LINGUIST List 10.1245

Thu Aug 26 1999

Disc: Amazing coincidences

Editor for this issue: Anthony Rodrigues Aristar <>


  1. Robin Allott, Amazing coincidences

Message 1: Amazing coincidences

Date: Sun, 22 Aug 1999 18:54:30 +0100
From: Robin Allott <>
Subject: Amazing coincidences

Recently there has been an interesting discussion in sci.lang under the
heading 'Amazing Coincidences', that is similarities of words with
similar meanings between languages believed to be widely separated.
Bloomfield of course long ago dismissed such coincidences as the result
of pure chance though Shevoroshkin and his colleagues, and indeed
Greenberg, have used them to construct ambitious nets or hierarchies of
language relationships.

An alternative approach is to consider the resemblances as
manifestations of a universal word-forming process, specifically that
word-structures have a direct physiological relation to the objects or
actions to which they refer. Herder came quite close to this in his
Essay on the Origin of Language. For a neurologically-based account of
this process see papers relating to the Motor Theory of language origin
and function at:
and other papers on:

Some years ago there was a paper in Language and Speech which, starting
from Berlin and Kay's classic study of colour terms, considered the
extent to which words for the different colours in very many languages
tend to resemble each other:

Robin Allott email:

Robin Allott email:
 tel/fax: +44 1323 492300
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue