Re: Pseudo-cognates

From: Richard Wordingham
Message: 15527
Date: 2002-09-16

--- In cybalist@..., Piotr Gasiorowski <piotr.gasiorowski@...>
> It might be instructive to collect a cautionary list of
pseudo-cognates, i.e. words so spectacularly similar in form and
meaning that anyone but a linguist (who can _prove_ that they are not
related) would take a connection for granted. Oft-quoted handbook
examples include:
> Eng. day / Lat. die:s 'day'
> Eng. bad / Farsi bad 'bad'
> Gk. tHeos 'god' / Lat. deus 'god'
> Mod.Gk. máti 'eye'/ Indonesian mata 'eye'
> I'd add things like
> Eng. much / Sp. mucho
> Eng. freeze / Lat. fri:geo: (no, <fridge> and <freezer> aren't
> Any ideas? The condition is that the pseudo-cognacy should be due to
pure chance (which excludes onomatopoeia, nursery words and the like).
> Piotr

Eng. die (v.) / Thai taai 'die'
(The /t/ is written 'dt' in some teaching books to emphasis the
difference from English /t/ (= Thai /th/) and English /d/).

I don't know how much the following cross-pair should be excluded:

Eng. ma 'mother' / Thai maa 55 'horse'
Eng. mare / Thai mae 42 'mummy'

The problems are that ma & mae are nursery words (with phor 42 'daddy'
completing the pair!) and that 'maa', presumably an early loan from
Chinese, may actually be derived from (Western?) IE *markos 'horse'.

Then again, there are some pairs I can't quite exclude:

Old Norse hvalr 'whale' / Thai (plaa 33) wa:n 33 'whale'

'Plaa' is a classificatory prefix, 'fish'. The Thai is spelt <wa:L>,
where the 'L' is an extra letter (beyond the Sanskrit set) used for
the 'l' of 'Tamil' - 'lor julaa'. But <wa:l> is already used for a
Sanskrit-looking word. Torsten might have some wild thoughts on this

Finally, I'd love to know if Thai 'phaen 24' is related to English
'plan'. Semantically it's a beautiful fit - add the word for 'place'
and you get 'map'; add the word for 'action' and you get 'plan of
action'. There's no 'l' in the spelling. But the change phl > ph is
common South-West Tai (sic) - 1st millenium AD or earlier, and
following the change b > ph, educated Thai is full of native words in
'phl-'. If the word were borrowed today, I'd expect it to be borrowed
as *phlaen 33.