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PostPosted: Sat Jan 07, 2017 1:06 am 
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RAWA wrote:
The Inuit allegedly have 50+ words for snow

Let’s bust a myth: they don’t.

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 09, 2017 7:46 pm 
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korovev wrote:
RAWA wrote:
The Inuit allegedly have 50+ words for snow

Let’s bust a myth: they don’t.

Unfortunately, this misses (and obscures) the whole point which is that Eskimo languages have multiple distinct, unrelated, root morphemes whose concepts can only be conveyed accurately in English by phrases using the word snow and in addition (this is the kicker) none of these morphemes is a generic term for 'snow' in the sense of the English (or German or Italian or ...) word. The question of how many morphemes we are talking about is just a straw-man, and the idea that there is an "Eskimo Vocabulary Hoax" was just Geoffrey Pullum's fantasy.

If you want to learn something significant about diversity in the semantics of human languages, then Language, Thought, and Reality (a posthumous collection of essays by Benjamin Whorf) is a good place to start. This is readily available in the book section at archive.org -- the essay where he mentions Eskimo semantics (briefly) is "Science and Linguistics," which anyone interested in linguistics ought to read, since it was the initial articulation of what became known as the "Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis" and indirectly triggered the "Chomsky Revolution" as a reaction to it.

If you want to understand how different the Eskimoan languages actually are to English then Franz Boas's Handbook of American Indian Languages is also worth at least a glance.

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 10, 2017 12:48 am 
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Khreestrefah wrote:
Eskimo languages have multiple distinct, unrelated, root morphemes whose concepts can only be conveyed accurately in English by phrases using the word snow and in addition (this is the kicker) none of these morphemes is a generic term for 'snow' in the sense of the English (or German or Italian or ...) word

Sure, that’s generally true for any language and concept, in both directions. The myth is the idea that Inuit/Aleut languages are supposedly especially precise about snow because they live in the Arctic; if that were the case, why doesn’t English have 50+ words for ‘rain’? Because you don’t really need to be that precise about annoying-water-from-the-sky. Hunting/fishing is a semantic area that would make more sense to look into, but you never hear “Inuit have 500 words for cod” :P

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 10, 2017 3:16 am 
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korovev wrote:
Khreestrefah wrote:
Eskimo languages have multiple distinct, unrelated, root morphemes whose concepts can only be conveyed accurately in English by phrases using the word snow and in addition (this is the kicker) none of these morphemes is a generic term for 'snow' in the sense of the English (or German or Italian or ...) word

Sure, that’s generally true for any language and concept, in both directions. The myth is the idea that Inuit/Aleut languages are supposedly especially precise about snow because they live in the Arctic; if that were the case, why doesn’t English have 50+ words for ‘rain’? Because you don’t really need to be that precise about annoying-water-from-the-sky. Hunting/fishing is a semantic area that would make more sense to look into, but you never hear “Inuit have 500 words for cod” :P


I think the idea that there are fifty (or more) Eskimo words covering the "snow" concept is worth correcting in itself if it's false. Consider a hypothetical statement that "some African languages have over a hundred genders": the general point's right, but the number is an order of magnitude off. If this passed into a common English phrase, sometimes even elaborated with fine distinctions these genders supposedly make, it would be misleading.

(This discussion reminds me of the D'ni word kirin, whose gloss 'desert sand' implies the existence of multiple words corresponding to the general English sand.)

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 10, 2017 6:12 am 
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I agree with this in principle, but in this case what RAWA actually said is correct as it stands, because he used the adverb "allegedly" and we all seem to agree that there are people who allege as a fact that "The Inuit have 50+ words for snow.". RAWA might have added an smiley (but he was writing to Larry not to us).

As for the underlying sentence itself (conceivably the idea that the actual sentence implied) again this is true, technically, but only tautologically, as it were, since the sentence is comparable to saying something like:

"The English have 50+ phrases for snow."
(In the Eskimoan languages noun-phrases are not divided up into multiple words, so the linguistic terms "word" and "phrase" coincide when talking about these languages.)

If we move on to a similar sentence that might be made more accurate, from reading the webpage Korovev gave the link to, and taking into account my own familiarity with the some of the sources it cites, so as to sort out the truth from the "myths" or misconceptions it contains, I would hazzard:

"The Inuit have somewhere between 5 and 25 morphemes for concepts whose normal expression in English would incorporate the morpheme snow."

But once we go this far the whole effort seems a little bit disingenuous. Again, because how many words for snow the Inuit have was never the linguistic point. Indeed it is clear from this further discussion that "the myth" will always be something different -- now it is:

Quote:
Inuit/Aleut languages are especially precise about snow because they live in the Arctic.

Do we really all agree that we know this statement to be false (rather than merely vague)?
Surely morphemes meaning 'falling snow' or 'snow on the ground' are more precise than a generic term 'snow'. And surely the expression of these concepts as simple morphemes in Arctic languages but apparently not in a lot of other places in the world is no mere accident.

But I suppose to be certain one would need to actually study some real languages and correlate many differences in nuance and entailment of different "words" across multiple languages to determine whether there are any areal patterns that correlate to environment. And of course this cannot be the whole explanation or likely even a major component of it.

Korovev joked about words for 'rain'; though in fact English must easily have 50+ words for 'water' if you include everything for which a normal paraphrase would include the word 'water'. But what this shows, if we want a correlation/explanation, is that English has a tendency to borrow lots of words, which seems to be a cultural rather than environmental explanation for greater morphemic precision in this case. And (of course) this difference was alluded to by Franz Boas in the paragraph that is quoted from him on the webpage linked to by Korovev.

Shorah

P.S. After all that I should not just ignore Talashar's point about D'ni :--)
Quote:
This discussion reminds me of the D'ni word kirin, whose gloss 'desert sand' implies the existence of multiple words corresponding to the general English sand.

The discussion also brings to mind (from the opposite perspective) the words ahnotahm for 'lava' vs. ahbtsee for 'basalt'. But it is less clear whether one of these is generic for the other, given the way they are combined by Aitrus.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 10, 2017 5:50 pm 
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Talashar wrote:
This discussion reminds me of the D'ni word kirin, whose gloss 'desert sand' implies the existence of multiple words corresponding to the general English sand.

Perhaps, but it might have been worded like that simply to distinguish it from the verb, as in “polishing”.

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 10, 2017 6:38 pm 
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korovev wrote:
Talashar wrote:
This discussion reminds me of the D'ni word kirin, whose gloss 'desert sand' implies the existence of multiple words corresponding to the general English sand.

Perhaps, but it might have been worded like that simply to distinguish it from the verb, as in “polishing”.


I don't think "polishing" comes into it -- because RAWA was answering a request for the word for 'sand' or 'desert sand'.

http://mystonline.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=24921

Shorah


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 10, 2017 7:04 pm 
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Talashar wrote:
I think the idea that there are fifty (or more) Eskimo words covering the "snow" concept is worth correcting in itself if it's false.

The general notion of innumeracy reminds me of the odd coincidence that in D'ni the word blo for multiples of 9,765,625 is homophonous with the word blo 'about' (in the sense 'approximately').

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 10, 2017 8:32 pm 
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It's unlikely to be a coincidence. Unique roots for large numbers are very typically the same as words like "many" which are very imprecise. It's not a stretch that a word like that could be co-opted as a preposition meaning "about".

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 10, 2017 10:21 pm 
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I am inclined to agree — which raises the question of which of the two concepts in D’ni was historically the metaphorical one. Or to frame it another way, why was this particular power of 25 considered in some sense equivalent to an approximation.

The “obvious” answer seems to me to be that the D’ni had discovered (perhaps by some theoretical implication of their linking technology) that there was a “practical” limit on the number of branches of the Tree of Possibilities actually reachable by Writing and linking through a Book.

The number blo feels too small to be itself the maximum number of reachable worlds. Just to give a (possibly irrelevant) analogy the number of habitable planets in our galaxy seems to be in the billions. But a number for something like the possible “constraints” that could be articulated in a single Book might be in the millions; and if, say, blo minus one is the maximum, then trying to include blo constraints might be (metaphorically) 'unpredictable' or 'approximate'.

Of course blo is also the number of distinct “words” one can write using 5 letters out of choice of 25 :)

Shorah

P.S. It also occurs to me that five letters is the maximum for spelling a monosyllabic word in D'ni -- for whatever that is worth :wink:


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 11, 2017 11:39 am 
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Khreestrefah wrote:
P.S. It also occurs to me that five letters is the maximum for spelling a monosyllabic word in D'ni -- for whatever that is worth :wink:

Actually, current evidence makes it 4.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 11, 2017 6:55 pm 
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A word with cluster-vowel-cluster is probably just statistically rare rather than phonotactically impossible.

But Kath is right that in the evidence we have so far of D'ni words the longest monosyllables are cluster-vowel-consonant or consonant-vowel-cluster (prin, trel, etc.; merk, roodsh, etc.).

Shorah


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 11, 2017 7:20 pm 
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 12, 2017 3:45 am 
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Regarding the names for the three known residential neighborhoods, Kirel, Bevin, and Seret. RAWA told me that the meanings are unknown. He went on to say that there is "unconfirmed speculation" that they are names of the people who designed particular neighborhoods.

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 12, 2017 9:36 am 
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Do you happen to have OTS versions of the newer words? (I'm an old gassy excretion when it comes to language and still use the old standard).


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