Tuesday, 9 December 2014

9th Lexember Word

omgo /o̞mɡo̞/, noun: “tree”


Well, it’s cute, in a way :).

Wait a minute! Didn’t I already create a word for “tree”, just two days ago? And isn’t that word suspiciously similar to omgo? It is indeed, it’s om. And as I explained two days ago, it means both “tree” and “wood (material)”. So what’s happening here?

Well, while I can only guess (remember, I don’t have access to a handy community of linguistically savvy Moten speakers), it seems that in some cases Moten speakers have trouble with their polysemous words. Either they have too many different meanings and cause ambiguity, or their meanings are close enough yet different enough to cause misunderstandings. When this happens, it’s not uncommon for one of the senses of those words to be singled out and a new word to be created to represent it, usually a compound involving the original word. For instance, Moten |no means “ice” or “snow”, but also “glass” (the material). Probably due to ambiguities, the compound |nolum appeared to refer exclusively to glass (it basically mean “fake ice”). In the same way, |not means “source, origin”, but also “cornerstone” or even “head”! When one wants to refer to sources without ambiguity, one can then use instead the dvandva compound |za|not, literally “beginning and source”.

Omgo seems to be such a word too, being a compound of om and yesterday’s ugo: “concrete source, origin”. And it’s not as if om cannot be used anymore to mean “tree”. It definitely can. But if the speaker is afraid of ambiguities, they can make things clear by using omgo instead.

Notice that I’m not aware of a similar word for the “wood” meaning of om. Maybe Moten speakers are more afraid of ambiguities when talking about plants than when talking about the material they are made of…


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