I have noticed that the word for tongue or language is similar throughout very distant language families. I wonder, what is the cause for this? Was this word recently borrowed into different non-European languages or is this an ancient wanderwort or is it an indication of distant relation between languages? The table below is mostly taken from the Starling database.

* Proto-Heiban:       d̪ingәla / ringәla
* Proto-Talodi:       t̪ulenge / ləlenge
* Proto-Katloid:      -langed
* Rashad:             tangela-k / yangela-k

* PIE:                dn̥ǵʰwéh₂s
* Manchu:             ilenggu

* Burushaski:         yuŋus

* Haida (Alaska):     tʼāngal
* Mapucho:            ðungu (language)
* Otomanguean         dumža

Sahul & Indo-Pacific:
* Proto-Nyulnyulan:   d-yangala
* Proto-Pama-Nyungan: dyalang
* Bunuban:            djälän
* Tiwi:               tingawa (lip), yunguk (language)

Was the word for tongue in American and Indo-Pacific languages a borrowing from European ones?

Or was it developed from some ancient proto-form like *dyungala/lingala?

How common in general for the word for tongue or language to be borrowed?

  • 5
    This again? Sound symbolism is a third and much more likely option; it's not surprising to me that words for 'tongue' would have sounds that engage the tongue more.
    – Cairnarvon
    Commented May 21 at 3:50
  • See discussion of sound symbolism on related question.
    – Keelan
    Commented May 22 at 4:53


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