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Chai vs. Tea

Czech has ‘čaj’, Japanese has ‘お茶’ (o-cha where the ‘o’ is honorific, so ignore it).  But English has ‘tea’, French has ‘thé’, Finnish has ‘tee’.

WALS has a nice map of the differences between world languages.  The interesting cases are where there’s an isolated blue dot in a red field or vice-versa.  For example, Hebrew uses ‘te’ while surrounding languages have  ‘cha’; not too surprising considering the influence of European languages on modern Hebrew.  But Basque and Portuguese use ‘cha’ while all other Romance languages use ‘te’ – I understand that the Portuguese made independent contact with the Far East, but why the Basque?  And why does Lesser Antillean French Creole use ‘cha’ when French uses ‘te’?  Why do Polish and Lithuanian have their own words, not loan-words?  Must be some  interesting stories there…

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