LINGUIST List 9.122

Tue Jan 27 1998

Qs: Etymology, Software, Syntax, Scurrilous data

Editor for this issue: Brett Churchill <>

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  1. Theo Vennemann, Etymology of the apple word
  2. Kristine Hasund, Transcription & audio software for Mac
  3. Erica Thrift, Optimality and Syntax Acquisition
  4. Mary Ellen Ryder, Scurrilous data sentences

Message 1: Etymology of the apple word

Date: Mon, 26 Jan 1998 01:01:29 +0100
From: Theo Vennemann <>
Subject: Etymology of the apple word

Dear Fellow Linguists:

I am engaged in a project whose goal it is to show that the European
Atlantic seaboard was in prehistoric times colonized by seafaring peoples
speaking Atlantic languages, languages that were closely related to Semitic
(see "Etymologische Beziehungen im Alten Europa", in: Der GinkgoBaum:
Germanistisches Jahrbuch f\252r Nordeuropa 13 (1995), 39-115; "Atlantiker in
Nordwesteuropa: Pikten und Vanen", in: Stig Eliasson and Ernst H\229kon Jahr
(eds.), Language and its Ecology: Essays in memory of Einar Haugen (=
Trends in Linguistics: Studies and Monographs, 100), Berlin: Mouton de
Gruyter, 1997, 451-476; "Some West Indo-European words of uncertain
origin", in: Raymond Hickey and Stanisl~aw Puppel (eds.), Language History
and Language Modelling: A Festschrift for Jacek Fisiak on his 60th birthday
(= Trends in Linguistics: Studies and Monographs, 101), 2 vols., Berlin:
Mouton de Gruyter, 1997, I.879-908.

The theory "predicts" that the apple word (Engl. _apple_ and its relatives)
is an Atlantic loan-word. I said that in the GinkgoBaum article but could
not prove that it was true, because the word does not appear in the Semitic
"school languages", if I may say so. In the same year there appeared
Vladimir E. Orel and Olga V. Stolbova, Hamito-Semitic etymological
dictionary: Materials for a reconstruction (= Handbook of Oriental Studies:
The Near and Middle East, 18), Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1995.

Orel and Stolbova reconstruct exactly what I need, Hamito-Semitic *'abol-.
But unfortunately the meaning they give is not 'apple' (life is not that
easy), but 'genitals' and 'body' in various Semitic languages, and 'penis'
in several Chadic languages.

I was bold enough to propose this connection in the appendix of my lecture
"Basken, Semiten, Indogermanen: Urheimatfragen in linguistischer und
anthropologischer Sicht", forthc. in: Akten der 10. Fachtagung der
Indogermanischen Gesellschaft, Innsbruck, 22.-28. September 1996, ed. by
Wolfgang Meid, Innsbruck: Universit\228t Innsbruck, Institut f\252r
Sprachwissenschaft. I repeated it in my lecture "The Apples of the
Hesperides" at the Ninth Annual UCLA Indo-European Conference, May 23 and
24, 1997. For the Proceedings of the latter conference, I would like to put
the etymology on a more solid (comparative) foundation - or drop it.

Therefore I request your help. Please let me know if in your own linguistic
experience you have encountered similar metaphors. Do you know of examples
of such metaphoric shifts which have subsequently made the non-metaphorical
use of a word impossible or ousted it altogether? (The latter is what seems
to have happened in the three Semitic school languages.)

Also, please tell me whether the original meaning of a word such as the
apple word is in your experience more often the concrete fruit meaning or
rather something like 'globe', 'round object'.

In Central Chadic, according to Orel and Stolbova, the same etymon appears
as *bwal- 'penis' (in Bata as _bolle_). Maybe therefore the Germanic ball
word (I mean the word for the globular object that children play with) is a
separately borrowed Atlantic ablaut variant of the apple word. I suddenly
find myself overwhelmed with words such as Gk. phallaina, Lat. ballaena,
Engl. hwale, Lat. phallos, ballion (and sundry names of plants, fruits, and
animals too numerous and too embarrassing to write down).

Please let me know if all of this is accidental, or if it finds support in
your languages of expertise.

If the responses I receive are not too numerous or too embarrassing, I will
post a summary. Otherwise I threaten that you may find yourself in a
footnote of the UCLA Proceedings.

Returning to the beginning of my request, all I really need to know is
whether the West Indo-European apple word can be the same as the cited
Hamito-Semitic word for genitals.

I mention for your information that the harvest word originally meant the
fruit harvest (Jacob Grimm) or rather, since the only fruit of significance
in the prehistoric Northwest was the apple, the apple harvest. The harvest
word is likely to be an Atlantic loan-word; it has obvious parallels in all
the Semitic school languages (there was no reason to taboo it).

Apprehensively yours,
Theo Vennemann.
26 January 1998
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Message 2: Transcription & audio software for Mac

Date: Mon, 26 Jan 1998 09:56:11 +0000
From: Kristine Hasund <>
Subject: Transcription & audio software for Mac

Dear fellow linguists,

does anyone know about software for the Macintosh that links audio and
transcription tools (like SoundWalker for Windows)? I have a set of
recordings (both audiotaped and digitalized), and am searching for Mac
software that can be used in the process of transcribing the recordings.

I will post a summary of the answers.

Kristine Hasund
English dept.
University of Bergen

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Message 3: Optimality and Syntax Acquisition

Date: Tue, 27 Jan 1998 13:37:56 +0100 (MET)
From: Erica Thrift <>
Subject: Optimality and Syntax Acquisition

	I am interested in doing some research in the area of optimality 
theory and the acquisition of syntax (first language). Up until now I 
have not been able to find anything on OT and syntax acquisition, so I 
was wondering if anyone else did (or knows of any work in progress). In 
particular, I want to look at the theoretical implications of OT syntax 
for first language acquisition, but anything about OT and syntx 
acquisition would do. Please email me at:

				Thanks very much!
				Erica Thrift 

Erica Thrift			
HIL/University of Amsterdam
Spuistraat 134, Office 320
1012 VT Amsterdam
The Netherlands

Phone: +31 020 525 4635

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Message 4: Scurrilous data sentences

Date: Mon, 26 Jan 1998 13:41:10 +1100
From: Mary Ellen Ryder <>
Subject: Scurrilous data sentences

I have a friend who needs to know about (preferably fairly recently) 
published books, articles, etc., which have possibly libelous 
opinions or statements about public figures "disguised" as 
linguistic data. For example, in an explanation of factive verbs, 
one might have an example sentence like:

Everyone knows that Rush Limbaugh is a fascist, sexist pig.

Or in an article on non-restrictive relative clauses, something like:

Rush Limbaugh, who should be shot at dawn, goes merrily on.

Data in any language from any country is welcome.

Please include the exact sentence with citation (name of book or 
article, author, publisher, date). Thanks very much and I'll 
share the results with the list.

Mary Ellen Ryder
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