Re: Names for Ice and Snow

Adrian Tanner (atanner@MORGAN.UCS.MUN.CA)
Thu, 4 Jul 1996 09:11:18 -0230

>I am not normally a participant in this discussion group, but Adrian Tanner
>forwarded the following exchange to me while I was away for a few weeks &
>now, on my return, I'm tempted to contribute my 2 bits. It's good to
>debunk the too-persistent myth that Inuit have dozens (I've
>heard estimates of as many as 50) words for snow, but let's not throw
>baby out with bath. Allman is right about the 2 words for falling snow &
>snow on the ground, but in addition there ARE other words for snow of
>different textures & consistencies, which is useful for different purposes.
>Two that occur to me immediately
>are *pukkait* or *puqqait* (wet, water-filled snow crystals, good for use in
>cooking/drinking) & *aqilluqqait* (which, I gather from notes I came across
>the other day, is the consistency of ground-drifted snow, which doesn't
>freeze & become icy as easily as pukkait when thawed & then refrozen).
>I'm sure I remember that there are other words, too, which make distinctions
>similar to those that English-speaking skiers make with modifying
>adjectives: powder snow, crusty snow, etc. There are Inuktitut & Yupik
>dictionaries that could be consulted by those really interested.
>On Fri, 14 Jun 1996, Adrian Tanner wrote:
>> >X-Sender:
>> >Date: Fri, 14 Jun 1996 10:33:02 -0600
>> >Reply-To: brooke anderson <sally@SOLTEC.COM>
>> >Sender: General Anthropology Bulletin Board <ANTHRO-L@UBVM.CC.BUFFALO.EDU>
>> >From: brooke anderson <sally@SOLTEC.COM>
>> >Subject: Names for Ice and Snow
>> >To: Multiple recipients of list ANTHRO-L
>> >
>> >>GDGoodman (1:54 AM 14/06/1) said:
>> >>
>> >>Personally in tests I see more "tints" of colors than even most
>> >>Japanese -- who like to claim they a\can see more than Euro-Americans.
>> >>(Then why does Fuji film have a green cast?) But I was trained to be an
>> >>artist. Like Ronald remarks, where colors really matter there are lots
>> >>of names. Like the names for conditions of ice and snow in Arctic
>> >>climes.
>> >>
>> >
>> >Hello, I'm new here. I had planned on just "listenting in" for a while
>> >before I posted anything of my own, but couldn't let the fallacious notion
>> >of many names for ice and snow in cold climates get by unrefuted. The
>> >following quotes suggest that Eskimos (I am not sure if this generalizes to
>> >all populations with such climatic conditions) have lots of names for snow.
>> >By the way -my e-mail program doesn't have an italics option so words in
>> >italics are denoted with *.......*.
>> >
>> >"Though now dismissed by most linguists, [Edward] Sapir and [Benjamin]
>> >Whorf's ideas have become a common part of pop culture. Perhaps the most
>> >famous example of Sapir and Whorf's notion was the popular assertion that
>> >that the Eskimos have dozens of words for *snow*, reflecting subtle
>> >differences they perceive as a result of their lifelong dealing with the
>> >fluffy stuff. Likewise. Sapir and Whorf's theory implied that if a
>> >particular language lacked words for specific colors, then speakers of that
>> >language would not be able to differenctiate between those colors visually"
>> > (from *Stone Age Present* by William F. Allman, p.170)
>> >
>> >"... linguistics point out that the idea of Eskimos having dozens of
>> >different words for snow is a myth: In fact, they have only *two* words for
>> >snow: *qanik*, meaning 'snow in the air,' and *aput*, menaing 'snow on the
>> >ground.'"
>> >(from *Stone Age Present* by William F. Allman, p.171)
>> >
>> >brooke anderson
>> >
>> >
>> >
>> >No peace which is not peace for all, no rest until all has been fulfilled.
>> >-Dag Hammarskjold -
>> >

Adrian Tanner
Memorial University of Newfoundland