Accidentally similar words

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yamaneko

New Member
Polish
Do you know any words that sound similar and mean the same in different languages although they are not related and word borrowing is very unlikely? For instance "mirar" in Spanish and "miru" in Japanese both mean "to see". Or the word "sama" meaning "the same" is to be found in Finnish, Polish, Indonesian ...
 
  • Frank06

    Senior Member
    Nederlands / Dutch (Belgium)
    Hi,

    Well, it happens even to languages which are related, closely or distantly...
    English bad - Persian bad 'bad';
    English much - Spanish mucho 'much';
    English day - Spanish dia 'day';
    French femme 'woman' - Romanian femeie 'woman';
    Old English habb- 'have' - Latin hab- 'have';​
    None of these pairs are cognates!!

    Other examples (non-related languages):
    Dutch elkaar 'each other' - Basque elkar 'each other';
    Hungarian fiu 'boy' - Romanian fiu 'son, boy';
    Chinese canting - French cantine (similarity due to pinying transcription);
    Mokilese padil - English 'paddle';
    Here you find an introductory text about chance similarities. In this essay about chance similarities -- probably the link which is almost always given when talking about this subject -- a lot more words are given (Quechua and Semitic languages). This pdf-file (Donald Ringe) gives you some maths about chance similarities.

    Listing similarly looking words is one of the most important "techniques" (and alas, quite often the only one) used by a lot of fringe linguists in order to claim a relation between two languages. Sometimes they even distort the transcriptions to make the words look more similar, sometimes by accident (in this case a euphemism for ignorance), sometimes on purpose. Hard to decide which of both is worse.

    I used to have quite a long list of this kind of people with loads of examples, but I lost my bookmarks some time ago :(. Anyway, each of the links below contain many examples of accidentally similar words:
    1. The 'father' in the movie "My Big Fat Greek Wedding". He's the first on the list, and probably the only one who's really funny. The following "linguists" are less comical, and they take the similarities very very seriously.
    2. Turkish and any other language: Polat Kaya;
    3. Hebrew and any language: David L;
    4. Here you have a collection of cognates, loans and similar looking words (Persian - other languages). The problem, of course, is the last category. Sorry, no time to go through the list word by word;
    5. Basque and Sumerian;
    6. Greek and Chinese (too crazy for words);
    7. A very special case: Chinese and the Bible;
    8. Paleolinguistic work by Ruhlen (see here, no examples);
    9. Alas, in some of the latest threads in EHL, you'll find a few more :D.​
    Groetjes,

    Frank
     

    Sepia

    Senior Member
    High German/Danish
    There is word in Japanese that is pronounced pretty much like

    Rambo

    and coincidentally means something like "violent action/behaviour" according to my dictionary. Linguistically there is no connection with the character played by Stallone.
     

    Athaulf

    Senior Member
    Croatian/Bosnia, Croatia
    Both [French femme and Romanian femeie] come from Latin femina.
    As incredible as it may sound, the Romanian word doesn't!

    http://www.sussex.ac.uk/linguistics/documents/where_do_mama2.pdf
    French femme descends from Latin femina, which also meant 'woman'. But Romanian femeie has nothing to do with Latin femina: instead, it descends from the unrelated Latin word familia, which in Latin meant 'domestic servants', 'household' and was derived from famulus 'domestic slave'. Latin familia eventually developed the sense of 'family' in the Romance languages, and it is the French form of this word which provides English family. In Romanian, however, the sense of 'family' or 'children' is confined to some of the regional dialects, while in the standard language the word has developed the sense of 'woman'.

    This should be a warning against naive etymologies if I've ever seen one!
     

    Lingvisten

    Senior Member
    Denmark
    Russian: БОМЖ (Без Определённого Места Жительства)
    Danish: bums

    Both the words means "a homeless", but the first, Russian, is an abbreviation meaning: "without any distinct place to live", the danish word bums is slang, and originally means a pimple; there's definitly no connection between those two.
     

    jazyk

    Senior Member
    Brazílie, portugalština
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by jazyk
    Both [French femme and Romanian femeie] come from Latin femina.

    As incredible as it may sound, the Romanian word doesn't!
    Yep, the following excerpt corroborates what you and Frank said. Interesting. Thanks for pointing it out. :)

    FEMÉIE, femei, s.f. 1. Persoană adultă de sex feminin; muiere. 2. Persoană de sex feminin căsătorită. ♦ (Pop.; urmat de determinări în genitiv sau de un adjectiv posesiv) Soţie, nevastă. [Pr.: -me-ie] – Lat. familia „familie“.
     

    zpoludnia swiata

    Senior Member
    chile english, spanish, german
    Actually Polish "sam" (alone) or as in "to samo" (the same) are etymologically related to English "same". It is an IndoEuropean root.
     

    Asgaard

    Member
    usa, english
    Hi all,
    Accidental or not quite so ...
    I invite you all to read Robin Allott website. I believe it is necessary to see other opinions and not to draw conclusions just yet.
    The "accidental likeness" might just be "the amazing likeness".

    www(dot)percep(dot)demon(dot)co(dot)uk

    Specially interesting: The Motor Theory of Language: Origin and Function

    Reader be advised ... one might find controversial claims.


    Regards,
    Asgaard
     

    Sepia

    Senior Member
    High German/Danish
    A related observation I have made is that many languages have similar or identical words for

    nine (9) and new

    - nove, nou, neu/neun, ni/ny etc.

    I don't know if this can be a coincidence - but on the other hand I cannot quite figure out a logical reason for this.
     

    modus.irrealis

    Senior Member
    English, Canada
    The new/nine similarity seems to occur in many Indo-European languages and some people do think they're related. In Pokorny's dictionary, he has a note under the root for nine, which is

    Man vermutet Zusammenhang mit *neu̯o- `neu', weil mit 9 ein neuer Zählabschnitt begonnen habe, indem die Dualform von *ok^tṓu `8' auf eine Viererrechnung weise.
    If I understand that right that does sound plausible in a way, but I don't know if that view is accepted by most scholars or not.
     

    Frank06

    Senior Member
    Nederlands / Dutch (Belgium)
    Hi,
    Accidental or not quite so...
    I invite you all to read Robin Allott website.
    I believe it is necessary to see other opinions and not to draw conclusions just yet. The "accidental likeness" might just be "the amazing likeness".
    www(dot)percep(dot)demon(dot)co(dot)uk
    Could you please just give the website without the (dot) things.
    Even if your status doesn't allow you to post links yet, you can just give the url.

    And... Once again you suggest a lot, but once again I fail to see the point. Or in this case, I fail to find the relevant web pages you seemed to have in mind. I tried to search the site, but apart from a series of rather peculiar views, a few of which throw us back in a Cratylus-like debate, I don't see anything that might connect the contents of this site to our topic.
    Could you please point out how exactly the information on this website is relevant for the topic 'accidentally similar words'.

    Thanks in advance.

    Frank
     

    Mahaodeh

    Senior Member
    Arabic, PA and IA.
    A related observation I have made is that many languages have similar or identical words for

    nine (9) and new

    - nove, nou, neu/neun, ni/ny etc.

    I don't know if this can be a coincidence - but on the other hand I cannot quite figure out a logical reason for this.
    In Arabic, it has nothing to do with it: nine = tis'a - new = jadeed
     

    Montaigne

    Senior Member
    French, France
    En sanskrit deux mots "nava" (transcriptions devanagari identiques)signifient, l'un "neuf, le nombre", l'autre "nouveau".
    D'où novus, novo, nuevo, new, nouveau.... et nueve, neuf, nine....
     

    demalaga

    Member
    España castellano
    The word cattus existed in Latin. Anyway it is posible that this word comes from ancient Egyptian, since cats were domestic animals in Egypt, and Egypt became a Roman province.Being Coptic the final stage of Ancient Egyptian I wouldnt be surprised.
     

    mkh

    Banned
    Iran, Farsi
    Hi,
    I think chance occurs seldom and 'alarming amount of chance' guide us to a new fact that we supposed that was a chance.

    I was wondering to know, what are non "fringe linguists" criteria to justify that two words in two languages are really cognate or only chance similarity?
    see "comparative linguistics" in wiki.
     

    Frank06

    Senior Member
    Nederlands / Dutch (Belgium)
    Hi,
    I think chance occurs seldom and 'alarming amount of chance' guide us to a new fact that we supposed that was a chance.
    Only for people who want themselves (and others) to be deceived by the (surprisingly high) amount of chance coincidences between any two given languages. In previous posts other people and I already mentioned a paper and a book on the mathematics of chance coincidences. Can you please point out -- with the finger on the text -- where exactly you don't agree with their findings. After you have done that, can you please formulate a better hypothesis / theory than what you read in those texts?
    I was wondering to know, what are non "fringe linguists" criteria to justify that two words in two languages are really cognate or only chance similarity?
    What you call "the non-fringe criteria" (a.k.a the principles of historical comparative linguistics) are explained in every single basic course, manual and text book on comparative/historical linguistics, which can be found in almost any library or academic bookshop (check out Enghelab!).

    Secondly, quite a lot of linguists, if not all, dare to say 'I don't know'. Knowing, or at least realising what you don't know slash cannot know is crucial.

    Thirdly, before a historical linguist says 'I don't know', she normally should have explored all the possibilties (cognate, loan, chance similarity).
    These possibilities hardly involve two words or a pair of words, but whole paradigms and other chunks of grammar. Before they are even able to explore all the possibilites, they should have spent a considerate portion of their conscious life on linguistics and historical and comparative linguistics.

    Fourthly, if that historical linguists doesn't know it, she can always ask a colleague. Linguistics is not something one does in complete isolation. There are colleagues...

    A very short example (and, please, keep in mind it's enormously simplified!!!):
    Imagine that we don't know English or German very well, and we don't know the relation between both languages. Imagine you would come across the English word 'good' and the German word 'gut', you'll notice that there is a certain kind of similarity. Chance, cognate or loan? There is no way to tell on the basis of these two words (and these two words only).
    Otherwise said, if there is no further information whatsoever, you have to stop here.

    But you're lucky, you also found 'better/best' and 'besser/(am) best(en). The adjective, comparative and superlative (the full paradigm) are incredibly similar, which (probably) excludes a loan and certainly excludes a chance coincidence.

    So, you look further, and you find 'give' and 'geben' (and a whole series of other words with g in both languages and with the same or a similar meaning). If you have found enough words, one might conclude that g English = g in German. That can be a possible starting hypothesis.

    If you find an exception to this pattern, you have to account for that exception: good luck (or bad luck): you find 'yearn' and 'Gerne', 'day' and 'Tag'. If there are a lot of exceptions which show a pattern among themselves, you might have found a second working hypothesis.
    1. Eng. g = Germ. g
    2. Engl. y = Germ. g
    [And you'll find other 'relations', for example Engl. b = Germ. v, Engl. ea = Germ. a (fill in the IPA symbols yourself, since I am not talking about letters, but about sounds) :). ]

    Even this doesn't mean a thing so far, because you have to start to account on why g is sometimes g and why g is sometimes y. Why v is sometimes German b etc. etc. etc. So, not the sound in itself, but also the environment and the place of the sound plays a role.
    Then you do the same for the vowel and the same for the final sound. And, of course, for all the other 'relations' you might have found in the course of your research.
    But even this is not enough: you'll find 'weird' alternations in both languages separately, so you'll have to explore the internal history of both languages separately...

    Here ends my short (and awfully simplified) example, which involves two closely related languages. But I guess you realise where I am heading to: you get a quite complex network of interrelated items (on a lexical, phonological, morphological, morphophonological and syntactic level).

    One small addition: It's quite senseless to compare (Modern) English and (Modern) Persian if one doesn't take two other aspects into account:
    1. the previous language phases (roughly said 'Old' and 'Middle' English and 'Old' and 'Middle' Persian, and of course Avestan).
    2. the other members of the same branch (German, English, Dutch, ... / Sogdian, Sanskrit, ...). And don't forget point 1.

    Well, one simply has to study all this, that's all...


    But, and this is basically my point: what I described in short above still takes a tad longer than the time needed to write a post, a blog entry, or an email.

    Nevertheless, we are lucky, at least what the Indo-European (and Germanic) languages are concerned: for the last 200 years (and longer), 1000s of linguists have devoted their lives on these topics, and they have published complete libraries on English, German, (and Persian). They compiled great (etymological) dictionaries. They only give words and cognates, but that's because the 'mechanics', the sound changes involved are supposed to be known by people who consult them.
    Those sound changes (and all other aspects) can also be found back in books, in libraries. To understand these books, one is supposed to have a basic understanding of linguistics and linguistic terminology (for example: letters are no sounds).

    And yet, if one disagrees with the mainstream theory or with one aspect, one can always point out where it goes wrong and state a new theory.
    Mind you, an alternative is not and cannot be the result of a list of pairs which one has found in a set of dictionaries.


    Groetjes,

    Frank
     

    Athaulf

    Senior Member
    Croatian/Bosnia, Croatia
    Imagine that we don't know English or German very well, and we don't know the relation between both languages. Imagine you would come across the English word 'good' and the German word 'gut', you'll notice that there is a certain kind of similarity. Chance, cognate or loan? There is no way to tell on the basis of these two words (and these two words only).
    In fact, to be fully precise, there is also the fourth possibility. It is possible that the words are entirely unrelated, and yet the similarity is not due to pure chance, but rather due to some systematic process that tends to generate similar sounding words with similar meanings in unrelated languages. This happens quite often through onomatopoeia and baby talk (the first sounds made by small children anywhere are always somewhat similar due to physiological reasons, and words for family members often arise from imitations of those sounds by adults).
     

    demalaga

    Member
    España castellano
    Onomatopoeia could account for some accidental similarities but maybe not a lot.Since onomatopoeic imitations are not accurate, and besides are different from one language to another. For example the rooster's sound is "kikiriki" in Spanish. "cocorico" in French and in English I dont' remember but is different from both French and Spanish.
     

    Frank06

    Senior Member
    Nederlands / Dutch (Belgium)
    Onomatopoeia could account for some accidental similarities but maybe not a lot.Since onomatopoeic imitations are not accurate, and besides are different from one language to another. For example the rooster's sound is "kikiriki" in Spanish. "cocorico" in French and in English I dont' remember but is different from both French and Spanish.
    No need to remeber them :). The remark by Athulf and you added something to the discussion, but the main topic is still 'accidentally similar words'.

    Groetjes,

    Frank
    Moderator EHL
     

    Are Latin "femina"(which gave birth French femme) and "famulus" (which gave birth to Romanian femeia) related to each other? If so, then Romanian femeia and French femme are indirect cognates???
     

    mkh

    Banned
    Iran, Farsi
    Hi,
    In previous posts other people and I already mentioned a paper and a book on the mathematics of chance coincidences. Can you please point out -- with the finger on the text -- where exactly you don't agree with their findings. After you have done that, can you please formulate a better hypothesis / theory than what you read in those texts?
    After reading the book of Donald Ringe introduced Frank, I have some sentences.​
    1: I don't see any mathematics formula on this book; only magic numbers. There is no idea about final judgment between cognate and chance.​

    2: In comparing English with Latin & German the author used a table in range of 100 words. Consider word blood in English, blut in German, kin in Latin; (I add خون 'khun' in Persian). Anybody will judge that English is more relative than German from Latin, when see these words.​
    I like use some magic power of idea of 'distortion' for comparing true words between languages. There are some other words in some languages. I offer following words:​

    'akin' in English that means from Webster 'the same blood'.​
    'aorta' in English & Latin, means 'main artery of the body'.​
    ورده & ورد (vard) in Persian/Arabic means red. (ورده & Red are similar).​
    ورید (varid) in Persian/Arabic means vessel, because of redness of blood,.​

    If we carefully see to these words and consider the interchangeability of ( و and B) and (ر and L) we have 2 categories as follows:​
    A: blood, blut, aorta & ورید.​
    B: akin, kin, خون.​
    In such a case we have 2 sets of similar words, with similar pronunciation; if the book used them may changes its results.​

    Thanks,​
    Mahdi.​
     

    Asgaard

    Member
    usa, english
    Hi,

    With regard to chaos and/or coincidence ... Einstein once said ...

    " GOD DOESN'T PLAY DICE "

    Talking and writing about accidents, coincidence and chaos ... the following came to mind:
    - What is the application of Chaos Theory in the Evolution of Languages? Are there accidents, or just a Small Variation of the initial conditions of the Language system that might produce large variations in the long term behavior of the system.
    I shall say this:
    "Languages like species retain vestigial features of earlier forms of linguistic expression." For the rest of the article see

    The Extended Mind: Understanding Language and Thought in Terms of Complexity and Chaos Theory

    Robert K. Logan Assoc. Prof. of Physics - University of Toronto




    Regards
    Asgaard
     

    menme

    New Member
    ex-pat American, English native speaker
    Why are words which both have a Latin root being treated here as "accidently similar?" Such as @Frank, English "day" and Spanish "dia". Why aren't they simply cognates? (sorry if this has been handled somewhere before, I'm new here) ...
     

    Frank06

    Senior Member
    Nederlands / Dutch (Belgium)
    Hi,
    Why are words which both have a Latin root being treated here as "accidently similar?" Such as @Frank, English "day" and Spanish "dia". Why aren't they simply cognates? (sorry if this has been handled somewhere before, I'm new here) ...
    Because those words go back to two different PIE roots.
    Engl. day < *PIE dhegh- (or *agh-) (and not via Latin, by the way!)
    Sp. dia < *PIE deiw-

    Cognates, by definition, are words which come (at some moment in the past) from the same root.

    Groetjes,

    Frank
     

    Frank06

    Senior Member
    Nederlands / Dutch (Belgium)
    Hi,
    Are Latin "femina" [...] and "famulus" [...] related to each other? If so, then Romanian femeia and French femme are indirect cognates???
    I checked three dictionaries, and all three of them state that the origins of "famulus" are unknown. One mentions that the word only appears in the Italic branch originally (from which it spread, but that's not the point here). For femina, the PIE root *dhe:i- (*dhe:-mna: ) is given.
    So, no, there is no reason to assume that both words are cognates.

    Groetjes,

    Frank
     

    Mahaodeh

    Senior Member
    Arabic, PA and IA.
    ورده & ورد (vard) in Persian/Arabic means red. (ورده & Red are similar).


    ورید (varid) in Persian/Arabic means vessel, because of redness of blood,.​
    Actualy ward (no v in Arabic) in Arabic means "income" both as in "incoming mail" and "material income" - warda (flower) is called so because it is the "income" of the tree/shrub. It is derived from the root w-r-d which means to "come". (the flower comes from the tree/shrub/plant)

    Wareed is called so because it brings the blood from the heart, hence it is the "income" of the heart.

    It has nothing to do with red or redness, which is ahmar in Arabic from the root h-m-r (ح م ر) or Dharaja (to color in red) from the root Dh-r-j (ض ر ج).
     

    mkh

    Banned
    Iran, Farsi
    Hi,
    ... Wareed ... It has nothing to do with red or redness, which is ahmar in Arabic from the root h-m-r (ح م ر) or Dharaja (to color in red) from the root Dh-r-j (ض ر ج).
    So, It is a sample as "Accidentally similar words" between Persian/Arabic.
    from "etymonline.com: Red : ... from PIE base *reudh- ... Avestan: raoidita ... The only color for which a definite common PIE root word has been found."
    And in Persian from Dehkhoda in mibosearch.com : ورد (vard) meaning red & rose (flower).
    Ferdowsi (935–1020 CE) says:
    "ز آتش برون آمد آزادمرد ----------- لبان پر ز خنده به رخ همچو ورد"
    meaning:
    Free man exited from the fire ---------- the lips full of content in face, similar to rose
     
    Hi,

    I checked three dictionaries, and all three of them state that the origins of "famulus" are unknown. One mentions that the word only appears in the Italic branch originally (from which it spread, but that's not the point here). For femina, the PIE root *dhe:i- (*dhe:-mna: ) is given.
    So, no, there is no reason to assume that both words are cognates.

    Groetjes,

    Frank
    Thank you
     

    Twoflower

    Member
    UK, English
    Can you please point out -- with the finger on the text -- where exactly you don't agree with their findings. After you have done that, can you please formulate a better hypothesis / theory than what you read in those texts?
    Thirdly, before a historical linguist says 'I don't know', she normally should have explored all the possibilties (cognate, loan, chance similarity).
    These possibilities hardly involve two words or a pair of words, but whole paradigms and other chunks of grammar. Before they are even able to explore all the possibilites, they should have spent a considerate portion of their conscious life on linguistics and historical and comparative linguistics.
    This is an astonishingly eloquent argument against the existence of your own forum. On the basis you describe, only university professors should dare to post, and even then they should only post material that agrees in every detail with the consensus of opinion.

    Well, one simply has to study all this, that's all...
    Frank, are you telling people to shut up and stop posting to your forum?

    I spent long enough in a language faculty (as a student) to know that in the area of linguistics, including etymology, it is rare for two academics even to agree on the time of day, yet you want only absolute truth to be posted on your forum. A high ambition indeed...
     

    Frank06

    Senior Member
    Nederlands / Dutch (Belgium)
    Hi TwoFlower, all,

    I fail to see the relation between the lines you quoted from my posts and your rather dramatic comments (and conclusions):
    - "an astonishingly eloquent argument against the existence of your own forum";
    - "only university professors should dare to post";
    - "Frank, are you telling people to shut up and stop posting to your forum?";
    - absolute truth (admit it, this really is dramatic, no? ;)).

    This forum (not "my" forum, by the way) is about historical linguistics and etymology and most posters here try to help each other with decent information which falls within the very broad (and sometimes vague) limits of mainstream linguistics.
    I don't think that we have a lot of professors here... But many people already have posted quite interesting posts here.

    And we hope that you will do the same.
    On accidentally similar words, for example, which happens to be the topic of this thread.

    Greetings,

    Frank
    Moderator EHL
     

    Twoflower

    Member
    UK, English
    [Off topic parts snipped. Please stay on topic.
    Frank
    Moderator EHL]

    I'm surprised that you think that my post is less relevant to the topic in hand than your own. I believe that I was defending the legitimacy of questioning the accidental nature of similarities between words.

    I just feel that you are being far too simplistic when you exclude any influencing effect in apparently coincidentally similar words, especially in related languages. Your Romanian word for woman is the prime example. The weakness of your argument that the words must have developed entirely independently can be illustrated by the poem "Jabberwocky" by Lewis Carrol. The narrative of this poem is driven by words that Carrol made up, yet native English speakers have no trouble understanding the thrust of the poem. Indeed, one of those words, "chortle", is now part of the language, with a meaning that is slightly different than Carrol's apparent intention. Is it really unreasonable to postulate that a word meaning woman and starting with fem- gained currency in a Romance language at least in part owing to resonance with the Latin femina?

    I just think that a forum such as this should be a place where speculation can be aired without extensive prior research: after all, there are plenty of people around ready to shoot down (preferably gently) any ideas that are clearly erroneous.
     

    Athaulf

    Senior Member
    Croatian/Bosnia, Croatia
    Polish jutro and Croatian jutro
    Polish one means tomorrow and Croatian one means morning or day I think?
    It's the same Slavic word, which just happened to drift semantically in two different directions in Polish and Croatian. You'll find words switching their meaning back and forth between "tomorrow" and "morning" in many other languages too.
     

    Frank06

    Senior Member
    Nederlands / Dutch (Belgium)
    Hi,

    We reached the end of page three in a thread that should never have been started in the first place. Asking for lists in another forum than "Other languages" is rarely a good idea. My mistake.

    On the other hand, it wasn't that bad since it gave us the opportunity to vent our ideas about -- and I paraphrase -- 'accidental likeness being a matter of amazing likeness' on the one hand, and 'accidental likeness being a matter of amazing... well, accidental likeness' on the other hand.

    So, we can't go on with merely giving instances of similar looking words in this thread and then discuss whether or not they are chance coincidences. I think we better open new threads for that.

    Which means, that this thread is being closed.

    Groetjes,

    Frank
    Moderator EHL
     
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