Míkmaq trees

The words for trees in Míkmaq, an Algonquian language spoken in parts of Canada and the USA, are apparently based on the sounds the trees make in the wind. More specifically, according to this book, the names come from “the sound that the wind makes when it blows through the leaves during autumn about an hour after sunset, when the wind usually comes from a particular direction.” The names can therefore change over time depending on the wind and the age and size of the trees. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find any of the actual names of trees in Míkmaq.

Míkmaq words for animals are also based on sounds – the sounds made by those animals. For example, kitten is miaojij. The same happens to some extent in other languages. For example, the Mandarin Chinese for cat is 猫 (māo).

In English the names of some birds are onomatopoeic, including cuckoo, whippoorwill, morepork, chiffchaff, chickadee, whooping swan and peewit.

Can you think of other examples of onomatopoeic birds, animals or other creatures?

This entry was posted in Language, Words and phrases.

0 Responses to Míkmaq trees

  1. Ben says:

    We mustn’t forget the important Cheeseburger Bird ( http://youtube.com/watch?v=0ou9J8G56mo ).

    Apparently called the black-capped Chickadee by weird scientist folk, the Cheeseburger Bird is apparently quite common throughout the United States.

    Listen carefully for its cry – ‘Cheese-bur-ger!’


  2. Weili says:

    I wonder if 蛇 shé (snake) in Chinese came from the sound made by snakes.

  3. xarxa says:

    arabic ‘dhubaaba’ and hebrew ‘zevuv’ – fly

  4. TJ says:

    I would say “hoopoo” ?
    the sound of this bird do sound like “hoo-poo”

    That reminds me of one topic that we used to mess about it as always in school old days, in the Arabic lessons, when we have to memorize some sound names since every animal has a sound name in Arabic, maybe I can list some here:

    Pigeon: Hadeel
    Dog: Noaah
    Cat: Mowaa’ (this one obviously comes from the sound itself I guess).

    Fly: Taneen
    Lion: Za’eer
    Thunder: Hadeer
    Sheep: Roghaa’ (I might be wrong about this one)
    Snake: Faheeh (hard fricatives)
    Phone: Raneen
    Ants: Dabeeb

  5. Caenwyr says:

    I know this is quite off-topic, but I suddenly feel the urge to say this: there is something about the English transliteration of Arabic that I don’t quite like, probably because I’m not a native English speaker myself. Personally I’d prefer things like:
    But I know it often is a question of having the right keyboard (and the right server software. I’m not sure if it will be showed correctly even here).

    On-topic: in Dutch too there are quite a few onomatopoeic words:
    een bonk (a hard hollow bounce, like a head hitting the floor)
    een flits (a flash, like the one on a camera. which is strange, since a flash actually makes no sound nowadays, but of course it did back in the days)
    een bliksem (lightning: same remark as with ‘een flits’)
    een boer (a burp)
    een schaaf (a scrub plane)
    schuren (to scrub)
    een tjilp (pronounced chilp, the sound a bird makes)

    And many many more examples. I guess there’s lists of onomatopoeia somewhere. It’s always nice to compare different languages, and their solutions for a new invention. I always liked the sound of the German word for a train: ‘ein Zug’. As if a child invented the name… Ahh, neologisms, they really make the world go around.

  6. Haamu says:

    In Dutch there’s a bird called “oehoe” (pronunciation “oohoo”). According to the dictionary it is called an eagle owl in English.

  7. TJ says:

    Caenwyr: It’s quite true. I hate writing the double “E” but sometimes I just care about would a reader imagine the word.

    If it is to make it more accurate, IPA is better, but as you said, software and other causes don’t allow us to write it down as we like!
    by the way, IPA do not represent all sounds of Arabic correctly.

  8. Bia says:

    What about humming bird?
    In Portuguese, at least in Brazil, it is called “beija-flor”, flower-kissing. Is it poetic or what?

%d bloggers like this: