False cognates

A forum for discussing linguistics or just languages in general.
Post Reply
User avatar
Shemtov
mayan
mayan
Posts: 2156
Joined: Mon 29 Apr 2013, 03:06

False cognates

Post by Shemtov » Fri 26 Jul 2013, 07:37

False cognates are words in the same or different language(s) that are similar in form and meaning but have different sources.
Post your favorite ones here:

Welsh and Hebrew have the same feminine singular third person pronoun: [hi].
Many children make up, or begin to make up, imaginary languages. I have been at it since I could write.
-JRR Tolkien
Alessio
sinic
sinic
Posts: 326
Joined: Mon 03 Sep 2012, 20:27
Location: Modena, Emilia-Romagna, Italy

Re: False cognates

Post by Alessio » Fri 26 Jul 2013, 10:10

In Italian and French the 2sg personal pronoun is "tu". In Hindi it is "tū".
:ita: :eng: [:D] | :fra: :esp: [:)] | :rus: :nld: [:|] | :deu: :fin: :ell: [:(] | :con: Hecathver, Hajás

Tin't inameint ca tót a sàm stê żǒv'n e un po' cajoun, mo s't'armâgn cajoun an vǒl ménga dîr t'armâgn anc żǒven...
User avatar
Click
darkness
darkness
Posts: 3328
Joined: Sat 21 Jan 2012, 12:17

Re: False cognates

Post by Click » Fri 26 Jul 2013, 11:24

Alessio wrote:In Italian and French the 2sg personal pronoun is "tu". In Hindi it is "tū".
These are real cognates because Hindi is also Indo-European.
User avatar
atman
greek
greek
Posts: 470
Joined: Wed 05 Dec 2012, 17:04

Re: False cognates

Post by atman » Fri 26 Jul 2013, 13:03

Here are a few I remember:

:esp: "de" and :zho: "de" (both mean "of")
:eng: "bad" and :hye: "vad"
:eng: "day" and :esp: "día"
:eng: "hair" and :hye: "her"
:grc: "theos" and Nahuatl "teotl" (both mean "god")
:grc: "duo" and :zho: "dui" (two)
:grc: "kephale" and :ind: "kepala" (head)

But the most impressive one is probably:

:eng: have and :lat: habeo

"Have" is actually cognate with Latin "capio" (I take), while "habeo" is cognate with English "give"!
Երկնէր երկին, երկնէր երկիր, երկնէր և ծովն ծիրանի.
nzk13
cuneiform
cuneiform
Posts: 116
Joined: Tue 09 Apr 2013, 23:52

Re: False cognates

Post by nzk13 » Fri 26 Jul 2013, 17:39

Well, relatively recently I thought of
:heb: צד [sˤad] (side)
:usa: side

I don't really remember many offhand, but I have noticed plenty of words in Classical Hebrew/Judaeo-Aramaic which are similar to some of some other languages I know, like English. And, every so often, I can wonder if it perhaps got into IE through Greek or Latin borrowings, though I realize that that is pretty unlikely.
Skribajon mean vi esas lektant, kar amiki.
Native: American English. Knows: some Hebrew/Judaeo-Aramaic, some Ido, bit of La Esperanton, a couple of Yiddish words, and bits and pieces of others.
Alessio
sinic
sinic
Posts: 326
Joined: Mon 03 Sep 2012, 20:27
Location: Modena, Emilia-Romagna, Italy

Re: False cognates

Post by Alessio » Sat 27 Jul 2013, 20:55

Click wrote:
Alessio wrote:In Italian and French the 2sg personal pronoun is "tu". In Hindi it is "tū".
These are real cognates because Hindi is also Indo-European.
They are far apart from each other, however. Apart from that, there is no other correspondance between these languages.
:ita: :eng: [:D] | :fra: :esp: [:)] | :rus: :nld: [:|] | :deu: :fin: :ell: [:(] | :con: Hecathver, Hajás

Tin't inameint ca tót a sàm stê żǒv'n e un po' cajoun, mo s't'armâgn cajoun an vǒl ménga dîr t'armâgn anc żǒven...
nzk13
cuneiform
cuneiform
Posts: 116
Joined: Tue 09 Apr 2013, 23:52

Re: False cognates

Post by nzk13 » Sun 28 Jul 2013, 04:50

atman wrote:Here are a few I remember:

:esp: "de" and :zho: "de" (both mean "of")
Also a similar thing found in Aramaic, the prefix "ד" /di/ (which I think comes from the word "די" which means the same, and also seems to be used as the conjunction "that", but "די" seems to be used in later Judaeo-Aramaic mostly as the conjunction, leaving the prefix "ד" for possession.) (the vowel is sometimes reduced to a very short /e/-like sound), which I suppose means the Genitive, as in (right-to-left): "ארעא דכנען" The land דCana`an (of Cana`an). Seeing as Semitic langs are not IE, I suppose this is probably not cognate (though that's a pretty cool coincidence, eh?).
Skribajon mean vi esas lektant, kar amiki.
Native: American English. Knows: some Hebrew/Judaeo-Aramaic, some Ido, bit of La Esperanton, a couple of Yiddish words, and bits and pieces of others.
User avatar
Click
darkness
darkness
Posts: 3328
Joined: Sat 21 Jan 2012, 12:17

Re: False cognates

Post by Click » Sun 28 Jul 2013, 09:04

Alessio wrote:
Click wrote:
Alessio wrote:In Italian and French the 2sg personal pronoun is "tu". In Hindi it is "tū".
These are real cognates because Hindi is also Indo-European.
They are far apart from each other, however. Apart from that, there is no other correspondance between these languages.
So what? That doesn't show that 'tu' and 'tū' aren't cognates.
User avatar
Xing
MVP
MVP
Posts: 5309
Joined: Sun 22 Aug 2010, 17:46

Re: False cognates

Post by Xing » Sun 28 Jul 2013, 12:42

The textbook example is perhaps dog in Mbabaram and English. Among short, monosyllabic function words, one would not be surprised to find accidental similarities - like le, masculine definite article in French, and definite/specific article in Samoan. Or ya (Malay/Indonesian) and ja (various germanic languages) for "yes".
User avatar
Shrdlu
greek
greek
Posts: 523
Joined: Sun 22 Jan 2012, 18:33

Re: False cognates

Post by Shrdlu » Sun 28 Jul 2013, 14:25

Xing wrote:[...]Or ya (Malay/Indonesian) and ja (various germanic languages) for "yes".
... and possibly comanche!
I kill threads!
nzk13
cuneiform
cuneiform
Posts: 116
Joined: Tue 09 Apr 2013, 23:52

Re: False cognates

Post by nzk13 » Sun 28 Jul 2013, 15:30

Click wrote:
Alessio wrote:In Italian and French the 2sg personal pronoun is "tu". In Hindi it is "tū".
These are real cognates because Hindi is also Indo-European.
Just to add to this, Hebrew 2SG pronouns are /ʔat'tɔ/ when referring to a male, and /ʔat/ when referring to a female. /ʔat/ (sometimes /ʔant/) is also the Judaeo-Aramaic 2SG, although I think it may be gender-neutral there.
Skribajon mean vi esas lektant, kar amiki.
Native: American English. Knows: some Hebrew/Judaeo-Aramaic, some Ido, bit of La Esperanton, a couple of Yiddish words, and bits and pieces of others.
User avatar
Shemtov
mayan
mayan
Posts: 2156
Joined: Mon 29 Apr 2013, 03:06

Re: False cognates

Post by Shemtov » Sun 28 Jul 2013, 21:41

nzk13 wrote:
Click wrote:
Alessio wrote:In Italian and French the 2sg personal pronoun is "tu". In Hindi it is "tū".
These are real cognates because Hindi is also Indo-European.
Just to add to this, Hebrew 2SG pronouns are /ʔat'tɔ/ when referring to a male, and /ʔat/ when referring to a female. /ʔat/ (sometimes /ʔant/) is also the Judaeo-Aramaic 2SG, although I think it may be gender-neutral there.
Also, in Japanese it's /anata/
Many children make up, or begin to make up, imaginary languages. I have been at it since I could write.
-JRR Tolkien
User avatar
Xonen
moderator
moderator
Posts: 1390
Joined: Sat 15 May 2010, 23:25

Re: False cognates

Post by Xonen » Sun 28 Jul 2013, 22:31

Shemtov wrote:
nzk13 wrote:
Click wrote:
Alessio wrote:In Italian and French the 2sg personal pronoun is "tu". In Hindi it is "tū".
These are real cognates because Hindi is also Indo-European.
Just to add to this, Hebrew 2SG pronouns are /ʔat'tɔ/ when referring to a male, and /ʔat/ when referring to a female. /ʔat/ (sometimes /ʔant/) is also the Judaeo-Aramaic 2SG, although I think it may be gender-neutral there.
Also, in Japanese it's /anata/
None of these look like obvious cognates of the IE tu, though, or at least I'm not seeing it... The resemblance between /ʔant/ and /anata/ is there, I'll admit, but nonetheless, I wouldn't start reconstructing Proto-Japono-Semitic just yet. [:)]

However, first-person pronouns beginning with /m/ and second-person pronouns with /t/ or a similar sound actually does occur in a surprising number of language families; see here, for instance. This has been explained variously as some form of sound symbolism, an indication that the families are actually distantly related, or even as relics from Proto-World. Or, you know, coincidence. There's probably no way to prove any of these hypotheses, but it's a nice little factoid to be aware of, I guess.
Ithisa
cuneiform
cuneiform
Posts: 187
Joined: Tue 14 May 2013, 12:14

Re: False cognates

Post by Ithisa » Sun 28 Jul 2013, 23:47

/anata/ for "you" is not etymologically a pronoun. Modern Japanese has all but lost its pronoun system (/anata/ is originally a noun a.nata meaning "the one over there", Early Modern Japanese even had /konata/ /sonata/ for "me" "you", the word /kanata/ 彼方 still exists) and the original pronouns as far as is attested are wa/ware for the first person and na/nare for the second person. Note that Old Japanese does have true pronouns: wa/ware is declined irregularly (thus differently from nouns) and is not further analyzable.
Fluent: :chn: :eng:
Intermediate: :jpn:
User avatar
Shemtov
mayan
mayan
Posts: 2156
Joined: Mon 29 Apr 2013, 03:06

Re: False cognates

Post by Shemtov » Mon 29 Jul 2013, 02:27

Xonen wrote:
Shemtov wrote:
nzk13 wrote:
Click wrote:
Alessio wrote:In Italian and French the 2sg personal pronoun is "tu". In Hindi it is "tū".
These are real cognates because Hindi is also Indo-European.
Just to add to this, Hebrew 2SG pronouns are /ʔat'tɔ/ when referring to a male, and /ʔat/ when referring to a female. /ʔat/ (sometimes /ʔant/) is also the Judaeo-Aramaic 2SG, although I think it may be gender-neutral there.
Also, in Japanese it's /anata/
None of these look like obvious cognates of the IE tu, though, or at least I'm not seeing it... The resemblance between /ʔant/ and /anata/ is there, I'll admit, but nonetheless, I wouldn't start reconstructing Proto-Japano-Semitic just yet. [:)]

However, first-person pronouns beginning with /m/ and second-person pronouns with /t/ or a similar sound actually does occur in a surprising number of language families; see here, for instance. This has been explained variously as some form of sound symbolism, an indication that the families are actually distantly related, or even as relics from Proto-World. Or, you know, coincidence. There's probably no way to prove any of these hypotheses, but it's a nice little factoid to be aware of, I guess.
In most Amerind the first person pronoun has /n/ in it, which gives some weight to the theory that they are one family.
Interestingly enough, this is also true for the Semitic and other so-called members of the Afro-Asiatic family, Basque, and some Caucasian languages, like Lak.
Again, it's not enough to reconstruct proto-Amerind-Cacauso-Vasconic-Asiatic, but it's interesting.
Note that based on the Medieval work The Travels of Benjamin there was a belief that the people of the Caucasus had a connection to a Semitic-speaking people known as the Gargishites.
However, it does lend some weight to the theory Baque is part of the proposed Dené–Caucasian family.
Many children make up, or begin to make up, imaginary languages. I have been at it since I could write.
-JRR Tolkien
User avatar
Thakowsaizmu
puremetal
puremetal
Posts: 3821
Joined: Fri 13 Aug 2010, 17:57
Contact:

Re: False cognates

Post by Thakowsaizmu » Mon 29 Jul 2013, 03:44

atman wrote:Here are a few I remember:
:esp: "de" and :zho: "de" (both mean "of")
:grc: "duo" and :zho: "dui" (two)
The <de> you used here for Chinese isn't really much of a false cognate. Although one of the functions of <de / 的> is on the surface somewhat similar to the Spanish <de>, the pronunciation isn't close, and the grammatical functions are nowhere near close. Aside from sometimes marking possession, the <de / 的> particle is used with adjectives as well, among other functions. Likewise, it is not the only particle that is rendered in Pinyin as <de>, and the other two <de> particles don't even come close to the Spanish.

Also, <dui> is not Chinese for two. <er / 二> is the numeral two, and <liang / 两> is used for counters. I am not sure where you got <dui> as two for Chinese, but your source was a little off.
Khemehekis
mayan
mayan
Posts: 1863
Joined: Sat 14 Aug 2010, 08:36
Location: California über alles

Re: False cognates

Post by Khemehekis » Mon 29 Jul 2013, 06:36

Xonen wrote: However, first-person pronouns beginning with /m/ and second-person pronouns with /t/ or a similar sound actually does occur in a surprising number of language families; see here, for instance. This has been explained variously as some form of sound symbolism, an indication that the families are actually distantly related, or even as relics from Proto-World. Or, you know, coincidence. There's probably no way to prove any of these hypotheses, but it's a nice little factoid to be aware of, I guess.
Here's my theory.

I read an article on why "mama" and "tata"/"dada" exist in so many unrelated languages. Mothers hear their babies playing with sounds and think that "mama", the first sounds babies typically play with, refers to them. "Dada"/"tata" comes second, and the parents assume the child is trying to address or refer to his/her father. All around the world, parents have listened to their children babbling, experimenting with the first two consonants they can say, and made these into words.

If /m/ is a typical first consonant and /t/ a typical second consonant, speakers all around the world would think /m/ the most natural sound for a first-person pronoun and /t/ the most natural sound for a second-person pronoun.

What do you think?
♂♥♂♀

Squirrels chase koi . . . chase squirrels

My Kankonian-English dictionary: 55,000 words and counting

31,416: The number of the conlanging beast!
Ithisa
cuneiform
cuneiform
Posts: 187
Joined: Tue 14 May 2013, 12:14

Re: False cognates

Post by Ithisa » Mon 29 Jul 2013, 12:30

Khemehekis wrote: Here's my theory.

I read an article on why "mama" and "tata"/"dada" exist in so many unrelated languages. Mothers hear their babies playing with sounds and think that "mama", the first sounds babies typically play with, refers to them. "Dada"/"tata" comes second, and the parents assume the child is trying to address or refer to his/her father. All around the world, parents have listened to their children babbling, experimenting with the first two consonants they can say, and made these into words.

If /m/ is a typical first consonant and /t/ a typical second consonant, speakers all around the world would think /m/ the most natural sound for a first-person pronoun and /t/ the most natural sound for a second-person pronoun.

What do you think?
Also interesting is the tendency of Japanese to associate nasal sounds with subjective feelings (compare さみしい /samisii/ and さびしい /sabisii/, both describing "lonely" but the first can only be used for the emotional sense); this may be cross-language. /m/ sounds personal and /t/ sounds distant for some reason.
Fluent: :chn: :eng:
Intermediate: :jpn:
User avatar
atman
greek
greek
Posts: 470
Joined: Wed 05 Dec 2012, 17:04

Re: False cognates

Post by atman » Mon 29 Jul 2013, 12:36

Thakowsaizmu wrote: Also, <dui> is not Chinese for two. <er / 二> is the numeral two, and <liang / 两> is used for counters. I am not sure where you got <dui> as two for Chinese, but your source was a little off.
Oh, there's a simple explanation for that: I don't speak a word of Chinese [:'(]. Plus I cited from memory, making errors doubly likely.

And if "er" is the numeral two, I have another bogus IE etymology: Classical :hye: "erku".

Note to the curious reader: Classical Armenian "erku" is a 100% regular reflex of PIE *dwóh₁. Yes, Armenian regularly changed PIE/Proto Graeco-Armenian *dw into (e)rk, among countless other crazy sound shifts.
Khemehekis wrote:
Xonen wrote: However, first-person pronouns beginning with /m/ and second-person pronouns with /t/ or a similar sound actually does occur in a surprising number of language families; see here, for instance. This has been explained variously as some form of sound symbolism, an indication that the families are actually distantly related, or even as relics from Proto-World. Or, you know, coincidence. There's probably no way to prove any of these hypotheses, but it's a nice little factoid to be aware of, I guess.
Here's my theory.

I read an article on why "mama" and "tata"/"dada" exist in so many unrelated languages. Mothers hear their babies playing with sounds and think that "mama", the first sounds babies typically play with, refers to them. "Dada"/"tata" comes second, and the parents assume the child is trying to address or refer to his/her father. All around the world, parents have listened to their children babbling, experimenting with the first two consonants they can say, and made these into words.

If /m/ is a typical first consonant and /t/ a typical second consonant, speakers all around the world would think /m/ the most natural sound for a first-person pronoun and /t/ the most natural sound for a second-person pronoun.

What do you think?
I think your theory isn't bad, but the problem with the m/t pattern is that it's found in most language families in Northern Eurasia, and in few other families in the rest of the world. So we'd want a better, more systematic explanation.

IMO the most likely scenario (bearing in mind that personal pronouns are frequently borrowed across different language families, especially during periods of extensive contact) is that the m/t pattern pronouns were simply diffused across the Eurasian steppe in prehistoric times.

Therefore, it's interesting to note in the WALS map that the only featured North Eurasian language without m/t pronouns is Ket, a Yeniseian language. According to well-received recent research, Yeniseian languages are spoken by peoples who migrated to North America and then came back to Eurasia. Did Ket "fail" to conform to the m/t trend because its speakers were "on vacation" in North America when this sprachbund was active?
Երկնէր երկին, երկնէր երկիր, երկնէր և ծովն ծիրանի.
User avatar
Xonen
moderator
moderator
Posts: 1390
Joined: Sat 15 May 2010, 23:25

Re: False cognates

Post by Xonen » Mon 29 Jul 2013, 15:59

Ithisa wrote:/anata/ for "you" is not etymologically a pronoun.
That doesn't disqualify it from being a false cognate of pronouns in another language, though. After all, the whole point of a false cognate is that it only looks like a cognate if you don't know its actual history. [;)]

Khemehekis wrote:If /m/ is a typical first consonant and /t/ a typical second consonant, speakers all around the world would think /m/ the most natural sound for a first-person pronoun and /t/ the most natural sound for a second-person pronoun.
I think you may be assigning too much value to the terms "first" and "second" here. AFAIU, the reasons for them are purely historical (i.e. what order some ancient grammarians just happened to start listing pronouns in), rather than having anything to do with what order children acquiring language start using pronouns in. Also, I seem to recall reading somewhere that mastering pronouns tends to happen rather late in the language acquisition process, so presumably it shouldn't depend on the order of acquiring phonemes (since that should mostly have happened by then). My knowledge on this subject is a bit sketchy, though, so if someone can find a good source that contradicts me, feel free to present it. [:)]

EDIT: Well, I did some (more) googling, and found this:
Unlike many areas of language acquisition, the specific order of pronoun development has been studied extensively (Owens, 1996). Much of the research suggests that pronoun development is variable, although there is some agreement on basic pronouns, such as I, it, and you. (Chiat, 1986). According to Roseberry-McKibben and Hegde, normally developing children begin using first pronouns, such as “I” and “me” at 2-3 years of age, “you,” “they,” “us,” and “them” at 3-4 years of age, most pronouns, including possessives by 4-5 years of age, and all pronouns by 5-6 years of age (Roseberry-McKibben and Hegde, 2000).
So it would appear that children do start using first-person pronouns first, but it's still at an age where they should certainly have mastered more consonants than just /m/.

Ithisa wrote:/m/ sounds personal and /t/ sounds distant for some reason.
Yeah, that's essentially the sound symbolism hypothesis. One explanation I've seen is that pronouncing /m/ causes you to purse your lips kind of inward while /t/ includes launching air forwards from the tip of your tongue... But again, whether or not some ancient population of humans would have been on some level aware of this enough to base (what eventually became) their pronouns on it is just not a question we can answer.
Post Reply