Print

Print


> Date:         Mon, 5 Nov 2001 00:10:15 EST
> From: Elliott Lash <[log in to unmask]>

> [Frank Valoczy:]
> > Well now I'm curious what is this myth? I know that Nenets,
> > Nganasan and Selkup have different words for snow depending on if
> > it's old and hard, soft inside but crusty surface, thick slushy,
> > watery slushy, and so on...

> Oh..well that's the extent of what Eskimo does as well. The reason
> why it's a 'myth', is that many people believe that the words all
> simply mean 'snow' which is not the case.

I've never heard that version before...

There are two sides to the myth --- one is that Inuktitut has up to
400 unrelated roots that are only used to talk about snow. (In
reality, it seems to have between two and four such roots, and a
longer list of metaphorical terms for snow in various conditions.
That's about the same as English has).

The other claim is that Inuit are therefore unable to hold the concept
of just snow, but can only think about one specific form of snow at a
time. (This is the strong Sapir-Whorf hypothesis).

A quick google found this summary of the history of the myth:
<URL:http://www.stg.brown.edu/~sjd/mymusings/eskimo.html>.

Lars Mathiesen (U of Copenhagen CS Dep) <[log in to unmask]> (Humour NOT marked)