01 May 2010

Strawberry fields forever

Starostin reconstructs a Paleo-Eurasian root *NEk’rV 'thorny bush' > Altaic *ńíkrV 'a k. of thorny tree', from which I derive Paleo-European *ag´ºr- (Gaulish agraniō- 'sloe, fruit of the blackthorn', English acorn1, Latin agresta 'green grape', Greek ágrios 'wild'), with loss of the initial nasal. Its IE native counterpart would be *dhreg´h- 'sloetree, blackthorn'2 (Celtic *dragenā 'sloe, fruit of the blackthorn'3, Albanian drédhë 'strawberry'). Greek hrá:ks, hró:ks 'grape' < *srāg-, is probably a Thracian loanword from the same root.

Paleo-Eurasian *bVrdzV 'thorn' is the origin of Kartvelian *bardzg-/*burdzg(a) 'thorn, thorny plant'. The sibilant *dz is reflexed as *g´ in IE *bhrag´- 'strawberry' > Lithuanian brãškē 'garden strawberry', Latin frāgum 'strawberry'4 and as *g´h in *wreH2h- 'thorn' > Celtic *wragi- 'needle', Lithuanian rãžas 'dry stalk, stubble; pronk of fork', Greek hrákhos 'thorn-hedge', hrákhis 'spine, backbone'.

Altaic *núŕi (˜ -e) 'a k. of berry, grape'5 is related to Hittite muri- '(bunch) of grapes' and IE *moro- 'blackberry'.
1 Indo-Europeanists usually group this with Lithuanian uga 'berry', Old Church Slavic jagoda 'fruit', vin-jaga 'grape', but I prefer to group the Balto-Slavic forms with Latin ūva 'grape', thus reconstructing *H3gwh'berry'.
2 Found (with simplification of the initial cluster) in Basque lahar, nahar 'blackberry (Rubus fructicosus); buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica); caltrop (Tribulus terrestris)'.
3 Related to this is *dhren- 'cornel cherry' (Old High German dirn-baum, Russian derën) ~ *tºrnu- 'thorn'.
4 Usually though to be derivated from *srāg-. French fraise, Spanish fresa 'strawberry' is probably an Italoid loanword from the same root (Italoid is a "satem" language with *bh- > f- like Latin). Basque has araga 'strawberry' and arakatz 'gooseberry'.
5 Notice than the supposed Korean cognate *nùrúk 'yeast' presented in the database doesn't correspond to this root but to *ńjuŕge 'a k. of weed' < Paleo-Eurasian *nUŕV 'grain, corn'.

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