Phonetic Res.

Shilpi M. Bhadra evenstar at
Sat Jan 30 15:51:09 UTC 1999

----------------------------Original message----------------------------
Arabic is not related to Indo-European. Arabic is in the Semitic family so
it is related to Hebrew. English, French, and German have borrowed many
words from Arabic (ie English algebra from Arabic al jabr) because of
contact (Ottoman Empire, etc.) and trade. We know this because such items
(called "loanwords" or "lexical adoptions") are not present in the older
forms of German, French, and English (itself a member of the Germanic
family). These loanwords show up after historical documentation of
trade/contact etc,. with another culture and language. In order for a
language to be genetically related the grammar (verbs, nouns, inflection,
semantics, and structure have to show correspondences). Example from
Indo-European "dog", singular. Inflection just means that the ending of the
word determines whether it is the subject, object, indirect object, object
of a preposition, agent, etc. The s is like grass, while the k is like in
kitten. The example given below is 1 out of thousands of words that are
cognate (related to each other), and their are 8 cases in Indo-European,
which for sake of time and space, I'm not including here. Similarly the
conjugation of the verbs system; numbers, terms for kinship (family
members, friends) show consistency. These are generally closed lexical
items, meaning usually one grioup will not borrow a term from another
language group. Example: mater, "mother," is not a word you would usually
borrow from someone else, because every language group has their own word
for it. On the other hand on my own native modern Indian language - bus and
computer - inventions of the English-speaking Americans or Europeans, were
borrowed into my mother tongue, Bengali. Technological inventions, are the
most popular loanword. Food is nowadays another. Spaghetti, macoroni, and
such "English words," are all from Italian. (Even though Marco Polo brought
Chinese noodles to Italy, where it was modified, so indirectly pasta owes
it's parentage to the Chinese). So the picture is always more complicated
then it seems. But some things have more certainty, evidence, and validity
then others.
Nominative (Subject Case) Hittite  Greek Vedic Sanskrit Latin
                                      kuwas kuon     suva                kanis

Accusative(Direct Object)  kuwanan  kuna   svanam         canem

The reconstructed form by linguists and scholars for Proto-Indo-European
(or Indo-European) is *k(u)wo(n), *kwonm -meaning no such form is actually
attested, but based on phonology (sound correspondences) of daughter
languages such as Greek, Latin, Sanskrit, Old Irish (Avestan - an ancient
grandfather to modern Persian), Gothic (the oldest form of Germanic found),
Hittite (a language spoken 1800 BCE in what is modern day Turkey, Old
Church Slavonic, and other identified Indo-European languages, they can
reconstruct it.
        We know that Greek and Vedic Sanskrit are from about 1700-1500 BCE from
Greek and Indian texts, while Latin is shown at about 500 BCE. None of
these languages or cultures had contact with each other so they couldn't
have borrowed from one another. Also the sound changes that govern from
reconstructed PIE to Greek, Latin, Vedic, Sanskrit, and the like are
consistent. If they borrowed words from each other then Indians would be
saying cuwa for dog, or Romans sanis. Notice that most of the languages
have an initial k sound, whereas Sanskrit has an s. This is an Indo-Iranian
feature because Avestan shows this as well. That is one of the major rules.
Latin centum "100," and Sanskrit satam "100," show this to be always true.
PIE e,a, and o all fell to a in Sanskrit. There are lots of rules that
govern the changes, presence or absence of certain, vowels, consonants,
stress, etc that it would take a thousand pages or more to go over them in
every language.

Shilpi Bhadra
University of Texas at Austin
Classics/Humanites major
evenstar at

At 11:40 AM 1/29/99 -0500, you wrote:
>----------------------------Original message----------------------------
>I find the discussion on phonetic resemblance very stimulating.
>Languages have been grouped on evidence of phonetic similarity; true.
>But a large number of similarities are just coincidental or chance
>resemblances. I can cite so many examples where Arabic seems to be very
>close to English, French or German; does this mean that Arabic is
>somehow related to the Indo-European family?
>Ziad Kebbe.
Shilpi Misty Bhadra
Classics/Humanities major
evenstar at

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