The Tongue that I speak

I was inspired to write this from one of Ajit’s posts. I was first introduced to the origins of languages by my great-uncle who is a linguist. Ever since, I have always been on the lookout for words that are common, in seemingly different languages.. I am talking about the words which have been assimilated so well into various languages that we probably do not even realise that the origins are probably the same.

Here are some examples of words and their origins..

Rice – It has been speculated that the Indo-Iranian vrihi itself is borrowed from a Dravidian vari (< PDr. *warinci)[12] or even a Munda language term for rice, or the Tamil name arisi (அரிசி) from which the Arabic arruzz, from which the Portuguese and Spanish word arroz originated.

Mango – The name mango is ultimately either from the Kodagu mange, the Malayalam manga, or the Tamil mangai, and was loaned into Portuguese in the early 16th century, and from Portuguese passed into English. The ending in -o appears in English and is of unclear origin.[2].

Day – The term comes from the Old English dæg, with similar terms common in all other Indo-European languages, such as Tag in German and dive in Sanskrit.

Orange – Orange derives from Indian, tamil naranthai to Sanskrit nāraṅgaḥ “orange tree”, with borrowings through Persian nārang, Arabic nāranj, Spanish naranja, Late Latin arangia, Italian arancia or arancio, and Old French orenge, in chronological order. The first appearance in English dates from the 14th century. The name of the colour is largely derived from the fruit, first appearing in this sense in the 16th century.

These are some of the words that I can think of – off the top of my head.. I am sure a lot of you will be able to provide me with loads of other examples.. Just the other day, I learnt from my Spanish neighbour that the word for table in Spanish is ‘mesa’ which is pronounced almost exactly as the Malayalam word for table – ‘mesha‘!

If we all start looking at similarities between ourselves and realise that just like these words, we all have common origins, a lot of our problems are bound to disappear – what do you think?

33 thoughts on “The Tongue that I speak

  1. Oh wow – I had no idea about that! I just heard her say it – and was amazed.. I am sure there are loads of words like that! Will check out the link you have given.

  2. Exactly, Ajit! We do have a common origin.. Genetic studies are really interesting aren’t they – I don’t know much – just whatever I happen to read.

  3. Man has been travelling long before recorded history began…many words are common to many languages but I don’t think any one knows for sure who fathered whom, as Ajit has brought out so nicely in his post. I also thing this Aryan-Dravidian divide is an 18th century colonial myth with no basis whatsoever.

    If Eric von Daniken is to be believed, we may not even be from this planet. The Gods certainly aren’t!

  4. @Vinod, Lol! That was good. Yes the intermingling of languages have happened to such an extent that it is truly amazing.. Am aure the debate of origins is of no use – I just find the fact that there are so many common words itself amazing!

  5. Aryan-Dravidian theory may be a myth, may not be….
    There is just so much evidence supporting both sides….
    but now, the divide is unfortunately in our heads….
    we are all Indians 😛

  6. Ajit, that divide was the whole purpose of the myth. It is not in my head anymore for sure…it just does not add up.

    The Sinhalese (Sri Lankans) know that they are descended from exiled prince Vijaya who came there from Orissa in India around 500 BC. Surprisingly, no Indian race has ever spoken of its ancestors having come from from anywhere outside India around that time or a couple of hundred years earlier. And we all know about the invasion of Alexander, his dialogue with king Porus, and his retreat from here. Had there been some local knowledge of this great migration, which had taken place a few centuries earlier, surely Alexander would have heard of it during his visit, Megasthenese, who came shortly after words should have heard about it too and mentioned it in his writings…Emperor Ashoka would have made a mention somewhere too, but no…the first guys in the world who ever reached that conclusion on a dubious linguistic basis came nearly 2000 years later!

  7. you are absolutely right Vinod…
    it is a given fact that ancient Iranians share a lot of traits with the Vedic Civ. in India and though Zoraster does talk about his homeland called “Airyanem Vaejah”, our indian ancestors do not do so…..
    This is actually one of the points put forward by theorists who believe in “Out of India” model.
    As I said, we do not know now should we care as Indians 🙂

  8. I have read that the word juggernaut has originated from our Indian Rath (chariot) of Jagannath.

    The procession of Jagannath at Puri is a huge winding one -similarly the meaning of juggernaut is a massive inexorable force that seems to crush everything in its way

  9. Thanks Manju – I should thank Ajit- got the idea from his post 🙂 And , to be honest, I think I enjoy the comments much more than my post.

    Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

  10. That’s an interesting read.

    I too believe that Aryan-Dravidian thoery is a myth. Indians are mixture of Mangolean-Negroid-European features. The color vary because of the distance from the equator.

  11. This is really interesting 🙂

    The commonest words are very similar sounding in many languages.
    No, niet, naheen, naye, nom, non, illai, … for NO 🙂
    But not the Dravadian, ledu, venda, illai, oddu etc.
    Mere, mother, matru, ma, mamma …
    Pere, father, appa, pita, pitra, baba for Father.

    I used to think these words, maybe, have nothing to do with languages, they are above languages, the initial language we were born with .. Like we know what a cat sounds like when they want food, or are angry.

    French words for cutting and knife sound like Hindi.
    French also has gender for all nouns, like Hindi.

    Am in a big hurry, will get back to read and join some more 🙂

  12. Ajit,

    “Genetic studies have shown that the Adam and Eve lived in Africa long back……”
    The whites don’t want to believe this…

  13. the whites are wrong 😛
    coz the truth is in our genes…
    about 99.99 % of all our genes are the same…..
    thus providing evidence that we all come from single source….
    if you compare Homo sapiens (us) with neanderthals, there lie many a differences…. and they died out ….
    The whole truth is in our genes…
    The human genome project managed to complete a lot, but a lot of questions still remain unanswered….

  14. @IHM, You are right about the words for ‘no’ and ‘mother’. I somehow missed it out while posting the blog. Though the Aryan-Dravidian divide is debated upon, there are some indications that some of the words that are common in Caucasian languages is also common in Sanskrit – which was supposed to be one of the first attested languages of the Indo-European family.

    The word ‘mother’ is supposed to have common roots with the sanskrit word ‘matrika’. In German its ‘mutter’, Italian – ‘Madre’, spanish – ‘madre’. Even the word matriach sounds very similar to ‘matrika’. The same is true for the words for ‘father’. So there does seem to be some link.
    @Vinod, Meso, I am not so sure that the Aryan-Dravidan theory is a total myth. There seems to be some logic when it comes to the languages.. But as Ajit says, it really should not matter now – apart from Academic interest of course.

    @Meso, Welcome to the blog! Do visit again!

    @Ajit, Bones, I have read the same about the first man and women originated from Africa.. Guess if there is proof, the whites have to accept it – today or tomorrow!

  15. Smitha, I liked your conclusion.

    If we all start looking at similarities between ourselves and realise that just like these words, we all have common origins, a lot of our problems are bound to disappear.

    You are bang on target. I wish people realise this.

    I have always seen language more as a tool… like we have a car to travel… a language to communicate. But unlike a car, it’s way too emotional. And there lies the problem.

  16. @Pradeep, Thank you. You are right ‘ I have always seen language more as a tool… like we have a car to travel… a language to communicate. But unlike a car, it’s way too emotional. And there lies the problem.’ Yes, we are too emotional about it. I think we need to be proud of the language(mother tounges) we speak, but be accomodative of everybody else’s as well..

  17. The word Loot means the same in English and in Hindi ! any idea about the origin??

    Btw, my first time here and I kinda liked the interactions here. I am blogrolling you right away.

  18. Great Post!

    One is the ancient link where trade and other cultural interaction enriched each other’s vocab.

    Second is the co-existence during the British stay in India till 1947 and the subsequent migration.

    Very many words from many Indian languages have become part of English. Is it not fantastic…

    How about the reverse influence of English words in our languages.
    It is so natural to use “train”, “platform”, “ticket”, “phone”, “television” and a million such words in almost all Indian languages.

    Fascinating cultural inter-play.

  19. @JPJ, Vimmuuu, Welcome to the blog. Thanks for your comments.

    @Vimmuuu, I checked up ‘loot’ and it says ‘”English words of Hindi origin,” explains, “include cot, loot, thug, chintz, bandanna, dungaree, rajali, pundit, coolie, tom-tom, and juggernaut.” ‘

    So looks like loot is a hindi word borrowed by English 🙂
    Thanks for blogrolling me – the interaction here is all thanks to everybody who reads and comments!

    @Mavin, Yes the ‘osmosis’ of words between languages is so amazing isn’t it? In a few years, I am sure the languages that we know and speak now, will undergo a lot of changes, thanks to the interaction between languages..

  20. Whoa….true true even i am fascinated by stuff like this…there are few words in latin and sanskrit which are almost same…
    eg. father – Pithah in Sanskrit
    Pitar – Latin
    Mother – Matha – sanskrit
    Matar – Latin
    Horse – Aswam – sanskrit
    Asva – Latin

    I agree that life started in Africa and civilizations developed based on natural resources and so languages might all come from the same roots….afterall,, we all are humans! 😉

  21. @Solilio, Yes, I have read this too.. quite interesting isn’t it? Fascinating isn’t it, to see how history may or may not be manufactured! Am not sure which version to believe though 🙂

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