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

From: mkelkar2003
Message: 43359
Date: 2006-02-11

--- In, "Richard Wordingham" <richard@...> wrote:
> --- 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'?
> Richard.

The following list for Thai does have water, drink, rain in the top
100. They are in "semantic" order. It may mean they are the 100 most
stable words.

For Marathi and Hindi water and rain appear in the first 100

Also see:

Below is an interesting paper. pages 10-13. For a 35 world list PIE
has most cognates in Old Chinese

"i (vincent decaen) ran a rigorous crosstabulation of 200+ core vocab
items (Swadesh list)
against proposed members of the sino-caucasian/dene-caucasian phylum and
found results sufficient to maintain it as a working hypothesis; in
addition i crosstabulated grammatical formatives.

A review of Kesseler's book "The Significance of Word Lists"

M. kelkar