LINGUIST List 5.1259

Wed 09 Nov 1994

Disc: Eskimo "snow"

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  • Douglas J. Glick, Re: 5.1239 Eskimo "snow"
  • , 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):

    snowflake fine snow/rain particles hardpack ice lens (snow) powder snow bank snow cornice snow fort snow house snow man snow-mixed-with-rain? snowstorm

    ESKIMO 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

    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