25 October 2011

Etruscan *netś-, *nethś- 'entrails'


From two bilingual inscriptions we know Etruscan netśvis, netśrac are respectively equivalent to Latin haruspex 'adivinator'1 and haruspīcina 'adivination'. This leaves us with an Etruscan word *netś-, *nethś- 'entrails', surely a loanword from Greek nēdús 'stomach, belly, womb'.

The etymology of the Greek word is itself problematic. I think this could be a Thracian loanword parallel to Lithuanian vidùs 'middle, interior' < IE *(d)ui-dhH1-u-, a compound from *(d)ui- '2' and *dheH1- 'to make, to put' whose Celtic and Germanic reflexes mean 'wood, forest, tree'2. This is also the origin of Latin dīvidō 'to divide' < *dis-widhH1-. 

Etruscan visc- 'center', attested in visc ame ren-s '(this) is the center of the hand', could be explained from an derivated form *(d)ui-dhH1-sk-. This word was in turn borrowed into Latin scus, vīsceris 'entrails.
1 Itself a compound from IE *g´hor- 'guts' and *(s)pek´- 'to look'.
2 This would imply forests were considered as a hinterland, an intermediate region between inhabited settlements. Interestingly, the Baltic reflexes of IE *medh-jo- 'middle' mean 'wood, forest, tree'.

15 October 2011

The Atlantidic substrate (updated version)

The German linguist Theo Vennemann1 is the proponent of a Western Europe substrate languages he calls Atlantidic, an Afrasian language akin to Semitic and which left loanwords in Germanic, for example *krabb- 'crab' (also Greek kárabos), which he relates to Semitic *ʕa-k’rab- 'scorpion'. 

However, this word is rather isolated within Afrasian, with no likely cognates except perhaps (and these by no means sure) in Chadic. But as both crabs and scorpions have large claws, IMHO this is cognate to PIE *ghreb(h)- 'to take, to seize' and possibly also to Kartvelian *k’rab-/*k’rap- (-e-) 'to gather'2.  

Other loanwords I've investigated myself are Celtic *gabro-, Latin caper 'he-goat', Germanic *xafra- 'buck'3 (with no plausible PIE etymology), which can be linked to Arabic ɣafr-, ɣufr- 'young of deer/goat', and also Latin aper, Germanic *ibura-, Balto-Slavic *weper- 'boar'4, which would correspond to Arabic ʕifr-, ʕufr- 'pig, boar; piglet'5. 

These evidence
would suggest that
Atlantidic was spoken in Neolithic Europe and whose linkings with Chadic would date back to the time the Sahara had a monsoonic climate (roughly between 6,000-3,000 BC).
1 An Indo-Europeanist formerly defensor of the glottalic theory. 
2 Wrongly linked by Nostraticists to words meaning 'fruit, harvest'.
Greek kápros 'boar' could have arisen from contamination with the other word.
4 The initial labial arises from assimilation to the following *u.
5 Possibly a specialization from the preceding root.

06 October 2011

Germanic *sajwi- 'sea, lake'

Germanic *sajwi- 'sea, lake' is a word with no PIE etymology1, although a relationship with Kartvelian *zoɣw- 'sea' seems likely. IMHO they could be related to NEC *ts’s’æ:k’wV 'sour, raw', reflecting the fact the sea is a mass of salty water.

By contrast, Starostin links these 'sea' words to Altaic *sjògu 'shallow (place)'2. This is probably also the origin of Germanic *sinkw-an- 'to sink', a word with no PIE etymology3 and which suggests a Mesolithic environment like Doggerland, a former landmass in the North Sea which in the last Ice Age bridged Great Britain to the continent.  

Although Doggerland gradually sunk by rapid post-glacial raising sea levels, actually becoming an island of much more reduced extension, according to recent research its actual disappearence seems to have been caused by a catastrophic event around 6200 BC, the Storegga Slide, a submarine landslide in the Norwegian Sea which triggered a huge tsunami.

Some authors have suggested the echos of this prehistoric catastrophe are the origin to the legend of Atlantis, but according to Plato's description IMHO this would mean the Pillars of Hercules were located at the Strait of Dover rather than at the Strait of Gibraltar3.
1 Nikolayev links it to Baltic *sī̂w-a-, *sīw-iā̃ 'juice'.
2 But IMHO Mongolian *siɣar 'dreg, sediment' doesn't belong here.
3 Worse yet, Greenberg links the Altaic word to IE *seik- 'dry' (Latin siccus).
4 In case of doubt, the British Empire holds one of the pillars at both places.