Sunday, 19 October 2008

Great Eskimo Vocabulary Hoax

Why you should avoid 'mingqutnguaq' (BBC News, Saturday, 18 October 2008)

It seems BBC News has now started recycling news that must be at least 25 years old, which includes perpetuating an urban myth. The justification seems to be little more than a new video of a native Inuit blabbing about snow and ice.

The idea that Eskimo languages have many more words for snow than an average language from a culture familiar with sub-zero temperatures is known as the Great Eskimo Vocabulary Hoax, and dates from the beginning of the 20th century. It was debunked by anthropologist Laura Martin in the 1980s. See also:

Pullum, Geoffrey K. (1991). The Great Eskimo Vocabulary Hoax and other
Irreverent Essays on the Study of Language. University of Chicago Press.

No comments: