Saturday, 15 July 2006

Etymological Study of English Terms for South Russian Soils (from World Reference Base).

Tatyana Y. Valkova, Rostov State Univ, B. Sadovaya str., 105, Rostov-on-Don, 344006, Russia

Soil science originated in Russia. Its fathers - V.V. Dokuchaev and N.M. Sibirtsev – developed the nomenclature of soils based on Russian folk words, describing the peculiarities of the surface layers of local soils, the most frequent being color characteristics: black soil, red soil, brown soil, yellow soil. The color of surface layers being identical for the soils of different quality, the names became more detailed: brown forest soils, grey forest soils, brown desert soils. Russian nomenclature was later enriched by terms from other languages, not necessarily Slavonic: takhyry (Bashkir), rendzina (Polish), gley (Ukranian), etc. Soon soil science acquired international scale and became a world-wide discipline. The international nomenclature was enriched by several ways. First, there were Slavonic borrowings proper (chernozem, zheltozem, burozem, podzol, solonetz, solonchak, solod, gley, rendzina). Another point was literal translation of Russian terms into English. This featured some drawbacks, such as scientifically imprecise translation, e.g. black soil. (The main characteristic feature of black soil is its fertility, not the color. Not any black soil is necessarily fertile). The third way is usage of Latin words and roots, which is nominal and is used in the World Reference Base correlating with the UNESCO's Soil Map of the World. The subject of this study is the origin of not all terms for soils spread world-wide, but the nomenclature only for South Russian soils. Here 212 English terms were studied, 66 of them included into WRB; others being adequate translation of Russian terms, are widely used by soil scientists all over the world and fixed in special literature, dictionaries included. It should be noted here that it's impossible to speak of purely Russian, English or Latin origin of this or that term, as most soil names are compound, and each term-forming element may have its own etymology. That's why as a minimum indivisible unit of analysis a meaningful morpheme is taken, not the whole word. E.g. epigleyic phaeozem* is constituted of a Latin prefix epi-, Ukranian root -gley-, Latin root phaeo-, Russian root -zem and the English word-forming suffix -ic, which isn't considered a term element as it possesses no semantics of its own (it bears only grammatical meaning, showing the part of speech). The 66 terms from WRB are formed by 33 term-elements and their combinations. The linguistic study shows that the bulk of these term-elements are Latin roots, e.g. alb- (from albus – fair, white), implied in such terms as albeluvisol* (podzolic soil), albi-luvic phaeozem* (grey forest soil), etc. The root -calc- is of Latin origin too (calx, calcis – limestone) and enters such terms as calci-glossic chernozem* (southern black soil), luvi-calcic kastanozem* (brown carbonaceous soil), etc. Other Latin roots are -lix- (lix – leach ash, leach) in the term lixisols* (yellow soils), -moll- (mollio – to soften, to loosen) in the terms molli-gleyic solonchak* (meadow solonchak), mollic gleysols* (meadow soils), -plan- (planus – plane, flat) in sodi-gleyic planosol*, -sal- (salio – to salt) in the terms salic chernozem* (solonchak black soil), molli-salic solonetz* (chestnut solonetz), etc. All in all, there's the total of 25 Latin term-elements, that makes up about 76% of all term-elements under analysis. There are only 5 Russian roots here. These are -chern- and -zem- in chernozem* (black soil), -solonchak- and -solonetz-, and nominally Russian -kastan-. Actually the word ”kashtan” (chestnut) came to Russian in the 17th century from Polish (kasztan). It originated from German Kastanie, which is traced back to Latin castanea, which, in its turn, is of Greek origin (kastanon). Thus, the etymology of the term-element -kastan- is quite ambiguous. However, it is considered nominally Russian, as the term kastanozem* is rather based on the Russian word ”kashtan” than on the Polish or German ones. So, the portion of Russian roots in the group under analysis is 15%. In the WRB there are very few term-elements of Ukranian, Polish and, strange as it may sound, English origin. Each of these languages makes up a share of only 3% of the total number of the term-elements. Among Ukrainian units there is the root -gley-: it was translated into Russian as “sticky clay”, but then lost its original meaning. Among Polish units is the root -rendz-, which enters such terms as, for example, rendzic leptosol*. According to Vilensky, the term rendzina came from Polish rzendzic, meaning jitter, shake (thus is the way the plough goes over stony lime soil). English is represented here by only one term-element, soil, that is the basic notion of the whole soil science. The conclusion is: Latin language is the most important WRB-forming factor. Although it is called a dead language, it is fairly considered the language of science and is widely used in natural studies. The etymological study of the soil science terminology is of great linguistic interest, involving the trace of the origin of the terms themselves as well as the historical overview into the development of the whole soil science and its evolution.

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