DIXON: THE WORD FOR DOG.

In a previous entry I promised a series of posts with excerpts from Dixon’s Memoirs of a Field Worker, and since three commenters in that thread mentioned the story of the Mbabaram word for ‘dog,’ I think I’ll start with that. Here’s the setup:

When Ken Hale had sent the Jabugay tape, he’d urged me to find a speaker of Barbaram, the apparently aberrant language that Lizzie Simmons ["eighty years old, toothless, and cranky"–p. 54] had declined to speak to us. Certainly Dyirbal and Jabugay had very normal Australian grammar and vocabulary, not radically different from the Western Desert language, almost two thousand miles away. But from the few words that Norman Tindale had published of Barbaram, that language looked really different.
People at Mareeba had mentioned Albert Bennett, at Petford, and early one Sunday morning I set out to try to locate him… Albert was an oldish, square-framed man with curly grey hair. He was sitting stolidly on a bench just outside his open front door. I introduced myself, but he really wasn’t very interested. He didn’t remember any Barbaram language, but who’d want it anyway? What good was it?… Finally he volunteered a word.
“You know what we call ‘dog’?” he asked. I waited anxiously. “We call it dog.” My heart sank… [pp. 105-107]

And here’s the payoff, from his visit the following year:

Barbaram was still a major priority… I met the third and last living member of the Barbaram tribe, Jimmy Taylor, who had walked down from his barracks near the store… We had a good session, getting another seventy-five words and—even more important—bits of grammar… Most exciting of all, I could see a relationship between Barbaram and the other languages I’d studied. “Stomach” is bamba in Dyirbal but mba in Barbaram; “we two” is ngali in Dyirbal and Wagaman but li in Barbaram… Barbaram had simply dropped off the initial vowel and consonant… So Barbaram did seem to be a language of the Australian family, only it had undergone a quite regular change that had produced odd-looking words. Stress probably shifted from first syllable (as in Dyirbal) to second syllable—bámba to bambá. Then the first syllable was gradually dropped off in pronunciation, yielding modern mbá… [Dixon discovers at this point that the name of the language is actually Mbabaram and not Tindale's "Barbaram."]
Four years later, when I was spending a year at Harvard and first met Ken Hale, he pointed out that the e and o had developed in Mbabaram in the same sort of way as in some languages he had worked on from further up the Cape York Peninsula. An a in the second syllable of a word had become o if the word had originally begun with g. So from guwa “west”, Mbabaram had derived wo. We were sitting on a bench near Gloucester, Massachusetts one Sunday in September when Ken suddenly saw the etymology for dog “dog”. It came from an original gudaga, which is still the word for dog in Yidin (Dyirbal has shortened it to guda). The initial g would have raised the a in the second syllable to o, the initial gu dropped and so did the final a (another common change in the development of Mbabaram). Ergo, gudaga became dog—a one in a million accidental similarity of form and meaning in two unrelated languages. It was because this was such an interesting coincidence, that Albert Bennett had thought of it as the first word to give me. [pp. 125-129]

For a linguist, that kind of insight is as thrilling and beautiful as a really nice proof for a mathematician (which is what I once intended to be, and I still remember my excitement on understanding Gödel’s proof when I read this excellent book). And now I have another instance to set beside my standard Persian bad ‘bad’ when explaining to people that similar words are not necessarily related.

Comments

  1. LH, did you know that Dixon was also a mathematician before switching to linguistics?

  2. Chance resemblances between Indo-European and Austronesian words are always fun…
    “two”
    dua (Malay, Sundanese, Balinese, Ilokano, etc.)
    due (Italian), duo (Latin), dua (Pashto)
    “eat”
    mangan (Javanese, Ilokano, Kapampangan)
    mangiare (Italian), manger (French)
    “same”
    sama (Malay)
    samma (Swedish), same (English)
    “heart”
    hati (Malay)
    hjärta (Swedish), heart (English)

  3. nomis: No, I didn’t, but there seems to be a correlation. I’ve known other cases.

  4. Chance resemblances between Indo-European and Austronesian words are always fun…
    Hmmm, Ben.
    Let us first note that Australian languages are not Austronesian languages. I imagine, but do not know, that some northern Australian languages may have some influence from Austronesian languages, since there was intercourse between our continent and SE Asia for many centuries.
    Next, while I not an expert in the area, I put it to you that some of the resemblances you remark upon are not due to chance. At least in the case of sama, there seems to be a direct link with the Sanskrit (and to English, Russian, and so on). Malay and other Austronesian languages have a good deal of vocabulary from Sanskrit (and also Pali, etc.?) because of the ancient dominance of Indian religions and culture in the region.
    A good resource:
    http://crcl.th.net/indic/indo.htm

  5. Why should any Australian language have a truly ancient “indigenous” and un-Indo-European word for dog, in any case? Indigenous Australians have been here for tens of thousands of years; but dingoes (the “native dogs”, which came from SE Asia) for only an estimated five thousand. And then, any extension of vocabulary beyond dingoes to cover dogs in general must come after European settlement, which brought dogs other than dingoes.
    It would take some argument to convince me that the Mbabaram word is not derived (simply or complexly) from the English word dog.

  6. Huh? Did you read the second part of the post? The word is derived by perfectly regular sound change from the inherited and well-attested gudaga. To think that they happened to borrow a word which happened to coincide with the word they would have had if they’d inherited one is… well, “unlikely” is so severe an understatement I’m at a loss for words.

  7. Huh? Did you read the second part of the post?
    Sure I did! Let’s focus especially on this:
    It came from an original gudaga, which is still the word for dog in Yidin (Dyirbal has shortened it to guda).
    If this is correct, whence, in the light of my observations about dingos and dogs generally in Australia, did gudaga come from?
    I wanted an argument, recall accurately, that the Mbabaram word is not derived (simply or complexly) from the English word dog. And I would want that argument to show that the current Mbabaram word is not etymologically overdetermined.

  8. Do you really think the inhabitants of Australia spent 5,000 years waiting for someone to come and tell them what to call dingoes?

  9. Do you really think the inhabitants of Australia spent 5,000 years waiting for someone to come and tell them what to call dingoes?
    No. Did you think I might? We’re discussing Aboriginal words for dog; I was providing some background (accurate, I hope: but I’m ready to be corrected concerning it), since many here will not be aware of these facts.

  10. Noetica, I never claimed that Australian languages are Austronesian. I was simply providing LH with more examples of chance resemblances across language families. And also, I’m well aware of the Sanskrit influence in Malay and other regional languages, but none of the examples I gave are Sanskrit-derived.

  11. I never claimed that Australian languages are Austronesian.
    Ben, sorry if my intention was unclear. For the record I do not say that you make that claim, in your quite interesting post. It’s just that, in the context, it may not have been clear to all readers that the focus had shifted to Austronesian from Australian. I have seen the two confused before.
    As for sama, what is your evidence for it not being derived from Sanskrit? The resource I cite certainly suggests a connexion.

  12. Why should any Australian language have a truly ancient “indigenous” and un-Indo-European word for dog
    If dingoes have been in Australia for 5,000 years, the chances are pretty good that Australian languages have non-Indo-European words for ‘dingo’. If we assume that gudaga > dog originally referred to ‘dingo’ and was extended to cover other types of dog, there’s no need to postulate any Indo-European influence.

  13. Yes, Nomis. If! I’d want more information on whether this is a safe assumption.
    The relations between the classes dingo and dog in modern Australian English are problematic. Relatedly, so are law and regulation concerning them.
    If Lindy Chamberlain had cried out “A dog’s got my baby!”, very few who heard her would think she meant to include the case covered by “A dingo’s got my baby!” Of any who did think that, most would have thought that there was either a misuse of the language or else a misperception.
    For all we know, on the evidence given here so far, the relations between dingo and dog are similarly problematic in indigenous Australian languages and cultures, and also in the complex pidgin and creole languages and the milieux associated with them.

  14. Here’s a site where you can find many ‘Amazing Coincidences in Linguistics’ including the Mbabaram word for dog. (I sure hope the html works properly in these comments, otherwise readers will see silly code!)
    I’m not sure, but I’m willing to bet there’s some connection between at least some of those Malay words (dua, etc.) and Sanskrit. One scholar of the Malay language suggested that only three Malay words are actually of Malay origin: batu (stone), kayu (wood), and babi (pig). Everything else came from Sanskrit (and later Hindi), Arabic, Javanese, Portuguese, Chinese, and of course English. I think there must be more than three words of Malay origin, but I can also see that, given the fact that so much of what you can find in a Malay dictionary came from elsewhere, the large number of coincidences might not be coincidences at all, kan?

  15. OK, much to comment on. Sorry for the list and the lecture-tone.
    * Dingos aren’t dogs, they’re mostly closely related to wolves of SE Asia, hence Noetica’s comments.
    * Words for both dog and dingo are highly varied and hard to etymologise over much of Australia. Dingo itself is supposed to come from the word for camp dog in (I think) Guugu Yimidhirr – I can’t check this now but will do so tomorrow.
    * Malay dua has no connection to Indo-European, as far as I know; there are cognates with r- and l- all over Oceania.
    * There are indeed many loanwords from Austonesian languages in Northern Australian languages. Nick Evans wrote a nice paper on Iwaidjan loan stratigraphy (they got borrowed over about 500 years and show different participation in sound changes). There are about 800 Austronesian loans in Yolngu, according to David Zorc, such as compass points (dhimurru – east, dhalathaŋ – south, bärra’ – west), there’s a class of uninflecting verbs that are all Austronesian in origin, pipe terms, etc.

  16. This gets more and more interesting…
    What would be good to know is whether Mbabaram (or any related language) has a separate word for dingo. Anyone know what the general pattern is in Australian languages? I just had a look at dictionaries for three languages, of which Kayardild appears to have one word for both, while Ngalooma and Warlpiri have separate words.

  17. Mark Rosenfelder has a great page on this very topic: “How likely are chance resemblances between languages?”. It’s very much worth reading even if you have no more than a smidgin of probability theory.

  18. Bardi has separate words, as do all Nyulnyulan languages where both are documented. Yolŋu Matha (can’t speak for all varieties, but the ones I know) has different words. Arrernte and Kaytetye have separate words, I’m pretty sure.

  19. Any idea where the words come from Claire? Particularly those for ‘dog’, which must be more recent.

  20. nope, sorry. They’ll all a pain for etymology. but fwiw the Nyulnyulan word for dog, *yiila, has regular correspondences in the languages (Bardi iila, Nyulnyul yil, Nyikina yila, for example) so it’s a good candidate for Proto-Nyulnyulan.

  21. The words I gave in Malay, etc. for “two”, “eat”, and “(figurative) heart” are pure Austronesian. My apologies about sama — didn’t realize that one had a Sanskrit root. Live and learn.

  22. David Costa says:

    Wikipedia says that “the name dingo comes from the Eora Aboriginal tribe who were the original inhabitants of the Sydney area.” Couldn’t say whether this is true or not.

  23. This gets more and more interesting…
    It sure does. Sorry I was so dismissive, Noetica; I had no idea the situation was so messy. This is all making me very nostalgic for my days as a proto-linguist…

  24. “Dingos aren’t dogs, they’re mostly closely related to wolves of SE Asia, hence Noetica’s comments.”
    I think that at the level of ethnozoology, this fact is unimportant. Dogs are closely enough related to coyotes, wolves, and foxes to interbreed, and some dogs resemble wolves more than they do other dogs. Furthermore, the aborigines had never seen wolves. To me the statement “dingos are dogs” is true, because dogs are just tame canines.
    Whether native Australians agree is unknown to me. If there are distinct words, does that mean that native Australians think that dingos aren’t dogs and dogs aren’t dingos; or does it mean that dogs are a subset of dingos; or that dingos are a subset of dogs (as we would say)?

  25. michael farris says:

    not having the vaguest idea of how Australian languages work but having some knowledge about how semantic fields operate and how native peoples react to new, imported animals, my working hypothesis would be:
    in the great majority of languages the native word for Dingo (however it arose) would be extended to the dogs that arrived with Europeans (perhaps with some sort of derivational modification, perhaps not). Perhaps in some cases, the word for dingo would come to be applied exclusively to european dogs and the word for Dingo would have some sort of derivational modficiation (this happened with pig and possum in a couple of SE US Indian languages).
    I think English borrowings for one or both might also displace the local name(s) for dog/dingoes but in this case, it does look more like regular phonetic changes yielding a chance resemblance. Of course it’s quite possible that the last few speakers thought the word was borrowed from English.

  26. In support of Michael’s working hypothesis: I did fieldwork on a coastal language of New Guinea in which the ‘native’ neologisms for new kinds of passenger vehicles extend the meaning of ‘canoe’, so that submarine was ‘underwater canoe’ and airplane was ‘treetop canoe’. Of course, most of the time, people just used borrowed words, like Tok Pisin balus ‘airplane’ (itself extended from the Tolai word for ‘pigeon’, I believe).
    I’m not sure how to render ‘submarine’ into Tok Pisin. Probably bot bilong ananit long solwara (boat of underneath in/to/at sea [< saltwater]).
    Another of my favorites along these lines is the Romanian way to distinguish two vegetables that originated in the New World: tomatoes are ‘reds’ (rosii) and eggplants are ‘purples’ (vinete), both subtypes of patlagele (whatever a patlagea used to be).

  27. Must have been an eggplant; that’s the pan-Mediterranean word. Persian bādingān was borrowed into Arabic as bādinjān (which is now the Persian word as well) and from there it spread in a wondrous variety of forms, such as Catalan albergínia (the source of English aubergine). The Romanian word clearly comes from Turkish patlıcan (also the source of Russian баклажан baklazhan), but I’m not sure of the relation of the Turkish word to the Arabo-Persian. I should really do a post on this.

  28. Thanks, LH. Yes, Rom. patlagea (final stress) patterns like such Turkish borrowings as cafea ‘coffee’, saltea ‘mattress’, pijama ‘pajama’, basma ‘headscarf’, mahala ‘slum’.

  29. yes, please do a post on words for eggplant, they are incredibly cool! don’t forget brinjal while we’re at it.
    Eora is probably right, I couldn’t remember if it was a Sydney word or a CYP word.
    Relevant here before we all say what semantic extensions we expect everone to make is that there’s often a split between words for wild dog and tame dog. E.g. yolŋu rirrpi-rirrpi or wärrany (scary dog) vs wuŋgan or waṯu (tame dog).
    Michael, I wish I had your confidence in how semantic fields and extension operate. For example, if I saw a kangaroo without having a name for it, I think “rat” is not the first I’d pick. But that was what Dutch settlers to WA called them. And if I saw a horse, I don’t think I’d call it a kangaroo, but that’s an attested source of a word for horse in some Aboriginal languages. The more I do historical linguistics the less confidence I have in generalisations like this.

  30. michael farris says:

    The principal I’m talking about is that new animals often get names of already known animals though the similarities may not be immediately obvious. Both rat-kangaroo and kangaroo-horse seem completely reasonable though sheep as big-rabbits [Koasati] seems a little odd to me.
    I’m not saying that happened every time just that it’s a reasonable assumption rather than assume that English semantics (dingo =/= dog) apply to aboriginal naming patterns and that it’s economical to assume that dogs would most likely be incorporated into whatever category dingoes inhabited previously (real evidence they didn’t would trump hypotheticals though).

  31. LH:
    Dismissive? No problem. An understandable reaction.
    Claire:
    For example, if I saw a kangaroo without having a name for it, I think “rat” is not the first I’d pick. But that was what Dutch settlers to WA called them.
    I had thought that the Dutch in WA considered the quokkas to be rats, and this is how Rottnest Island got its name (= rat-nest). I was on Rottnest very recently, and handfed some rather tame quokkas. Cute, and not entirely unratlike in size and general conformation.
    SOED on quokka:
    A small rare short-tailed wallaby, Setonix brachyurus, of coastal scrub in SW Australia.
    Are you sure that other macropods were also called rats?
    I wonder also about the propriety of calling dingoes wolves (as you do above), in any but a very loose and assimilative sense. Some binomials to conjure with, which may be germane:
    Canis familiaris
    [common, normally tame and domestic, dog]
    Canis lupus
    [wolf]
    Canis dingo
    [dingo]
    And while we’re at it:
    Vulpes
    [fox genus; Vulpes vulpes is the common red fox]
    I know that Canis dingo and Canis familiaris can interbreed freely, for what that classic criterion is worth. (I was for a year the custodian of a dingo-German Shepherd cross, and a beautiful and smart beast it was, too.) And it is said that Canis familiaris arose from Canis lupus. Can they, and do they, still freely interbreed? I doubt that foxes can, with any of the other types mentioned here.
    Just more grist, for those still interested. I’m sure that these classifications are disputed anyway, and are of limited and provisional use only.
    Michael:
    principal
    = principle [*ahem*!] A mere slip, I’m sure.

  32. Claire:
    O, correction. You don’t say that dingoes are wolves, but they are most closely related to “wolves of SE Asia”. I should have more accurately wondered, and now do, whether this is right. Are there wolves properly so-called in SE Asia, and if so, are dingoes most closely related to them, or rather to some other Canis of SE Asia?

  33. re my previous point, David Nash rightly points out that the rat-kangaroo thing isn’t right – they were quokkas. BUT, and this kind of does support my point (assuming we can rule out bad eyesight), in 1658 they were assumed to be a type of cat. It was when De Vlamingh landed in 1696 that he thought they were rats (hence “Rottenest” (= rats’ nest) Is off the coast of WA). And, incidentally again, while I clearly got that wrong, I’m sure I’ve read of another case of kangaroos/wallabies being classified as rats … off to hunt for it.. actually, I think it’s in a book that lives in Boston (the perils of a long-distance relationship).

  34. Aren’t they supposed to be more closely related to Canis lupus? I’m going on my memory of a 2004 study of Dingo DNA.
    Yeah, they’re lovely creatures. Except when they live under your house and get upset at 3am.

  35. Dingos *and* vinete. This is very, very good.

  36. A useful site concerning dingoes and others of genus Canis:
    http://www.lioncrusher.com/animal.asp?animal=168
    See especially the taxonomic note at the end.

  37. michael farris says:

    Noetica, no, actually probably not a slip but a consistent generalized tendency in internet writing for phonetic substitutions (I don’t do it in other kinds of writing). I’m not the only one either, some bloggers do so with some frequency. (I don’t confuse they’re, there, their in other types of writing either but do so continuously in posting, sometimes I catch it, sometimes I don’t).

  38. I understand, Michael. It happens to me too.

  39. What, it happens to you too, N(A)? And to you, Michael?
    I feel better and better, what with the previous vindication of my “to no end” usage and this phonetical mix-ups (in the ;etter to a friend I just substituted thing for think)
    Yes, please, LH, I too would love to see a post on baklajan, my favorite August vegetable. Do you know in Southern Ukraine we still call it синий (синенький) >/i>?
    Dingo: since reading this book at the tender age of 9 I’m convinced dingo is indeed “a dog from the wild”.

  40. John Atkinson says:

    Nomis:
    > LH, did you know that Dixon was also a mathematician before switching to linguistics?
    Good thing he changed fields then! In his original Dyirbal book (1972), he gives what he says is a mathematical justification for “50% equilibrium level for adjacent languages” hypothesis. His maths is hopeless — based on the assumptions he makes in his mathematical model, adjacent languages would end up 100% identical, not 50%. Alpha and Nash (Austr J Ling, 1999) point this out. In Dixon’s second Cambridge Green Book, “Australian Languages”, 2002, Dixon not only repeats his derivation completely unchanged, but makes detailed reference to other aspects of A&N’s article in the same section! Apparently, he read their refutation, but didn’t realise what it was.
    As a mathematician, he’s a great linguist.

  41. John Atkinson says:

    David Costa:
    > Wikipedia says that “the name dingo comes from the Eora Aboriginal tribe who were the original inhabitants of the Sydney area.” Couldn’t say whether this is true or not.
    True. Both the words used by the white settlers for dingos are from the Sydney language Dharug (of which the “Eora” were a subgroup). “Dingo” is from /din-gu/ or /dayn-gu/, domesticated dingo. “Warrigal” is from /warrigal/, wild dingo. (Ref: Dixon, Australian Aboriginal Words in English”)
    All the Australian languages I’ve come across seem to have separate, unrelated, words for domesticated and wild dingos. The actual words vary widely.

  42. Another vote for an eggplant word roundup.
    Recall (from, among other places, Hackers Greenblatt and Gosper chapter) that Chinese restaurant menu for tomato is 番茄 (fan1 qie2) ‘barbarian eggplant’.

  43. NO, NO, NO – this is the book you want to read to find out about Gödel’s proof: Gödel, Escher, Bach by Douglas R. Hofstadter.
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0465026567/104-0376951-2066313?v=glance&n=283155
    It’s probably the single best book I’ve read over the past 5 years.

  44. Guy, no offense, but you haven’t a clue what you’re talking about. I loved GEB too, but it’s no match for Nagel and Newman’s mathematical insight. Hofstadter is a Professor of Cognitive Science and Computer Science; Adjunct Professor of History and Philosophy of Science, Philosophy, Comparative Literature, and Psychology. Do you see “Mathematics” in there? No, neither do I. I don’t suppose you’ve actually looked at the book I mentioned? No, I didn’t think so. You might want to do that before dismissing it.

  45. I found GEB much more accessible than N&N. Note that Hofstadter’s degree was in mathematical physics, and he is at pains to praise N&N.

  46. marie-lucie says:

    LH: Catalan albergínia (the source of English aubergine)
    Then why doesn’t English say albergínia? Aubergine is the French word (une aubergine), much more likely than albergínia as the immediate source of the English word. I think you skipped over one step: English borrowed the French word, which was itself borrowed and adapted from Catalan. In turn, the initial al shows the addition of the Arabic article to the originally Persian word, something most likely to have occurred in the Iberian peninsula where many Arabic words were borrowed with their article, as a unit.

  47. I was giving a quick-and-dirty explanation in a comment. Check out the aubergine post for details.

  48. Treesong says:

    Noetica’s argument, as I understand it (‘where did gudaga come from?’), is that that ‘dog’ was most likely borrowed into some ancestral Cape York language(s) as gudaga, which developed into dog in Mbabaram. This assumes that
    (1) they didn’t see any reason to call dogs ‘dingos’ despite the clear resemblance, including the fact that dingos were the only placental mammals on the continent besides rodents and bats,
    (2) they borrowed ‘dog’ as gudaga, accent on the ‘gu’ (per http://books.google.com/books?id=fXI3AAAAIAAJ&pg=PR22&lpg=PR22&dq=dyirbal+guda&source=bl&ots=oU3pxuTbnn&sig=s2YHExzebJEn4GXMwTf4pO2VvXo&hl=en#v=snippet&q=dingo&f=false), even though ‘dog’ seems easy to borrow as dog;
    (3) the borrowed word then was extended to dingos (see snippet above), and
    (4) in under two centuries since the borrowing (British settlement dates only to 1788 around Sydney, 1865 in Cape York) the borrowed-into language has diversified into Mbabaram, Dyirbal, Yidin, and other languages, with such significant changes as truncation of first syllables in Mbabaram.
    Yeah, right. I’d say the burden of proof is on Noetica.

  49. Yeah, it looked to me as if Noetica took a position without really thinking it through, then dug in and didn’t want to rethink it. His position really doesn’t make sense.

  50. Treesong says:

    This is stupid, but I have to scratch the itch: change ‘rodents and bats’ above to ‘rodents, bats, and humans’.

  51. marie-lucie says:

    Noetica is a delightful person and a wonderful writer, but he is not a linguist. Claire is an acknowledged specialist in Australian languages.
    dog and gudaga:
    I don’t know Australian languages, but in any language a word of more than one syllable could be derived from another one. Animals are often called by a descriptive word (the hopper, the howler, the brown one, etc) and gudaga could have been such a word in the Mbabaram language, now only used to mean ‘dog’. Alternately, in at least some aboriginal Australian cultures there are strong taboos which prevent using ordinary language (eg against pronouncing the name of a deceased person and even words similar to it) and therefore require the creation of new words, so speakers are used to forming new words “out of the blue”, and gudaga could be such an ad hoc creation. These are some possible explanations for the resemblance of the middle portion -dag- with English ‘dog’.

  52. Well, the basic fact is that there are many, many such coincidences—there are many languages and a limited repertoire of vowels and consonants—but it is very hard for people to accept coincidence as an explanation, so they try to find others that seem likelier to them.

  53. At the present time, wolves, dogs, and dingoes are all Canis lupus, respectively C. lupus lupus, C. lupus domesticus, and C. lupus dingo. There are about 35 other subspecies extant and extinct.

  54. Treesong says:

    Marie-lucie, it seems to me that the processes you describe could apply to any word, but only the last might argue for gudaga being coined from nonnative vocabulary like ‘dog’. I suppose that if the word for ‘dingo’ became taboo then users might make a new one from the strangers’ dingo word. That does add one more coincidence to the tale of the adoption of a borrowing and I think it makes objection 4 slightly stronger.

  55. To all the people who insist that it is the most natural thing in the world for the Aborigines to use their own word for ‘dingo’ (or at least ‘domesticated dingo’) for the introduced dog, I would first like to know what the situation on the ground is. What is the naming of dogs and dingoes in Australian languages? As Noetica pointed out, for the white man, at least, the dingo is not a dog. Even if sometimes characterised as the ‘native wild dog’, a dingo is a dingo, a dog is a dog.

  56. marie-lucie says:

    Treesong: Marie-lucie, it seems to me that the processes you describe could apply to any word, but only the last might argue for gudaga being coined from nonnative vocabulary like ‘dog’. I suppose that if the word for ‘dingo’ became taboo then users might make a new one from the strangers’ dingo word.
    I was not suggesting that gudaga incorporated the English word “dog” (and then lost some of the added elements). I don’t know much about Australian languages except for some generalities, but I have not heard that native Australians formed new words using elements from the languages of strangers. An Australianist like Claire would probably know if that scenario was plausible or not.
    BAthrobe: To all the people who insist that it is the most natural thing in the world for the Aborigines to use their own word for ‘dingo’ (or at least ‘domesticated dingo’) for the introduced dog …
    Indeed, it is not natural, any more than it would have been natural for the English settlers to call the dingo “Australian dog” instead of adopting the native word from the first people they encountered. Did Spanish or English settlers of Western North America call the coyote “American dog” or “Mexican dog”? Such phrases might occur to taxonomists doing scientific subclassifications eg Canis [lupus [domesticus]]], but not to ordinary people intending to live in places where they will have to coexist with these animals, which already have a name in local languages (and in the American case, varieties of dogs were also kept locally, sufficiently similar to European dogs that there was no need to invent or borrow a different name in any of the languages newly in contact).

  57. Indeed, it is not natural, any more than it would have been natural for the English settlers to call the dingo “Australian dog” instead of adopting the native word from the first people they encountered.
    And yet the English settlers in America called the maize they found there Indian corn and later just corn rather than adopting one of the native names. Likewise, they called the novel Turdus migratorius by the name of robin, though it is neither related to, nor even very closely resembles, the Erithacus rubecula they knew from home.
    If I remember correctly, it wasn’t until the 1980s that DNA evidence established that Australian birds aren’t close relatives of similar and similarly-named birds elsewhere, but are the consequence of adaptive radiation in Australia itself.

  58. it wasn’t until the 1980s that DNA evidence established that Australian birds aren’t close relatives of similar and similarly-named birds elsewhere
    I’m not sure anyone ever thought that the Australian magpie was the same as a Magpie, or that the Australian robins are the same as the European robin. Perhaps flycatchers are a better example, but that term is used for a lot of different families anyway, not just in Australia.

  59. You appear to be referring to the corvid radiation — see, for example, Maluridae, known as wrens. But this was not simply a matter of naming by the old colonists; it was researchers themselves who variously placed them in Old World flycatchers, Old World warblers, and Old World babblers — but not with the wrens!

  60. marie-lucie says:

    JC: English settlers in America called the maize they found there Indian corn and later just corn rather than adopting one of the native names. Likewise, they called the novel Turdus migratorius by the name of robin,
    I had not thought of this, but I think there may be a difference in naming things that become part of one’s life and those that do not. Native “corn” (the word corn being originally a generic term for the major grain) was readily adopted and grown next to the imported cereals, and the native “robin”, a common bird in regions of human habitation, reminded the newcomers of the bird they knew and loved at home, and these species thereby filled a cultural “niche” if not always an ecological one. In contrast, even if they were physically similar to dogs, neither the coyote nor the dingo filled a niche in the newcomers’ bestiary, they did not have a concrete or cultural commensal role to play in their lives (nor in the lives of the aboriginal peoples), and therefore they were not equated with the dogs the newcomers were bringing.

  61. I don’t think that anyone who knew and loved the English robin could be reminded of it very much by the American robin.

  62. marie-lucie says:

    Perhaps it was the second generation that named the “robin”, those who had heard of it but never seen it.

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