link between "sangoma" (S. Africa) and "sanguma" (Papua New

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link between "sangoma" (S. Africa) and "sanguma" (Papua New

Post by mikeschlauch » Mon Feb 04, 2008 11:46 am

i am reading nelson mandela's autobiography and came across the Nguni (?) word "sangoma," meaning a medicine man, which struck me as an odd coincidence since a very similar Melanesian Pidgin word, "sanguma," is used in Papua New Guinea to refer to people possessed by evil spirits. i would assume that English colonists must have brought the word from SA to PNG and applied it to the nearest local approximation of medicine men, but after searching online i couldn't find any more evidence than the below discussion board. and who trusts what they say on discussion boards anyway?

http://www.pngbd.com/forum/showthread.php?t=13508

on a sidenote, i was surprised to return to your website after almost 3 years in absentia and see that my "booyakasha" thread had been recently revived. another coincidence, or is there some kind of mystical "thread" connecting me to this website, and sanguma to sangoma?

please discuss, and booyakasha to you all.
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link between "sangoma" (S. Africa) and "sanguma" (Papua New

Post by dalehileman » Mon Feb 04, 2008 5:28 pm

mike welcome back! and in answer to your latter question, as a confirmed pantheist I'm convinced such happenings are an Act of God. She answers our prayers too; however since this isn't a religious board I do invite anyone for a chat at dalehileman@verizon.net
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link between "sangoma" (S. Africa) and "sanguma" (Papua New

Post by PhilHunt » Tue Feb 05, 2008 11:38 am

mikeschlauch wrote: i am reading nelson mandela's autobiography and came across the Nguni (?) word "sangoma," meaning a medicine man, which struck me as an odd coincidence since a very similar Melanesian Pidgin word, "sanguma," is used in Papua New Guinea to refer to people possessed by evil spirits. i would assume that English colonists must have brought the word from SA to PNG and applied it to the nearest local approximation of medicine men, but after searching online i couldn't find any more evidence than the below discussion board. and who trusts what they say on discussion boards anyway?
I too am highly interested by the way words seem to travel across the globe with no clear means of transport.
I'm afraid I can't help you with your above quote except to point you in the direction of two interesting "popular" books which demonstrate how language and religious customs have travelled the globe, often from common origins.
1. The Adventure of English by Melvyn Bragg which is like a swash-buckling account of how English has been formed.
2. Don't Know Much About Mythology by Kenneth C Davis which looks at myths, legends and religious origins, often demonstrating how one influenced the other (not for the closed minded or those offended by open discussion on the origin of religions)

I'd also like to share with you a recent adventure I undertook whilst researching a particular word in Italian.

As a teacher of English in Italy I often do classes looking at the origins of the English language. In one particular lesson I was showing the evolution of the Indo-European languages from Sanskrit.
I decided to start the lesson by giving them a practical demonstration of how far back a words origins can go, so I took the example of a popular dish in Italy "Pasts Puttanesca".

This popular pasta dish is made from odds and ends you would find in a typical Italian fridge. The word is quite obvioiusly originated form the Italian word "Puttana" which means "whore" or "prostitute". Most Italians assume it has aquired this name because of its spicy nature, however, it originated in Naples soon after the Second World War and Wikipedia carries this quote as to its origin:
A more thorough story about this dish comes from Diane Seed in her book, Top 100 Pasta Sauces (p. 20) ISBN 0-89815-232-1. She says:

“ To understand how this sauce came to get its name, one must consider the 1950s when brothels in Italy were state-owned. They were known as case chiuse or 'closed houses' because the shutters had to be kept permanently closed to avoid offending the sensibilities of neighbors or innocent passers-by. Conscientious Italian housewives usually shop at the local market every day to buy fresh food, but the 'civil servants' were only allowed one day per week for shopping, and their time was valuable. Their speciality became a sauce made quickly from odds and ends in the larder. ”

The word Puttana has always perplexed me. There are very few words in Italian which start with P U T and it has never sounded like a particularly Italian word to me. In fact, further research uncovered the following Latin words for prostitute/whore:
"meretrîx, "earner", and lupa, "she-wolf"; a brothel was a lupânar; these words referred to the mercantile and perceived predatory activities of prostitutes. The Latin word prôstituô had a root meaning simply of "to expose for public sale." The word glûbô, glûbere, glûpsî, glûptus meant "to peel", and by extension, "to rob"; it was often used of prostitutes; compare English she took him to the cleaners."

Puttana has often been attested as coming from the latin word puteô, putçre, "to stink," before entering the Romance languages. Italian "Puttana" - French "putain". However, this has never sat well with me and there is no firm evidence that the word is derived from this origin.

I discovered another interesting possible origin:
In the legend of Krishna there is a demoness called Putana. The story mirrors the birth of Jesus. A King discovers that a baby will be responsible for his death so he gives the Demoness Putana the job of killing all the newly born infants. Putana does this by suckling them to her poison coated breasts. However, when she suckles Krishna he sucks all teh life from her body and she dies. I cannot find an exact date for this legend but it could be as early as 900 BCE.
I wouldn't be suprised if this legend of an evil Demoness was somehow imported to Italy, possibly via Venice or Pisa which have historic trade routes with Asia, or perhaps even via conquest. The idea of a beautiful demoness/mother figure seems a more likely comparitive to a Puttana than the idea that a prostitute stinks.

Sorry if this is badly written. I'm typing it between classes in a hurry.
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link between "sangoma" (S. Africa) and "sanguma" (Papua New

Post by zmjezhd » Tue Feb 05, 2008 3:44 pm

Italian puttana is usually assumed to have come from Latin putus 'boy' (from the adjective meaning 'pure, bright; splendid'). The English art term putti for the little angels one finds in religious scenes (aka cherubs or cherubim) is from the Latin word also and exists in both masculine and a feminine forms (putto and putta). Italian puttana 'whore' was borrowed by the Spanish, Portuguese, and French. (From the entry, 6890, in Meyer-Lübke Romanisches etymologisches Wörterbuch.)

Most Indo-European philologists do not think that the other Indo-European languages descend from Sanskrit. (There are IE languages in India which are descended from Sanskrit, or, as with Latin and the Romance languages, from its more common sister languages, the Prakrits.) There is a Sanskrit word in the Rig Veda that, puta 'cleaned, purified, pure, clear, bright' that is related to the Latin word. IE philologists reconstruct a Proto-Indo-European root *peu, *pu- 'to clean, purify; refine; sift', which also yielded Latin purus 'pure' as well as Sanskrit pavana 'purifying'. (There is also a homonym in Sanskrit, puta, which means 'putrid, foul-smelling' which may be related to the word in the Krishna tale.)

If you're interested in modern historical-comparative linguistics, you might want to read WP Lehmann Historical Linguistics . More technical, but a fascinating read is Calvert Watkins How to Kill a Dragon: Aspects of Indo-European Poetics. Professor Watkins also wrote the small Indo-European roots dictionary which appears at the back of the American-Heritage dictionary (available online).

[Addendum: Latin also has a word similar in form but the opposite in meaning: pus, puris, 'pus; (fig.) venom, malice'. It is related to English foul and comes from the PIE root *pu 'to rot, stink'.]
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link between "sangoma" (S. Africa) and "sanguma" (Papua New

Post by PhilHunt » Tue Feb 05, 2008 4:26 pm

Fantastic stuff zmjezhd.
I am a very amateur philologist (if I can even call myself that) but I have been able to come to several conclusions about word origin through logic reasoning, as opposed to study. For example: In noticed that Lupa was a common word used in Roman times for prostitute. Add that information to the myth of Romulus and Remus, who were suppossedly raised by a she-wolf (lupa) and it raises some interesting questions about the exact translation of the myth story. I later found that this very conclusion has been reached by many scholars (though not the BBC which recently reported on the possible truth behind the legend of the she-wolf after a place of worship to the "lupa" was found in Rome. I like to think of myself in the romantic tradition of unlearned scholar. However, I will definately get the books you suggested.

I am a bit confused by your statement. "Most Indo-European philologists do not think that the other Indo-European languages descend from Sanskrit." Other than what?
I read in Melvyn Bragg that modern scholars are now coming to believe that Sanskrit is the origin of most Indo-Euopean languages, but I am certainly no expert and not disagreeing with anything you say, as you clearly know more than me.

Even if puttana came from putus, it is well documented (or not) that neither puttana nor any close derivative of this word was ever used by the Romans in connection with prostitutes. In fact, it seems to have been imported to Italy from outside, which begs the question, when and how did "pure" "splendid" "bright" or "boy" become associated with prostitutes or whores?
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link between "sangoma" (S. Africa) and "sanguma" (Papua New

Post by Phil White » Tue Feb 05, 2008 5:04 pm

The precise boundaries are, as ever, unclear, but most historical linguists currently take an approach like this one:

The Indo-Aryan languages, of which Sanskrit is the earliest recorded form, is a member of the Indo-Iranian family. This in turn is one of several (usually given as around 8 or 9) major sub-families of Indo-European. These major sub-families split very early in the evolution of the family as a whole. The Germanic languages, the Italic languages, the Balto-Slavic languages and the Indo-Iranian languages are all rather like siblings in a family tree.

The relationship between the Romance languages (of the Italic family) to Sanskrit is not one of direct descent. They have a common ancestor in PIE, but they are not on the same line of the family.

Being one of the earliest attested languages in the entire IE family, Sanskrit is probably closer to PIE than most others, and many similarities between families begin to converge closer to Sanskrit than they do to, say, modern French. Sanskrit, although old and influential, is just one of many IE languages.
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link between "sangoma" (S. Africa) and "sanguma" (Papua New

Post by gdwdwrkr » Tue Feb 05, 2008 5:05 pm

Logic reasoning sometimes leads to correct definations.
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link between "sangoma" (S. Africa) and "sanguma" (Papua New

Post by Phil White » Tue Feb 05, 2008 5:44 pm

Mike,

although it doesn't answer your question, you may be interested to look at Suzanne Romaine's "Language and Society: An Introduction to Sociolinguistics". Much of her research work was based on Tok Pisin (the pidgin of Papua New Guinea). Chapter 6 in particular talks of the spread of pidgins and the relations between them and their respective superstrate (lexifier) and substrate languages. There are a number of remarkable similarities between apparently unrelated pidgins and languages that cannot be explained by coincidence alone. You could consider, for instance, the Southern African Fanakalo pidgin, which bases on Zulu, English and Afrikaans and which lies on the trade routes. I'm not sure which of the several Nguni languages Mandela speaks - I believe it's Xhosa - but Zulu is a close relation.

It wouldn't be surprising to see the word travel along the trade routes in a form already pidginized.

It's actually interesting to look at a map of the pidgins of the world and see how they cling so tightly to the coasts and trade routes.

With respect to Tok Pisin, I am reminded of the visit of the Queen and Prince Philip when the latter was tickled to find himself referred to as "fella belong Mrs. Queen". Romain suggests he probably misquoted what he heard, which should have been "man bilong kwin", but the sample is still nice. I seem to remember rattling on about Tok Pisin before on this board. Ah yes, here.
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link between "sangoma" (S. Africa) and "sanguma" (Papua New

Post by zmjezhd » Tue Feb 05, 2008 5:48 pm

Even if puttana came from putus, it is well documented (or not) that neither puttana nor any close derivative of this word was ever used by the Romans in connection with prostitutes. In fact, it seems to have been imported to Italy from outside, which begs the question, when and how did "pure" "splendid" "bright" or "boy" become associated with prostitutes or whores?

Off hand, I'd say it was all in that suffix -n-. To derive putto from the Latin word for 'pure' doesn't seem a stretch. People like babies. It helps with their survival. But, in Italian, as well as other Romance languages, diminutive suffixes tend to connote (besides smallness) cuteness or preciousness. Augmentative suffixes tend towards more pejorative connotations: e.g., Italian testone 'stubborn person', lit., 'big head'. Works for me. There are other Latin words for 'whore': e.g., proseda (rare, just in Plautus), scortum lit., 'hide' (common, source of the word scortator 'whoremonger, lecher'). It is not uncommon for words to be replaced in the history of a particular language, either by borrowings or repurposing native words. For example, the Latin word for head was caput, capitis, but almost no Romance language uses a descendant of that word for 'head'. They mostly use a word descended from soliders' slang for head, testa 'pot'. Caput does survive in words like Italian capo, French chef, English captain. So, I don't think you have to go looking elsewhere for puttana.

I am not familiar with Melvyn Bragg. Which of his books does he posit a Sanskritic origin for IE languages? I'll look into and let you know my opinion. In the 19th century, some linguists and philosophers thought that Sanskrit must be the original language from which IE language came, but earlier theorists thought that Hebrew (or Flemish in one infamous case) were the original languages. Some of the sound changes that occurred between PIE and Proto-Indo-Iranian would be hard to explain if you derive say Latin or Gothic from Sanskrit, instead of all three from PIE: e.g., the palatalization of velar stop, k > s in Latin centum '100' and Sanskrit satam from PIE *kntom '100'. Deriving a k from an s is more problematic, especially when one takes the labio-velars (kw and gw into consideration.

Being one of the earliest attested languages in the entire IE family, Sanskrit is probably closer to PIE than most others, and many similarities between families begin to converge closer to Sanskrit than they do to, say, modern French. Sanskrit, although old and influential, is just one of many IE languages.

Yes, Sanskrit is quite old, but Hittite is older. The Indo-Iranian, Slavic, Baltic, and Armenian branches of IE went through some interesting sound changes. The other branches are a little more conservative in their phonology. As far as morphology is concerned, there things get a little more controversial. What did the morphological structure and the syntax of PIE look like? Seven case, three numbers, and three genders like Sanskrit (and to a lesser extent Latin and Greek) or something less (cf. Gamkrelidze and Ivanov's ergative-absolutive reconstruction).

[Addendum: I took a look at Bragg's Adventures of English in preview mode at Amazon. He states on page 4 that Sanskrit as well as the other IE languages descend from Proto-Indo-European: "PIE is the mother of us all and Sanskrit is certainly one of the older attested members of the family of languages out of which come all the languages of Europe". Later, on the same page he states (ambiguously) that "Somewhere, then, out on the plains of India more than 4000 years ago, began the movement of a language that was to become English". The problem of the Urheimat (or Proto-Homeland) is not solved, nor is it one that many historical linguists study anymore. It has been placed in Scandinavia by the 19th century (mainly German) philologists, in Armenia by Ivanov, a whole bunch of other places usually based on notions more nationalist than linguistic, and in the steppes of central Asia by common consensus of those linguists and anthropologists still studying the problem.]
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Post by dalehileman » Tue Feb 05, 2008 6:29 pm

PhilH (and Phil too for that matter): By no means can you describe yourself as amateur and certainly not very. After matriculating from the School of Journalism (U of I) and seven decades as the country's most resoundingly unpublished writer I could only wish for your depth of immersion in the Mother Tongue
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link between "sangoma" (S. Africa) and "sanguma" (Papua New

Post by PhilHunt » Sat Feb 09, 2008 6:15 pm

zmjezhd wrote:
Offhand, I'd say it was all in that suffix -n-. To derive putto from the Latin word for 'pure' doesn't seem a stretch. People like babies. It helps with their survival. But, in Italian, as well as other Romance languages, diminutive suffixes tend to connote (besides smallness) cuteness or preciousness. Augmentative suffixes tend towards more pejorative connotations: e.g., Italian testone 'stubborn person', lit., 'big head'. Works for me. There are other Latin words for 'whore': e.g., proseda (rare, just in Plautus), scortum lit., 'hide' (common, source of the word scortator 'whoremonger, lecher'). It is not uncommon for words to be replaced in the history of a particular language, either by borrowings or repurposing native words. For example, the Latin word for head was caput, capitis, but almost no Romance language uses a descendant of that word for 'head'. They mostly use a word descended from soliders' slang for head, testa 'pot'. Caput does survive in words like Italian capo, French chef, English captain. So, I don't think you have to go looking elsewhere for puttana.
The suffix in the modern Italian language is usually used to soften an insult or to emphasis a size.

An example:

Cat = Gatto Gattino (small/cute cat) Gattone (big/fat cat)

If I called someone a "bastardo" it is obviously an insult. "Bastardino" could soften the insult somewhat.

I totally understand the logic behind thinking that putta(na) could be a suffix combination, but I've been racking my, and my wife's, brains to try to think of an example of "ana" or "-na" being used as a suffix in modern Italian, but we cannot. There is always the possibility of a Latin-based suffix -na (unfortunately I didn't pay much attention in Latin classes).

I'm still left with the feeling that there is some link with Hinduism. It was not uncommon for post Roman religious groups to include derogatory stories of other prophets, or religions, within their own religious writings as a way of diminishing the public's view of other religions (see Simon Magus for example, a highly prolific writer and holy man in his day whose written works still survive today but was included in a story in the Bible as a false prophet). To me, it could make perfect sense that using the name of another religion's gods and goddesses as an insult could be useful in succeeding the popular religions of the time (see the misappropriation of the name Belial and Hell from other religions).

The fact that puttana was not used in Roman Latin when the assimilation of other religions was commonplace, but only later on through the Vulgar Latin and Romance languages seems to me to indicate that it was a term picked up, possibly by the soldiers or merchants.
[Addendum: I took a look at Bragg's Adventures of English in preview mode at Amazon. He states on page 4 that Sanskrit as well as the other IE languages descend from Proto-Indo-European: "PIE is the mother of us all and Sanskrit is certainly one of the older attested members of the family of languages out of which come all the languages of Europe". Later, on the same page he states (ambiguously) that "Somewhere, then, out on the plains of India more than 4000 years ago, began the movement of a language that was to become English". The problem of the Urheimat (or Proto-Homeland) is not solved, nor is it one that many historical linguists study any more.
I'm sorry if I gave the impression in my first post that I thought Sanskrit was the mother of all languages. I used Sanskrit as a starting point with my students to demonstrate how some familiar English words have evolved from Sanskrit words via Latin/Greek and Romance languages; I had no intention of implying that it was the foundation block of all European languages. I only faintly recalled what Melvyn Bragg had said, so excuse me if my quote was incorrect.
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