LINGUIST List 9.1779

Mon Dec 14 1998

Sum: International Words

Editor for this issue: Jody Huellmantel <jodylinguistlist.org>


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  1. Karen Steffen Chung, International Words

Message 1: International Words

Date: Sat, 12 Dec 1998 10:27:26 +0800
From: Karen Steffen Chung <karchungccms.ntu.edu.tw>
Subject: International Words

Last August I posted a query regarding 'international' words (LINGUIST
9.1151) like _chocolate_, which seem to end up as phonetic loans in
just about any language/culture that is acquainted with the referent
concerned.

I got quite a few interesting replies, which I've collated below.

I'd like to ask a further question here: Does anyone know of a word or
words for 'chocolate' in native Mexican/Mesoamerican languages? One
correspondent, Antony Dubach Green in Germany, suggested that if any
language had a word for 'chocolate' that is not somehow a phonetic
loan of _chocolate_, it would most likely be a Mexican language, where
chocolate is native (Nahuatl: _xoco_ 'bitter' + _atl_ 'water').

John Koontz gave some very detailed and interesting information on
Omaha-Ponca and Teton Dakotan, offering exmaples of non-cognate words
for 'tea'. See also the note below on 'coffee' in Amharic from Robert
Ratcliffe in Japan. Please reply to me privately if you have any
further input on any of the above data.

John Koontz offered a useful suggestion, i.e. that maybe one cannot be
too absolutist in looking for a word that is a phonetic loan in *all*
known languages. His comment:

> I haven't thought of any potential international non-food terms. I
> wonder, though, if you might not need to be somewhat less than 
> absolute in identifying such terms. Widespread and crossing the 
> boundaries of known relationships, or of known origin, might suffice. 

This makes sense, since words like 'tea' and 'coffee' get pretty
*close* to being 'international' words, based on the data collected so
far.


	Heartfelt thanks to:

Diana ben-Aaron			benaaroncc.helsinki.fi
Sylvia Bendel 			bendelsoziologie.unizh.ch
Bart de Boer 			bartbarti.vub.ac.be
Gordon Brown			gordonbrmicrosoft.com
Wayles Browne			ewb2cornell.edu
John Brownie			John_Browniesil.org
Vassilis Christodoulou		spdieexi.gr
Helmut Daller			Helmut.Dalleruwe.ac.uk
Radu Daniliuc 			srdanassist.cccis.ro
Karen Davis 			kmdaviserols.com
Nancy Frishberg 		nancyffishbird.com
Antony Dubach Green 		greenzas.gwz-berlin.de
Earl Herrick 			kfemh00tamuk.edu
George Huttar			george_huttarsil.org
John E. Koontz 			John.KoontzColorado.edu
Rina Kreitman 			kreitmannetvision.net.il
Rick McCallister 		rmccallisunmuw1.MUW.Edu
Mark Mandel			Mark_MandelDragonsys.com
Mike Moss			mmossfriko2.onet.pl
Mohammed Moubatassime moubtassimefesnet.net.ma
Douglas Mullins 		mullinstky2.3web.ne.jp
Tara L. Narcross		narcross.5pop.service.ohio-state.edu
Lukasz Pielasa 			llukekki.net.pl
Robert R. Ratcliffe 		ratclifffs.tufs.ac.jp 
Carsten Sinner			c.sinnerarrakis.es 
Sijmen Tol			blkonbib.nl
Larry Trask			larrytcogs.susx.ac.uk
Cristina Varga 			cvargalett.ubbcluj.ro
Colin Whiteley			cwhiteleytyco.geis.com
Sean Witty			wittysanhotmail.com

____________________________________________________________________


Below follow lists of possible candidates for international words,
along with others that failed either the Chinese or another language
test, based on the responses I received. I used Mandarin Chinese as a
key test since it is a language that tends to use loan
translations/calques or original coinings where possible rather than
phonetic loans.


Possible 'international word' candidates (that pass the Chinese test):

	alleluia
	bikini
	card
	[the chemical elements]
	chocolate
	cocoa
	curry
	czar/tsar
	golf
	jazz
	ninja
	OK
	sauna
	shock
	T-shirt
	yoga


Words suggested that didn't pass the Chinese (or some other) test:

	alcohol
	allergy
	automobile
	banana
	calculator
	catastrophe
	chess
	class
	climate
	cocktail
	coffee* (see note below)
	computer
	democracy
	detective
	diskette
	elephant
	fax
	football
	garage
	gas
	gay
	hygiene
	jeans
	jogging
	kangaroo
	karate
	mama (Japanese _haha_)
	mass
	metal
	microphone
	muesli
	music
	organisation
	papa (Japanese _chichi_)
	planet
	radio
	rendez-vous
	rock (music)
	sex appeal
	striptease
	sugar
	symbol
	taxi
	tea**
	television
	telephone
	theater
	tiger
	train
	tunnel
	video
	violin
	xerox
	zoom (lens)

___________________________________________________________________

	Notes

*But take Coffee. It is indigenous to the area around the strait of
Bab-el-Mandeb, that is Yemen and Ethiopia. In Yemen (that is in
Arabic) it is called _qahwah_, which becomes _kahve_ in Turkish _kafe_
in Italian _kawfi_ in English _koohi_ in Japanese. But in Ethiopia (at
least in Amharic) it is called _bunn_. This word _bunn_ is also used
in Arabic to refer to fresh coffee beans, before they are roasted and
ground. I hope some Americanist on the list will have an interesting
story to tell about chocolate.

	- Robert R. Ratcliffe <ratclifffs.tufs.ac.jp>
 

**Omaha-Ponca xa'de maN'kkaN 'tea; lit. grass (or herb) medicine'
Omaha-Ponca maN'kkaN sa'be 'coffee; lit. black medicine' Teton Dakotan
c^haNkhal'yapi 'tea; lit. warmed wood (bark)' Teton Dakotan phez^u'ta
sa'pa 'coffee; lit. black medicine (or weed)' Omaha-Ponca and Dakotan
are Siouan languages (North America). In Omaha-Ponca there are no
words for chocolate or curry, though presumably the English terms
would be used, with little or no adaptation. Omaha-Ponca is certainly
not without loan words and certain vocabulary fields (dates, numbers,
English given names) are normally filled with more or less unadapted
English terms. However, I think there is a feeling that such foreign
words are expedients rather than naturalized, and in general there is
some resistance to loans. They seem to be much less prevalent than in
European languages. Calques are more common, often from the old trade
pidgin in the case of European items, e.g., ppe'de niN' 'fire water'
for 'whiskey' (cf. ardent spirits?) or maN'ze ska' 'white metal' for
'money' (cf. French argent?).

	- John E. Koontz John.KoontzColorado.edu

_______________________________________________________________________

Suggested references (heavily weighted toward 'international'
words in European languages only):


Braun, Peter, Burkhard Schaeder, & Johannes Volmert (Hgg.).
1990._Internationalismen: Studien zur interlingualen Lexikologie und
Lexikographie_. Tubingen: Niemeyer. 193 p. (Reihe Germanistische
Linguistik; 102)

Goursau, Henri & Goursau, Monique. 1989. _Dictionnaire europeen des
mots usuels, francais-anglais-allemand-espagnol-italien-portugais_.
Saint-Orens-de-Granville: Edition Goursau.

Walter, Henriette. 1994. _L'aventure des langues en occident_.
Paris: Editions Robert Laffont.



					Karen Steffen Chung
					National Taiwan University
					karchungccms.ntu.edu.tw
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