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How Similar (and Different) Are European Languages

by Nicole Stansley

In 1971 Dr. Morris Swadesh published a list of 100 words. The list, which he had worked on for more than 20 years, contained the most universal and common words used in languages, and was intended to quantify the interrelatedness of languages. The words on the list also appeared to be very stable having existed for thousands years.

Since then linguists have produced some more modern and accurate lists of common words, but the Swadesh List remains the most widely-used.

The Swadesh List helps us to find the cognates – words in languages that have the same roots. Like father in English, which comes from Latin pater, which is Vater in German and padre in Spanish. You don’t have to be a linguist to find the cognates with this list!

Showing the words on mapa makes is a way to see the interrelatedness between the European languages, and to see the language families as well. For some countries though you have to know the Cyrillic alphabet.

Let’s start comparing!

I (first person singular pronoun)

I in various European languages

You (second person singular pronoun)

You in various European languages

One

One in various European languages

Man

Man in various European languages

Man (person)

Man (person) in various European languages

Mother

Mother in various European languages

Father

Father in various European languages

Tree

Tree in various European languages

Meat

Meat in various European languages

Blood

Blood in various European languages

Egg

Egg in various European languages

See more examples (Word doc)

Note

The maps include most major languages of Europe, but not all European languages.

About the writer

Nicole Stansley is a digital strategist for Write My Essay For Me and a freelance writer. Her area of interests includes, though not limited to learning, writing, self-development and motivation topics.

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