|Saturday, February 15, 2003||
BIOLOGY, the bane of many a student, comes from the Greek bios that meant course of human life and logos that means a study of. Compound words relating to life have been formed with ‘bio-’ for over three centuries now, and even the ancient Greeks used it as a combining form. During the second half of the 20th century, advances in biotechnology and the increasing interest in Green issues led to the proliferation of compounds in these areas, mostly using bio- to mean organic life. Green, by the way, no longer refers to merely the colour green but it has become an umbrella term for anything related to the conservation of the environment. Poor Othello can now be proud of being a Greenie!
The coinage of the word
biodiversity at a forum held in Washington in 1986 gave a deeper hue
to bio-, as it led to an increasing awareness of the richness and
variety of the natural world and the growing threat posed to it both
by intensive agriculture and the destruction of the world’s
rainforests. Bio- soon became a shibboleth to be prefixed onto any
environment-related issue; today it means natural, organic, green or
environment-friendly. Concern for the environment created another kind
of human: the biospherian. Between September 1991 and September 1993
eight experimenters, biospherians were sealed in an artificial
habitat, Biosphere 2, Earth being Biosphere 1. The idea was to test
whether an artificial environment could be created and sustained
independently of life on Earth, partly as an ecological experiment and
partly to determine whether space habitats or colonies on other
planets were practicable.
All these new words saw the light of day due to a process called derivation. Morphology, the study of word structure, recognises two processes that create new words. Inflection is the process whereby words take various grammatical forms; as, for instance, pipe becoming pipes. Derivation is that process which constructs entirely new words, as, for instance, biological from biology.
In Hindi, a derivation-like process takes place but there the similarity ends. The words belonging to that group of derivative may not necessarily be related in meaning. For instance, the root bhu or to be gives bhav (feeling), bhavi (future), bhavik (natural), bhavan (mansion), bhav (god) and bhavya (grand). The root brha or to grow gives brhat (large), Brahma (god), brahmi (a medicinal plant), Brahmi (goddess of speech) and Brahman (a member of the priestly class).