[The Legend of the Many Whites of the Inuits – Eskimos]

People in general love to augment facts on a cordless phone – no end, and that’s how the legend began that Eskimos are able to perceive and/or name much more whites or types of snow than we are. Even though the legend has been destroyed for decades, some people still believe it!

Anthropologist Laura Martin spent a lot of time in the 1980s trying to dispel the legend about the Eskimos (Inuits) and, after years of struggle, she managed to publish “Eskimos Words for Snow” (Martin, 1986). This article should have been enough to get the legend out of our lives, but it didn’t, and Martin later even quoted the number of Eskimo vocabulary terms for snow: “nine” in an encyclopedia (Adams 1984), “a hundred” in the editorial from the New York Times (February 9, 1984), and “200” on a show about the weather forecast on a TV channel in Cleveland (Pullum, 1989).

Everyone knows that decorators have different names for different gradations of beige, and hairdressers have different names for different gradations of blonde, brown and black – fair enough. But according to linguist Geoffrey K. Pullum – who worked very hard to destroy the legend of the Eskimos in The Great Eskimo Vocabulary Hoax, they are not as interested in snow as the legend says. For them, snow is always present, just like sand on the beach. And even beach freaks have only one word for sand.

In 1911, the linguist Franz Boas compared the English terms for water with the Eskimo terms for snow, stating that in the vocabulary of the Inuits there are four categories of snow. As recently as 2003, Larry Kaplan stated a little more in “Inuit Snow Terms“. But for Pullum and Martin, we have to be aware that the Dictionary of the Eskimo West Greenland Language (Schultz-Lorentzen, 1927) has only two possibly relevant roots for snow types in the Eskimo vocabulary: < em>qanik for snow on the air (snowflake), and aput – for snow on the ground. All other names are derived. That is all.

n short: the perception in general, and even more so the color perception of the Eskimos, is just like ours. The vocabulary is a little different, but far from having dozens, much less hundreds of terms to describe the different states of snow.

The Great Eskimo Vocabulary Hoax
The Great Eskimo Vocabulary Hoax

Written by Feitosa-Santana

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