LINGUIST List 9.1151

Mon Aug 17 1998

Qs: Taboos, Intl Words, Diminutives, Contrasts

Editor for this issue: Martin Jacobsen <>

We'd like to remind readers that the responses to queries are usually best posted to the individual asking the question. That individual is then strongly encouraged to post a summary to the list. This policy was instituted to help control the huge volume of mail on LINGUIST; so we would appreciate your cooperating with it whenever it seems appropriate.


  • Christian Kjaer Nelson, Taboo Words
  • Karen S. Chung, International Words
  • Jan K Lindstrom, Diminutive / Plural
  • Maria Grazia Busa, Cji- / Ci- contrasts

    Message 1: Taboo Words

    Date: Wed, 12 Aug 1998 15:10:47 -0400
    From: Christian Kjaer Nelson <>
    Subject: Taboo Words

    Some time ago, on one of these lists (Linguist List,Language Use List,Linguistic Anthropology List), I read of the phenomenon of avoiding words or even syllables of words just because they *sounded* like taboo words. I even seem to recall the poster reported an instance in which Pat Robertson pardoned himself for using a word that had a syllable sounding like "damn" or "hell" or whatever in it even though that syllable did not at all derive from a taboo word. Anybody save that post, or have any information to share about this that is more specific than what I can (not) remember? Thanks in advance for any help, Christian Nelson

    Dr. Christian K. Nelson Communication Department, Machmer Hall Box 34815 University of Massachusetts Amherst, MA 01003-4815 USA 413/545-6345

    Message 2: International Words

    Date: Mon, 17 Aug 1998 18:28:24 +0800 (CST)
    From: Karen S. Chung <>
    Subject: International Words

    The other day my 12-year-old daughter suggested that 'chocolate' seems to be a truly 'international word' - and offhand I couldn't think of any language I'd studied in which the word for 'chocolate' was anything but a phonetic loan of some kind. Does anybody know of a language with a non-'chocolate'-sounding word for 'chocolate'?

    And I wonder if there are any other such words, e.g. tea? Coffee? Curry? Are there any 'international' non-food words, I wonder?

    Please respond to me privately and I'll post a summary if there is enough interest.

    Karen Steffen Chung National Taiwan University

    Message 3: Diminutive / Plural

    Date: Mon, 17 Aug 1998 15:20:02 +0300 (EET DST)
    From: Jan K Lindstrom <>
    Subject: Diminutive / Plural

    I have been studying different uses of reduplication and diminution, and I have come across a source that is indefinite about a linguistic example. It is probable that the laguage belongs to a Polynesian (or Melanyi) group, but can there be more precision about it? The example I am referring to is following KAPIR 'stone' KAPIR-KAPIR 'small stones'

    The interesting thing about this example is that it shows a connection between plural and diminutive meanings. If there are further examples of such an interplay in any language, I would be grateful to hear about them!

    Jan K. Lindstrom Assistant Scandinavian Languages and Literature University of Helsinki

    Message 4: Cji- / Ci- contrasts

    Date: Fri, 14 Aug 1998 19:49:55 +0200 (MET DST)
    From: Maria Grazia Busa <>
    Subject: Cji- / Ci- contrasts


    I would very much appreciate any examples of languages which contrast -i- and -ji- after initial consonants. (English has such a contrast only word-initially, e.g. 'ear' vs. 'year'.)

    I'm interested in contemporary spoken languages, not textual or reconstructed languages. (Written Tibetan has such a contrast, but its actual articulation is unknown.)

    If anyone has more general information on how prevalent such contrasts are in the world's languages, and what types of consonants they are more likely to occur after, that would be great, too. (Ladefoged and Maddieson's Sounds of the World's Languages has no info on this.)

    I'm borrowing a friend's account to post this query since I'm not on the list, so I'd appreciate it if you could send replies to me directly at: Thanks,

    Zev Handel