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First Major Etymological Dictionary Published

Source: Photo: Postimees/Scanpix

The history and future of the Estonian language became less of a mystery yesterday, at the presentation of the first pervasive dictionary of Estonian etymology at the Estonia Concert Hall.

A major breakthrough, the book includes 6,643 word entries, tracing their kinship back to 135 languages, and a historical overview of Estonian conjugation, reported Postimees.

“The book summarizes everything that is today known about the origin of Estonian words,” said the book's leading editor, Iris Metsmägi.

It has been nine years since the Estonian Language Institute began compiling the dictionary, but its history dates farther back; in 1974 the Language and Literature Institute of the Academy of Sciences began a project that produced 500,000 etymological index cards. In 2003, it was time to bind the words between covers and the new dictionary's authors - Iris Metsmägi, Meeli Sedrik and Sven-Erik Soosaar - stressed that their job was to compile the work of predecessors and colleagues.

The predecessors of the etymological dictionary were the German-language “Estnisches etymologisches Wörterbuch,” by Julius Mägiste published in 1982; and the “Eesti keele etümoloogiline teatmik” by Alo Raun and published in Rome and Toronto in 1982. Neither were published in Estonia.


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