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Re: chicken in America: from Asia? (cont.)
Okay, I've now read the Carter article and agree with earlier criticisms:
1. No evidence is given (or exists, apparently) for precolumbian faunal
remains of chickens or of chicken iconography.
2. The sources pertaining to presence of the Asiatic type of Chicken are
all late, hundreds of years after contact, and as Carter himself admits,
these Asian chicks could have arrived on Spanish or Portuguese ships any
time during this vast period.
Carters other central arguments are:
A.The early presence of the chicken and (in his opinion) the unlikelyhood
of such a quick transmission of the bird in the New World given its slow
spread in the Old World and
B. Linguistic evidence.
As for A, there is good evidence for a different dynamic in the Age of
Exploration and the Colonial period than in earlier times. Along with my
previous examples (the chicken and melon in NA) consider also the chili
(CAPSICUM vr.) which spread with lightning speed across Asia, the Middle
East, and Africa -- even though in pre-contact times it had not spread
even throughout the Americas (it wasn't found in NA except in the
As for number 2, the linguistic argument:
>First of all, there are two main families of names for chickens used
>in S. America (not including those small areas where Spanish _gallo_
>has been accepted into use). They seem to indicate connections with
>the Old World as follows.
>HUALPA = PIL (Hindu) = PILIJ (Turkey) = PULE (Greece)
>KARA = KUKRI (Hindustani) = KHURUS (Persia)
I went to Carters main source on the distribution of terms for chickens
-- DEDUCTIONS SUGGESTED BY THE GEOGRAPHICAL DISTRIBUTION OF SOME
POST-COLUMBIAN WORDS USED BY THE INDIANS OF SOUTH AMERICA by Erland
1. Nordenskiold was convinced that the native words for chicken were
2. Nordenskiold actually speaks of FOUR "types" of Chicken terms. The "K"
terms like KARA (given above ny Yuri) "T" terms like TARARAK, and the
HUALPA terms. Despite Carters rather blithe assertion, that "no one"
would invoke onomotopoea to explain the resmeblances, this is exactly what
Nordenskiold ( Carter's source) does for the K and T terms -- (Pg 13). He
also goes into the numerous innovative compound words (that fourth sort of
term) which amount to "Big So-and-So", "So-and-So" being various native
birds which the natives thought resembled chickens, a very well known
phenomenon in New World lexification of old world animals and linked to
recent introduction (you name the new thing after an old one with some
sort of modifier -- remember this when I talk about Choctaw in a while) --
Carter seems not to notice this, or include these plots on his map of
terms. For the record, this is how Nordenskiold explains "Atahualpa" ,
(Big So-and-So), and its distribution is clearly linked to the area of the
Inca empire and the later colonial domain it became, so its wide
distribution is no mystery.
3. The distribution of terms is not based on contact-period lexicons, but
upon lexicons collected much later -- mostly in the late nineteenth
centuries. It is in no way certain that the distribution of terms
reflects any contact-period distribution, but may instead reflect the
spread of terms during the colonial era (this may account for the apparent
homogeneity -- languages spoken by the smaller groups vanishing or being
heavily influenced by languages like Quechua with more currency -- though
of course this was happening during the period of empire. But there is a
higher rate of language extinction in colonial times, period. As to why
they did not borrow the Castillian term -- some languages and societies
simply resist this -- Navajo and German, for instance (Chidi instead of
"automobile" fursprecher instead of "telephone").
More on this below.
> Among the curiosa of this collection of names is the discovery
> that among the Tarahumar the name for chickens is _totori_,
> which duplicates the Japanese name. (p. 207)
This one is interesting. The Tarahumara is indeed TOTORI (for hen) but I
can find no evidence that there is or ever was any Japanese term
"identical" to this (as Carter claims) in Japanese. I checked MERRIAM
WEBSTERS JAPANESE-ENGLISH LEARNER'S DICTIONARY, THE HIPPOCRENE CONCISE
JAPANESE DICTIONARY, KENKYUSHU'S NEW JAPANESE DICTIONARY, ALL ROMANIZED
ENGLISH-JAPANESE DICTIONARY, THE RANDOM HOUSE ENGLISH-JAPANESE,
JAPANESE-ENGLISH DICTIONARY, AND THE UNABRIDGED VACCARI'S STANDARD
ENGLISH-JAPANESE DICTIONARY. All gave NIWATORI (literally, "Yard Bird")
for Chicken, fowl, hen, etc. From the Japanese side I looked up "Totori"
"Tutori" "Tuturi" in both Hiragana and romanized versions and found no
such word, period.
I checked two historical sources, discovering Old Japanese *Tori for
"bird" (JAPANESE/ AUSTRO-TAI, by Paul Benedict) and *NIFATORI for
"Chicken" (still "yard bird") There is one postulated form for
proto-Japanese/Ryuku *NIFATUTORI (THE JAPANESE LANGUAGE THROUGH TIME, by
Martin Samuel) in which *TU is a gramatical particle that does not occur
at the beginning of words. In this same source (which has an etymological
glossary, a massive one) I looked to see if there was a *TOTORI or *TUTORI
and found no such word.
(I was wrong, by the way, in my guess that *TORI would lose it's shape in
Then, since Carter provided no ready reference (except perhaps the vague
"personal communication" quoted for a different fact but in the same
paragraph, I plugged through the entire bibliography of MAN ACROSS THE SEA
in search of his Japanese language reference. I didn't find one. Perhaps
I missed it.
I suppose one could argue from this that *NIFATUTORI was shortened somehow
by non-Japanese speakers (the Tarahumara), but the certainly I can find no
Japanese term which the Tarahumara "duplicates".
Note that, for the diehard diffusionist, my research here does not
dissolve the hypothesised Tarahumara/Japanese link -- while NIFATUTORI
does not "duplicate" TOTORI , it at least contains the shape of the word.
For lots of reasons I think that this is strained, indicating either a
chance resemblance or, as Miguel suggested, onomatopoea, but here you have
what I found and make of it what you will.
>(I would like to indicate here that I'm not basing any claims ONLY
>on this seeming similarity in names. Such claims, as I found in
>these discussions, tend to please greatly those who already incline
>to accepting diffusion, while leaving the opponents cold.)
Right. I understand this about you, Yuri -- and I think your are wise to
qualify your argument in this way. Carter, however, seems to give this
argument considerable weight, especially when he links his "dark" chickens
with the Hindi (I think it was Hindi) word for dark chicken .
>One general rule about linguistic evidence seems to make good sense:
> The rule seems to be that where the chicken was well
> established among a population that remained numerically
> dominant, the native name was retained, ...
>Carter continues by drawing a parallel with the name of another
>important agricultural staple:
> ... just as in America _maize_ was retained in the area where
> Indians survived, whereas _corn_ was substituted in the
> British lands where the Indians were extinguished. (p. 196)
Not true. Choctaw TANCHI, Creek ACHI, Cherokee SELU -- well, pick up a
dictionary of pretty much any NA group with a living language (or one that
was living a hundred years ago). The native groups retain their word for
"corn". It would be hard to think of a better case of the "British Lands"
where Indians were extinguished that the Southeast, and yet every group,
even the smal ones like the Biloxi, still retain native words for maize.
The European settlers may have used "corn", but that isn't the issue --
Spanish-speakers in SA don't use "Hualpa" for chicken -- Quechua speakers
do. This discussion of the term for maize does not speak to distribution
of "native" terms among native groups at all, but of the adoption or
non-adoption of "native" terms by the dominant European language. It is
logically inconsistent with the chicken argument.
>This is very important. The evidence of diffusion from the Old World
>indicates strongly that tribes and peoples tend to _borrow_ existing
>names when they acquire some new cultural item from other peoples,
>and not to invent new names.
Also not true. Choctaws (Choctaw is the one Native language I can
actually manage in) call horses ISSUBA"Like-a-Deer", they call monkeys
SHAWI HATTAK "raccoon-men", Pigs SHUKHA (same word as for Opossum) and,
for that matter, chickens AKANK. Ask a Choctaw to crow like a rooster,
and he or she will say "AKANKOLA". It is onomatopoeic (if you don't
believe me, you can find all of this, including the "vocalization" of the
Chicken, in A DICTIONARY OF THE CHOCTAW LANGUAGE by Cyrus Byington, John
Swanton, and Henry Halbert. It is Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin,
#46. Or you can drive to Philadelphia Mississippi and ask the first
Choctaw you see).
I can keep going. "Irish" potato (unknown up here in precolumbian times)
is AHI, the name of a local tuber (Saggitarius). TALI (stone) is the root
of all terms for metal -- silver = TALIHATTA, gold = TALI HOLISSO LAKNA.
Etc. Here in the wasteland of British colonization, innovative words for
introduced things are alive and well.
For fun, a quick survey of some NA chicken terms: Choctaw AKANKA, Navajo
NAA'AHOOHAI, Cherokee TSITITKA, Creek TOTTOLOSI, Dakota ANGPAOHOTONGA,
KOKOYAHANGNA, Teton KO'KENA. Arikara NIKUSHCHIRIKOHTS, Ofo ABASI,
Biloxi MAXI (from MA, Turkey) Atakapa -- western dialect, NOHA'MC eastern
This is a random survey of dictionaries on my shelves. Two terms of
eleven -- Cherokee and Eastern Atakapa -- are from English Chicken. The
rest are innovative.
>But in those areas where the genocide
>of the native peoples was entirely accomplished by the colonizers,
>or in those areas where chickens were unknown to natives (Venezuela)
>the Spanish names won.
> The northern Venezuelan Arawak had no chickens at contact,
> lack an Indian name for them, but call the chicken _gallina_,
> clearly revealing a Spanish source. (p. 206)
>Just as was to be expected... I have already cited an account by Acosta
>from contact times where he expressed his great surprise that the natives
>had their own names for chickens.
See above. This is a flawed argument based on an unfounded generalization
about the lexification of new things.
>Here are a couple of summaries by Carter about linguistic evidence:
> The variety of names for the chicken and the scarcity of
> European names are suggestive of antiquity and of non-European
> origins. (p. 202)
Using this criteria I can easily demonstrate that horses were native to
Hint: (they weren't, unless you count the ones which went extinct in the
> The gist of data from names is that, except in areas where the
> chicken was absent at contact times and the introduction is
> known to have been by Spaniards, the names used are non-
> Spanish. Names vary considerably, suggesting plural
> introductions, or much time, or both. Three names, one in S.
> America, one in C. America, and one in Mexico, seem directly
> related to Asiatic names for the chicken. (p. 209)
In that they look the same. But they are probably onomotapoeic (like the
more or less pan-world word for Crow I spoke of earlier), as Nordenskiold
(the one who did the footwork) maintained, and because a borrowing would
not remain the "same" for hundreds of years, but would be distorted by the
natural process of sound shifting.
This is dealt with further way above.
>(Some of these linguistic similarities are given above.)