On Partial Classifications & Miscellanies

I am con­tin­u­ing to read on clas­si­fi­ca­tion which is a fas­ci­nat­ing topic. Not all clas­si­fi­ca­tions are enhaus­tive; some depend on a large class of mis­cel­lany, oth­ers are par­tial clas­si­fi­ca­tions and these may work depend­ing on the con­text and list of terms.

The scholar Carl Dar­ling Buck wrote A Dic­tio­nary of Selected Syn­onyms in the Prin­ci­pal Euro­pean Lan­guages in 1949. It’s a fas­ci­nat­ing book that has group­ings of words and exam­ines the ety­molo­gies (ori­gins) of the words in mul­ti­ple Indo-​European lan­guages such as San­skrit, Latin, , Greek, Old Norse, Ger­man, Russ­ian, and Span­ish. For exam­ple, the word “oar” is “ari­tra”, remus, eretmon, raethi, ruder, veslo and remo. Most of the “rem” words come from the San­skrit mean­ing “to row” while the Russ­ian “veslo” is sim­i­lar to Latin “veho” as in vehi­cle mean­ing “to move or carry”. So two sources seem to be “row­ing” or “mov­ing”. Each of the indi­vid­ual entries rolls up to a cat­e­gory (oar is grouped with rud­der, mast, sail, raft, boat) in the cat­e­gory Motion: Loco­mo­tion, Trans­porta­tion, Nav­i­ga­tion. This chap­ter doesn’t roll up to any­thing, but would be inter­est­ing if if did. I was curi­ous by Buck did not impose a hier­ar­chy of chap­ters as Roget did in the The­saurus or Dewey did with the Dewey Dec­i­mal Sys­tem. For then ety­mol­ogy would give us fun­da­men­tal ideas that were uni­ver­sal and orga­nized in a hierarchy.

Buck’s answer in the pref­ace is that he thought of using a hier­ar­chi­cal clas­si­fi­ca­tion, but didn’t when he looked at Roget’s order­ing. For Motion in Roget’s the­saurus includes “food” and “eat”, and so would include a lot of mis­cel­la­neous items. So he chose instead to group related words together, even if arbi­trary, but not to group the chap­ters. With an alpha­bet­i­cal index, the author thought a per­son would be able to find a par­tic­u­lar word etymology.

Here’s a list of the top chap­ter headings:

The Phys­i­cal World in Its Larger Aspects
2. Mankind: Sex, Age, Fam­ily Rela­tion­ship
3. Ani­mals
4. Parts of the Body; Bod­ily Func­tions and Con­di­tions
5. Food and Drink; Cook­ing and Uten­sils
6. Cloth­ing; Per­sonal Adorn­ment and Care
7. Dwelling, House, Fur­ni­ture
8. Agri­cul­ture, Veg­e­ta­tion
9. Mis­cel­la­neous Phys­i­cal Acts and Those Per­tain­ing to Spe­cial Arts and Crafts, with Some Imple­ments, Mate­ri­als, and Prod­ucts; Other Mis­cel­la­neous Notions
10. Motion; Loco­mo­tion, Trans­porta­tion, Nav­i­ga­tion
11. Pos­ses­sion, Prop­erty, and Com­merce
12. Spa­tial Rela­tions; Place, Form, Size
13. Quan­tity and Num­ber
14. Time
15. Sense Per­cep­tion
16. Emo­tion (with Some Phys­i­cal Expres­sions of Emo­tion); Tem­pera­men­tal, Moral, and Aes­thetic Notions
17. Mind, Thought
18. Vocal Utter­ance, Speech; Read­ing and Writ­ing
19. Ter­ri­to­r­ial, Social, and Polit­i­cal Divi­sions; Social Rela­tions
20. War­fare
21. Law
22. Reli­gion and Superstition

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