Kanak, kanaka (was Re: /nj/ vs. /J/ [was: something else])
|From:||Roger Mills <rfmilly@...>|
|Date:||Tuesday, August 17, 2004, 4:13|
This went directly to Philip Newton; it was intended for the list.
Philip Newton wrote:
And John Cowan wrote:
> On Mon, 16 Aug 2004 14:52:54 +0200, Andreas Johansson <andjo@...>
> [Russian language]
> > How did they arrive at /kanak/ for "New Caledonian"?
> Fairly straightforwardly, I imagine; it's the self-designation of the
> inhabitants (or of a people which make up a large proportion of
> inhabitants -- not sure whether all New Caledonians are Kanaks).
> Hm... according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Caledonia,
> only make up 44% of the population. But still a sizeable proportion.
> FWIW: In German, "Kanacke" means is a derogative word meaning roughly
> "foreigner". I was a bit surprised when I read a travel guide to the
> South Pacific and realised that this word probably derives from the
> name of the Kanak people; I had thought it was more or less a nonsense
> > It's much more likely from Hawai'ian _kanaka_ 'human being, native
> Hawaiian of Polynesian descent' which is mostly of historical use in
> English; it can also be derogatory or (like _geek_, _queer_) a paradoxical
> symbol of pride.
Both are possible. The (many) languages of New Caledonia have undergone
sweeping sound changes (in particular, dentals and velars are backed to
velar and uvular/glottal resp.) so PN *taNata 'man, human being' could well
end up as /kanak/. The Haw. changes are well known.
I believe the word reached western languages via Australia (and perhaps the
German possessions pre-WW I), when "guest workers" were imported from the
Solomons, Fiji, Samoa et al. Perhaps from nearby N.Caledonia too, but
unlikely from Hawaii. These (dark-skinned) workers were known (pejoratively)
as kanaka(s). Odd that the rather distant Hawaiian form would be borrowed,
as none of the areas mentioned have the *t > k change (AFAIK, and NC
excepted). Maybe "[ta'Nata] was just too difficult for European mouths; one
could envision some sort of metathesis/assimilatory process, whereby the
"difficult" velar affected the dentals, while the dentals "simplified" the
velar (I speculate, of course).
It's also said that one of the nearby PN languages (either Tongan, Samoan or
Tahitian, I forget which)(1) is undergoing t > k, in all but the high
register. My impression is it's recent, but maybe it could date back to
1890-1900s. The imported workers would not likely have been of royal status.
I'd guess that Russian kanak is borrowed from German.
(1) In a later msg., Philip reminded me that it's Samoan.