Q: Did Latin's "niger" (black) originate from an African word for the Niger River?

Salikoko Mufwene s-mufwene at UCHICAGO.EDU
Sun Oct 23 15:22:25 UTC 2011

I don't think the Niger River was known to the Romans or even earlier to 
the Greeks. They traded with Mediterranean Africa and knew of the Sudan 
and Ethiopia (not as defined politically since the 19th century!), 
thanks to trade along the Nile River and along the Red Sea, but not as 
well as they knew (the northern part of) Egypt. The statement that "Ger, 
or Geir, is African for _river_" is ridiculous. What does "African" mean 
linguistically, even from the point of view of language families. It's 
like saying the Rhine is European for river.


On 10/23/2011 9:46 AM, Damien Hall wrote:
> It seems as if yesterday's discussion has put paid to this suggestion (particularly Jon's contribution, for me).  And yet I can't help noticing that no-one has called Wright on his specific suggestion that 'Ger, or Geir, is African for _river_'.  'African'?  This, to me, was the crowning proof that the writer needed to do more research.
> Damien
> --
> Damien Hall
> University of Kent (UK / Royaume-Uni)
> Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, 'Towards a New Linguistic Atlas of France'
> Projet de recherche: 'Vers un Nouvel Atlas Linguistique de la France'
> English Language and Linguistics, School of European Culture and Languages
> Section de Langue et Linguistique Anglaises, Faculté de la Culture et des Langues Européennes
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

Salikoko S. Mufwene                    s-mufwene at uchicago.edu
The Frank J. McLoraine Distinguished Service Professor of Linguistics and the College
Professor, Committee on Evolutionary Biology
Professor, Committee on the Conceptual&  Historical Studies of Science
University of Chicago                  773-702-8531; FAX 773-834-0924
Department of Linguistics
1010 East 59th Street
Chicago, IL 60637, USA

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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