Monday, November 2, 2009

Non-sequitur of the moment (NOM?)

I am going to beat the next person who


Pet peeve as a sociolinguist: propagation of the "the Eskimo language has 50/200/1000/etc. words for snow" myth.

1) There is no such language as "Eskimo." There are a number of Eskimo-Aleut languages.
2a) Franz Boaz, the linguist/anthropologist who started this all, said that there were four distinct roots for snow. Roots, not words. Also four-- where do all these other numbers come from?
2b) Eskimo languages, like many native North American languages, are polysynthetic. Therefore, by the popular definition of "word" (i.e. freestanding set of letters/sounds that is unique), the number of Eskimo words for snow is basically as large as the number of English sentences that can contain "snow."

Bill Bryson, you disappoint me. I will be returning The Mother Tongue to the library tomorrow after having read only the first chapter because you didn't bother to do your research. I will also most likely never read any of your other books because I lost my respect for you as an author. Fail.

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