LINGUIST List 5.1259

Wed 09 Nov 1994

Disc: Eskimo "snow"

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. Douglas J. Glick, Re: 5.1239 Eskimo "snow"
  2. , Eskimo snow

Message 1: Re: 5.1239 Eskimo "snow"

Date: 08 Nov 1994 15:11:11 -0400Re: 5.1239 Eskimo "snow"
From: Douglas J. Glick <>
Subject: Re: 5.1239 Eskimo "snow"

The point, I thought, coming out of Sapir-Whorf, was simply that SIMPLE
LEXICALIZED forms -- and Tony has accurately dealt with the complexities
introduced in this kind of formulation -- were greater for cultures in
which that object was of more central 'cultural' significance. Tony's list
seems to make that point clearly -- thus, I'm bit surprised at his advice
for cocktail parties!

Below I have simply added up the forms that Tony reported. Consider the
following, looking only at nouns (for simplicity's sake):

ENGLISH (simple isolated morphemes)
1. snow
2. slush
3. blizzard
4. flurry
5. avalanche (*clearly, as Tony notes in general, going beyond just snow)
6. frost (*and I don't think that most English speakers' definition here
would make reference to a particular state of snow here)

vs.(the following list, wherein whether or not one accepts that are solely
about snow or not, are clearly complex constructions):

fine snow/rain particles
ice lens
(snow) powder
snow bank
snow cornice
snow fort
snow house
snow man

1. qanuk 'snowflake'
2. kaneq 'frost'
3. kanevvluk 'fine snow/rain particles
4. natquik 'drifting snow/etc'
5. nevluk 'clinging debris/. . . snow, etc.
6. aniu [NS] 'snow on ground'
7. muruaneq 'soft deep snow'
8. qetrar- [NSU] 'for snow to crust'
9. nutaryuk 'fresh snow' [HBC]
10. qanisqineq 'snow floating on water'
11. qengaruk 'snow bank' [Y, HBC]
12. utvak 'snow carved in block'
13. navcaq [NSU] 'snow cornice, snow (formation) about to collapse'
14. pirta 'blizzard, snowstorm'

So the score is 14 to (at most) 6. Wasn't that the point?

Douglas J. Glick
Department of Anthropology
Vassar College
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue

Message 2: Eskimo snow

Date: Tue, 08 Nov 1994 12:49:52 Eskimo snow
Subject: Eskimo snow

The comments on the Eskimo words for snow look like they are
beginning to reproduce the original problem -- namely, bibliographical
irresponsibility in the part of scholars who ought to know better.
The "unveiling of the scandal" of the Eskimo words for snow was NOT
done by Geoffrey Pullum. In his very delightful book with the
wonderful "Great Eskimo Vocabulary Hoax" title he fully credits
the work of Laura Martin, who originally did the "unveiling" at
the American Anthropological Association back about 1982 or so.
Her paper is "Eskimo words for snow": a case study in the
genesis and decay of an anthropological example. AMERICAN
ANTHROPOLOGIST 88, pp. 418-423, 1986. So, slip that into
your bibliographies and sin no more. Jane Hill, Department of
Anthropology, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue