Why is it that in English we feel the need to differentiate between “hand” and “arm” or between “foot” and “leg”, whereas in a number of other languages, they tend to prefer words that refer to the whole limb, with no differentiation.
Not only are there languages which tend to use fewer words than we do, but there are also languages which use more on a regular, normal basis; take Spanish for example. Besides having the word mano to mean “hand”, and brazo for the “arm”, it is usual to distinguish between brazo and antebrazo, which is the “forearm”. You might be tempted to argue that we also have the word “forearm” in English, and while this is of course true, the fact of the matter is that this word is not in normal, everyday use in the way that it is in Spanish.
In modern Greek, the word χέρι (heri) is used to mean both “arm” and “hand”, while πόδι (podi) means both “foot” and “leg”. It seems unlikely that Greek speakers were doing radically different work from their counterparts in Italy, where braccio and mano distinguish between arm and hand respectively, while the difference between foot and leg is expressed with piede and gamba. Or, even closer to home, Greek and Turkish speakers lived side by side, often living very similar lives, but Turkish speakers differentiated between kol (arm) and el (hand). There doesn’t seem to be any practical, logical reason for one language to need the extra words, while the other doesn’t. I suspect that we will never know the answer as to why, but it is an interesting linguistic phenomenon nonetheless!