History of ETYMO

It all started in summer 1998 when I asked a friend of mine (who studied electrotechnics at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology at that time) if he would possibly be interested in developing a linguistical program that would "calculate etymologies". He patiently listened to my rather "fantastic" ideas and finally decided to help me.

We soon found an assistant who agreed to supervise the project which was limited to one semester. We also found another colleague who was disposed to help us with the implementation, so that in october/november the work could begin.

Although we knew that the project was quite ambitious (..), we thought that it should be possible to finish the program within the given delay, i.e. until february '99. At the beginning of february, however, we knew that this was completely illusory...

The more the crucial deadline approached, the more I was moving towards a rather disgusting dilemma: the point was that my work (as a student in linguistics) consisted in writing a paper (in french) which would show the linguistical aspects of the program. Logically, if the program was not finished such a paper was more or less useless... Since the participation of my colleagues was limited to one semester, there only seemed to be one solution: I would have to finish the program alone.

Now, this solution wasn't really a solution because (1) I am not a professional programmer and since the program had been developped under UNIX, an operating system which I wasn't very familiar with, I really wasn't sure if I would be able to finish it alone and (2) the program itself had grown to such a complexity that I doubted if it could ever been brougt to a good end.

Thus, in my despair (..) ;-), I finally decided to choose another way: I would write a completely new and simplified version of ETYMO. Since the original version was supposed to offer some functionalities which were comfortable but not necessarily indispensable from a linguistical point of view, it should not only be possible to considerably reduce the implementation work, but also to preserve much of the functionality of the »bigger brother«. This solution had another advantage: it would be possible to implement the program directly under WINDOWS. This was in fact a quite important point since we wanted some linguistical students to participate in the project in order to bring together linguistical data that could be used to feed the program. Finally, one solution did not exclude the other one (so, why not give a small version as long as the »full version« was not yet finished).

The things then evolutioned as expected: by march 1999, the UNIX-version - although very promising in its general construction and complexity - wasn't capable of perfoming but very rudimentary calculations, whereas the smaller DOS/WINDOWS-version had reached a beta-state... :-))

A couple of weeks later, the DOS/WINDOWS-version was presented to a group of spanish students in Fribourg. The students were asked if they were interested in making an etymological work with the program. A couple of students agreed, indeed, to participate in the project.

At about the same time, in order to make »clean work« and to offer the best conditions to the person who - in a far future :-)) - would continue the project, the source code of the UNIX-version was debugged and optimized.

In Summer 1999, I started to write the official paper and the linguistical data. Both have been finished in october 2000.

From january to may 2000, I started programming again on the DOS/WINDOWS-version and finished two new version (V 1.1, V 1.2) where I corrected some bugs and added some statistical functions. The last modification of the programs where made in autumn 2000, which lead to the actual version (V 1.3).

Last updated: October 2000 Back to main page