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Dr. H. Austin Whitver
“A greater subject fitteth Faustus’s witt.”
(Christopher Marlowe, “The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus,” 11)
The word “subject” comes originally from a variety of origins. The word was partially borrowed form French and Latin. It entered the English language from the Anglo-Norman language where it had multiple meanings throughout the years and is both a noun and a verb, depending on its usage. “Subject” originated from the French words “souget,” “suget,”and “subget,” which as a noun all mean, “ecclesiastical inferior.” Next, in the 13th century, in old French, the word become known as the “topic of a book, discourse, conversation etc.” This definition seems to be closer to the way one may use the word in present time. Since, one of the most common usages of the word can also be described as, “something that is the focus of activity or object of attention.” While reviewing the different usages of the word, one can see that there were similar, yet variant senses of the word “subject.” For example, the meaning, “a person bound to another by an obligation of allegiance, service, or tribute,” was used in c1350 in “William of Shoreham Poems.” This is similar to the meaning “a person who is under the control of another or owes obedience to another,” which was used by Lucy Toulmin Smith in 1885 for “York Plays.”
Similar to the meaning of the word derived from the French, the original Latin meaning form the 4th century comes from the Latin term “subietrum,” meaning neuter. This was described as a “topic, them, (in philosophy) central substance or core of a thing as opposed to its attributes.” This meaning is similar to that in the use of the French language. One can determine that the meaning didn’t exactly change drastically. However, it became clearer and more straight forward. Next, in the 5th century, the word had a meaning related to grammar, where it meant “part of a sentence which the rest of ...