31 December 2009

The lentil

The native Basque word for 'lentil (Lens culinaris)' can be reconstructed as *tink-il:(a), *sink-il:(a), most of whose variants are restricted to the dialect spoken in the Navarrese valley of Salazar1: tindil, txindil, txingla, xingala. The form txintxil(a) spread also to the neighbouring Roncalese dialect, and further along in the Aragonese valley of Ansó we find tentilla, an interference with the genuine Romance form lentilla.

This word (also found in other Romance languages like Spanish lenteja, French lentille) is derived from Latin lenticula, a diminutive form of Latin lēns, lentis 'lentil', with cognates in Germanic (Old High German linsī, linsin), Slavic *lę̄tjā and Baltic (Lithuanian lę̃ši-s (-iō)).  This could be related to Semitic *ʕa-daʃ- 'lentil' with a shift d- > l- and a nasal infix.

 The Basque forms tilista, txilista, dilista (Westernmost dialects)2 are a diminutive  form *ti-lis-ta with a fossilized Berber article (feminine plural) ti-3 agglutinated.

I think this is substrate loanword whose ultimate origin is Afro-Asiatic *da/ingw- 'a k. of beans; corn', a root widely attested in several branches.
1 In other dialects this word can refer to different plants, mostly of the vetch (Vicia) family.
2 The Gipuzkoan form dilista was chosen for representing the word in the standardized language or Euskera Batua (lit. 'United Basque language').
3 Also found in Sardinian.

26 December 2009

More about pigs (updated)

Basque urde 'pig' is a Neolithic Wanderwort also found in NEC *wHa:rttɬ’wǝ 'boar, pig' and IE *pork´-o- 'young pig, piglet' and whose ultimate origin is Austronesian *beRek 'domesticated pig'.

On the other hand, there's the isolated Roncalese form ti, apparently similar to Albanian thi < IE *suH- 'pig'1.

Basque herauts 'male boar', herause, heusi, iñaus, iraus(i), irusi, i(h)ausi 'heat of sow' is a compound *ena-uśi whose second member is probably related to Kartvelian *eʃw- 'boar, pig' and possibly also to Berber *kus- 'pig'2, ultimately deriving from a Vasco-Caucasian root 'ungulate' (see this post).

This word has been the object of a confusion as regarding the Aquitanian theonym HERAVSCORRITSEHE. Although the German linguist Hugo Schuchardt correctly proposed its first element to be related to Basque errauts, erhauts 'cinder, dust' (a compound from erre 'burnt' and hauts 'dust'), he changed his mind afterwards and linked it to herauts, being unaware of the variants which point to a nasal in Proto-Basque.

This mistake, resulting from a poor understanding of the ortographic conventions of the Aquitanian inscriptions (in Latin), which employed -R- to represent the thrill rhotic (Basque <rr>) instead of the flap one (Basque <r>), as well as laziness for reconstructing the protoform of the Basque word, has been copied down by Vascologists to this day2.

This root is also found in Sardinian irrussu 'little boar, whose first member is related to IE *(w)eper-o- 'boar', an interesting Neolithic word linked to Arabic ʕifr-, ʕufr- 'pig, boar; piglet', ultimately deriving from an Eurasiatic root 'ungulate' also found in IE *kapr-o- 'male goat' and Arabic ɣafr-, ɣufr- 'young of deer or goat, goat kid'.
1 Which should be reconstructed as *suq- in account of Celtic *sukk-o-. 
2 This is the source of Asturian gocho, Basque (Zuberoan) kutxu, Catalan cotx, Aragonese cochín, Spanish cochino, French cochon 'pig'. 
3 Gorrochategui: Estudio sobre la onomástica indígena de Aquitania (1984), pp. 330-331. 

22 December 2009

Hair and wool

Basque bil(h)o 'hair, mane' is an interesting word. In compound with the verb utzi, itzi 'to leave' it gives biluz 'naked', biluzi 'to get naked' (with many variants: biloiz, bilaiz(i), bileiz(i), biluxi, buluzi, buluxi).

The etymology of this word has puzzled more than one Vascologist, specially given its similarity to Latin pilus '(a single) hair'. But a borrowing can be safely discarded due to phonetical reasons, because Latin -l- would have given -r- in Basque.

An alternative source from Latin villus 'tuft, lock of hair; hair' (probably an Italoid loanword parallel to Baltic *wil-na 'wool') was then proposed, but I find this unrealistic. My own view is that Basque bil(h)o and Latin pilus are one and the same Cantabrian word, ultimately related to PNC *p’VħVɫV 'feather; mane' (an etymology proposed by Bengtson).

Other 'hair' words found in IE languages come from this Vasco-Caucasian root. In particular, Greek púligges [pl.] 'hairs of the body' and Sanskrit pulakās [pl.] 'bristling hairs of the body' are similar to Nakh *pēla-k’ 'feather'.

The Tyrrhenian counterpart of bil(h)o is Basque ule 'hair', ile 'hair, wool', with several doublets in compounds. The meaning 'wool' suggested to some authors a possible borrowing from Gothic wulla < Proto-Germanic *wullō(n), but this rather makes me think PIE *w̥lH2neHa- 'wool' could be in fact a very old Vasco-Caucasian loanword: *p’VħVɫV > *bVlħV > *wVlħ-, with merging of b/w in PIE (where the voiced labial stop is very rare).