Boaz Keysar, Sayuri L. Hayakawa, and Sun Gyu An have published a very intriguing paper in Psychological Science (April 18, 2012); here‘s the abstract:

Would you make the same decisions in a foreign language as you would in your native tongue? It may be intuitive that people would make the same choices regardless of the language they are using, or that the difficulty of using a foreign language would make decisions less systematic. We discovered, however, that the opposite is true: Using a foreign language reduces decision-making biases. Four experiments show that the framing effect disappears when choices are presented in a foreign tongue. Whereas people were risk averse for gains and risk seeking for losses when choices were presented in their native tongue, they were not influenced by this framing manipulation in a foreign language. Two additional experiments show that using a foreign language reduces loss aversion, increasing the acceptance of both hypothetical and real bets with positive expected value. We propose that these effects arise because a foreign language provides greater cognitive and emotional distance than a native tongue does.

Brandon Keim discusses it at Wired Science; the results make intuitive sense to me, but of course intuition plus whatever they charge for a subway ride these days will get you a ride on the subway, and like the correspondent who sent me the link (thanks, Stuart!), I’m curious to know what the assembled multitudes make of it.


  1. I was surprised to spot a cognate to a familiar Russian archaism on the Wired’s illustration. The Czech “tlumocen” = translating. The origin of the word, both of the original root and the suffix, is Turkic. And whenever there is a Turkic borrowing of a word pertaining to administration and government, we have an almost knee-jerk reaction, “oh, it must have come from the times of the Golden Horde rule”. But surprisingly, the same word is used in Southern and Western Slavic languages as well!
    Back on topic, the Wired’s commenters speculate that only a loosely familiar foreign language may neutralize our emotional biases; once you get really fluent in a language, you may reaquire all the benefits and pitfalls of quick intuitive thinking.

  2. I quite like the idea of holding elections in a foreign language.
    Is Sayuri L. Hayakawa a relative of S.I.Hayakawa, by any chance?

  3. R. “tolmach”, Cz. “tlumočník” – isn’t it “Dolmetscher” in German, too?

  4. tlumocen
    Is that the same as dolmetschen?

  5. Your fazzer smells of elderberries.

  6. isn’t it “Dolmetscher” in German, too?
    Yes, the German word is from Hungarian tolmács ‘interpreter,’ which according to Vasmer is borrowed from one of the West Slavic languages.

  7. Garrigus Carraig (f/k/a komfo,amonan) says

    I have been fascinated by the word Dolmetscher since I first learned it years ago. German Wiktionary states that the source of the Hungarian and Slavic words is the Turkish tilmaç (=Sprachler), & that this in turn is from the Arabic ترجمان (turjuman). That thing, with its five consonants, makes me think they got it wrong & that the Arabic word comes from the Turkish, but as has already been explained we cannot know because there is no Arabic etymological dictionary!
    But then I remembered the Spanish word trujamán, which means interpreter but also business negotiator, & when I looked that up, it is stated that the Arabic word is not from the Turkish, but rather goes back to an Akkadian word.

    (Del ár. hisp. turǧumán, este del ár. clás. turǧumān, intérprete, este del arameo rabínico tūrgmān[ā] y siriaco targmānā, y estos del acadio targamānu[m] o turgamānu[m]).

  8. Garrigus Carraig (f/k/a komfo,amonan) says

    That LH link above is to an epic two-year-long thread. That’s gotta be top ten, right?

  9. Just adding: it’s ‘tłumaczenie’ (translation) and ‘tłumacz’ (translator) in Polish. For some reason, people oftentimes associate it with a ‘tłumok’ (literally a bundle or truss – or a blockhead) meaning ‘a dolt’ hence coinages like ‘tłumoczenie’. A synonym is ‘przekład’ which would be akin to ‘uebersetzung’.

  10. marie-lucie says

    the Spanish word trujamán, which means interpreter but also business negotiator
    So that’s where French le truchement comes from! It is a rather old-fashioned word, which did start as meaning “interpreter” and “intermediary” and later “means”, as in par le truchement de ‘through, by means of’ (an intermediary, but also a ruse, a manipulation, etc – not a concrete object). Of course the Spanish letter j represented the same sound(s) as French j or ch before it evolved into its current pronunciation.

  11. David Eddyshaw says

    Just goes to show that all public business should be conducted in Latin. I’ve always thought this fad for vulgar eloquence would end in tears.

  12. J.W. Brewer says

    Here’s what I don’t get. Say that (like one group of the experimental subjects) I’m an American Anglophone who’s studied Japanese (which I did many decades ago but probably not to the same level as these test subjects). You present me with a question/set of options written in Japanese and (here it’s unclear how the test worked) maybe require me to make my choice in Japanese (rather than just checking a box). That doesn’t mean I’m “thinking in” Japanese as opposed to translating internally into English (or whatever you want to call my normal-internal-monologue) before considering my response, perhaps with the effort of that translation process having some beneficial side-effects. Maybe people who are truly bilingual can reliably tell which language they’re “thinking in” at a given moment, but it’s not going to vary mechanically with what they’re reading, and it doesn’t sound like the test here did anything other than vary the written input. Put another way, I have no confidence at all from either the abstract or the somewhat longer Wired description that this is in fact a study of what happens when Anglophones “think in Japanese.”

  13. Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1828+1913) shows three related English words–Dragoman, Targum, and Truchman–each conveying different kinds of translation/interpretation. Webster’s Third New International (1966) lacks truchman, but retains the other two.
    As a child, I was often read and then often read myself The Jack Tales, one of which featured Old Fire Dragaman. I wonder how that word found its way into those folktales and whether it had any relation to the Ottoman Turkish Dragoman.
    BTW, I share J.W. Brewer’s skepticism about what the experiments were actually testing.

  14. Oh, Dragoman (not just any translator but specifically a Mid-Eastern translator at the service of the Orient Section of the Imperial Foreign Affairs) exists in Russian alongside with (even more rusty) Tolmach, but Dahl describes the former as a French borrowing with Arabic prehistory; so it just doesn’t have the Golden Horde flavor of the latter word.
    Looking deeper in time, the circle closes, I guess!

  15. Just goes to show that all public business should be conducted in Latin.

  16. Yes, the German word is from Hungarian tolmács
    It’s tolk in Norwegian, which doesn’t sound as if it came through ‘Dolmetscher’ so maybe it came straight from… someplace more Arab.

  17. Norwegian tolk is from Old Norse tulkr; my Introduction to Old Norse has the verb túlka ‘to act as spokesman’ in the glossary, and says that it’s from Middle Low German tolken, which is “from Slavonic.” I wish they’d been clearer about that last bit, because I have no idea what Slavic word it’s supposed to have come from.

  18. marie-lucie says

    Slavonic is problaby Old Church Slavonic, no? I don’t know any more.

  19. Old Norse has the verb túlka
    <= Old Slavonic тлъкъ, “interpretation”, presumably <= Sanskrit तर्क tarka “conjecture, reasoning”
    This root is also archaic in Russia and somewhat religious too, as befits an originally Church Slavonic word. As in the Tsvetaeva’s 1916 Cycle of Daniil:
    Что означает, толкователь слов,
    Твоих кудрей довременная проседь?

  20. PS re: тлъкъ, “interpretation”
    you can also see this word right in the title of Dahl’s Explanatory Dictionary:
    Толковый словарь живого великорусского языка

  21. *slaps forehead*
    Now that you point it out, it’s obvious—clearly I wasn’t sufficiently caffeinated when I wrote that. And Vasmer says the Slavic word is related to Old Irish ad-tluch ‘thank,’ Latin loquor ‘speak,’ and more distantly to Sanskrit tark- ‘think.’

  22. Thanks, I was wondering if there was a Slavonic connection. It’s nice to have a few words that don’t come from German.

  23. Could another Norwegian word with old Slavic roots, torg, be a cognate too? Vasmer cited Illyrian “tergitio” “to negotiate” in his entry on torg. And generally traders were known as negotiants, and their business as “speculation”, which IMVHO kind of falls into the continuum of meanings of Slavonic “tolko” / Sanskrit “tarka”

  24. Would make an interesting line of defense: “Yes, I cheated on my wife, but only in French.”

  25. Moskva, we’ll have to ask Trond about torg. I used to have a quite good Norwegian etymological dictionary, but my daughter has taken it.

  26. marie-lucie says

    Illyrian “tergitio” “to negotiate”
    The root terg exists in Latin too: in French there is the verb tergiverser, meaning something like “to equivocate”. People who do that can be infuriating: they do not stick to the point under discussion but sidestep it, bring up other, barely related or unrelated points, etc.
    The French verb tergiverser must be from Latin tergiversare, a compound with two verbal roots, terg cognate with torg etc, and ver meaning ‘turn, turn around’, hence ‘change’. So tergiverssare refers more or less to changing one’s thinking, a potential weapon for a skilled negotiator.

  27. Bathrobe says

    Tergiversation also found in English.

  28. It is an anagram of interrogatives.
    Uh-oh. How infuriating: I am not sticking to the point under discussion but sidestepping it, bringing up another, barely related or unrelated point.

  29. Latin tergiversare
    Interesting! The first part must be Lat. tergum, back / dorsal / reverse side? Then it would literally mean smth. like about-face, turn on a dime, reversing one’s course? (unless the Romans really meant rotating one’s butt as in Russian вертихвостка “a flirty gal” but literally a tail-spinner LOL)
    If, in the Roman lands, tergi* stood for changing one’s direction in a dispute or negotiation, then Vasmer might have dragged Illyrian “tergitio” into a discussion of “torg” marketplace / trading activity for no good reason?

  30. Klein says the following about Hebrew turgiman (hard g) תרגמן:
    Post-biblical Hebrew
    1. translator.
    2. an official in the early Jewish synagogue who translated into Aramaic the Biblical portion read at the services.
    3. interpreter.
    [From Aramaic turgimana תרגמנא (whence also Egypt.-Arab. targuman, Gk. dragoymanos, Arab. tarjuman, ultimately from Akkad. targumanu (interpreter); cp. It. dragomano (whence Fren. dragoman, drogman, Eng. dragoman), which also derive from Gk. dragoymanos.
    The Hebrew verb t-r-g-m תרגם (to translate, to interpret) is unusual in having a quadriliteral root. Klein traces it to Akkadian targumanu (interpreter), which derives from ragamu (to shout).

  31. marie-lucie says

    Ø : How infuriating: I am not sticking to the point under discussion …
    But of course I was not referring to the conversations here! we are not engaged in negotiations! Mr Hat let us tergiversate (?) all we want. Isn’t that right, Mr Hat?

  32. marie-lucie says

    MOCKBA: The first part must be Lat. tergum, back / dorsal / reverse side? Then it would literally mean smth. like about-face, turn on a dime, reversing one’s course?
    I am not competent to evaluate Vasmer or Illyrian, but you must be right about Latin tergum being from a different root from that of the words for interpreter, etc. Indeed the meaning of the Latin verb must be as you say. That meaning is more or less what I was trying to get at, without finding quite the right words.

  33. The text that Vasmer is talking about is a Pannonian inscription thought to be Illyrian, an Indo-European language or group of languages about which we know almost nothing, due to the paucity of data. It contains the phrase P. Donatius P. f. Tergitio negotiator. Now negotiator in Latin is ‘merchant’, and so the assumption was made that tergitio was connected with Albanian treg ‘market’, and thus to Terg-este ‘market-place’, the pre-Roman name of Trieste. In any case, this has nothing to do with what we call negotiation in modern times.
    The OED contains a single example in English of tergiversate used in the literal sense of turning the back, in an 1875 translation of the Institutes of Gaius (a 2nd-century elementary legal textbook of Roman law, an textual ancestor of Justinian’s much better-known work of the same name): “If the defendant on being summoned to appear before the magistrate tergiversates or attempts to flee […].”

  34. marie-lucie says

    In French, le négoce is almost a synonym for le commerce, or business, le négociant is a merchant or trader, but négocier is ‘to negotiate’ (a business deal, as well as a diplomatic one) and la négociation is the art or the fact of negotiating, usually carried out by le négociateur. So negociating originated with making business deals.

  35. And in Spanish, of course, negocios (pl) is the usual word for business.
    I first encountered French truchement not long ago, reading Molière’s Bourgeois Gentilhomme. It’s used there to refer to the pretended interpreter for the son of the Grand Turk, in line with its original association, noted in the dictionaries, with interpreters in the Levant. That’s the scene where Molière makes the old joke, copied in Bugs Bunny cartoons, and who knows where else:
    MONSIEUR JOURDAIN: Son Altesse Turque m’honore trop, et je lui souhaite toutes sortes de prospérités.
    COVIELLE: Ossa binamen sadoc babally oracaf ouram.
    CLÉONTE: Bel-men.
    COVIELLE: Il dit que vous alliez vite avec lui vous préparer pour la cérémonie, afin de voir ensuite votre fille, et de conclure le mariage.
    MONSIEUR JOURDAIN: Tant de choses en deux mots?

  36. Isn’t that right, Mr Hat?
    Mais oui! No one will be prosecuted, or even looked at askance, for divagation or divarication.

  37. marie-lucie says

    AS: Thatnks for the quoation. I think you (or the editor) forgot a sentence: Quelle langua admirable que le turc! Monsieur Jourdain is not doubting the translation.
    I once saw a performance of Le Bourgeois gentihomme by a single actor, with a shawl as the only prop. It was wonderful. As I recollect some scenes in my mind I see all sorts of people together on the stage, including during the Turkish final episode!

  38. marie-lucie says

    Oops! Thanks for the quotation, apology for the mistakes.

  39. m-l: the line you’re thinking of comes in the preceding scene:
    MONSIEUR JOURDAIN.- Marababa sahem veut dire “Ah que je suis amoureux d’elle”?
    COVIELLE.- Oui.
    MONSIEUR JOURDAIN.- Par ma foi, vous faites bien de me le dire, car pour moi je n’aurais jamais cru que marababa sahem eût voulu dire, “Ah que je suis amoureux d’elle!” Voilà une langue admirable, que ce turc!
    But I did cut off the end of the scene quoted earlier, where Covielle says:
    Oui. La langue turque est comme cela, elle dit beaucoup en peu de paroles.
    I never liked the BG as much as the verse comedies, until I saw the DVD of the recent poème harmonique production, which I might have mentioned on here before. The turqueries and other dance numbers really need Lully’s music, as well as real dancing; if you just read them or see them performed without music, they’re pretty wearisome. The acting is great in that production too, and M. Jourdain is very sympathetic and appealing, not just the butt of all the jokes. Not all the French critics liked it, I gather, and the attempted 17th century pronunciation is pretty extreme. But in general it seems to have made a big hit.

  40. No one will be prosecuted, or even looked at askance, for divagation or divarication
    And it is such a pity that the richness of LH comments threads isn’t Google-searchable!
    (Speaking of prosecution … in the world of Internet discussions, simple passive ignoring has always been at least as efficient as any active prosecution. That’s why I’m often afraid to weigh in at LH … because I have a feeling that some of my poorly worded comments in the past have firmly placed me on ignore-lists here … and if it is true, then my comment might sniff out a discussion which would have otherwise rolled on and on. You know, a kind of a reverse Midas touch LOL)

  41. And it is such a pity that the richness of LH comments threads isn’t Google-searchable!
    Sure it is; I just googled “cognate to a familiar Russian archaism” and got your first comment here. And I don’t know if you’re serious about ignore-lists, but if so, please set your mind at ease—I’m quite sure nobody is ignoring your comments, and I personally find them enjoyable and informative. Don’t be afraid to weigh in!

  42. Etienne says

    1-TORG has also found its way into a place-name: TURKU, in Finland, derives its name from the same Slavic word.
    2-Elsewhere in the Slavic world the word seems to be alive and kicking in some languages: TRG, in Slovenian, seems to be the usual word for “square, marketplace”.
    3-Just to clarify: French TERGIVERSER does indeed come from from Latin TERGIVERSARE, but “comes from” in the sense that it is a straightforward (learned) borrowing from Latin, and not an inherited word. A lot of discussions involving Latin and the Romance languages seem to assume that everything Latin in Romance must be inherited, when in fact borrowing from Latin was as rampant in most Romance languages as it was in, say, English.

  43. MOCKBA: .. ignore-lists…
    For what it’s worth, I always home in on your comments, along with those of Sashura and vanya. Perhaps I have never addressed one of yours explicitly, but that is simply because what you bring up in connection with linguistics matters is usually way above my playing league – for instance in your comments above in this thread.
    All I can do is cast down my eyes and shuffle my feet, waiting for an opportunity to pipe up again.

  44. I’ve spoken to Mockba many times. He’d be at the bottom of my ignore list, not that I have one.

  45. Trond Engen says

    Is there a way to get oneself onto that ignore list? I’m often in the position of not having been able to prevent myself from posting a mediocre comment I’ve been working on for a long time.
    Tolk has bothered me, and torg is interesting. I can say that Bjorvand & Lindeman prefer a Germanic origin of the word, including the ON toponym Torgar. I’ll come back when I’ve more time — I know I’ve written something about it before, but it may have been elsewhere. I’d be happy if somebody with real knowledge beat me to it, though.

  46. You can search LH via Google, including the comments, by looking for [ “cognate to a familiar Russian archaism”] (or whatever interests you). You may, but need not, include the square brackets.

  47. Phew, I stand corrected on searches! It is _this_ site’s search function (on the main page) which doesn’t search the comment threads (but as John Cowan helpfully pointed out, adding solves the problem).
    There are number of “torg” toponyms in Eastern Europe, including one where, in a Nordic manner, final ‘g’ sound may become muted. It is one of Russia’s oldest cities, presently called Торжок Torzhok (which is diminutive for Torg) but originally known as Novyj Torg (New Torg). The region continued to be referred as Novotorzhskij, and the inhabitants as Novotors (skipping the final G).
    The bi- and trilingual placenames in Romania which have Târgu in them in Romanian, have resectively Markt in German, and Vásárhely in Hungarian (all meaning “market”) (Târgu Mureș, Târgu Jiu …). Vasmer mentions Venetian placenames such as Tergeste (modern Triest) and Opitergium (a marketplace in Venice).
    Other sources (e.g. in Bulgarian Wictionary) discount the Illyro-Venetian link, but posit a link to, eventually, Sanskrit तृह् tṛh “to break” (through proto-Slav tъrgnǫti “to pull [apart]”, making it related to English tractor or Russian дергать, supposedly because a marketplace is nothing but a field where the vegetation has been pulled and uprooted … not that I am ready to give serious credence to this suggestion)
    Lastly, sorry for my musings about “ignores” & thanks for setting it straight. Years ago, I was so much into flamewars that some flare-ups actually hurt me in realspace. I’ve been trying to learn my lessons ever since, but I still have episodes of online bans and censoring every year. So I guess I still have to learn a lot how to be less abrasive / confrontational. I thought I might have had one of such sore “episodes” at LH when we discussed Solzhenitsyn’s unwillingly helping to perpetuate KGB’s coverup of the “killing fields” of the 1930s (which decimated my family) … and for whatever reason I erupted into long-winded flames, possibly offending other people here. If I did, then I offer my apology!

  48. marie-lucie says

    Etienne: Just to clarify: French TERGIVERSER does indeed come from from Latin TERGIVERSARE, but “comes from” in the sense that it is a straightforward (learned) borrowing from Latin, and not an inherited word.
    Absolutely. For some reason I can’t remember (probably an interruption which made me erase what I was working on) I wrote two versions of the paragraph, the second one shorter than the first. I had called tergiverser a ‘minimally adapted borrowing’ from Latin (by being given a French verbal ending to replace the Latin verbal ending, without other changes). This sort of thing is typical of words borrowed directly from the original language at a late date, rather than “inherited” (ie never lost) and having gone through many changes in the course of its history.

  49. i enjoy reading about the words connections between different and related languages, this conversation about tolmach- tork- tolkovatel’ etc, is fascinating and i always find it so strange how my language is always so different from other surrounding languages, which are close geographically, Chinese, all other Turkic ones
    interpreter in Mongolian is orchuulagch, tolkovatel’ would be tailbarlagch from tail-tailakh which means to open (anything, meaning of the words too), the closest phonetically to terg-torg-tork is torgo-silk, merchant is khudaldaachin from khudal- a lie, strangely, khudald – to sell, or the other word is naimaachin which has, i guess, really some Chinese roots (naimaa/maimaa?)
    About ignore lists, nice to find that M finds a warm welcome and reassurance here, not my experience, alas, just it’s like pretty heart warming that, mol, ne my odne, feeling like that, but i got pretty indifferent to all that, acceptance and inclusion, cz whether one is out there or not is of very minimal importance to others on the internet and vice versa i guess
    i have not much to say too on any given topic here too, all is said and thought without my attempts to participate, so a listener is also a pretty enjoyable and convenient role

  50. Mockba, I don’t think that you were at all abrasive, or excessively confrontational by the standards of LH either, in the “Ivan Denisovich” thread.

  51. Bathrobe says

    read, actually there are many similarities in vocabulary between Mongolian and Turkic languages. Just to take the simplest example, ‘yellow’ is шар in Mongolian, sarı in Turkish, ‘black’ is хар in Mongolian, kara (one word for ‘black’) in Turkish. And quite a lot more. This is probably due to borrowing among different people on the steppes in ancient times. I suspect that Mongolians think their language is different from everyone else’s because in most cases they don’t actually know any Turkic languages.

  52. Welcome back, read!

  53. thank you, minus273!
    yes, i know that there are many similar words between Mongolian and Turkic languages which still doesn’t make the languages mutually comprehensible and for some reason it always turns out we borrowed the words not the other way around though how it could be proved that, i never find the explanations convincing much
    then it’s really of course strange there are few us knowing even the closest neighbours’ Kazakh when we learn pretty easily Russian or Chinese, other “major” languages, must be really the economic need is the main need to learn alanguage, not curiosity, not universally so, of course, just at least for us, and the influence of a foreign language is not that of being timid on it, but maybe a bit more like systematic and, i don’t know, one tries to think really in words, it takes some effort to do that, judging just on myself, cz in one’s native language one tends to think perhaps mostly as if like in some vague stream of images that one doesn’t need to express in words, too easily they come to help when one needs to speak, but maybe this depends on the level of
    fluency in a language, if i were fluent in English, maybe i
    would think in English images too, but i don’t think like that in
    my fluent Russian, so i don’t know, just the thinking processes seem different to compare the influence of a foreign language on one’s thinking
    if one is more likely up to take risks in a foreign language that could be is just because one is generally more open too,
    to have learnt the language in the first place

  54. Mockba, I don’t think that you were at all abrasive, or excessively confrontational by the standards of LH either, in the “Ivan Denisovich” thread.
    I agree; your first comment in that thread might be called a bit heated, but if you can’t be heated about Stalinist repression, what can you be heated about? And once you clarified your position, everyone pretty much agreed.

  55. marie-lucie says

    If languages are “related” to each other, it does not mean that they are mutually intelligible. There are degrees of relatedness in a “language family”, just as in a real family: you are more closely related to your brothers and sisters, since you share the same parents, than to a very distant cousin with whom you share only some great-great-grandparents.
    English is related to most other European languages, but in different degrees. Except for many borrowed words (from French, Italian, Dutch, etc which are all “related” to English) it is not understandable by other Europeans without study, even by speakers of Dutch which is closely related to it (and the opposite is true too). Its much more distant linguistic relatives in the Middle East (in Iran, Afghanistan) and Pakistan or India (such as Urdu, Hindi, Bengali, Punjabi, and many others) are even less mutually intelligible with European languages, yet they have been proven to belong to the same “superfamily”.

  56. yes, that, proven
    and who decides who is the big brother in related languages, i find that kind of discussions on words etymologies not very convincing and always like inducing some kind of objection in me cz in the end all would come to a conclusion it’s of some or other Chinese or Turkic origin in our case, and as it is the case with other “minor” languages, i imagine, one would feel then as if like those claims are being a threat to one’s basic identity even, as if like stripping us of our native language
    one’s intuition would be, i suppose again too, the older is the language with the longer oral tradition, not with the longer written one, for example, just because aren’t things move/ develop/ evolve from a simpler to a more complex levels
    though what knowing which one is older gives too of course

  57. just so that people wouldn’t think i say totally irrelevant things on this thread, i wanted to explain that i just repeat the things i said before that got me banned here to see whether i will get accused of such things like nationalism and trolling again, i guess, or whether i will get ignored as usually, the thought that brought me to this thread in the first place

  58. marie-lucie says

    who decides who is the big brother in related languages
    I am not sure what you mean about “big brother” in this context. In linguistic terms (not political) no language is superior or inferior to any other.

  59. i just repeat the things i said before that got me banned here to see whether i will get accused of such things like nationalism and trolling again
    Yes, they will get you banned again. I don’t mind your presence as such, but your belligerent ignorance about anything having to do with language is toxic on a site whose primary focus is, after all, the spreading of truth about language in a world where there is far too much ignorance. You’re welcome to be proudly dismissive of everything science has learned about language and to prefer your own ideas, but you will have to do it elsewhere.

  60. Also, you waste the time of people like marie-lucie, people far more patient than myself, who compose careful explanations of the facts which you then reject with some offensive comment about how it’s all just prejudice by big countries trying to suppress you.

  61. well, just what i wanted to know, i guess

  62. Etienne says

    Read: to say that two or more languages are related (belong to a language family) means that they all have a common ancestor (and, thus, are metaphorically its daughters). Nothing more, nothing less. It does not imply that any language spoken today is somehow a “big brother” or the like.
    Of course, some languages within a family will have changed more, and others less, from the common ancestor: but proving this has nothing to do with the relative prestige of the various daughter languages. Indeed, as a rule, the more conservative members of a language family tend to be out-of-the-way, isolated languages. Within Romance, for instance, the most archaic (=Latin-like) language, Sardinian, is a language which enjoys little prestige, even among native speakers.
    Now, historical linguistics can be (ab)used and serve as justification by the powerful. But to see historical linguistics as being nothing more than a tool of the powerful is quite untrue.
    Indeed linguistics, including historical linguistics, is if anything a science which undermines the powerful: the notion that the standardized written language of an established nation-state is in no way superior to unwritten languages, for example, is utterly toxic to most intellectual and educational elites. And yet no linguist today doubts it.

  63. i am not a linguist, surely, so what i say is always just my individual opinion and why it is so important to suppress it by all means citing science or whatever is always beyond me, why the discussion including one’s even if ignorant opinion can’t be more important for once than the “scientific truth”, isn’t it open internets for all?
    and i don’t want to talk about relative superiority or inferiority of languages as anybody else here too, don’t i always try just to defend our position that our language is not “inferior” to, for example, Chinese, i think it’s different from a position saying it’s the best or of the most educated, or of the majority or of the longest written tradition etc
    yet i get accused of nationalism and get banned, boring

  64. Nice to see you here, read. Your posts can bring an immediate, fresh perspective on things and it is really neat. Or, I guess, some grandstanding on language-culture issues too, to irritate our host 🙂
    I kind of like the parable of language families having supposed Big Brothers. From L’Académie française to Ataturk’s language reform, a whole slew of nations and institutions were all worked up about purging their live languages from outside influences, and restoring glorious antiquity. “Hey dude, get this, my language is older and purer than yours”. “It is my language which shall influence yours and not the other way around!”.
    In the Anglo universe, we tend to laugh at these excesses of language micromanagement. After all, English is thriving and influential despite openness to uncontrolled change. But of course its sheer size helps it. For a small-population language surrounded and influenced by huge cultures, perhaps it is essential to have some degree of artificial propping against outside influences?

  65. thanks, M! i am glad you understand me right
    if not our defensiveness, perhaps our language would go extinct in the pretty near future, just like our nature and natural resources are going mined and south now
    and no fine internet discussions would help us then, so what to do, one has to do what seems right for one

  66. Trond Engen says

    Back to the marketplace.
    I’ve reread Bjorvand & Lindeman’s entry on torg n. “marketplace”. They start by following Hesselmann (in Fs. Kock 1929) on the toponym Torgar Since there’s no record of a marketplace there and since the island has a highly significant mark, he derives it from *turgó:z-, a formation from the same root as Goth. gatarhjan v. “notice; mark”, gatarhiþs “obvious”, OE and OS torht, OHG zoraht/zorft “shining, bright etc.”, Gmc. *turh-, PIE *der-k’- “see”. Hesselman suggests a primary meaning “eye”, but according to B&L the would rather point to an abstract or metaphorical meaning like “vision”, “shine” or “opening”. (The variation between and is so common that Bjorvand wrote a dissertation on it, Holt og Holtar, in 1994. The short story is that it’s inherited from the PIE sbstract/concrete dichotomy.). The two torgs are formally identical and shouldn’t be split on semantics alone, and since both “show” and “clearing” are plausible ways to derive “marketplace” from “vision” they prefer this etymology.
    If so, the Slavic, Baltic and Finnic words would be borrowed from Germanic in the usual direction, probably ar the same time as other words in the same semantic field. Finnish turku may reflect NGmc. *turgu, while the Baltic and Slavic forms are perhaps more likely to be EGmc.
    They see the Illyrian ‘terg’ words as too unclear in form and core meaning to be of any value to this discussion.

  67. Etienne says

    Read: I think that I can say with absolute certainty that among the commentators here N-O-B-O-D-Y believes that Chinese is in any way linguistically superior to Mongolian. So: no need for you to repeat it. It would be as pointless as saying that you believe in gravity at an astrophysics conference.
    You have often repeated this point, indeed made it an accusation, whenever mention was made of words of foreign origin in Mongolian. You have made it quite clear that you believe that Mongolia not being a major power today explains why (most) linguists believe that there exist words of foreign origin in Mongolian.
    But the problem with your position is that linguists’ consensus on the importance and origin of foreign elements in a given language bears no relationship whatsoever to present-day politics.
    A few examples, if I may. The most important foreign element in Romance languages derives from Greek: does Greece dominate over any Romance-speaking country today? The most important foreign element in English derives from French: does France dominate over any English-speaking country today? After French, most would agree Old Norse and Latin are the most important sources of foreign vocabulary in English: neither the Nordic countries nor the Vatican dominates over the English-speaking world today.
    If, therefore, using the same methods, linguists conclude that there are a number of words of Chinese or Turkic origin in Mongolian, it simply will not do to to accuse them of being biased because of China’s size and importance compared to Mongolia’s.
    Incidentally, several Turkic languages of Siberia, such as Yakut, have a number of words of Mongolian origin, despite the fact that Mongolia does not dominate Yakutia (today!) in any way.
    Of course, historical linguists aren’t perfect. But if you’re willing to listen, I’d be more than happy to explain to you why I believe that whatever bias historical linguists might have in establishing word origins would probably be a PRO-Mongolian bias.

  68. i am more than happy to listen to a PRO-Mongolian biases in the historical linguistics/ a joke:
    that means perhaps what you mean, a joke, if you already say it’s biased
    am i against foreign borrowings in my language, of course i am not, it’s already in there objectively, whether i know or don’t or accept the fact
    comparing Greece and China’s real world influences seems not very like that, useful comparison, to me, so hopefully people can understand our biases and “paranoia” too, instead of instantly labeling me a nazi

  69. Trond Engen says

    A few stray follow-ups:
    What Bjorvand published in 1994 was a regular book. The full title is Holt og Holtar. Om det indoeuropeiske kollektivum i norrønt. What I should have said is that, if I remember correctly, it’s an expanded version of his dissertation from a few years earlier.
    I first thought the Hesselmann/B&L etymology made torg cognate with Eng. torch, the common meaning something like “bright spot”, but it appears that torch can be derived from Latin torquare “twist”.
    There’s a pair of Norwegian verbs, tergeand tirre “harrass”, probably from LG. I don’t know a further etymology, but “mark” isn’t inconceivable.
    Looking for them in my ON dictionary I came upon tarra/terra v. “lay out; show”, which might point to an ablauting Germanic verb *terh-, except from the inconvenient fact that it’s a weak verb. There’s also a root tír- “shine; fame”, but I think that’s even harder to work in.
    Could the Illyrian terg words be borrowed from phoenician or something?

  70. Thanks for figuring all that out, Trond. I think some architects would like the idea that torg and show or vision are linked linguistically. I used to go to Turku quite a lot with my job, and I found that many people there actually called it by its Swedish name, Åbo (only 5% of the population have Swedish as a first language, however).

  71. @read: There are two kinds of language relationships here. A language can be genetically related to another language — they have common descent, and in the quality of this common descent, no language can be said to be a big brother or something. The other relationship, that you care more about, is borrowing, where we do distinguish between the source and the destination. There do exist ways to know if a borrowed word comes from language A to language B or otherwise. Most importantly, if a word has a morphological explanation within language A, for example, if it is formed with a root that exists elsewhere in A with a suffix of A, we can usually (not always, because there is also folk etymology) say that it’s the A word which is original, and the B word that resembles the A word comes from A.
    About the Mongolian borrowed words from Chinese, I don’t think you need to be so worried. Anyway, Chinese has also a lot of loans from Mongolian. In Chinese, we call mushrooms mogu, saddle-bags dalian and little alleys in old cities hutong (from the word for wells), all Mongolian words. Also, bus/train stations in China are called zhan, which is said to come from jam, the old Mongol system of postal service. Neighboring languages borrow words from each other, which is not a thing to worry much about.
    Also, as a very personal request, can you write with usual capitalization and punctuation? e.e. cummings is all fine, but I read comment too quickly for verbal artistry.

  72. Trond Engen says

    Another way to discern loans would be by internal variation, i.e. if all the forms in one language (family) can be derived from a loan of one of many dialect forms in the other.

  73. Etienne says

    Read: no, I am not joking at all. Mongolian is a language which is, after all, the official language of an established nation-state. Furthermore, it has a written record stretching back some eight centuries. Finally, it is known that Mongols did politically dominate many of their neighbors.
    For all of these reasons, if common vocabulary is found involving Mongolian, there will be a strong tendency to assume Mongolian influence upon its neighbors, because this is indeed consistent with the historical record.
    Languages which would suffer from such a bias, it seems to me, would be unwritten languages which never enjoyed prestige *during the historical period*. In like fashion some languages which enjoyed prestige during prehistoric times may well have undergone such reversals of fortune that they have not left any living daughter languages. I am certain that such languages are the source of many widespread words of unknown origin.
    Now, there do exist various ways of determining which language contributed and which received shared words: but there is a good deal of uncertainty when it comes to many individual words. So in doubtful cases there will indeed be a bias: a once-prestigious language (such as Mongolian) will be assumed to have been the source of a word shared with other languages.

  74. ooh, very nice, this is maybe the first comments from other commenters here acknowledging our small contributions in other languages, to my limited reading and knowledge of threads at LH, thank you, minus273 and Etienne! and about being defensive, we do not impose our language on anybody else, just try to preserve what is ours, so, i imagine, can’t be accused of chauvinism or something else equally bad
    sorry about not using usual punctuation, old habits are difficult to break and i use the weird punctuation to “mask” other mistakes and errors i do unknowingly to myself

  75. marie-lucie says

    MOCKBA: From L’Académie française to Ataturk’s language reform, a whole slew of nations and institutions were all worked up about purging their live languages from outside influences, and restoring glorious antiquity.
    This may have been true for SOME languages, but not about L’Académie française. Its original purpose was not to “restore glorious antiquity” which the language did not have at that point (Greek and especially Latin where the glorious languages), but to “codify” and “purify” the language. These exercises did not refer to any foreign influences, but more to regional and class distinctions: the intent was to uphold the speech of the royal court and upper-class Paris against the regional dialects and languages and against the despised (slangy or too explicit) vocabulary of the Parisian working class.

  76. Trond Engen says

    read: I don’t think you get the full point. Just as being on the receiving end of cultural loans doesn’t make a language less important, being on the providing end doesn’t make it more. But being on the receiving end makes it valuable as a reference point or a timeline for the development of neigbouring languages. Now, Mongolian has both received and provided words for a long time, and the main sources, for no reasons but neighbourhoos, are Turkish, a family with internal relations that (if I understand it correctly) aren’t always straightforward, and Chinese, whose historic pronunciation can’t easily be read out of written records. This is why loans into Mongolian often are mentioned in discussions of Turkish and Chinese*, and seeing in it a dismissal of national dignity isn’t just beside the point, it’s counter to the ecological argument for protecting small languages from its greater neighbours.
    *) This is not unique for Mongolian. Closer to me, Finnish is important for the reconstruction of Germanic and even for sorting out the relations bewteen the branches of Indo-European.

  77. “Mongolian has both received and provided words for a long time”
    and yet all i heard here was how this or other our language word is of Chinese or Turkic origin, i don’t mind if the things were reciprocal and not always one-sided, so i am glad i caused at least a few comments mentioning our loan words into other languages, because what is any language influence if it is not influencing the cultures of which the language is
    and i don’t believe the loan words reflect just purely linguistic matters, because underneath it all there is always the struggle of cultures if not politics what is really going on

  78. Bathrobe says

    I don’t think nationalism and other ethnic attitudes are ever a good thing to bring to linguistics.
    Actually, I suspect that the Chinese self-image also sits uncomfortably with the finding of linguistics. Imagine, the leading light of Asian civilisation and proud possessor of 5,000 years of history (by the official version, at least) being lumped into one family with the Tibetans, Burmese, and a whole bunch of little tribes living in the jungles of Assam and Myanmar! I very much doubt whether most Chinese are even aware of this version of linguistic history. In their own self-image it is China that has given its language and culture to other peoples and not the other way around. The linguistic links with the ‘primitive tribes’ are virtually unknown (although it is politically and historically acceptable to acknowledge that the Han and the Qiangs or Tibetans and the Chinese are brother races). It doesn’t even enter people’s minds that these languages might be the ‘equals’ of Chinese in the family tree because it is so much at odds with the Chinese self-perception. At any rate, I think minus273 would have a better idea of the situation than I do.
    In the same way, the vast majority of English speakers are completely unaware that English and Punjabi (for instance) are also related languages. I could easily imagine that there might be certain kinds of people who, for various reasons, would find it highly objectionable that English should be related to Punjabi or Persian or Pashto. But if such hypothetical people got highly offended by the facts, I think they would have a problem participating in LH.

  79. bus/train stations in China are called zhan, which is said to come from jam, the old Mongol system of postal service
    Same word, ям, was also used in Russian for postal service / travellers’ horse rental stations (originally Mong. zam, road). But the word didn’t survive the transition from horse-power to the age of motors.
    I suppose the Russians might choose to like the word (as a borrowing of a great innovation of the epoch) or to hate the word (as a remnant of the Golden Horde’s domination). But of course it would be silly to use either “logic”. Actually Russians affectionately love the word because of its role in several classic folk songs. Heck, they even made it into my beloved layer of South American music! (Listen to “No Te Apures por Dios Postillon” by Enrique Rodriguez … yes, that’s “No tengo mas aqui querer” where we’d drunkenly sing, “Мне некого больше любить” LOL)

  80. @Bathrobe: I have the feeling that most Han Chinese don’t take issue with the fact if Chinese is related to Tibetan or not. Tibetans, on the contrary, usually don’t believe in the so-called “Sino-Tibetan” theory, which they take to be a propagandistic concoction. Of course, this kind of things do really exist, as Tibetans suspect, just that Sino-Tibetan becomes hence wronged by Tibetans, an innocent passenger.

  81. Bathrobe says

    @minus172: I think the Sino-Tibetan relationship is as fraught as the Sino-Mongolian one. I was thinking more of the non-literary, ‘tribal’ languages of northeast India and Myanmar. I suspect most Chinese would be uncomfortable to find out who they’re long-lost ‘cousins’ are.

  82. Bathrobe says

    Oops, ‘they’re’ should be ‘their’. Now there!

  83. Bathrobe says

    Actually, I once had a Chinese teacher who told me that Tibet was part of China because Tibetan and Chinese belonged to the same language family. So it seems that mixing linguistics and politics (especially ethnic politics) is never a good idea.

  84. Bathrobe says

    @Москва: I’ve noticed a number of Central Asian words in Russian bird names, one example being Беркут, which looks like it is related to бүргэд (Mongolian) or Бүркіт (Kazakh).

  85. marie-lucie says

    Etienne: masterful paragraphs, thank you.
    apparent one-sidedness of comments about loanwords into or from a given language:
    English is chockfull of loanwords it has adopted from a wide variety of languages. We can make lists of words borrowed into English, eg words about cooking from French, words about music from Italian, and many, many more. This is done from the point of view of English, not from the point of view of the other languages. It does not imply that borrowing has been one-sided and that the list of borrowings into English should also be completed by a list of borrowings from English into all the other languages that have adopted English words. If on the other hand I write about the origins of French vocabulary, I do not feel a need to say “such and such a word has been borrowed into English”, but I can point out that a word that looks absolutely French, such as redingote (a type of coat popular in the 19th century) is actually an adaptation of the English “riding-coat”. Similarly, someone writing about Chinese could point out that such and such a word is a borrowing into Chinese from this or that neighbouring language, without also making lists of borrowings from Chinese by the neighbouring languages.
    i don’t believe the loan words reflect just purely linguistic matters, because underneath it all there is always the struggle of cultures
    Any language bears traces of its ancestry and often its relatedness with others with the same origin. In its vocabulary it also reflects the contacts its speakers have had (and continue to have) with speakers of other languages over the course of history, which led them to adopt words from those languages, in addition (and sometimes in preference) to the stock of words of their own language. With the passage of time and the inevitable change in various features of each language, a borrowed word may become so thoroughly adapted that its origin is no longer detectable from within the borrowing language, although it might be detectable through comparison with its original language (and the opposite can also be true – that the word has changed more in the original language than in the borrowing language). These types of comparison are what enables linguists to identify not only the words involved in borrowing but (in many cases, though not in all) the direction of borrowing and its relative timing, as Trond and Etienne mentioned above.
    Adopting words from another language can happen under a wide variety of conditions, friendly or not. There may be a “struggle of cultures”, but not necessarily: peaceful relations are quite enough. For instance, I don’t think the expansion of words like coffee and pizza currently known all over the world, resulted from a struggle of cultures: nobody was forced to drink coffee or eat pizza, these customs just became popular in one country after another. On a less concrete level, the adoption of a new religion causes the new converts to adopt words from the language of those who brought the new religion. This happens whether conversion is peaceful and voluntary (as with Buddhism in Asia) or imposed by force (as with Christianity in various places in the past – including early Europe).

  86. If, in the Roman lands, tergi* stood for changing one’s direction in a dispute or negotiation, then Vasmer might have dragged Illyrian “tergitio” into a discussion of “torg” marketplace / trading activity for no good reason?
    Could “tergi*” be related to the Manchu word dergi? “Dergi”, now means “east” in Modern Manchu. In older forms of Manchu, the directions of east and west are reversed: wargi used to mean “east”, but now it means “west”. dergi used to mean “west” and now it means “east”. In Mandarin, 東西, dongxi = “things”, but it literally means “from the east to the west” from one side of the city gate to another, took a long time, so over time, it means “things that you buy at the market”, which later became “things”.
    Is the “a”, “g”, & “r” of Greek αγορά “agora”, a change of vowel and consonant sounds from “tergi” or “dergi”? “agora” = an open market, which in Chinese would be 市集, instead of just 市場, which is a market in a city/urban area.
    I guess languages don’t have to be related to express the same things?

  87. Also, bus/train stations in China are called zhan, which is said to come from jam, the old Mongol system of postal service.
    The above should be correct as follows:
    bus/train stations in China are called “zhan”{most -m, -n, and -ng of Middle Chinese became -n in Mandarin}(in Mandarin, but “jaam” in Cantonese [there are words borrowed into Cantonese and over time, doesn’t seem to have any other derivations, so sometimes it is a bit hard to trace a word’s origins, once it’s become Chinese, via any one or a mixture of more than one dialect] and other southern dialects”, where the Korean word is borrowed from Middle Chinese, for “shop, store”, taking the 占 of 店, and pronouncing it with the 占 pronunciation via Middle Chinese of 站, “jaam: “bus or train stop/station; to stand”), which is said to come from “jam”, the old Mongol postal system. The old Mongol postal station is called 驛站,”Yik jaam” in Cantonese.

  88. Is Sayuri L. Hayakawa a relative of S.I.Hayakawa, by any chance?
    It’s very unlikely, but not impossible. Looking at the family tree, you can’t tell, due to possibly a lot of missing information at the moment.
    Have a look at S.I. Hayakawa’s family tree on Geni:

  89. marie-lucie says

    Gpa: If, in the Roman lands, tergi* stood for changing one’s direction in a dispute or negotiation …
    No, in the verb tergiversare it is versare which referred to change of direction. In my first comment I misunderstood the meaning of the root terg, the root of Latin tergum meaning ‘back’ (the body part).
    Could “tergi*” be related to the Manchu word dergi?
    No. Even if there was such a word in Latin, with the relevant meaning, it could not be related to a Manchu word, since Latin and Mandu are not related (meaning, not shown to be descended from a common ancestor). Borrowing of a Manchu word into Latin would be extremely unlikely, but even if it had happened (through various intermediaries), the new Latin word would be said to be “borrowed” from Manchu, not “related” to the Manchu word.
    Is the “a”, “g”, & “r” of Greek αγορά “agora”, a change of vowel and consonant sounds from “tergi” or “dergi”?
    No. Even if there was such a word, with a similar meaning, in a language closely related to Greek (such as Latin), this is not the way that related words in the two languages correspond to each other. Correspondences of vowels and consonants between two languages work according to precise and specific rules, and those rules apply in the same way in a variety of words, according on what sounds the words are made of, and in what order, not according to a word’s meaning or some other consideration. In this case, there is no way that one of the languages would have added (or lost) an initial t or lost (or added) a middle vowel such as o, since these types of changes are not documented with any other word pairs belonging to these two languages.
    I guess languages don’t have to be related to express the same things?
    I think you must mean “to use the same metaphors”. You are right that this is very possible and even very common, but in the case of your example it is not applicable since the starting point and several other hypotheses are not tenable.

  90. Gpa:
    for no good reason
    No, with good reason. See my comment above.
    Could “tergi*” be related to the Manchu word dergi?
    Very unlikely. It’s almost certainly coincidence, which is hard to accept, because people automatically try to find patterns even when there are none, and we underestimate just how likely coincidence really is in isolated words. Judgements of relatedness are made on far more evidence than one word.
    Is the “a”, “g”, & “r” of Greek αγορά “agora”, a change of vowel and consonant sounds from “tergi” or “dergi”?
    Again, very unlikely. Sound changes don’t randomly scramble the letters in a word. There would need to be a systematic pattern relating Greek “gVr” to “rg” in the other language.
    I guess languages don’t have to be related to express the same things?
    No, indeed. Nor does the fact that they express different things make them unrelated, either.

  91. Gpa: It’s very unlikely, but not impossible.
    Thanks, that’s good enough. I meant a close relative.

  92. Trond Engen says

    There’s a pair of Norwegian verbs, terge and tirre “harrass”, probably from LG. I don’t know a further etymology, but “mark” isn’t inconceivable.
    Looking for them in my ON dictionary I came upon tarra/terra v. “lay out; show”, which might point to an ablauting Germanic verb *terh-, except from the inconvenient fact that it’s a weak verb. There’s also a root tír- “shine; fame”, but I think that’s even harder to work in.

    Eng. (OERefD):
    tarry /’tæri/ v.intr. (-ies, -ied) archaic or literary delay, linger, stay, wait ¤ tarrier n. [ME: orig. uncert.]
    Ger. (Grimm — sorry for the formatting):
    zarge, f. , seitliche einfassung eines räumlichen gegenstandes; nur hd., doch im altn. targa, f., kleiner schild, ags. targe, f., targa, m., schmaler schild, woraus als grundbedeutung rand folgt, so dasz die beziehung weiter zu abg. podragŭ, m., rand, grch. δράσσεσθαι fassen, ergreifen reicht. das nord. wort ins rom. entlehnt (mlat. targ(i)a, afrz. tarje, span. tarja, ital. targa, f.), […]
    zarr, m., einschnitt, mhd. zar risz: so thun die bischöfe zun zeiten ein z., beschicken ihre pfaffen, gebieten ihnen, ihre huren von sich zu thun J. V. Andreä widerl. d. verm. urs. 84; dazu zörn, f. kleiner erdrutsch Lexer kärnt. 265.
    zarr, adj., auch zarch (aus zarrig) eng, passend, spannig Schmid 559.
    zarren, verb., spannen, eng sein, klaffen, zur wurzel zer-, aus der zehren und zerren stammen: und die rôten schedel zarren an den ougen
    Hugo von Trimberg renner 23192 Ehr.;
    die rte auf euren lippen werden alsdann die zarrenden augen erlangen Harsdörfer lust- u. lehrr. gesch. 2, 378; kurtzweil. zeitvertreiber (1668) 528; Schmid schwäb. 543; von engen kleidungsstücken Fischer wb.
    zergen, verb., thiere, nam. gefährliche, und menschen zum zorn reizen, necken, quälen, plagen; ein westgerm. wort (ae. tyrgan, tergan, ne. tarry [s. u.]; mnd., nnd. tergen, targen; mnld., nnld. tergen; erst aus dem mnd. sind entlehnt dän. terge, norw. terga, schwed. targa), welches einem germ. *targjan entspricht und sich zu russ. dergat reiszen, zerren und lett. dragaht reizen stellt; eine ableitung aus der germ. wurzel *ter- in zehren (s. sp. 466), deren bedeutung reiszen, zerren auch noch für z. bestanden hat, […]
    zerren, verb. , ruckweise und anhaltend ziehen; ein westgerm. wort (ahd., mhd. zerren; mnd. terren zanken, streiten [beleg. s. unt. 5 c]; mnld. terren foltern, quälen, plagen; me. terren, bei Shakespeare tarre, reizen; entlehnt sind norw. dial. und isl. terra), das als *tarrian anzusetzen ist und sich als ableitung aus der wurzel germ. *ter- in zehren (sp. 466) über das substantivum *tarr, zarr, m., risz, abgerissenes stück, mhd. zar, gen. zarres (mit intensivierender verdopplung des r?) erklären läszt. daneben hat sich im mnd. ein jüngeres *tirren, das als tirre reizen ins dän. übergetreten ist und im nordnds. fortlebt, […]
    Isn’t this a semantic mess? I think three different words might have been conflated here:
    – One short-vowel form of tear with cognates in Slavic and Baltic and the secondary meaning “delay”.
    – One meaning “rim” or “surround” with cognates in Slavic and Greek, leaving a word for “small shield”.
    – One meaning “mark” or “eye” with cognates in Indic and Celtic and a plausible extension to “lay out” and “show”.
    However, as B&L says, one shouldn’t split a root on semantics alone. At least the two latter might conceivably be united, e.g. through “fitting”. But for any of this to have any value, it would have to be taken up by somebody able to sort out the historical phonology.

  93. Trond Engen says

    “Donna”: there are not many comments on your website yet
    You didn’t think you could wipe out a scathing observation like that and get away with it?

  94. Bathrobe says

    Seriously, they send the same scathing observations to every blog they spam. I don’t think they even bother to check. I get spams telling me I have a lot of spelling errors, and whatever faults my blog may have, copious spelling errors is not one of them.

  95. Trond – conflation already seemed to have played with Turkic and Mongolian hypotheses, and now the Germanic one (not to mention the Manchu 🙂 ! ). But Torgar “Eye-land” is so amazingly beautiful, that alone makes me give some credence to the possible German “show-place” origin of “torg” marketplace.
    I think that tracing its historic usage in Slavic languages may shed some light on it. Pre-Mongolian Germanic borrowings into Russian came mostly with the Varangian “gosti”, and the usage in chronicles and birchbark inscriptions may tell us something.
    One can be reasonably sure that “torg” postdates Old Slavonic. Indeed, the XIX c. Synodal translation of the Bible frequently uses the verb “torgovat'” e.g. in Ezekiel 27, but the Slavonic Bible always sticks to a different verbiage, “даша куплю твою” (traded with you). However torg/torh “trading” has become common in all Slavic languages without exception, even in the ones which didn’t have much contact with Germanic languages (such as Bulgarian … and in their non-Slavic neighbors, Romanian and Bulgarian, too). Can one reconcile this pattern with a Germanic origin hypothesis?
    Switching to the lighter matters, extreme conflation as with Manchu dergi vividly reminds of the famous chronology of Fomenko, where old Roman and Greek kings and Russian dukes and Mongol khans turn out to be one and the same person, and all the narrations of the past ages, distant and supposedly more recent, turn out to tell of one and the same epoch 🙂 If I were to play Fomenko, I would probably add to the mix the Russian verb trahat’ and the classic Argentinian traca (the latter is rumored to be onomatopoeic for the sound of the bed springs when something is happening there … and the favorite sound of the heroine’s mom)

  96. the famous chronology of Fomenko, where old Roman and Greek kings and Russian dukes and Mongol khans turn out to be one and the same person, and all the narrations of the past ages, distant and supposedly more recent, turn out to tell of one and the same epoch 🙂
    Zzzzzz … Shnorkel !? <* wipes bleary eyes *> Fomenko seems to fancy himself as a reprint of Descartes’ evil demon:

    The evil demon, sometimes referred to as the evil genius, is a concept in Cartesian philosophy. In his 1641 Meditations on First Philosophy, René Descartes hypothesises the existence of an evil demon, a personification who is “as clever and deceitful as he is powerful, who has directed his entire effort to misleading me.” The evil demon presents a complete illusion of an external world, including other minds, to Descartes’ senses, where in fact there is no such external world in existence. The evil genius also presents to Descartes’ senses a complete illusion of his own body, including all bodily sensations, when in fact Descartes has no body. Most Cartesian scholars opine that the evil demon is also omnipotent, and thus capable of altering mathematics and the fundamentals of logic.
    The evil demon has a parallel with Berkeley’s concept of a consensus reality supported by God. It is one of several methods of systematic doubt that Descartes employs in the Meditations.

    It’s not surprising that Fomenko is a topologist. He thinks he has found an exotic topology for history. Comments, empty ?

  97. I said that Fomenko is a reprint because the whole business is a bookish conceit. It takes off from the evil demon in Descartes’ book, is based on further books and interpretations and reinterpretations of them by an author of yet more books – Fomenko.

  98. Trond Engen says

    There’s a cluster of Germanic loans in common Slavic, Baltic and Finnic. The transmission is thought to have happened sometime and -place between the branching off of East Germanic and Gothic’s entry on the world stage. But there’s more than one word for which the direction of the loan — or if it”s a loan at all — can be discussed. If I remember correctly, both varg and gard fall into this group.
    As for torg, a multitude of derived forms with a broad range of naturally connected meanings in Slavic would seem deeper than the semantically isolated North Germanic word, but that depends on the age and direction of the derivations.

  99. Trond Engen says

    By the way, I meant to ask days ago if Turkoman got its ending from a contamination with turgaman.

  100. Trond Engen says

    If I ever got around to start a blog, The Recreational Drogman would be a good name.

  101. @Bathrobe: Il y en a pire. Some precious words from the eminent New Left scholar Wang Hui, darling of English-speaking left intelligentsia:

  102. Bathrobe says

    @minus273: Thanks for the quote. It is indeed dismal to read such drivel. I notice 汪晖’s work uses grand titles like 亚洲视野:中国历史的叙述. Apart from quotes like the one you presented, is it worth reading?

  103. Trond: Seemingly not: the name Türkmen was once applied to all the Western or Oghuz Turks, and meant “like the Turks” in Iranian languages (that is, the Eastern or Oghur Turks, who were much better known to Iranian-speakers). It is now appplied only to the groups in Iraq and in Turkmenistan, who are not particularly similar to each other any more.

  104. marie-lucie says

    Il y en a pire
    This should be either:
    Il y a pire ‘There is worse’
    Il y en a de pires ‘There are worse ones’.

  105. Thanks m-l. I immediately thought I got it wrong when I clicked on “Post”, when I decided it’s [ilja~nadpiR]. I googled Il y en a de pire (note the lack of final -s), with a respectable number of results, and thought this was the correct one 🙁

  106. marie-lucie says

    minus: En refers to a noun-countable or plural noun. If you add an adjective, you need de before it. In any case, Il y en a de pire would be possible if you had been talking about something represented by a non-countable noun, but it sounds very old-fashioned to me, as opposed to Il y a pire, which comes to my mind as the most suitable sentence here, as it refers to a situation. Il y en a de pires would be OK too, to refer to specific examples of spam.
    Similarly, as a general statement you could say J’ai vu pire, and to be more specific about a previously mentioned noun J’en ai vu de pires.

  107. Re-thanks, m-l!

  108. One small step for spamophobes, one giant leap for French learners.
    After memorizing what minus273 wrote, I had to reboot with marie-lucie’s specifications.

  109. i forgot to mention two more meanings of torgo, not only silk, torgo-torgokh to fine(fines -torguul’) and torgo-torgookh to stitch, to hold something by stitches, the root word for all is tor – web, net, i guess, it’s just interesting to think where we fit..
    i’ve learnt from google translate that silk in Chinese sounds nothing like that, sichou, though maybe there are other its synonyms and it’s the most Chinese thing ever that come to our and the world usage
    so, similarly, Russian torgi and tolkovat’ may be of their own origins, Slavic, not borrowings from Latin, Germanic or Sanskrit, though they are all related languages i understand

  110. Well Empty didn’t follow on Fomenko’s radical “ideas” (I actually suspect that Fomenko himself published the stuff in jest, to spoof the historicians’ and linguists’ propensity for “detecting” patterns of similarities and parallels where nothing significant exists, as well the “circular arguments” of dating technologies).
    The statistical fallacy of Fomenko’s conflation (or of similar overinterpreting of possible similarities of the words with the supposed trh pattern) is very familiar to those who work on machine-recognition algorithms, or on genome assembling. Namely, the information value of common patterns is fairly small, especially if the quality of the match is poor. In comparison, the information value of small rare deviations from a pattern is high, especially when these unique marks are established with high quality.
    For example, human chromosomes are read in fairly short “paragraphs” which are full of repetitive “words” with but a minor variation present. If we are to assume that all these common words correspond to one and the same physical entity, then we’ll end up conflating all “paragraphs” into the same brief block of text. Instead of our 23 chromosomes, we’d get just a rump piece of “reconstructed DNA narrative” with all of its gene chapters mashed together into one.
    The key ways to avoid the conflation are to have a long-range record (such as a record of a word spread and evolution over the centuries), to disregard the commonest matches, and to pay attention to the differences from the pattern which are document with the highest confidence.
    Now back to my South American would-be onomatopoeic “triqua/traca” sang by a girly voice of Lita Morales – could anyone confirm what it really means? The text goes as follows:
    Yo soy la muchachita
    Que alegre repetía
    Que la vida era un mar y un barco azul
    Eran todos mis sueños de juventud.
    Tan solo poseía
    Un libro de leyendas
    Y una vieja canción de mi madre
    Que de niña me hiciera cantar.
    Cancíon que así decía
    Triquití triquití triquita
    Hoy trae mi memoria
    De la infancia que ya no volverá
    Canción que así cantaba
    Triquití triquití triquita
    pues entonces ingenua y creia
    Que mi mundo era de cristal

  111. marie-lucie says

    MOCKBA: I actually suspect that Fomenko himself published the stuff in jest, to spoof the historicians’ and linguists’ propensity …
    I had never heard of Fomenko and looked him up on Wikipedia. I was stunned by the huge number of books he has published. The “theory” does sound like a spoof, but if it is indeed a spoof it has been carried to enormous lengths!

  112. M-L, Fomenko’s early forays in statistical text analysis were in the mold of today’s plagiarism-detection software, or of decades-ago Kremlonologists, who all recognized that persistent patterns of texts may tell us a whole lot about the causes of similarities and differences between the narratives.
    Although he very quickly formed a suspicion that some of the more obscure threads of history may be mere duplicate distorted reflections of each other, still as late as in 1982 he insisted that most chronologies are perfectly fine, and that he looked forward to collaboration with historians interested in sorting things out. Of course the historians snubbed him, and something gave way, maybe his lid blew off, maybe he just set out to tease the history proffies. Anyway the Fomenko house of cards must have become too big (and perhaps too profitable) to walk away from it. As a believer or as a jester, but he carries on.
    Most peculiarly, just over a year ago, the website of Russia’s ruling party published an interview with the guy! In this piece, Fomenko readily agreed to explain how all the countries of Europe and Asia once paid tribute to the Greater Russia (aka Rome aka Mongolia), and how Orthodoxy and Russian nationalism were a superior ideology. Nobody knows if he was motivated by some future federal grants, by free publicity for his books (which he got), or by a subversive desire to embarrass another bunch of pompous idiots … but the cooperation proved to be short-lived.

  113. Fomenko argues that standard history is a distortion of the truth, MOCKBA says these ideas are possibly a spoof, and marie-lucie agrees. All three views are based on suspicion that things may not be what they seem to be. The flip side of suspicion is a desire to find out The Truth About The Truth. Where is that wounded deer hiding, what are this person’s real motives ?
    This desire has been elaborated and systematized in various ways, taking the shape of Greek skepticism, Gnosticism, Cartesianism, phenomenology, psychoanalysis, Marxism-Leninism and the natural sciences, to name but a few. There are also people who are professionally suspicious of suspicion, such as Rush Limbaugh.
    I run with the crowd that prefers to sip these heady brews only when strongly diluted. A glass of water with a dash of vinegar in it is always refreshing. Acidulous comments provide the palate with a pleasant contrast to greasy intellectual fare.

  114. Speaking of artfully dosed vinegar: Houellebecq’s La carte et le territoire is quite tasty. I’ve almost finished it, and I feel better already, much as I do after reading any novel by Bernhard.

  115. Are you serious about the vinegar in the water, Stu? Is this an old Texas recipe for something-or-other?

  116. marie-lucie says

    I have never thought of trying vinegar in water, but the effect must be something like that of a lemon slice in water, adding just a little bit of acidity and flavour.

  117. Yes, marie-lucie, you must be right. The vinegar-in-water idea is something I picked up decades ago from one of the vegetarian traditions in northern Germany that go back to the 19C at the least. Hippies had not even been thought of then.
    What was meant here is not today’s horrid supermarket vinegar, often not much more than diluted commercial-grade acetic acid, but rather conventional wine vinegar. White wine vinegar can be tarted up by steeping raspberries or strawberries in it, for example. I use apple vinegar a lot in cooking.

  118. I am not a foodie or back-to-the-roots obsédé. Rather, I merely try things out that appear on my horizon, no matter what the imaginary time frame is to which they might be assigned.
    [commercial advertisement]
    Past, present and future are constructs of the imagination after all, and the present has the added disadvantage of being dimensionless, with no room for anything – unless you imagine an “extended present” fortified by bits chopped off from what comes before and after.

  119. fortified by bits chopped off from what comes before and after
    …sauteed in a little olive oil.

  120. That’s the spirit ! Time fries best that way.

  121. There is a whole American folk tradition of drinking vinegar, especially apple cider vinegar, that has now descended into a mostly pseudo-scientific medical theory peddled by one D. C. Jarvis in Folk Medicine: A Vermont Doctor’s Guide to Good Health (1958) and his successors. Here’s a WebMD page on claims and benefits.

  122. “Pure apple cider vinegar could damage the tooth enamel and the tissues in your throat and mouth. One study found a woman who got an apple cider vinegar supplement stuck in her throat. She seemed to have suffered lasting damage to her esophagus.”
    Since the “supplement” got stuck, I assume that liquid vinegar is not meant, but the “vinegar pills” mentioned elsewhere in the article. The article doesn’t say that the damage was due to the pill, but leaves it to the reader to imagine that.
    “If you have diabetes, check with your doctor before using apple cider vinegar. Vinegar contains chromium, which can alter your insulin levels.”
    Where does one find vinegar containing chromium ??

  123. That’s what I guessed was meant. The author of the article could have expressed himself more clearly by writing “This kind of vinegar contains …”, “This vinegar contains …” or “Apple cider vinegar contains …” – rather than merely “Vinegar contains …”.

  124. I merely try things out that appear on my horizon
    Me too. I bought some sweet balsamic stuff that’s supposed to work with strawberries etc. It doesn’t. I’ve found that raspberry vinegar is so strongly aromatic that I can only use a drop or two in a salad. I still like it. Tarragon-flavoured vinegar seems less strong.
    I tried vinegar & water. I couldn’t really taste the vinegar.

  125. The first time I ever heard of raspberry vinegar: One day many years ago we had some leftover duck meat, an unusual circumstance. (I don’t mean that usually there was none left over; I mean that we almost never cooked duck.) My then wife said ‘Hey, let’s make duck salad’, meaning ‘Sometimes I make chicken salad with leftover chicken, why not do the same thing with duck?’ A visiting friend said ‘Oh, you’ll need raspberry vinegar for that! You can’t make duck salad without it.’

  126. Well I don’t know about needing it, but I do think it would have been very good with duck salad. It’s good with everything really. But it’s so strong.

  127. Duck sounds fairly oriental, and if so, it sort of asks for cane vinegar? I mostly use cane variety (sukang maasim) to marinate chicken shashlik these days. It is colorless and slightly opaque.

  128. Duck sounds fairly oriental
    Really? I associate it first with the French, though of course it’s also prominent in Chinese cuisine.

  129. It would be disingenuous to deny French role in cooking 🙂 But when Americans bring ducks (or a duck dishes) home, it tends to be from the Oriental groceries or takeouts rather than for any European places. Probably the only duck product in the isles of a mainstream American stores is a duck jerky treat, and the label reads, “Product of China”. Not to mentioned that the ducks have been first domesticated in China, and that China remains world’s top producer and consumer of duck today. (In fact our flu pandemics are have roots on a Chinese farm because that’s where ducks and pigs are raised together, both hosting flu viruses and exchanging them with each other and with the humans)
    But as far as I can tell, the Chinese seldom use vinegar on ducks. The classic marinades are instead based on huangjiu wine.

  130. David Marjanović says

    From 2012:

    The Hebrew verb t-r-g-m תרגם (to translate, to interpret) is unusual in having a quadriliteral root. Klein traces it to Akkadian targumanu (interpreter), which derives from ragamu (to shout).

    Does it? This paper, p. 172, cites a source from 1993 for Old Assyrian targummannum “interpreter” being an early Luwian loan.

  131. January First-of-May says

    Modern Wiktionary doesn’t seem to link Slavic толмач etc (of apparent Turkic origin) to the Arabic/Semitic/Akkadian word (whence драгоман) at all, and claims a straight Turkic morphology for the former.
    Of course, if the latter is really from Luwian, “cognate in other IE branches” is again a meaningful question (though, of course, it might well still be that none are known).

    I do not believe in Wiktionary’s claim of the assorted North Germanic tolk (apparently from Old Norse tulkr) being from “Old East Slavic” rather than straight from Proto-Slavic; both the timing and the direction of contact just doesn’t seem right (and the wordforms are otherwise identical). Is there any actual linguistic reason to suspect such a relatively late borrowing?

    Apparently Russian толкать “to push” is not (known to be) related to any of the words discussed here previously (not even to the ones meaning “turn”).
    I wondered whether the family name Tolkien is related; the traditional etymology says it comes from a German compound whose English cognate would be “dull-keen”, the modern theory is that it comes from the name of an Old Prussian village (now in the Polish half of East Prussia) which is probably from the same (Balto-)Slavic word that resulted in “tolk”.

  132. Tolkien himself knew and rejected the “modern” theory, and it is a long way from East Prussia to the Electorate of Saxony, where most Tolkiens live today.

  133. Tolkien in fact rejected the tolk etymology in a remarkably sharply worded reply to an innocent inquirer. The meaning of his name seems to have been very important to him.

  134. David Marjanović says

    a German compound whose English cognate would be “dull-keen”

    The meaning of tollkühn, however, is “foolhardy”.

    toll “crazy” (more recently “great!”)
    kühn “bold”

  135. In one of Tolkien’s fictions set in modern times, a character refers in passing to “Professor Rashbold”, clearly T himself under an anglicized pseudonym.

  136. Very nice!

  137. Rodger C says

    In fact, IIRC, John Jethro Rashbold, Jethro being an alternate name for Reuel, Moses’ father-in-law.

  138. David Marjanović says

    the Electorate of Saxony, where most Tolkiens live today

    That’s a place where ö, ü are unrounded, bolstering the idea that kühn is involved.

  139. Trond Engen says

    David M.: Does it? This paper, p. 172, cites a source from 1993 for Old Assyrian targummannum “interpreter” being an early Luwian loan

    And the source came to light in a reply to this comment.

  140. Mykhailo Petrovych Drahomanov (Ukrainian: Михайло Петрович Драгоманов; September 18, 1841 in Hadiach – July 2, 1895 in Sofia) was a Ukrainian political theorist, economist, historian, philosopher, ethnographer and public figure in Kyiv.

  141. But the word didn’t survive the transition from horse-power to the age of motors.

    To whom how, as they say.

    From Russian ям (jam), ultimately of Chinese origin via Mongolian зам (zam).

    jaam (genitive jaama, partitive jaama)

    1. railway station
    2. station (broadcaster)–Q

  142. tolk

    Punatulkku-sanan jälkiosa on alkuaan ääntä kuvaileva. Se on liitetty tulkuta-verbiin, joka merkitsee mutisemista, jupisemista, inttämistä, nopeasti puhumista, tolkuttamista. Tulkku viittaa siis linnun ääntelyyn, jota voidaan kuvata katkonaiseksi, kitiseväksi viserrykseksi.

    The last part of the word punatulkku ‘bullfinch’ is originally descriptive of sound. It is connected to the verb tulkuta, which means muttering, whining, grumbling, talking fast, stuttering. Tulkku thus refers to the bird’s vocalizations, which can be described as a discontinuous, squeaky chirp.


  143. From Russian ям (jam), ultimately of Chinese origin via Mongolian зам (zam).

    No, no!

    It’s native (and rather basic) Mongolian word which was borrowed by Chinese and Russian.

    In Mongolian it means “road” and in Chinese and Russian “post station”.

    In Chinese it’s attested since Khitan conquest and “has been competing with the native equivalent 驛/驿 (yì, “post station”) since its introduction”

    Direction of borrowing is rather obvious.

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