27 January 2016

The bear and the marten (updated)














The common IE word for 'bear', found in most branches (Hittite hartagga-, Celtic *arto-, Greek árktos, Armenian arǯ, Avestan arša-, Latin ursus, Sanskrit ŕkṣa-, etc) is usually reconstructed as  *h₂ərətk´o-, where the "thorny cluster" tk´ (þ in older reconstructions) has various reflexes t, s, š, kt, kṣ.

However, I regard the Hittite segment -gga- as a suffix like the one found in Turkic qarsaq 'steppe fox' < Altaic *karsi 'marten'. This would leave us with a protoform *h₂ərəC-ko-, where C would represent a sibilant (possibly palato-alveolar) affricate like the one of Caucasian *χHVr[tɕ’]V 'marten; otter'1 (a Nakh-Dargwa isogloss). Probably also Yeniseian *χa(ʔ)s (~ k-) 'badger' belongs here.

Ignoring external data, some Indo-Europeanists have proposed a link between 'bear' and an IE verb 'to destroy'. Interestingly enough, this meaning is represented in Caucasian by *HarGG(w)V, which I'd link to Altaic *jàrgi (~ -o) 'wild beast of prey' and possibly also to Arabic ʕurāʒ- 'hyena(s)', proposed by Nostraticists as cognates of IE 'bear'.
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1 Using his etymological instinct, Bengtson links this to Basque hartz 'bear', an IE loanword, most likely from Celtic.

3 comments:

  1. If basque "hartz" comes from the IE, it must have been loaned so long ago, when laringals were still heard! Is is possible? Were Basques there in some year 3000 B.C.?

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  2. Not necessarily, because h could have originated in Paleo-Basque itself and not be present in the source language, which was probably Celtic.

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  3. The Tuscan people have more genetic input from Neanderthals than anyone else.

    Euskara & Tuskara (Tocharian) appear similarly named. Etruskan may have been Etruskara?

    I recall that a bear constellation has a long tail, thought to have originally derived from the African honey badger. Note too the Hebrew bible's reference to badger skins covering the Ark of the covenant.

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