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Complete etymology of collaboration?
Complete etymology of collaboration?
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2013/05/27
12:24am
mbarn
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Hello wordsmiths,

Two collaborative artists are in urgent need of etymological support. Does anyone know where we can turn for the complete etymology of the word collaboration?

 

Very best,

 

M

2013/05/27
5:55am
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Here is what the Oxford English Dictionary has:

Etymology: n. of action, < Latin collabōrāreto collaborate v.: probably immediately < French.

HTH

2013/05/27
11:27pm
asusena Armenia
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Online Etymology dictionary provides the following information at  http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=collaboration&searchmode=none:

 

collaboration (n.)

1860, from French collaboration, noun of action from Latin collaborare (see collaborate). In a bad sense, "tratorious cooperation with an occupying enemy," it is recorded from 1940; earliest references are to the Vichy Government of France.

2013/05/28
11:51am
mbarn
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Thanks for these thoughts. Here is a little more info on the purpose of this inquiry:

 

We are looking to create a large text panel on a wall with the definition of collaboration mapping its meaning as it has changed over time. After going to the library we have noted there are many close but varied definitions. So, we are now seeking a full and complete definition and are unsure where to turn?

Collaboration is a word that is used in the arts to define a type of working procedure. However, even within contemporary arts there are collaborative practices, art collaborations, artistic collaborators and art collaboratives that all use this word very differently. We are hoping to parse out these differences by tracing the meaning of the word backward to its source of origin.

 

Very best,

 

M

 

 

2013/05/28
11:12pm
New River, AZ, USA
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Now that you explain your intent, here's something else you might want to consider. Although the root "collaborator" originally had a negative connotation (as asusena points out), it has certainly evolved to include positive connotations. The word "collaborate" is listed as a back-formed verb. I would have expected the other way around.

The interesting question is just when it changed from a negative to positive connotation. I took a stab at that on Google Ngrams, comparing the phrase "enemy collaboration" with "friendly collaboration." See the results here. Looks like the positive connotation spiked right after WWII. Gotta wonder if, after the Allies won the war, we hijacked the meaning to "celebrate" what could be done when people pull together.

When I compare the phrases "traitorous collaboration" and "benevolent collaboration" things get even more interesting. See this result. Shows that the two connotations (positive and negative) have been in a dead heat since about 1965.

Of course, Ngrams only provide a "phrase snapshot" of usage. I tried prefixing "collaboration" with other synonyms for "good" and "bad" and got similar results.

2013/05/29
8:40pm
mbarn
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How utterly fascinating!! Collaborate is a back-formed verb out of the traitorous association?! And I had no idea Google Ngrams existed.. super interesting analytics Thank You!!

Here is another question: When do you think the variations of the positive A & B themed collaboration came on the scene? Positive A being collaboration like jazz, where each individual maintains a type of autonomy associated with their role/instrument in the group creation of a collaborative piece of music. Positive B being collaboration like artists Gilbert & George or Marina Abramović & Ulay where the identity of the individuals are completely merged to form a third identity.

 

Perhaps this is another result of post-war reactions.. Neo-Liberal vs Marxist?

 

It is quite interesting to think of the vastly different amounts of energy individuals can put into a group effort/identity and still be considered "collaborators". Is the betrayal of the individual a specter haunting the collaborator?

 

 

2013/05/29
10:11pm
New River, AZ, USA
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mbarn said: How utterly fascinating!! Collaborate is a back-formed verb out of the traitorous association?! And I had no idea Google Ngrams existed.. super interesting analytics Thank You!!

Well you really have to be cautious with Ngrams. The GUI is easy enough, but the key is choosing your phrases to narrow down changes in usage. And with a limit of 5 words per search phrase, you need to choose those words carefully. Ngrams isn't perfect, but like any tool, it gets better with practice.

To answer your question, imho, yes. The world changed after WWII. Probably as much as after the industrial revolution or the printing press.

2013/05/30
5:15am
Glenn
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I hasten to redirect that collaborate and collaboration originally have no negative connotations, but acquired their negative connotations, which may have predominated for a period. The link provided by Heimhenge above to the Online Etymology Dictionary entry shows this:
collaborate from 1871, with its negative connotation only from WWII, and
collaboration from 1860, with its negative connotation from 1940, and
collaborator listed from 1802.

In all cases, the earliest connotations were simply around working together.

It is interesting to me to consider also the relationship between these and colaborer, which has a much stronger connection to physical labor than does collaborator, and has been all but supplanted.

2013/05/30
8:56am
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Thanks for catching that Glenn. Guess I need to read my own citations more carefully. Any insights about why the noun came first?

 

2013/05/30
12:21pm
Glenn
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Not off the top of my head. I will try to look at it. The OED might provide some insight with its citations of collaborator between 1802 and 1871.

Or is it collabourator?

2013/05/30
6:20pm
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Glenn said

Not off the top of my head. I will try to look at it. The OED might provide some insight with its citations of collaborator between 1802 and 1871.

Or is it collabourator?

Here is everything from the OED:

collaborator, n.
falsefalseView as: Outline |Full entryQuotations: Show all |Hide allPronunciation: /kəˈlæbÉ™reɪtÉ™(r)/ Etymology: agent-n., in Latin form, < collabōrāre to collaborate v.: probably after French collaborateur…. (Show More)
1. One who works in conjunction with another or others; esp. in literary, artistic, or scientific work.
1802 J. Bentham Let. 4 Sept. in Corr. (1988) VII. 123 He was a collaborator of Mirabeau's.
1884 J. A. Symonds Shakspere's Predecessors x. §4. 370 [Shakespeare] was probably engaged as a collaborator with unknown poets in the preparation of new plays.
1802—1884(Hide quotations)
Thesaurus »
2. spec. One who collaborates with the enemy. Cf. collaborate v. 2.
1943 New Statesman 25 Sept. 197 Infiltration would be easy with the help of such well-placed collaborators.
1946 ‘G. Orwell' Crit. Ess. 137 At this moment, with France newly liberated and the witch-hunt for collaborators in full swing.

I note there is no u.

2013/05/31
6:34am
Glenn
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I want to consult the print version.

The u was a tyresome attempt at humour. I now recognise my mistake and surmize I should have used collabouratour instead.

2013/06/03
4:47am
Glenn
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The OED has a telling entry nearby:
collaborateur, which includes the following citation from 1801:
1801 H. C. Robinson Diary (1869) I. v. 107 A body of poor students called collaborateurs. . who assist the more wealthy but less advanced.

So, it would seem that a practice arose in academic circles for the wealthy to employ poor students as tutors or (could it be?) ghost writers and to call them by the French borrowing collaborateurs. This borrowing from French soon thereafter turned into the proper English collaborator. The other derived forms followed.

That explains how the noun came first.

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