Swadesh list

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The Swadesh list /ˈswɒdɛʃ/ is a classic compilation of basic concepts for the purposes of historical-comparative linguistics. Translations of the Swadesh list into a set of languages allow researchers to quantify the interrelatedness of those languages. The Swadesh list is named after the U.S. linguist Morris Swadesh. It is used in lexicostatistics (the quantitative assessment of the genealogical relatedness of languages) and glottochronology (the dating of language divergence). Because there are several different lists, some authors also speak about "Swadesh lists".

Versions and authors[edit]

Swadesh himself created several versions of his list. He started[1] with a list of 225 meanings, which he reduced to 165 words for the Salish language. In 1952 he published a list of 215 meanings,[2] of which he suggested the removal of 16 for being unclear or not universal, with one added to arrive at 200 words. In 1955[3] he wrote, "The only solution appears to be a drastic weeding out of the list, in the realization that quality is at least as important as quantity....Even the new list has defects, but they are relatively mild and few in number." After minor corrections, he published his final 100-word list in 1971[4] and 1972.

Other versions of lexicostatistical test lists were published e.g. by R.B. Lees (1953), John A. Rea (1958:145f), Dell Hymes (1960:6), E. Cross 1964 with 241 concepts, W.J Samarin (1967:220f), D. Wilson (1969 with 57 meanings), M.L. Bender (1969), R.L. Oswald (1971), W.P. Lehmann (1984:35f), D. Ringe (1992, passim, different versions), S.A. Starostin (1984, passim, different versions), William S.Y. Wang (1994), M. Lohr (2000, 128 meanings in 18 languages). B. Kessler (2002), and many others.

Frequently used, not for any proven quality, but for its electronic availability via the internet is the version of I.Dyen (1992, 200 meanings of 95 language variants). Since 2010, a team around M. Dunn continually tries to update and enhance that list.[5]

Principle[edit]

In origin, the lists were chosen for their universal, culturally independent availability in as many languages as possible, regardless of their "stability".

Nevertheless, the stability of the resulting list of "universal" vocabulary under language change and the potential use of this fact for purposes of glottochronology has been analyzed by numerous authors, e.g. M. Lohr 1999,2000.[6]

The Swadesh list was put together by Morris Swadesh on the basis of his intuitions. More recent similar lists, such as the Dolgopolsky list and the Leipzig–Jakarta list, are based on systematic data from many different languages, but they are not yet as widely known and as widely used as the Swadesh list.

Usage in lexicostatistics and glottochronology[edit]

Such lexicostatistical test lists are used in lexicostatistics to define the subgrouping of languages, and in glottochronology to "provide dates for branching-points in the tree".[7] Note that the task of defining (and counting the number) of cognate words in the list is far from trivial, and too often is subject to dispute, because cognates do not necessarily look similar, and recognition of cognates presupposes knowledge of the sound laws of the respective languages. For example, English 'wheel' and Sanskrit 'chakra' are cognates, although they are not recognizable as such without knowledge of the history of both languages. For more details, see the main articles.

Final Swadesh list[edit]

Swadesh's final list, published in 1971,[4] contains 100 terms. Explanations of the terms can be found in Swadesh 1952[2] or, where noted by a dagger (), in Swadesh 1955.

  1. I (Pers.Pron.1.Sg.)
  2. You (2.sg! 1952 thou & ye)
  3. we (1955: inclusive)
  4. this
  5. that
  6. who? (“?” not 1971)
  7. what? (“?” not 1971)
  8. not
  9. all (of a number)
  10. many
  11. one
  12. two
  13. big
  14. long (not 'wide')
  15. small
  16. woman
  17. man (adult male human)
  18. person (individual human)
  19. fish (noun)
  20. bird
  21. dog
  22. louse
  23. tree (not log)
  24. seed (noun!)
  25. leaf (botanics)
  26. root (botanics)
  27. bark (of tree)
  28. skin (1952: person’s)
  29. flesh (1952 meat, flesh)
  30. blood
  31. bone
  32. grease (1952: fat, organic substance)
  33. egg
  34. horn (of bull etc., not 1952)
  35. tail
  36. feather (large, not down)
  37. hair (on head of humans)
  38. head (anatomic)
  39. ear
  40. eye
  41. nose
  42. mouth
  43. tooth (front, rather than molar)
  44. tongue (anatomical)
  45. claw (not in 1952)1
  46. foot (not leg)
  47. knee (not 1952)
  48. hand
  49. belly (lower part of body, abdomen)
  50. neck (not nape!)
  51. breasts (female; 1955 still breast)
  52. heart
  53. liver
  54. drink (verb)
  55. eat (verb)
  56. bite (verb)
  57. see (verb)
  58. hear (verb)
  59. know (facts)
  60. sleep (verb)
  61. die (verb)
  62. kill (verb)
  63. swim (verb)
  64. fly (verb)
  65. walk (verb)
  66. come (verb)
  67. lie (on side, recline)
  68. sit (verb)
  69. stand (verb)
  70. give (verb)
  71. say (verb)
  72. sun
  73. moon (not 1952)
  74. star
  75. water (noun)
  76. rain (noun, 1952 verb)
  77. stone
  78. sand
  79. earth (=soil)
  80. cloud (not fog)
  81. smoke (noun, of fire)
  82. fire
  83. ash(es)
  84. burn (verb intr.!)
  85. path (1952 road, trail; not street)
  86. mountain (not hill)
  87. red (colour)
  88. green (colour)
  89. yellow (colour)
  90. white (colour)
  91. black (colour)
  92. night
  93. hot (adjective; 1952 warm, of weather)
  94. cold (of weather)
  95. full
  96. new
  97. good
  98. round (not 1952)
  99. dry (substance!)
  100. name

^ "Claw" was only added in 1955, but again replaced by many well-known specialists with (finger)nail, because expressions for "claw" are not available in many old, died-out, or lesser known languages.

Shorter lists[edit]

The Swadesh–Yakhontov list is a 35-word subset of the Swadesh list posited as especially stable by Russian linguist Sergei Yakhontov. It has been used in lexicostatistics by linguists such as Sergei Starostin. With their Swadesh numbers, they are:[8]

1. I
2. you (singular)
7. this
11. who
12. what
22. one
23. two
45. fish
47. dog
48. louse
64. blood
65. bone
67. egg
68. horn
69. tail
73. ear
74. eye
75. nose
77. tooth
78. tongue
83. hand
103. know
109. die
128. give
147. sun
148. moon
150. water
155. salt
156. stone
163. wind
167. fire
179. year
182. full
183. new
207. name

Holman et al. (2008) found that in identifying the relationships between Chinese dialects the Swadesh–Yakhontov list was less accurate than the original Swadesh-100 list. Further they found that a different (40-word) list was just as accurate as the Swadesh-100 list. However, they calculated the relative stability of the words by comparing retentions between languages in established language families. They found no statistically significant difference in the correlations in the families of the Old versus the New World.

The ranked Swadesh-100 list, with Swadesh numbers and relative stability, is as follows (Holman et al., Appendix. Asterisked words appear on the 40-word list):

  1. 22 *louse (42.8)
  2. 12 *two (39.8)
  3. 75 *water (37.4)
  4. 39 *ear (37.2)
  5. 61 *die (36.3)
  6. 1 *I (35.9)
  7. 53 *liver (35.7)
  8. 40 *eye (35.4)
  9. 48 *hand (34.9)
  10. 58 *hear (33.8)
  11. 23 *tree (33.6)
  12. 19 *fish (33.4)
  13. 100 *name (32.4)
  14. 77 *stone (32.1)
  15. 43 *tooth (30.7)
  16. 51 *breasts (30.7)
  17. 2 *you (30.6)
  18. 85 *path (30.2)
  19. 31 *bone (30.1)
  20. 44 *tongue (30.1)
  21. 28 *skin (29.6)
  22. 92 *night (29.6)
  23. 25 *leaf (29.4)
  24. 76 rain (29.3)
  25. 62 kill (29.2)
  26. 30 *blood (29.0)
  27. 34 *horn (28.8)
  28. 18 *person (28.7)
  29. 47 *knee (28.0)
  30. 11 *one (27.4)
  31. 41 *nose (27.3)
  32. 95 *full (26.9)
  33. 66 *come (26.8)
  34. 74 *star (26.6)
  35. 86 *mountain (26.2)
  36. 82 *fire (25.7)
  37. 3 *we (25.4)
  38. 54 *drink (25.0)
  39. 57 *see (24.7)
  40. 27 bark (24.5)
  41. 96 *new (24.3)
  42. 21 *dog (24.2)
  43. 72 *sun (24.2)
  44. 64 fly (24.1)
  45. 32 grease (23.4)
  46. 73 moon (23.4)
  47. 70 give (23.3)
  48. 52 heart (23.2)
  49. 36 feather (23.1)
  50. 90 white (22.7)
  51. 89 yellow (22.5)
  52. 20 bird (21.8)
  53. 38 head (21.7)
  54. 79 earth (21.7)
  55. 46 foot (21.6)
  56. 91 black (21.6)
  57. 42 mouth (21.5)
  58. 88 green (21.1)
  59. 60 sleep (21.0)
  60. 7 what (20.7)
  61. 26 root (20.5)
  62. 45 claw (20.5)
  63. 56 bite (20.5)
  64. 83 ash (20.3)
  65. 87 red (20.2)
  66. 55 eat (20.0)
  67. 33 egg (19.8)
  68. 6 who (19.0)
  69. 99 dry (18.9)
  70. 37 hair (18.6)
  71. 81 smoke (18.5)
  72. 8 not (18.3)
  73. 4 this (18.2)
  74. 24 seed (18.2)
  75. 16 woman (17.9)
  76. 98 round (17.9)
  77. 14 long (17.4)
  78. 69 stand (17.1)
  79. 97 good (16.9)
  80. 17 man (16.7)
  81. 94 cold (16.6)
  82. 29 flesh (16.4)
  83. 50 neck (16.0)
  84. 71 say (16.0)
  85. 84 burn (15.5)
  86. 35 tail (14.9)
  87. 78 sand (14.9)
  88. 5 that (14.7)
  89. 65 walk (14.4)
  90. 68 sit (14.3)
  91. 10 many (14.2)
  92. 9 all (14.1)
  93. 59 know (14.1)
  94. 80 cloud (13.9)
  95. 63 swim (13.6)
  96. 49 belly (13.5)
  97. 13 big (13.4)
  98. 93 hot (11.6)
  99. 67 lie (11.2)
  100. 15 small (6.3)

Sign languages[edit]

In studying the sign languages of Vietnam and Thailand, linguist James Woodward noted that the traditional Swadesh list applied to spoken languages was unsuited for sign languages. The Swadesh list results in overestimation of the relationships between sign languages, due to indexical signs such as pronouns and parts of the body. The modified list is as follows, in largely alphabetical order:[9]

  1. all
  2. animal
  3. bad
  4. because
  5. bird
  6. black
  7. blood
  8. child
  9. count
  10. day
  11. die
  12. dirty
  13. dog
  14. dry
  15. dull
  16. dust
  17. earth
  18. egg
  19. grease
  20. father
  21. feather
  22. fire
  23. fish
  24. flower
  25. good
  26. grass
  27. green
  28. heavy
  29. how
  30. hunt
  31. husband
  32. ice
  33. if
  34. kill
  35. laugh
  36. leaf
  37. lie
  38. live
  39. long
  40. louse
  41. man
  42. meat
  43. mother
  44. mountain
  45. name
  46. narrow
  47. new
  48. night
  49. not
  50. old
  51. other
  52. person
  53. play
  54. rain
  55. red
  56. correct
  57. river
  58. rope
  59. salt
  60. sea
  61. sharp
  62. short
  63. sing
  64. sit
  65. smooth
  66. snake
  67. snow
  68. stand
  69. star
  70. stone
  71. sun
  72. tail
  73. thin
  74. tree
  75. vomit
  76. warm
  77. water
  78. wet
  79. what
  80. when
  81. where
  82. white
  83. who
  84. wide
  85. wife
  86. wind
  87. with
  88. woman
  89. wood
  90. worm
  91. year
  92. yellow
  93. full
  94. moon
  95. brother
  96. cat
  97. dance
  98. pig
  99. sister
  100. work

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Swadesh 1950: 161
  2. ^ a b Swadesh 1952: 456–7
  3. ^ Swadesh 1955: 125
  4. ^ a b Swadesh 1971: 283
  5. ^ http://ielex.mpi.nl./
  6. ^ Marisa Lohr (2000): New approaches to lexicostatistics and glottochronology. In: C. Renfrew, A McMahon & L. Trask (Eds), Time Depth in Historical Linguistics, Vol. 1, Chapt. 10: 209–223
  7. ^ Sheila Embleton 1992. In: W. Bright (Ed),International Encyclopaedia of Linguistics, Oxford University Press: p:131
  8. ^ Starostin 1991
  9. ^ Karen Emmorey; Harlan L. Lane (2000). The signs of language revisited: an anthology to honor Ursula Bellugi and Edward Klima. Psychology Press. pp. 20–21. ISBN 978-0-8058-3246-4. Retrieved 26 September 2011. 

References[edit]

  • Campbell, Lyle. (1998). Historical linguistics: An Introduction. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 0-262-53267-0.
  • Embleton, Sheila (1995). Review of ‘An Indo-European classification: A lexicostatistical experiment’ by I. Dyen; J.B. Kruskal & P.Black. TAPS Monograph 82–5, Philadelphia. inDiachronica 12-2/1992:263–68.
  • Gudschinsky, Sarah. (1956). The ABC's of lexicostatistics (glottochronology). Word,12, 175–210.
  • Hoijer, Harry. (1956). Lexicostatistics: A critique. Language, 32, 49–60.
  • Holm, Hans J. (2007). The new Arboretum of Indo-European "Trees". Can New Algorithms Reveal the Phylogeny and Even Prehistory of Indo-European? Journal of Quantitative Linguistics, vol. 14, 167–214.
  • Holman, Wichmann, Brown, Velupillai, Müller, Bakker (2008). "Explorations in automated language classification". Folia Linguistica 42.2: 331–354
  • Sankoff, David (1970). "On the Rate of Replacement of Word-Meaning Relationships."Language 46.564–569.
  • Starostin, Sergei (1991). Altajskaja Problema i Proisxozhdenie Japonskogo Jazyka [The Altaic Problem and the Origin of the Japanese Language]. Moscow: Nauka
  • Swadesh, Morris. (1950). Salish internal relationships. International Journal of American Linguistics, 16, 157–167.
  • Swadesh, Morris. (1952). Lexicostatistic dating of prehistoric ethnic contacts. Proceedings American Philosophical Society, 96, 452–463.
  • Swadesh, Morris. (1955). Towards greater accuracy in lexicostatistic dating. International Journal of American Linguistics, 21, 121–137.
  • Swadesh, Morris. (1971). The origin and diversification of language. Edited post mortem by Joel Sherzer. Chicago: Aldine. ISBN 202-01001-5. Contains p 283 final 100-word list!
  • Swadesh, Morris, et al. (1972). What is glottochronology? In M. Swadesh, Joel Sherzer (Ed.) The Origin and Diversification of Language (pp. 271–284). London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. ISBN 0-202-30841-3.
  • Wittmann, Henri (1973). "The lexicostatistical classification of the French-based Creole languages." Lexicostatistics in genetic linguistics: Proceedings of the Yale conference, April 3–4, 1971, dir. Isidore Dyen, 89–99. La Haye: Mouton.[1]

External links[edit]