilingual edition (1 Feb. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0292716680
  • ISBN-13: 978-0292716681
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 3.2 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 1.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 110,298 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Kevin on 11 April 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
This book is very good in it's printed version, but useless in Kindle format. Unfortunately 50% of the book is unreadable... the text is to small and will not enlarge.I requested a refund and ordered the printed version. David Brodsky has created a very useful book for anybody studying the Spanish language and it's relationship to other languages. Well done David... Kindle, you could have put more effort into making it readable.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 7 reviews
25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
A Triple Delight 1 April 2010
By Theodore Keer - Published on
Format: Paperback
Etymology, the study of the historical derivation of words from their sources in older or in other languages, is the most important of sciences for the true student of language. In English there are Calvert Watkins' Dictionary of Indo-European Roots, Reverend Skeats' Concise Dictionary of English Etymology, and Shipley's discursive Origins of English Words. For the classical languages there is Buck's Comparative Grammar of Greek and Latin.

And now there is Brodsky's Spanish Vocabulary: An Etymological Approach.

No, his work is not encyclopedic. There are many words such as 'milagro' or 'sapo' or 'pendejo' with which intermediate speakers of Spanish will be familiar for which he provides no etymology. But Brodsky's intention is to widen your Spanish vocabulary as a whole within two contexts, the classical roots of the language, and your knowledge of cognate words that already exist in English. To that end he does address over 5,000 Spanish words, giving for most their corresponding roots in Latin (or Greek, Germanic, Arabic, etc.) and their counterparts in English where they exist. Brodsky's goal is to help broaden your vocabulary not by arbitrary memorization but through making clear the association of new words with words you already know. What results is a painless, educational, and often quite diverting introduction to the etymology of both English and Spanish and a history of the development of Western thought in the last two millennia to boot. Would you, for example, guess that the common Spanish word 'lástima' has the same unlikely root as the English word 'blame,' both being vulgar (i.e., common and unlearned) developments from the Greek 'blasphemia'?

This book is a wonderful accomplishment. It presents an amazing amount of data in an attractive and approachable format. It should not intimidate anyone with an intermediate knowledge of Spanish. Neither will it disappoint the advanced student as a reference. Greek and Arabic forms are treated matter-of-factly in a Latin alphabet transcription. And while no knowledge of the classical languages will be necessary, serious students of Greek and Latin will not feel condescended to. And this is not a dry work. There are plenty of asides such as a short essay on the common origins of the English word 'bigot' and the Spanish word for moustache which add to the text immensely. The author obviously loves his subject.

This is an ideal book. It has no flaws. I cannot imagine why any reviewer would give it less than five stars. If you are a serious student of Spanish, or just an English speaker with a familiarity with Spanish who wants to know his own tongue better, this is the book for you.
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
a walk through the history of Spanish 7 Feb. 2009
By D. Townsell - Published on
Format: Paperback
I've been trying to write this book for the last eight months. David Brodsky beat me to it-and he's a lot smarter than me.Studying Spanish is full of deja vu moments,for example: " Isn't the Spanish word ABOGADO(lawyer) a lot like English ADVOCATE?" Or: "COTIDIANO(daily), in Spanish, kinda feels like English QUOTIDIAN. HIPOTECA(mortgage) is a thinly-disguised version of English HYPOTHECATE("to pledge without delivery of title or possession"-Webster's).MIEL(honey),in Spanish, reminds me of the English word MELLIFLUOUS(honey-voiced).Spanish is called a ROMANCE Language because it derives from the Latin of The ROMANS, who invaded Spain circa(cerca in Spanish) 218 B.C. What is not emphasized perhaps,is that English, and of course Spanish, are filled with Latin/Greek words that could make the study of Spanish words much easier.A little ETYMOLOGY(word history) is in order-if you wish to learn Spanish more quickly and less painfully.All this is tiresome to a linguist-who has studied The Great Vowel Shift in English, and all the other "transmogrifications" of European languages. All this is tedious to the high-school freshman studying Spanish,with its relatively tame oddness(compared to Russian,Japanese,Chinese).And yet, in the 1950 textbook "Latin for Americans"(Ullman and Henry), etymology is strongly practiced.It is almost the principal purpose of the book,along with reinforcing English grammar, and priming law and medical studies in college.I would recommend this book to many Spanish teachers,and intermediate Spanish students.Spanish just feels so beautiful to me.This book is a treasury of European history and culture, if in a small way.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A Very Impressive Book 7 May 2014
By Los Angeles Master - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
To be honest, now that I have read this book, I'm not sure that an etymological approach is the best way to learn Spanish vocabulary. In fact, I rather doubt that it is. For the first two or three thousand words, flashcarding is probably the most efficient approach. After that, a lot of reading and looking up unknown words will build your vocabulary up in a natural and effective way. Studying etymology as an approach to learning vocabulary is a bit of overkill, in my opinion.

That having been said, I am still giving this book five stars. Why? Well, there are several reasons.

Firstly, this book is an impressive work of scholarship. The author ranges quite widely in his discussion of etymology. Although his main focus is the connections between Spanish and English, in order to explore the reasons for the similarities and differences between the two languages he must examine - at least to some extent - the historical development of both languages and their connections with other European languages (particularly Latin, but French, German, Italian, and other languages also receive some attention). He demonstrates a consideral amount of erudition in conducting his examination: many disparate threads of history, linguistics, and etymology - and even some religion and politics - are drawn together by the author in investigating his themes. In fact, the scope of, and level of detail in, this book are rather amazing. Not only is there a great deal of general etymological and historical discussion, but the book also contains a large number of wordlists/charts which contain concrete examples (sometimes copious numbers of them) of the matters being discussed. In fact, probably more than half of the text consists of such charts, often listing Latin, Spanish, and English words in parallel to demonstrate some etymological point. An enormous amount of work must have gone into just the preparation of these charts alone.

Secondly, although the book is fairly scholarly in approach and even in some sense technical, it is accessible to a layperson. You really don't need to know Latin, French, German, or any languages other than English and perhaps some Spanish to understand the discussion. The author gives you the information you need about the languages mentioned in order to understand his points. You could even probably get by without knowing much Spanish at all: everything is made quite clear. And you don't need to know anything about linguistics or etymology to follow along. I have no background in either, but I had no problem grasping the author's points.

Finally - and at least from my personal perspective, most importantly - this book is actually full of interesting stuff. When I bought this book, I bought it for a very practical reason: I hoped that knowing something about Spanish etymology would help my ongoing acquisition of Spanish vocabulary. When I started reading the book, I was viewing it from the perspective of someone who was trying to learn the Spanish language, not someone seeking to engage in any kind of academic inquiry. And I do think that the book served my original purpose to some extent, although perhaps not in the way that I thought it would.

However, this book is very interesting in its own right, independent of any language-learning benefits. It is brimming with insights about the way languages develop, shift, diverge, and modulate over time; and in particular how Spanish, and to a lesser extent English, did so. Notwithstanding the substantial level of detail, the author manages to keep the discussion lively and interesting. There are many fascinating digressions, both in the text and in footnotes, that flow naturally from the discussion and add flavor to it. Even if I had not learned a single new Spanish word from this book, I would have found it rewarding and thought-provoking.

I am not really sure what kind of readership this book would be suitable for. Some curiosity about language in general and and a strong interest in Spanish in particular would probably be necessary to fully appreciate it. The book is long (over 600 pages) and dense, and it takes a considerable amount of time and a reasonable amount of attention to get through it. There is a lot of useful information to be mined from the book's copious charts, but you would have to put in some effort to do so. So the book is probably not appropriate for someone looking for some light reading.

Still, I wouldn't have thought that I would have enjoyed this book so much as I did, or gotten as much out of it as I did, if someone had just described it to me. It actually surprises me a bit that I made it all the way through. I think my almost total ignorance of etymology probably helped: practically everything was new and fresh to me. In any event, somehow this book captured my interest from the beginning and never let it go, and in the process my perception of language changed in some fundamental way. I no longer look at language simply as a tool for communicating with others; I now also look at it as a kind of museum, full of history and exhibits, some interesting, some not-so interesting, and some whcih are curiosities. Or perhaps as a palimpsest with tantalizing fragments of older writings still visible beneath the latest text, which require some detective work to be even partly understood.

In any event, I cannot really recommend this book to anyone because I am not sure whom to recommend it to. To some (or perhaps even most) people, it might be a nightmare of dense text, long wordlists, and obscure footnotes. But to anyone who is curious, who values knowledge for its own sake, and who is interested in a leisurely stroll through a language museum containing much that is familar and much that is strange, and who is willing to take a quick glance and move quickly past some exhibits which are a bit dull, and pause for a more careful look at others which are not, there is much of interest here....
Spanish vocabulary for people who are hell-bent on *really* learning Spanish 7 July 2014
By Marco Buendia - Published on
Format: Paperback
There are a number of books out there that aim to help English-speaking students with their Spanish vocabulary. A very different sort of book tells the history of Spanish. This book manages to be, for many students at least. the most efficient example of both.

Vocabulary-builders tend to be boring. This one is not; it gives the historical background of the word and the word's etymological and/or semantic relatives, making it a bit more inviting, at least for the scholarly type of student. It is also, by this very virtue, arranged in a way that makes sense and is never a mere jumble, unlike some of the other books I've seen that mean to cram students full of Spanish vocabulary. These two factors make the material in the book readable *and* easier to remember.

The only book I've encountered that might be compared is "Roots of the Russian Language". This teaches Russian vocabulary by analyzing major etymological word groups. It's far less involved, though, with much less vocabulary. And, of course, it's for people learning Russian, not people learning Spanish.

Nota bene: Brodsky's Spanish Vocabulary is *only* for highly motivated students, who still have the memory blanks to absorb it all. I do think that middle-aged fans of the Spanish language would enjoy it, but it's really for a kind of language learner who has become unusual, at least in the USA, the learner who really means to become completely literate in another language. I don't meet many people like that.
For those lucky people who learned (some) Latin, speak ... 15 Aug. 2014
By andrzej lenda - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
For those lucky people who learned (some) Latin, speak (moderately well) English, have some idea of French (or/and Italian) it's a rare gem. You may know Spanish quite well or you may be an absolute beginner - you will get your money value back.
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