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"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more

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Query Details

Query Subject:   orient vs. orientation
Author:   John Esposito
Submitter Email:  click here to access email

Linguistic LingField(s):  Historical Linguistics

Query:   Hello,

I'm looking for insights into the choice of ''orientate'' over ''orient''
by a fairly polished writer of British English who is probably also fluent
in (at least) French and Italian. In particular, I'm looking for historical
As everyone knows, ''orient'' is the standard verbal root and stem of
''orientation'', and ''orientate'' is a backformation; but a quick sampling
of bilingual dictionaries with English and another European langauge shows
a preference for ''orientate.'' The OED says that ''orient'' has been
around longer, but it seems to me that at some time & place, ''orientate''
may have been standard.

I'd like to know if ''orientate'' was standard at some time in British
English (and if possible, precisely when and where), or whether a
preference for ''orientate'' might come from another major European
language. French and Italian don't have the ''-ate'' suffix on this word,
and German has ''-ieren''; the only alternative explanation that occurs to
me is that this is a leftover from the author's schoolboy Latin.

John Esposito
San Diego State Univ.
LL Issue: 15.3227
Date posted: 17-Nov-2004


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