Swadesh list


Swadesh list

A Swadesh list is one of several lists of vocabulary with "basic" meanings, developed by Morris Swadesh in the 1940-50s, which is used in lexicostatistics (quantitative language relatedness assessment) and glottochronology (language divergence dating).

There are two basic versions of Swadesh list, one with 200 meanings, the other with 100 meanings. In the composite listing on this page, there are actually 207 meanings in total, since seven of the entries in the 100-meaning list ("breast", "fingernail", "full", "horn", "knee", "moon", "round") were not in the original 200-meaning list. To see which words are in which lists, see these .

Usage in lexicostatistics and glottochronology

The Swadesh word list is used in lexicostatistics and glottochronology to determine the approximate date of first separation of genetically related languages, though other lists may be used. The closeness of the relationship of the languages is suggested to be roughly proportional to the number of cognate words present in the list. The reason that a fixed set of concepts is used, rather than a list of arbitrary words, is that the basic vocabulary learned during early childhood is assumed to change very slowly over time. Note that the task of counting the number of cognate words in the list is far from trivial, and may be 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 Hindi 'chakra' are cognates, although they are not recognizable as such without knowledge of the history of both languages. Also, even in cases where the number of cognates is undisputed, use of Swadesh lists for dating is disputed, because of the underlying assumption that the rate of replacement of basic vocabulary is constant over long periods of time. While Swadesh lists are a useful tool to get a rough idea, mainstream historical linguistics is usually very sceptical about claims of relatedness based on Swadesh lists exclusively.

The use of Swadesh lists in glottochronology was most popular during the 1960s and 1970s, after which enthusiasm waned and the discussion of the method's merit became emotional, leading to a temporary demise of the method. Refinements since the early 1970s include the incorporation of a geographical dimension into the equations, accounting for borrowing.

A recent example of the use of Swadesh lists for absolute dating is the study of Gray and Atkinson (2003), calculating a tree of Indo-European languages with absolute dates for its nodes, using Bayesian principles, dating the Proto-Indo-European language to ca. 7000 BC (see Indo-Hittite). The study, which begins with a merciless criticism of the earlier forms of glottochronology, is based on the set of 200-word swadesh lists compiled by Isidore Dyen for 87 Indo-European languages. This 200-word swadesh list was already early abandoned by Swadesh for suspect with too many borrowed items, and has additionally been shown to be very unreliable (cf. Embleton 1995). (Swadesh later introduced a 100 item list which he considered more universal and culture-free. Because of this and false underlying assumptions of rates in language change, the work is generally argued against by practitioners of historical linguistics (cf. e.g. Campbell 1998:177ff).) The method of Gray and Atkinson is in fact based upon methods developed for the analysis of phylogenic relations in biology. It should be noted that their study is published in Nature, a publication more often associated with the natural sciences than with linguistics, let alone historical linguistics, and it remains to be seen if the method will achieve wide acceptance in linguistics.

wadesh list in English

Below is the Swadesh list of 207 words in the English language. For a Swadesh list that compares English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Esperanto, Swedish, and Latin (with links to other lists in other languages), see .

# I
# you (singular)
# he
# we
# you (plural)
# they
# this
# that
# here
# there
# who
# what
# where
# when
# how
# not
# all
# many
# some
# few
# other
# one
# two
# three
# four
# five
# big
# long
# wide
# thick
# heavy
# small
# short
# narrow
# thin
# woman
# man (adult male)
# Man (human being)
# child
# wife
# husband
# mother
# father
# animal
# fish
# bird
# dog
# louse
# snake
# worm
# tree
# forest
# stick
# fruit
# seed
# leaf
# root
# bark
# flower
# grass
# rope
# skin
# meat
# blood
# bone
# fat (n.)
# egg
# horn
# tail
# feather
# hair
# head
# ear
# eye
# nose
# mouth
# tooth
# tongue
# fingernail
# foot
# leg
# knee
# hand
# wing
# belly
# guts
# neck
# back
# breast
# heart
# liver
# drink
# eat
# bite
# suck
# spit
# vomit
# blow
# breathe
# laugh
# see
# hear
# know
# think
# smell
# fear
# sleep
# live
# die
# kill
# fight
# hunt
# hit
# cut
# split
# stab
# scratch
# dig
# swim
# fly (v.)
# walk
# come
# lie
# sit
# stand
# turn
# fall
# give
# hold
# squeeze
# rub
# wash
# wipe
# pull
# push
# throw
# tie
# sew
# count
# say
# sing
# play
# float
# flow
# freeze
# swell
# sun
# moon
# star
# water
# rain
# river
# lake
# sea
# salt
# stone
# sand
# dust
# earth
# cloud
# fog
# sky
# wind
# snow
# ice
# smoke
# fire
# ashes
# burn
# road
# mountain
# red
# green
# yellow
# white
# black
# night
# day
# year
# warm
# cold
# full
# new
# old
# good
# bad
# rotten
# dirty
# straight
# round
# sharp
# dull
# smooth
# wet
# dry
# correct
# near
# far
# right
# left
# at
# in
# with
# and
# if
# because
# name

References

* Campbell, Lyle. (1998). "Historical linguistics: An Introduction". Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 0262532670.
*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. in "Diachronica" 12-2/1992:263-68.
* Gray, Russell D.; & Atkinson, Quentin D. Language-tree divergence times support the Anatolian theory of Indo-European origin, "Nature", "426".
* 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".
*Sankoff, David (1970). "On the Rate of Replacement of Word-Meaning Relationships." "Language" 46.564-569.
* 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, "The Origin and Diversification of Language" (pp. 271–284). London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. ISBN 0202308413.
*Wittmann, Henri (1969). "A lexico-statistic inquiry into the diachrony of Hittite." "Indogermanische Forschungen" 74.1-10. [http://homepage.mac.com/noula/ling/1969a-lexstatHitt.pdf]
*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. [http://homepage.mac.com/noula/ling/1973f-lexstatFC.pdf]

External links

* [http://www.degruyter.de/journals/lintyp/2001/pdf/5_1.pdf Lexico-semantic universals: A critical overview] (.pdf, requires login)
* [http://www.rosettaproject.org/ Rosetta project]
* [http://paginas.terra.com.br/educacao/GICLI/ListasEnglish.htm Swadesh Lists of Brazilian Native Languages]

ee also

*A General Service List of English Words
* [http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Category:Swadesh_lists Swadesh lists for hundreds of languages] , "listed by individual language", on the Wiktionary "Swadesh Lists Category" pages
* [http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Appendix:Swadesh_list Swadesh lists for hundreds of languages] , "grouped by language family", on the Wiktionary "Appendix" pages
*Lexicostatistics
*Glottochronology
*Mass lexical comparison
*Basic English
*Historical linguistics
*Proto-language
*cognate
*Indo-European studies
*


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