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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:

> On Mon, 16 Aug 2004 14:52:54 +0200, Andreas Johansson <andjo@...> > wrote: > [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, Kanaks > 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 > word. >
And John Cowan wrote:
> > 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 (royal) 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.


John Cowan <jcowan@...>