Burtă, Pântece, Stomac?
The map above is from the Romanian Linguistic Atlas showing the variants of the word “belly” and their distribution. It discusses six different names for the “bowels”
- BURTĂ of unknown etymology; possibly akin to Albanian bark, Proto-Indo-European *bʰer- ‘to carry’. (English cognate belly??)
- PÂNTECE from Latin pantex, (English cognate paunch)
- FOALE from Latin follis, from Proto-Indo-European *bʰolǵʰnis, derivative of *bʰelǵʰ- (“to swell”). (English cognate belly)
- STOMAC from Latin stomachus < greek στόμαχος (stómachos) (English cognate stomach)
- BÂRDAN possibly from Germanic blēdrǭ (English cognate bladder??)
- DOBĂ possibly from toba? (English cognate drum?)
- trbúhu from Slavic trbuh, from Proto-Slavic *trьbuxъ. (English cognate ??)
and then it shows the distribution in Romanian, Megleno-Romanian, Aromanian and Istro-Romanian. The map then wonderfully plots the variations for the different “tummy” words and their varying pronunciation, for example by paunch, that comes from the Latin Pantex, there are seven variations; PÂNTECE, PÂNTETE, PÂNDICÂ, PÂNCE, PÂNTEC, PÂNTIC and PÂNTICÂ, spread about Moldova and Transylvania as well as for Megleno-Romanian and Aromanian in Macedonia. Foale seems to be the most stable term for abdomen, occurring mainly in Banat but also in Istria.
The troubles with Swadesh word lists.
For those readers that might chuckle at the many Romanian terms for stomach, there are numerous terms in many languages. In English there is Stomach, Belly, Tummy, Bladder, Maw, Bouk, Paunch, Abdomen, Vesica, Gut, Bowels. In German there is Magen, Bauch, Wanze, Wanst, Wamme, Wampe, Panze, Plauze, Ranzen, Blather, Unterleib, and probably more that I do not know of. These are not the language exceptions, many languages have a heterogeneous distribution of words used to describe the belly. This makes the term a good tool to help define dialects of a single language. However it creates a headache if you attempt to compare many languages with each other. And that is exactly what Morris Swadesh suggested to do.
Morris Swadesh was an influential linguist of the mid 20th century and one of the his big contributions, to comparative linguistics, was to propose several word lists which would allow researchers to quantify the interrelatedness of those languages. Belly/Stomach/Bladder is one of those words that made it onto Swadesh’s lists. Even though because of its instability and the heterogeneous vocabulary used for the meaning it is rather impractical for the comparison of languages. Morris Swadesh grew to understand the problems with his word list, and he thus whittled the original № 225 words from 1950 down to 207 and № 200 words (meanings) in 1952, and then again to a 100 word list in 1955, that was only published in 1971 and 1972. The № 207-word list made by far the biggest impact and was widely circulated for two decades before the № 100-word list version was published, which competed with 207’s popularity.
Swadesh № 207 Word List
|2||you (singular)||71||hair||140||to say|
|5||you (plural)||74||eye||143||to float|
|31||heavy||100||to laugh||169||to burn|
|37||man (male)||106||to fear||175||white|
|38||man (human)||107||to sleep||176||black|
|53||stick||122||to come||191||sharp (as a knife)|
|54||fruit||123||to lie (as in a bed)||192||dull (as a knife)|
|57||root||126||to turn (intransitive)||195||dry|
|58||bark (of a tree)||127||to fall||196||correct|
|66||fat (noun)||135||to push||204||and|
This № 207 word list was used by many anthropologists as a standard questioner when documenting a language. A young anthropologist on a research expedition would sit down and ask a village elder the words for 207 different meanings were, 1. I (pronoun)? 2. you? 3. he? 4. we? ect… many times they would run into problems, what if the language being documented did not have a word for 61 rope? or 145 to freeze? What if a language has many words for 97 to vomit/puke/spew/belch/barf/sick? What should the anthropologist note for 52? Forest? Wood? Brush? To 47 dog? hound? mutt? In an effort to work on the problems when documenting synonyms Sara C. Gudschinsky in 1956 adapted the Swadesh № 200. But there are so many synonyms. The words for many of the meanings are unstable, are prone to borrowing, to slang, to replacement, and thus are impracticable to quantify the interrelatedness of those languages.
Morris Swadesh also came to this realisation and in 1955 he wrote about his 100 word list:
“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.”
Swadesh was by far not the first linguist to compile word lists for comparisons. Gottfried Leibniz had compiled a № 128 word list by 1716 and in 1782 William Marsden compiled a № 50 word list mainly to compare East Asian languages. The search for a useful word list continued through out the 18th to 20th century. Many of the terms compiled by Leibniz and successor linguists of the 18th and 19th century are included again in Swadesh’s lists. For example ⅔ of Marsden’s № 50 list is included on Swadesh’s № 207 or 79% of Hans C. Gabelentz‘s 1861 № 24 word list. Early Swadesh seems to have been overly concerned with quantity and at the expense of quality. It is a shame he did not get round to publishing his shorter № 100 version earlier or that he did not publicize or know of Brinton’s № 21 List, Ray’s № 26 List or Gabelentz’s № 24 List.
Brinton № 21 List
Ray № 26 List
Gabelentz № 24 List
Having well a documented set of about 20 stable words, with maybe the correct pronunciation, transliteration and background information is more valuable for language comparison than 200 hastily jotted down words. Ahron Dolgopolsky was one person to understand this and put a remarkably stable № 15 word list together in 1964, Vitaly Shevoroshkin’s adapted it in 1991 and added eight words to compile a № 23 list. Vincent Beaufils analysed thousands of word list combinations to determine which fits best to automatically determine Indo-European language relationships and compiled a № 18 word list in 2015.
Dolgopolsky № 15
Shevoroshkin № 23
Beaufils № 18
|10||no||10||no or not|
|13||tear (of eye)||13||tear (of eye)|
*On Beaufils № 18, missing on the Leipzig–Jakarta № 100
The lists to use
To address many of the issues with the longer Swadesh lists, a group of linguists from across the world compiled the Leipzig-Jakarta № 100 word list (first list named after cities instead of individuals).
Leipzig–Jakarta № 100 ranked by semantic stability
|3.||to go||36.||to hit/beat||67c.||to suck|
|9a.||2SG pronoun||42a.||to drink||75.||to eat|
|13.||rain||46a.||to bite||79.||to blow|
|18.||flesh/meat||51.||child (kin term)||84a.||ash|
|22.||ear||53c.||to burn (intr.)||88.||to tie|
|25.||to do/make||58.||to know||91a.||rope|
|28b.||to say||61b.||to hear||91e.||small|
Above the list is order to semantic stability and this list gives a broad set of words to study secondary influences of several languages. I hope it will gain popularity by anthropologists in the future. For detailed comparison of dialects or two languages this list is a good start. A good start but can diverge, if the goal is to determine dialects of or influences on a language, Belly, Paunch, Stomach, Tummy is a decent term to study. If the goal is to compare languages to with each other, then starting with a short stable word list e.g. № 18 word list.
- Concepticon is a project of the Max Planck for the Science of Human History edited by List, Johann Mattis & Cysouw, Michael & Greenhill, Simon & Forkel, Robert. It has many of the comparative word lists compiled through out history, many of which have not been discussed in this article and are nevertheless very interesting.
- Etymology enthusiasts of the r/etymologymaps community have put many a visual word comparison together for many of the meanings discussed above.