13 November 2013

Man and dog (updated)

Uralic *koje 'man, person' is a remnant of a Borean word which spread as a Wanderwort into East Caucasian *χχHweje (NCED 26) and Tibeto-Burman *qhʷi:j 'dog'1. The suffixed variant  *koj(e)-ra  > Uralic *kojra 'male (dog, man)' would correspond to East Caucasian *χχHwej-rV 'dog' (oblique stem) and Kartvelian (Svan) xwir- 'male (dog)'. IE *wi:r-o- 'man, husband'2 would also belong here, although probably as an inherited word. 

On the other hand, Sinitic *khʷi:-n 'dog' borrowed into I*k´(u)wo:n (a cultural loanword whose direction has been often reversed by Indo-Europeanists3) would be derived from the same lexem with a different suffix. 

Unfortunately, most macro-comparativists are unable to differentiate between borrowed and inherited lexicon4, as they blindly apply the comparative method coined in the 19th by Neogrammarians, which assumes common inheritance from a single source, represented by the genealogical tree model. By applying it to some hundreds of words, this process ultimately leads to the reconstruction of non-existent macro-families whose chronology is shallower (typically 2-3 times) than the actual ones. 
1 For which Starostin reconstructed a Sino-Caucasian etymology.
2 For which Starostin reconstructed an Eurasiatic (Nostratic) etymology.
3 T.V. Gamkrelidze & V.V. Ivanov (1995): Indo-European and the Indo-Europeans, p. 507. 
4 Generally, the lesser the semantic latitude, the likelier we're dealing with a Wanderwort, as it's often the case with names of domesticated animals.


  1. Actually, Kartvelian root for ‘male’ is *xw- conjugated with different suffixes in Georgian xv-ad-i ‘male’; Svan xw-ir ‘id.’; Megrelian x-od-u-a and Laz o-x-od-u (< xw-ad-) ‘to copulate’.
    Possibly, there is a connection with WCauc. *χʷǝ ‘male’.

  2. But you might notice the Svan form doesn't follow the same root+suffix pattern than the others, so most likely it doesn't belong to that group but it's one of the 'dog' words I've traced.

  3. "But you might notice the Svan form doesn't follow the same root+suffix pattern than the others"
    Why not? In Svan, there is the same root xw- and another suffix -ir, cf. e.g. Georg. ixv-i 'duck' vs. Svan ixv-ir.

  4. Svan xwir- isn't simply 'male', but also 'male dog'. Therefore is quite safe to assume it's related to similar 'dog' words outside of Kartvelian.

  5. "Svan xwir- isn't simply 'male', but also 'male dog'."

    In all four dialects of the Svan language it means 'male of an animal'. Moreover, in Lentekh dialect, the word has the same root conjugated with another (diminutive) suffix: xw-iča.

  6. This dovetails nicely with my hypothesis that Pre-PIE *qwh > PIE *Hw.

    1. It does appear that Nostratic *u > *i in PIE with compensatory labialization of preceding consonants. This probably didn't happen after liquids, nasals, labials, and glides. This would have then given us labiovelars, labiouvulars, and labiodentals. However I also think there was an original series of labiovelars and labiouvulars. It looks like PN *u gave Uralic *u and Altaic *o. Also PN *o gave Uralic *o and Altaic *u. However, there are a number of words beginning with a velar in each language where Altaic has *u but Uralic has a vowel other than *o and PIE has a labiovelar or a labialized laryngeal. I propose that the labial feature was transferred over to the vowel becoming *u.

  7. Hi, Ray!

    The correspondence between the Uralic and Caucasian forms (both suffixed and unsuffixed) is very striking, and would indicate a closer contact than the other languages, which only have got the suffixed form.

  8. Indo-Uralic probably came into contact with North Caucasian languages as they migrated from the east. This contact may have even caused the split between IE and Uralic. It's well known that PIE has a number of phonetic and syntactic similarities with the North Caucasian languages.

  9. You forgot to mention
    Afroasiatic: *kwVHen- "dog" (Militarev, Stolbova) > Proto-Omotic: *kan "dog" (R. Blench < Bender 1988: 145), (Militarev and Stolbova have *keHen- for Proto-Omotic) which closely resembles Proto-Indo-European: *kwon- (R. Blench < Rabin 1982: 27)

    Also note under this etymology:

    Berber: *kun- "dog"
    Western Chadic: *kwin-H- "dog"
    East Chadic: *kany- "dog"
    Mogogodo (Yaaku): kwehen "dog" (All from Militarev and Stolbova).

  10. As I said in my post, the problem of macro-comparativists is they wrongly assume every word is inherited within a genealogic tree structure, but in this and many other cases we're dealing with Wanderwörter.

    The Berber word is particularly interesting, because it could have been borrowed from some IE language.

  11. Yes, Berber has many Latin loans due to it's contact with the Roman Empire. I just thought about that, thanks for reminding me! Interesting.

    Also Afroasiatic has *kar-/*kayar-
    Meaning: dog
    Semitic: *wakar- 'fox'
    Western Chadic: *kyara-
    Central Chadic: *kur-/*kir-
    Saho-Afar: *kar- 'dog'
    Low East Cushitic: *kayir- 'dog'
    Warazi (Dullay): *kaHar- 'dog'
    South Cushitic: *ta-kur- 'bat-eared fox' 1, 'wild dog' 2
    (All Militarev and Stolbova)

    Would that be in that group of cognates also? The labialization would be lost in Afroasiatic?

  12. In my opinion, these words have little in common, apart from meaning 'dog'. Also Berber *kun- can hardly be Latin. I was thinking about earlier contacts.

  13. Nice photoshopped picture for this post by the way...

    1. Yes, it looks like the characters were shoot on a studio and the background landscape was added aftewards.

  14. I agree with you about the Macro-comparative subject. Differentiating borrowed from inherited lexicon does not seem to be considered many times. Sometimes, it seems as though the etymologies are quite forced.