The Geography of the “Onion” Vocabulary « Cultural Geography « GeoCurrents -
The Geography of the “Onion” Vocabulary « Cultural Geography « GeoCurrents
"As pointed out in an earlier GeoCurrents post, examining the history and geography of just one word across languages can reveal fascinating and instructive patterns. In this post, we will take a closer look at the words for ‘onion’—as well as its relatives, leek, garlic, scallion, and shallot—in a number of European languages. Starting with ‘onion’, the GeoCurrents map on the left reveals three main groups of cognates, but crucially, none of them correlates with main subgroupings within the Indo-European language family (or with the family as a whole), even though ‘onion’ can be thought of as a pretty basic word. Closely related languages may have very different words for ‘onion’, while distantly related or even unrelated tongues may feature cognates for this meaning. The important lesson to draw from this is that the distribution of cognates for any single meaning (and by extension a relatively small set of such meanings, such as a Swadesh list) may tell an interesting story, but it is often one of both common descent and borrowing." - Maitani from Bookmarklet
"The largest group of cognates on this map (shown in blue) are words related the Latin cepa ‘onion’, of unknown origin. The closest descendants of the Latin cepa are the Catalan ceba and Romanian ceapă, while Italian cipolla, Portuguese cebola, Galician sebola and Spanish cebolla derive from Late Latin diminutive cepulla (literally, ‘little onion’). While many Romance languages, which descend from Latin, retained the original root, not all members of the family did. For example, the French word is oignon, to which we return below. On the other hand, not all the cognates of cepa/cipolla are found in languages of the Romance grouping. This root caught on in German, a Germanic language, though it was altered by folk etymology in Old High German (zwibolla) as deriving from words for ‘two’ and ‘ball’, with the resulting form in Modern High German being Zwiebel. The cepa/cipolla root has also penetrated West Slavic languages—Polish, Czech and Slovak—which have cebula, cibule and cibul’a, respectively. East Slavic Ukrainian, which is known for its active and bidirectional lexical exchange with Polish, has tsibulja. One of the South Slavic languages, Slovenian, which is located close to Italian, also has a cipolla-like word, čebula. Latvian, one of two Baltic languages (which are usually analyzed as most closely related to the Slavic grouping), also features a cepa-cognate, sīpols, while its closest relative, Lithuanian, had a similar word until early 20th century (we will return to Lithuanian below). North of Latvian, Estonian and Finnish—both members of the Finno-Ugric family—too have borrowed the same root (their respective words are sibul and sipuli). (Note that another Finno-Ugric language in Europe, Hungarian, uses a completely unrelated word, hagyma, for ‘onion.) Finally, Basque—also a non-Indo-European language— borrowed its ‘onion’ word tipula from Spanish." - Maitani
I expected some sort of geosemantic analysis fed with articles from The Onion... I'm disappointed ! - Jean-Marc Liotier
Herman Zweibel! LOL, Mark. I think I took notice of this article because of The Onion. :-) - Maitani
Zimilar to Wörter und Zachen ztudiez, izn't it? - Afonso Xavier