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Summary Details


Query:   International Words
Author:  Karen Steffen Chung
Submitter Email:  click here to access email
Linguistic LingField(s):   General Linguistics
Lexicography

Summary:   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 benaaron@cc.helsinki.fi
Sylvia Bendel bendel@soziologie.unizh.ch
Bart de Boer bartb@arti.vub.ac.be
Gordon Brown gordonbr@microsoft.com
Wayles Browne ewb2@cornell.edu
John Brownie John_Brownie@sil.org
Vassilis Christodoulou spdi@eexi.gr
Helmut Daller Helmut.Daller@uwe.ac.uk
Radu Daniliuc srdan@assist.cccis.ro
Karen Davis kmdavis@erols.com
Nancy Frishberg nancyf@fishbird.com
Antony Dubach Green green@zas.gwz-berlin.de
Earl Herrick kfemh00@tamuk.edu
George Huttar george_huttar@sil.org
John E. Koontz John.Koontz@Colorado.edu
Rina Kreitman kreitman@netvision.net.il
Rick McCallister rmccalli@sunmuw1.MUW.Edu
Mark Mandel Mark_Mandel@Dragonsys.com
Mike Moss mmoss@friko2.onet.pl
Mohammed Moubatassime moubtassime@fesnet.net.ma
Douglas Mullins mullins@tky2.3web.ne.jp
Tara L. Narcross narcross.5@pop.service.ohio-state.edu
Lukasz Pielasa lluke@kki.net.pl
Robert R. Ratcliffe ratcliff@fs.tufs.ac.jp
Carsten Sinner c.sinner@arrakis.es
Sijmen Tol bl@konbib.nl
Larry Trask larryt@cogs.susx.ac.uk
Cristina Varga cvarga@lett.ubbcluj.ro
Colin Whiteley cwhiteley@tyco.geis.com
Sean Witty wittysan@hotmail.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 <ratcliff@fs.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.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
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
karchung@ccms.ntu.edu.tw

LL Issue: 9.1779
Date Posted: 14-Dec-1998
Original Query: Read original query


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