Appendix talk:Japanese Swadesh list
Native Words Need to Be Used
Plain and simple: as with all Swadesh lists at Wiki, native words for each language need to be used. That's the whole point of a Swadesh list: to provide a very simple list of native lexemes which may be compared to other lists.
For example, the current Swadesh list for Japanese has the Sino-derived numberals meaning one through four. The native lexemes need to be replaced, or at least included with, the Chinese-derived ones.
- Yes, all kanbun-derived terms (a.k.a. kango, “Chinese terms”) are wholly irrelevant to any Swadesh-list comparison for Japanese. These were all borrowed from Chinese. For the learners out there, any word spelled in kanji and using the on'yomi does not belong in this list.
- For instance, 沢山 (takusan, “many”) and 若干 (jakkan, “few”) are both essentially borrowings from Chinese. (沢山 may be a Japanese coinage, but if so, it was nonetheless coined using Chinese roots.) Neither of these terms belongs in this list. Both concepts, many and few, have perfectly good wago (“Japanese terms”, i.e. native Japanese terms not identifiably borrowed from anywhere else) that should be used instead -- 多い (ōi) and 少ない (sukunai).
- Then there are the terms that have appeared just during the course of the historical record, such as 私 (watashi, “I”, originally just meant “private”) or 魚 (sakana, “fish”, originally a compound of 酒 (saka, “alcoholic beverage”) + 菜 (na, “side dish”), i.e. “snack when drinking”), that also do not belong on this list. These terms are relative innovations, and thus in no way represent root words that could possibly be useful in any interlingual comparison -- except for the very specific case of comparing word formation trends in different languages, but then that's not what Swadesh lists are generally for.
- And then there are the terms listed as straight translations of Swadesh Enlish terms, but that in Japanese are in fact inflections of other terms with different meanings, that just happen idiomatically to be used in roughly similar ways as the English gloss. As best I understand the principles of a Swadesh list, inflected forms have no place here either -- only root words. This rules out terms like 全て (subete, glossed as “all”, but actually the te form of verb 統べる (suberu, “to gather together in a bunch”)), or 縄 (nawa, “rope”, actually derived from underlying root verb 綯う (nau, “to braid, twist, or plait together”, such as into cord or rope)).
- In short, this list is a complete dog's breakfast. I may poke at it some, but frankly, I'm much more interested in developing the actual term entries here at Wiktionary.
- Pro Tip: If you are thinking of using this list as a basis for any real Swadesh list comparison, before doing so, do your own legwork and look up the etymologies of each of these terms. Note too that a single kanji spelling may have multiple possible readings -- in those cases, focus on the etymology for the kun'yomi (native Japanese reading). I'm doing my best to add etymology sections to all Japanese entries based on reputable sources, so hopefully at least some of these etymologies can be found right here in Wiktionary. Past there, caveat usor.
- -- Eiríkr Útlendi │ Tala við mig 19:12, 1 June 2013 (UTC)
- I don't think anyone has taken lexicostatistics seriously in forty years. All Swadesh lists are useless for determining the genetic relatedness of languages, regardless of whether they're filled with native words or loanwords, because the methodology has proven to be flawed. The only point in having Swadesh list appendices at Wiktionary is to provide a list of basic words that we need to have entries for. —Angr 20:44, 1 June 2013 (UTC)
I thought some of this list looked different from how I remembered it. Poking around in the history of this Appendix page and the Wiktionary:Japanese Swadesh list page, I realized why -- apparently Croquant (talk • contribs) and I had had the same idea at nearly the same time back in 2006, and he launched this Appendix page, while I launched the Wiktionary:Japanese Swadesh list page four days later.
Comparing the two pages, this Appendix page has gotten a lot more editing traffic, but sadly appears to be less usable -- more Chinese-derived terms, more compounds, and more inflected forms (all inappropriate for a Swadesh list), and less useful information given (no Notes or Usage, for instance). Add to that the fact that the wikicode is harder to work with (as each column is given in a single huge list, but it's each row instead that the editor must work with).
With all that in mind, I'd like to propose that we merge this Appendix page with the Wiktionary:Japanese Swadesh list page, with a bias towards keeping the wikicode from Wiktionary:Japanese Swadesh list page and merging in any preferred data from the Appendix page. If no one objects, I may set to that task in a week or two. -- Eiríkr Útlendi │ Tala við mig 19:41, 1 June 2013 (UTC)