In how many ways do Eskimos say “snow”?

July 29, 2013 3:07 pm







Spring is coming but in many countries there is still snow. A lot of people think that Eskimos have an exceptionally big number of words for snow, while opponents of this theory argue that this is a hoax.

Licia Corbolante, Italian terminology management specialist, explains in her blog that Inuit is a polysynthetic language. This means that Eskimos are able to form very long and complex words by adding affixes. The latter can add specifications to words that in other languages are expressed with full sentences. Due to this, many lexical elements are created and may seem to be a great number of different words, but actually there are just a few base words for “snow“.

The hoax was born with the theories by Benjamin Whorf about linguistic relativity and with certain remarks by the anthropologist Franz Boas.

The linguist G. K. Pullum has definitively unmasked the hoax in his work entitled “The great Eskimo vocabulary hoax”.

If you know Italian and you wish to read more about this, visit Licia Corbolante’s blog and have a look at Pullum’s work here.

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