21 November 2009

Two roots for 'earth'

According to Bengtson, Basque lur, lu- 'earth' is related to PNC *lhemdɮɮwɨ 'earth'1.  This rooy is also found as a loanword in substratal IE *lendh- 'open land, waste' (Celtic, Germanic, Balto-Slavic) and Uralic *lamti (*lamtз) 'lowland, meadow'. I supose this term was introduced by Neolithic farmers of the Linear Ceramics (LBK) culture. From Gaulish *landā 'open land' come the toponym Landes and Basque landa 'field, lot'2.

There's also a widespread Paleo-Eurasian root *dVQV 'dirt, clay' whose Basque reflexes are lohi, lot- 'dirty, mud' and zohi, zot- 'clod of earth; brick', the first with the standard treatment of the initial dental stop and the second with assibilation. 

This root was borrowed into PIE *dhigh- 'wall, fortification' (Sanskrit sa-dih- 'mound, heap, wall', Avestan para-daēza 'enclosure'3, Greek teîkhos ~ toîkhos 'wall'), which in NW languages refers to clay-like substances (e.g. English dough). But the native PIE reflex is *dheghóm 'earth'.
1 Dialectally also 'uncultivated land, desert'. 
2 There is also the old collective Biscayan form landar 'desert'.
3 Borrowed into Greek parédeisos, hence English paradise.


  1. I draw your attention to Proto-Uralic *lamti "low, lowland".

  2. Isn't it Finno-Ugric rather than Proto-Uralic?

  3. It's got reflexes in Nenets, Enets, and Selkup.