Languages > Language-specific analysis

Why are some words in many language similar?


I discover some word in many language  is similar
Why are this words in many language similar?

아빠(korean) - father - بابا/اب(Arabic) - faðir(icelandic)- papa
엄마(korean) - mother(English) - ام/ماما(Arabic) - mama - móðir(icelandic)
아니오(Korean) - no(English) - non(French) - нет(Russian), nej(Danish)
예(korean) - yes(english) - já(icelandic) - ja(Danish etc)

1. Those are completely different sets of words, some of which look more similar than others, some of which have languages related to each other (and others don't), and some are explained by other reasons.

2. Randomly picking words that "look similar" is not a good scientific approach. If you want to show any meaningful relationship, then you need a lot of systematic data showing patterns.

As for these specific sets of words, here are the answers:

--- Quote ---아빠(korean) - father - بابا/اب(Arabic) - faðir(icelandic)- papa
엄마(korean) - mother(English) - ام/ماما(Arabic) - mama - móðir(icelandic)
--- End quote ---
These are similar because these are the first words babies say. The "m" and "b/p" sounds are the first that babies produce, and they first say "mama" then "baba/papa". This is found in dozens or hundreds of languages around the world. These words are more like onomatopoeia than "mother" and "father", which are better for comparing language relationships.

--- Quote ---아니오(Korean) - no(English) - non(French) - нет(Russian), nej(Danish)
--- End quote ---
English, French, Russian and Danish have a shared ancestor (Proto-Indo-European), and this word goes back to an older negation word in that language. Korean is a coincidence.

--- Quote ---Shi(Chinese)/Si(Spanish), da(russian etc), yes(english)/já(icelandic)
--- End quote ---
These words do not look similar. The only similarity is that they have a consonant-vowel (CV) pattern, which is easily explained because they are frequent words, and therefore likely to develop short forms over time. There is nothing more to explain here.

I'd suggest reading an introductory textbook about historical linguistics and linguistic reconstruction. I've written something about that here:

In the case of 예 (ja, yes), this is one of those universal onomatopeic words: in vast numbers of languages, the expression "yes" is some variant of [je]. The Chinese version is, OTOH, from a different source, namely "(it) is", which incidentally is a common source of word for "true". 안 and IE ne are only minimally similar. The more-universal onomatopeic forms of negation are pa, ma, ka.


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