|Author:||Karen Steffen Chung|
|Submitter Email:||click here to access email|
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
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
Heartfelt thanks to:
Diana ben-Aaron firstname.lastname@example.org
Sylvia Bendel email@example.com
Bart de Boer firstname.lastname@example.org
Gordon Brown email@example.com
Wayles Browne firstname.lastname@example.org
John Brownie John_Brownie@sil.org
Vassilis Christodoulou email@example.com
Helmut Daller Helmut.Daller@uwe.ac.uk
Radu Daniliuc firstname.lastname@example.org
Karen Davis email@example.com
Nancy Frishberg firstname.lastname@example.org
Antony Dubach Green email@example.com
Earl Herrick firstname.lastname@example.org
George Huttar email@example.com
John E. Koontz John.Koontz@Colorado.edu
Rina Kreitman firstname.lastname@example.org
Rick McCallister rmccalli@sunmuw1.MUW.Edu
Mark Mandel Mark_Mandel@Dragonsys.com
Mike Moss email@example.com
Mohammed Moubatassime firstname.lastname@example.org
Douglas Mullins email@example.com
Tara L. Narcross firstname.lastname@example.org
Lukasz Pielasa email@example.com
Robert R. Ratcliffe firstname.lastname@example.org
Carsten Sinner email@example.com
Sijmen Tol firstname.lastname@example.org
Larry Trask email@example.com
Cristina Varga firstname.lastname@example.org
Colin Whiteley email@example.com
Sean Witty firstname.lastname@example.org
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
Possible 'international word' candidates (that pass the Chinese test):
[the chemical elements]
Words suggested that didn't pass the Chinese (or some other) test:
coffee* (see note below)
mama (Japanese _haha_)
papa (Japanese _chichi_)
*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 <email@example.com>
**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.Koontz@Colorado.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
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
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