07 May 2012

Gaulish buððutton 'spindle; penis'

Gaulish buððutton 'spindle; penis'1 is attested on the spindle whorl Gallo-Latin inscription Moni gnatha gabi buððutton imon 'Come, girl, take my penis'2. The word must have designated the instrument itself and then applied to the male organ in a metaphoric way. 

From this and other Insular Celtic words (Old Irish bot 'penis, tail', Middle Welsh both 'umbo, shield boss'), Matasović reconstructs a Celtic protoform *buzdo- 'tail'3, supposedly derived from IE *gwozdo- (Germanic *kwast(j)ō 'bunch of branches', Albanian gjeth 'leaf, foliage', Slavic *xvost 'tail'), assuming the original meaning was 'to sprout'. Basque buztan 'tail; penis' is a Celtic loanword, probably from Gaulish itself.

English button is a loanword from Old French boton (modern bouton) 'bud; button; pimple, spot', itself from Late Latin *buttōne-, usualy regarded as a Germanic borrowing, but IMHO actually from Celtic, which would be also the source of Germanic *buddōn 'bud'.
1 X. Delamarre (2008): Dictionnaire de la langue gauloise, p. 92-93. 
2 W. Meid (1994): Gaulish Inscriptions translates the Gaulish word as 'kiss', cfr. bussu- 'lip'.
3 R. Matasović (2009): Etymological dictionary of Proto-Celtic, p. 85-86.

02 March 2012

Celtic *koret- 'palisade'

A palisade

Celtic *koret- 'palisade' has been linked by some Indo-Europeanists to Germanic *xurdí-/*xúrθi- and Latin crātis 'hurdle'1, from an IE protoform whose meaning can be reconstructed as 'to weave'. 

A hurdle

However, IMHO this etymology is semantically unsatisfactory, as hurdles were traditionally made from wattle (woven split branches), while palisades are made from stakes planted vertically on the ground. This is why I'd prefer to derive the Celtic word from a different protoform *s-korHt- 'twig, pole' (Baltic, Germanic) in a pars pro toto etymology.

1 Whose diminutive form crātīcula is the origin of French grille 'grill' and similar Romance words.

25 February 2012

Greek hēméra 'day' (updated)


In Greek mythology, Hēméra was the primeval goddness of the day. From this word and Armenian awr 'day', Indo-Europeanists such as Mallory-Adams1 reconstruct an IE protoform *h2ēm-ər- 'heat (of the day)', which I link to Semitic *ħamm- 'to be hot; warm'2, with the voiceless pharyngeal fricative ħ corresponding to the "laryngeal" h2. 

The IE protoform belongs to what I call "IE B"3, corresponding to the "IE A" protoform *səm-/*səm-ro- 'summer'4, whose initial s- is a consequence of the sound shift I call Fournet's Law, by which a post-velar fricative becames fronted to an alveolar articulation point.
1 J.P. Mallory & Q.D. Adams (2006): The Oxford Introduction to PIE and the PIE World 
2 Also cognate are Hurrian am- 'to burn' and (possibly through an Etruscan intermediate) Latin amāre 'to love', amor 'love'.
3 Mostly represented in Eastern languages, mainly Greek-Armenian and Indo-Iranian, but occasionally also Celtic.
4 The ablaut form *sem- usually quoted in dictionaries isn't attested anywhere.

30 January 2012

Medieval Latin *dēvetu- 'obstacle, prohibition' (updated)

Italian divieto 'prohibition', Old Spanish deviedo 'reserve (of land); prohibition, ecclesiastic censorship' and Basque debetü (Z) 'illicit', debeku (G, HN, Bazt, L, LN) 'prohibition' derive from Medieval Latin *dēvetu- 'obstacle, prohibition'1, the participle of the verb dēvetāre 'to forbid, to impede'2 (non attested in Classical Latin), usually regarded as a compound from the prefix *dē- 'from, away' and vetāre 'to forbid'3

The Latin verb is cognate to Celtic *wet- 'to speak' (Old Welsh guetid, Middle Welsh dyweddy 'speaks'), from which developped the form *woto- (Middle Welsh gwadu 'to deny', Old Breton guad 'denial')'4. From these forms and Hittite uttar 'word', Indo-Europeanists reconstruct an IE root *wet(H2)- 'to say, to forbid'5.

However, in Romance the meaning 'to impede' is usually represented by Latin dēfendere 'to move away; to reject'6, whose feminine participle is dēfēnsa- (Catalan devesa, Spanish dehesa 'meadow, pasture (usually fenced)').
1 The meaning 'obstacle' is reflected in the Basque compound gernu-debeku (Bazt, L) 'urine retention', whose first member is gernu 'urine'. 
2 The corresponding Basque forms are debetatü (Z), debekatu (G, HN, Bazt, L, LN), debekau (B), bedekatu (B), bedekau (B) 'to forbid', for which Rohlfs proposed an etymology from *impedicāre 'to impede', which I consider semantically inadequate. 
3 Reflected in Spanish vedar 'to forbid, to impede', whose participle vedado 'reserve (of land)' has replaced deviedo in the modern language.  
4 R. Matasović (2009): Etymological Dictionary of Proto-Celtic. p. 418.
5 Similar to *wed- 'to raise's one voice', attested in Germanic, Balto-Slavic, Tocharian, Greek and Indic.
6 Which in some languages (e.g.  French défendre) also developped the meaning 'to forbid'.