Re: searching for common words for all today's languages

From: Richard Wordingham
Message: 43357
Date: 2006-02-11

--- In, "mkelkar2003" <smykelkar@...> wrote:

> It is unlikely that a language would borrow a word for "water" from
> another language. G & R's methods are undoubtedly more speculative
> than IELs', but the words they have found are very basic. Water is #
> 150 on the Swadesh list.

No. 150 is not particularly stable. When I drew up the *100* word
list for Thai in the recommended manner - taking first word from the
dictionary, I was horrified to find obviously Pali/Sanskrit words
appearing. I've just flicked through the list of meanings and checked
against a different dictionary, and found a whole cluster:

40. wife - P/S
41. husband - P/S
42. mother - native
43. father - P/S
44. animal - P/S
45. fish - native
46. bird - native
47. dog - P/S

That's mostly a register issue with the dictionary - I know the native
word for all these but no. 44. However, the list you pointed at is
*not* sorted by stability - it has the numbers 'one' to 'five' in
sequence, whereas the stablest numbers are 'two' and 'five'. Thus
perhaps it is not so surprising that the polite words for the family
members should all be loans - you can add the words for 'son' and
'daughter' as well. It might be sheer luck that the P/S word for
'mother' wasn't the first word listed. Number systems can also be
replaced. The words' survival is not independent.

Another thing to note is that these lists were not originally drawn up
for conservatism - they were drawn up as concepts every language
should have a word for. 'Road' is a concept that changes its word
very rapidly indeed.

Finally, 'water' words can be borrowed for specific senses - isn't
*akwa: 'running water'?