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    #1

    Phono-semantic Matches (PSM)

    Prof Ghil'ad Zuckermann defines this concept as: "a multi-sourced neologism that preserves both the meaning and the approximate sound of the parallel expression in the source-language, using pre-existent target-language words or roots".

    Zuckermann explores hundreds of phono-semantic matches in his book,
    "Language Contact and Lexical Enrichment in Israeli Hebrew" (Palgrave Macmillan 2003)
    http://zuckermann.org/enrichment.html

    This is the same concept as my "idiom formation via transliteration" mentioned in this forum at
    https://www.usingenglish.com/forum/t...ransliteration

    I'll take this opportunity to correct one item in that posting. "Count sheep !" to go to sleep is probably the translation of a Hebrew pun S'PoR QeVeS on the Latin phrase sopor (as in soporific) quies (as in quiescent/quiet). This idiom has been retranslated back into Israeli Hebrew as LiSPoR K'VaSiM = to count sheep (plural). If you are counting them, there must be more than one.

    Most of Zuckermann's examples involve the attribution of modern meanings to ancient Hebrew words based on the meaning of similar sounds in other languages.

    Most of my examples involve the attribution of the meaning of ancient Hebrew or Aramaic words to pre-existing English words or phrases that had a similar sound.

    For an ancient example, OE docga (a 4-legged dog) acquired the meaning "descends" from Hebrew shin-kuf-aiyin at a time when the shin had a dental D/T-sound and the aiyin had a velar G/K-sound (as in 3aZa = Gaza). "Dog" has this meaning in idioms such as "raining cats and dogs", "(his life) went to the dogs", "he's in the dog-house now".

    For a modern example, the "music" in "face the music" acquired the meaning "consequences" from Yiddish MaSKoNeh (Hebrew MaSKaNah.

    It seems that Zuckermann and I formulated this concept independently. The PSM name for this concept is his. I called it "idiom formation via transliteration".

  1. probus's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Phono-semantic Matches (PSM)

    If I understand correctly, cottage cheese from the Italian ricotta and orange from the Portuguese or Spanish naranja would be historical examples in English.
    Last edited by probus; 08-Feb-2015 at 04:21.

  2. konungursvia's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: Phono-semantic Matches (PSM)

    So you're saying these IE idioms originally come from Hebrew puns?

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    #4

    Re: Phono-semantic Matches (PSM)

    Quote Originally Posted by probus View Post
    If I understand correctly, cottage cheese from the Italian ricotta and orange from the Portuguese or Spanish naranja would be historical examples in English.
    Cottage cheese from Ricotta cheese (with duplication of the ch in cheese) is a beautiful example. Wish I had thought of it myself. The Wikipedia entry for Ricotta says: "Ricotta curds are creamy white in appearance, slightly sweet in taste, and ... somewhat similar in texture to some cottage cheese variants, though considerably lighter."

    As you know, English "orange" is usually attributed to a mis-division. The Online Etymological Dictionary gives:
    >> from Italian arancia, originally narancia (Venetian naranza), alteration of Arabic naranj, from Persian narang, from Sanskrit naranga-s "orange tree," of uncertain origin. ... Loss of initial n- probably due to confusion with definite article (as in une narange, una narancia), but perhaps influenced by French or "gold." << and claims that "orange" was used for the fruit around 1300 but not used as a color word until the 1540s. If that is true, then the color-word did not exist to be substituted for the sound of naranj.
    Also, >> Modern Greek still seems to distinguish the bitter (nerantzi) from the sweet (portokali "Portuguese") orange.<<

    It seems that English oranges were a green variety imported from Seville when Shakespeare wrote Much Ado About Nothing in 1598-99.
    BEATRICE
    The Count is neither sad, nor sick, nor merry, nor well, but
    civil count, civil as an orange, and something of that jealous
    complexion. Act 2, Scene 1, page 13
    [that is, green with envy ... but note the spelling of "orange" and the pun on "Seville"]

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    #5

    Re: Phono-semantic Matches (PSM)

    Quote Originally Posted by konungursvia View Post
    So you're saying these IE idioms originally come from Hebrew puns?
    I am saying that many idioms (defined narrowly as phrases whose meaning cannot be determined by the composition of the "words" in them) are formed by transliteration of a (usually) foreign source. Of course, the original transliteration may then be translated to other languages.

    When originally formed by erudite speakers for the benefit of erudite listeners, they do tend to be intentionally humorous. When produced as code-switching by immigrant speakers and understood in context by native (often non-literate) listeners, they usually are not humorous. Evidence for my interpretation of "raining cats and dogs" is the fact that the equivalent Pennsylvania Dutch expression is "raining cats and ducks". They use the word "Hund" for "dog".

    The classic example of a same-language idiom is "escape by/with the skin of my teeth". When I was a kid, all of my friends and I used this idiom correctly and not a single one of us knew it was translated from Hebrew in the biblical book of Job 19:20. The Hebrew text is בעור שני as a transliteration of בקושי (barely, hardly, with difficulty) at a time when the letter aiyin had a velar G/K-sound as in 3aZa = Gaza. Of course, I don't know if Job actually used this phrase as an idiom or if it was later misheard by a scribe. It has entered other languages because the bible has been translated into many languages.

    A Google Scholar search retrieved 2 journal articles about the transliteration of Buddhist Sanskrit words/phrases to Chinese idioms:
    http://en.cnki.com.cn/Article_en/CJF...K200501027.htm
    and
    http://www.ingentaconnect.com/conten...00004/art00003

    I have not read those articles in their entirety, but you may want to.

    Best regards,
    Izzy

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