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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 Wiktionary's Swadesh list appendix.

Contents

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, and the use of robust statistical models, borrowed from phylogenetics.

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), although the criticism has very little concrete basis, apart from verbal argument.) Gray and Atkinson use models developed for the analysis of phylogenetic relationships in biology and it remains unclear whether any critical violations of the models' assumptions are violated in the course of language evolution. It remains to be seen if the method will achieve wide acceptance in linguistics.

Swadesh 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 Wiktionary:Swadesh list.

  1. I
  2. you (singular)
  3. he
  4. we
  5. you (plural)
  6. they
  7. this
  8. that
  9. here
  10. there
  11. who
  12. what
  13. where
  14. when
  15. how
  16. not
  17. all
  18. many
  19. some
  20. few
  21. other
  22. one
  23. two
  24. three
  25. four
  26. five
  27. big
  28. long
  29. wide
  30. thick
  31. heavy
  32. small
  33. short
  34. narrow
  35. thin
  36. woman
  37. man (adult male)
  38. Man (human being)
  39. child
  40. wife
  41. husband
  42. mother
  43. father
  44. animal
  45. fish
  46. bird
  47. dog
  48. louse
  49. snake
  50. worm
  51. tree
  52. forest
  53. stick
  54. fruit
  55. seed
  56. leaf
  57. root
  58. bark
  59. flower
  60. grass
  61. rope
  62. skin
  63. meat
  64. blood
  65. bone
  66. fat (n.)
  67. egg
  68. horn
  69. tail
  70. feather
  71. hair
  72. head
  73. ear
  74. eye
  75. nose
  76. mouth
  77. tooth
  78. tongue
  79. fingernail
  80. foot
  81. leg
  82. knee
  83. hand
  84. wing
  85. belly
  86. guts
  87. neck
  88. back
  89. breast
  90. heart
  91. liver
  92. drink
  93. eat
  94. bite
  95. suck
  96. spit
  97. vomit
  98. blow
  99. breathe
  100. laugh
  101. see
  102. hear
  103. know
  104. think
  105. smell
  106. fear
  107. sleep
  108. live
  109. die
  110. kill
  111. fight
  112. hunt
  113. hit
  114. cut
  115. split
  116. stab
  117. scratch
  118. dig
  119. swim
  120. fly (v.)
  121. walk
  122. come
  123. lie
  124. sit
  125. stand
  126. turn
  127. fall
  128. give
  129. hold
  130. squeeze
  131. rub
  132. wash
  133. wipe
  134. pull
  135. push
  136. throw
  137. tie
  138. sew
  139. count
  140. say
  141. sing
  142. play
  143. float
  144. flow
  145. freeze
  146. swell
  147. sun
  148. moon
  149. star
  150. water
  151. rain
  152. river
  153. lake
  154. sea
  155. salt
  156. stone
  157. sand
  158. dust
  159. earth
  160. cloud
  161. fog
  162. sky
  163. wind
  164. snow
  165. ice
  166. smoke
  167. fire
  168. ashes
  169. burn
  170. road
  171. mountain
  172. red
  173. green
  174. yellow
  175. white
  176. black
  177. night
  178. day
  179. year
  180. warm
  181. cold
  182. full
  183. new
  184. old
  185. good
  186. bad
  187. rotten
  188. dirty
  189. straight
  190. round
  191. sharp
  192. dull
  193. smooth
  194. wet
  195. dry
  196. correct
  197. near
  198. far
  199. right
  200. left
  201. at
  202. in
  203. with
  204. and
  205. if
  206. because
  207. name

Shorter lists

The Swadesh–Yakhontov list is a 35-word subset of the Swadesh list posited as especially stable by Russian linguist Sergei Yakhontov (Starostin 1991). It has been used in lexicostatistics by linguists such as Sergei Starostin. With their Swadesh numbers, they are:

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 the Swadesh-Yakhontov list was less accurate than the Swadesh-100 list in identifying the relationships between Chinese dialects. However, they calculated the relative stability of the words by comparing retentions between languages in established language families, and found that a different 40-word list was just as accurate as the Swadesh-100 list. They found no statistically significant difference is 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)

See also

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. inDiachronica 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.
  • 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 (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, 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.[1]
  • 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.[2]

External links

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Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

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English

Noun

Singular
Swadesh list

Plural
Swadesh lists

Swadesh list (plural Swadesh lists)

  1. one of the lists of vocabulary with "basic" meanings developed by Morris Swadesh in the 1940-50s.

See also


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