We can see that the Wede:i have a focus on the state in their culture:

The central fact of existence has always been the state, always essential. The southern religions had always preached support for the state, the importance of the collective good, and the social lubrication necessary to a populous and busy state: manners and decorum; respect for superiors; fair and just treatment for inferiors.

Can we see this in their language? i.e., are there more government-related words than in other languages?

1 Answer 1


I don't think you can generally assume a strong correlation between the vocabulary of a language and culture of the kind you are asking about. Just like the "50 Eskimo words for snow" is a myth, it would also apply to other languages...

Not knowing the language in question I would think that there is a cultural influence, but not as obvious as having more words in a given topic area. I would expect a fine-grained system of honorifics, expressed in, for example, different verbal affixes depending on whether you speak to someone who is superior to you or not. So you express respect by using a different form of the verb, but not a different lexical item.

The same would apply to other areas of discourse. Politeness markers, modality (should, could, would,...) all play a role in social interaction, but do not necessarily manifest themselves directly in the vocabulary.

  • 1
    Actually, it's true that Eskimo has 50 words that have something to do with snow (though that's different from are syn- or hyponyms for) because many Eskimo languages are polysynthetic. Nevertheless, I agree nobody should say it, as it's misleading (and English has (allowing quite some derivational morphology) snow, blizzard, snowstorm, firn, graupel, sleet, slush snowbank, snowdrift, snowfall, snowflake, powder snow, snow blanket, snow crystal, white cover, yellow snow, frozen vapour, H2O, snowman material, snowfield, snow blind-ifier, snowcap, frozen water, ice, etc.).
    – Duncan
    Mar 21, 2018 at 13:18
  • Here's a take on that: Geoffrey Pullum's "The Great Eskimo Vocabulary Hoax". lel.ed.ac.uk/~gpullum/EskimoHoax.pdf Mar 21, 2018 at 13:50
  • Also, adding something about politeness markers: in Holland, we learn that the English are more polite: they say Yes, I am/No, he wouldn't instead of Dutch Ja/Nee (Yes/No). This gives a wrong perspective: when you grow up with it, you'll use it when it's appropriate, without thinking to be polite every second of the day. Vice versa, in Britain (and wherever they learn Dutch, German, etc.) they think German people worry much about when they should use du (informal) or Sie (formal). They don't. Forget stories about colleagues knowing each other for years using Sie: they didn't care.
    – Duncan
    Mar 21, 2018 at 18:38

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