Health and Medicine Question #615

M.Shirley, a 80 year old male from Horam, E. Sussex, UK asks on January 30, 2002,

ULUru is the aboriginal name for Ayer`s Rock, which was a sacred place for native Australian peoples. ULUguru is a Tanzanian Mountain, also probably sacred. OLU(or ULU)lokwe is a monolithic rock sacred to the Samburu people of Kenya. Could the similarity of the prefix be significant or is it just coincidental? Same goes for Okevango--a swampy region of South West Africa and Okefenoke of the Florida Everglades.

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The answer

Barry Shell answered on January 30, 2002

With the help of Simon Fraser University linguist, Paul McFetridge: These are unrelated languages, so the repetition of a sequence of sounds is coincidental.

There are a finite number of speech sounds and a finite number of ways of arranging them. With approximately 6000 languages in existence, it isn't surprising to find coincidences like these. The rules of probability and randomness make the same patterns recur in different languages.

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