18 November 2013

Paleo-Balkanic *mendjo- 'foal' (updated)

Albanian mëz, mâz, Romanian mînz (a Dacian substrate loanword) 'foal' derive from a Paleo-Balkanic1 protoform *mendjo-2 related to Gaulish mandu-, borrowed in turn into Latin mannus3. Also related are Basque mando 'mule' (dialectally also 'sterile animal or woman'), presumably a Celtic loanword, as well as dialectal High German (Tirol) Manz, Menz 'sterile cow'and Italian manzo 'ox'5.

Basque idi 'ox' can also be derived from this etymology, assuming the following changes (not necessarily in that order): 1) loss of m-, 2) i, 3) nd > d, 4) -o > -i'6.

Probably also belong here Sanskrit mandurā 'stable for horses', mandira- 'dwelling, house' and Greek mándra 'pen, stable'. In my opinion, we're dealing with a Wanderwort of ultimate Altaic origin: Tungusic *manda-ksa 'Eurasian elk (Alces alces)', Mongolian *mandʒi 'male elk' and Turkic *buto 'young of camel'  (EDAL 1253)
1 Certainly not IE-native as thought by Mallory-Adams. See J.P. Mallory & D.Q. Adams (2006): The Oxford Introduction to PIE and the PIE World, p. 142.
2 T. Gaitzsch (2010): Das Pferd bei den Indogermanen: Sprachliche, kulturelle und archäologische Aspekte, p. 263-264.
3 X. Delamarre (2008): Dictionnaire de la langue gauloise, p. 214.
4 J. Pokorný (1958): Indogermanisches Etymologisches Wörterbuch, p. 729.
5 Possibly a Messapic loanword, cfr. Menzana, a divinity to whom horses were offered.
6 In sharp contrast with more recent loanwords, the native core of Basque underwent so many phonetic changes, up to the point of making it hardly recognizable.

13 November 2013

The ancient Basque homeland (updated)

According to most specialists, the area located between the Garonne river and the Pyrenees, ancient Aquitaine and modern Gascony, is the homeland of the ancient Basques. There we find a high density of Gascon toponyms in -òs, which extends to Basque -oz(e), -otz(e) and Navarro-Aragonese -ués on the other side of the Pyrenees1.

This toponymic element derives from Celtic *ouxsV- 'high' (Old Irish úais, Cornish a-ūch)2, whose superlative *uxsV-(s)amo- 'the highest' can be found in Middle Welsh uchaf, and the femenine *uxsV-(s)amā in Gaulish Uxisama (modern Oisème), Uxamaand Celtiberian Usama (modern Osma). On the other hand, the former proposal of the Spanish linguist Ramón Menéndez Pidal, who linked the toponymic element to Basque otz 'cold' (itself from Celtic *ouxtu-4), can be dismissed.

The same lexeme would also be part of the Aquitanian anthroponym element Andos(s)-, Andox- (Latinized as Andossus, Andoxus) 'lord'5, whose first member would be the Gaulish intensive prefix and- 'very'In my opinion, this evidence, together with loanwords such as gizon 'man' < Gaulish gdonio-, would indicate a Celtic substrate in Paleo-Basque whose existence hasn't been yet discovered by academic Vascologists.
1 G. Rohlfs (1970): Le Gascon. Études de phylologie pyrénénne. p. 29-33.
2 R. Matasović (2009): Etymological Dictionary of Proto-Celtic, p. 303.
3 X. Delamarre (2008): Dictionnaire de la langue gauloise, p. 329.
4 R. Matasović, op. cit., p. 304.
5 Replaced in modern Basque by jaun < *e-aun, presumably a fossilized participle 'elevated'. 

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.

24 September 2013

Basque zaldi 'horse' (updated)

Basque zaldi 'horse' has correspondences in the Iberian antroponym formant saldu and Berber a-serdun 'mule'. Although some authors have proposed a link to thieldones 'a breed of Asturian ambling horses' (Pliny) < IE *del- 'to shake' (cfr. English tilt), in my opinion this is semantically unsatisfactory.

I'd propose an etymology from IE *gwold- 'foal, young of an ass' > Germanic *kult-a- 'colt' (English colt), Sanskrit gardabhá- 'ass'1, with assibilation of the initial velar. This is a Wanderwort found in Caucasian *gwælV (~ -ɫ-) 'horse' (a Nakh-Tsezian isogloss) and which also designates the onager (Equus hemionus):  Farsi gur 'Persian onager (Equus hemionus onager)', Hindi khur 'Indian wild ass (Equus hemionus khur)'.

The ultimate origin is Altaic: Turkic *Kulum 'foal', Mongolian *kulan 'Mongolian wild ass (Equus hemionus hemionus)'2, linked by the EDAL to Tungusic *ku(l)ma- 'maral/wapiti (Cervus canadensis)' and Japonic *kuáma 'foal, colt', thus reconstructing a protoform *kúlme 'a k. of ungulate'.
1 Tocharian B kercapo 'ass, donkey' is likely an early Indo-Arian loanword. See D.A. Adams (1999): A Dictionary of Tocharian B, p. 195-196. 
2 Borrowed by Turkic, where it designates the Turkmenian kulan (Equus hemionus kulan).

17 September 2013

New Vasco-romance blog

Dear readers,

I've created a new Vasco-romance blog for a smoother communication with my potential readers about Romance etymologies (including borrowings into Basque). To achieve this goal, I'm going to write in Spanish, although occasionally I'd employ Catalan. 

This way, I'm going to migrate some of my older posts (translating them into Spanish, if necessary) to the new blog, while I'd keep in vasco-caucasian (in English) those topics which I consider to be of interest to a wider audience. I'm sorry for the inconveniencies this might cause.


02 September 2013

Basque otso 'wolf' (updated)

Basque otso 'wolf' derives from Aquitanian osson, oxson1, where xs probably reflects an apico-alveolar affricate like the one found in modern Basque. There're also the Iberian onomastic element ośon and the "Tartessian" toponym Osson-oba 'River of wolves', whose second member is an Italoid toponymic element (e.g. On-oba) cognate to Lithuanian upė2.

My colleague Miguel Carrasquer links this word to Berber *wVʃʃVn 'jackal', in turn cognate to Egyptian wnʃ 'wolf' (Militarev). I regard this and other substrate loanwords as remnants of a Paleo-Berber language once spoken in the Iberian Peninsula. This would possibly be reflected in the distribution of Y-chromosome haplogroup E-M81, native to NW Africa but found also in some areas of the Iberian Peninsula (especially on the west), with a strong peak among Pasiegos of Cantabria, an ethnical group of trashumant shepherds3.

Distribution of Y-chromosome haplogroup E-M81
1 J. Gorrotxategi (1984): Estudio sobre la onomástica indígena de Aquitania, p. 250-251.
2 F. Villar (2000): Indoeuropeos y no indoeuropeos en la Hispania prerromana.
3 Attempts to explain this as a result of the Muslim conquest (8th century AD) can be dismissed.

26 August 2013

Latin faber 'smith', fabrica 'workshop'

Latin faber 'smith' < *dab-r-o- (traditional *dhabh-) derives from an onomatopoeic root *tap- ~ *dab- mimicking the hitting of metal1. In Romance languages, the Latin word has descendants in Italian fabbro, Occitan faure, Old French fevre2. Possibly also Basque harotz 'smith' reflects Italic *fabros.

The derivative fabrica 'workshop, forge' (but also 'art, trade') is the source of Spanish fragua 'forge': fábrica > *frábica (metathesis) > frauga (syncope and lenition) > fragua. This word was borrowed into Basque arrago (B, G, HN) 'crucible', where final -a was reanalyzed as the definite article. The Latin word is also the source of Catalan farga and French forge, the latter exported as a Wanderwort to several languages, including English.
1 The IE etymology concoted by Pokorný, based on a resemblance to Armenian darbin, is a pile of rubbish.
2 Hence orfèvre 'silversmith, goldsmith', a compound with or 'gold'.

24 August 2013

Spanish urraca 'magpie'

The Catalan linguist Joan Coromines1 derives Spanish urraca 'magpie (Pica pica)' from the female personal name Urraca2, popular during the High Middle Ages in the Christian kingdoms of Northern Spain (Asturias/León, Castile, Navarre, Aragon). However, this hypothesis not only doesn't give us any insight about the etymology, but it also won't explain the initial consonant found in the dialectal variants burraca, furraca, hurraca /xuráka/, zurraca /θuráka/.

I'd link the Spanish word to Basque urra (B) 'expression to call hens and pidgeons; birds in general, especially hens and pidgeons' < *burra 'hen', with *bu > u3 like in Iberian. By contrast, Paleo-Basque, lacking of such a stop in its sound inventory, adopted it as /p/4, hence purra (G, HN, S, R, Z), furra (B, G, HN) 'expression to call hens', with the expressive variants tturra /cura/ (L, LN, Z), turra (L, LN). There's also Galician churra /tʃúra/ 'hen; expression to call hens'.

A diminutive form *burra-ka would be then the source of the forms burraca, urraca. In Spanish, the initial labial became a voiceless bilabial fricative *φ, variously reflected as /f/, /x/ or /θ/5. As in the case of most names of birds, the utlimate origin of this word would be onomatopoeic.
1 J. Coromines (1973, 2008): Breve diccionario etimológico de la lengua castellana, p. 564.
2 There's also the Galician variant Orraca.
3 Possibly through an intermediate stage *wu.
4 Cfr. Asturian utre 'vulture' ~ Gascon botre, butre > Basque putre (G), futre (HN).
5 Spanish *φ became aspirated as /h/ (except before /l, r, w/) at an early date, although the aspiration was later lost in most dialects. This is why the genuine form must have been hurraca.

13 August 2013

Aragonese mardano, mardán 'ram' (updated)

Aragonese mardano, mardán 'ram'1 is a pre-Latin word with cognates in Catalan mardà, marrà and Occitan marran, marre, marro, where it also means 'sturdy man'. The latter was borrowed into dialectal Basque marro (HN, L, LN) 'ram', barro (S, R) '1 year old ram'2. Contrarily to some authors, in this word the original cluster -ɾδ- was assimilated to -ɾɾ- and not the other way around3

Basque has another word for 'ram' (also 'sheep' in northern dialects): ahari (L, LN), ãhãri (Z), aari (B, HN), adari (B), ari (B, G, S, R) < *anaɾi, from an earlier *a-maɾi with delabialization in Paleo-Basque. This protoform is cognate to Galician marón (diminutive marondo) 'male of animal (especially pig or bull)', regional Spanish marón4 and Gascon maro 'ram', a root found in Latin marītus 'male, husband' (likely an Etruscan loanword) and Hurrian mari(j)-annə 'chariot driver', which Starostin links to Caucasian *mo:rdɮV 'male'5.

In my opinion, this etymon could be also related to mardano and the like, although through a different substrate language.
1 Also bardano (Echo), with denasalization of m-. See A. Kuhn (1935, 2008): El dialecto altoaragonés. p. 107.
2 There's also regional Navarrese Spanish borro '1-2 years old lamb'.
3 A. Kuhn, op. cit., p. 116.
4 There're also the Spanish forms marote (diminutive), marueco, morueco, murueco.
5 I. Diakonoff & S. Starostin (1986): Hurro-Urartian as an Eastern Caucasian Language, §18.

12 August 2013

Latin caesius 'light blue' (updated)

According to my amateur colleague Marco Moretti, Latin caesius 'light blue (also said of eye colour)' is a loanword from Etruscan caisie-, ceisi(e)-. These forms, together with caizna, ceizna, have exact counterparts in Baltic: Lithuanian gaĩsa-s 'glow, redness in the sky', Latvian gàiss 'air, wheather', gàišs 'bright, clear', gaisma 'light', etc.1 In my opinion, these words are indicative of prehistoric contacts between Tyrrhenian (the language family to which Etruscan belongs) and a linguistic continuum from which emerged Baltic and Thracian2

Also Lithuanian gaidrùs 'bright, clear (said of wheather)' and Greek phaidrós 'shining, bright, cheerful' belong here, and Duridanov reconstructs Thracian *gaidrus on the basis of the personal name Gaidre(a)s3. For these forms, an IE protoform *gwai- 'light, bright'can be reconstructed, with regular delabialization of the labiovelar in "satem" languages. In my opinion, this is a loanword from Caucasian *ʔVqqwo-ji- 'white, light, blueish', in turn a derivative of *=eqqwA 'yellow'.

From the same Caucasian source it also comes a different IE protoform *koi-tʔ-, found in Lithuanian skaidrùs 'clear, bright', skáistas, skaistùs 'bright', Germanic *xaid-u- > Gothic haidus 'way, manner', *xaid-a- > Old Norse heiδ 'clear (said of weather)', heiδr 'clear, cheerful', *xaid-ra- > Old High German heitar, German heiter 'cheerful', and to which some IE-ists link the Latin word5.
1 As Etruscan didn't possess voiced stops, c /k/ would be the rendering of a former /g/.
2 This continuum was broken by the irruption of people from the Pontic Steppes, whose languages interacted with the autochthonous ones and gave raise to Dacian (a close relative of Indo-Iranian) as well as Greek and its nearest relatives (Macedonian, Phrygian, Armenian).
3 I. Duridanov (1969): Die Trakisch- und Dakisch-Baltischen Sprachbeziehungen, p. 75.
4 Ortodox reconstructions are *gwhai- and *gwheH2i-. See R.S.P Beekes (2010): Etymological Dictionary of Greek, p. 1544.
5 M. de Vaan (2008): Etymological Dictionary of Latin and the Other Italic Languages, p. 82. 

03 August 2013

Aragonese paniquesa 'weasel' (updated)

Aragonese paniquesa, Gascon panquèra, panquèsa 'weasel (Mustela nivalis)' is a diminutive form (with the Romance suffix -ella) which underwent a folk etymology from pan y queso 'bread and cheese'1. This word shows the idiosyncratic treatment of -ll- in Pyrenaic2, similar to the one of West Asturian, which has a voiceless retroflex africate [tʂ].
This is an Eurasiatic root found in Eskimo-Aleut *paniɣ 'daughter', Altaic *phjun[e] ‘a small wild animal’ (Tungusic *pün´- 'jerboa, flying squirrel, mole; weasel; hedgehog', Mongolian *hünegen 'fox', Turkic *enük (~ *ünek) 'young of a wild animal, puppy'), which I'd link (through labialization of the initial labiovelar) to Caucasian *ɦnǝ:qq’wǝ: (~ *ɦqq’wǝ:nǝ:) 'mouse, rat'3, Yeniseian *ku:n´ (~ g-) 'wolverine', Balto-Slavic *keun- 'marten'.

Possibly also related are Latin cunīculus (a Paleo-Hispanic loanword) and dialectal Basque untxi (HN, R), entxe (HN) 'rabbit', all them diminutive forms.
1 Hence the Basque calque ogigaztae (B) 'weasel', from ogi 'bread' and gaztae 'cheese'. For other names of 'weasel' in Basque, see here.
2 An extinct Romance language spoken in the High Middle Ages and which gave loanwords to Aragonese and some Pyrenaic Gascon varieties, especially Bearnese. 
3 The metathesized variant is related to Uralic *n´ukk- 'fox', Dravidian *nakk- 'fox, jackal'.

17 July 2013

Basque mahats 'grape' (updated)

Basque mahats 'grape' derives from an earlier *baka-tś related to Latin bāca 'berry'1, with nasalization of the initial labial and lenition *-k- > -h- as a consequence of Martinet's Law, by which Paleo-Basque fortis (i.e. voiceless) stops became h or zero (mostly at word-initial but in the case of the velar stop also medially)2. The second member of the compound is a phytonym suffix *-ts found in other words such as e.g. isats 'broom'.

The Latin word has no IE etymology, but Boutkan-Kossmann have proposed a link to Berber *bqā 'blackberry, mulberry'3. In my opinion, this would be a Wanderwort also found in Kartvelian *maqˀw-/*muqˀw- 'blackberry' (Georgian maqˀv-al-, Megrel muʔ-, Svan muqˀw, Laz muqˀ-)4 and possibly also Burushaski *maɣar- 'unripe mulberry', Lezghian *niwqˀ:a(j) and Lak qˀul-nuqˀi 'strawberry'. 
1 There's also Hispanic Latin bacca 'wine' (Varron). Also Galician-Portuguese bago 'grape' (also found in parts of Leonese) derive from an unattested masculine variant.
2 Unfortunately, academic Vascologists think the only source of -h- can be a nasal *-n- (Mitxelena's Law), so they reconstruct a protoform *banatś. See R.L.Trask (2008): Etymological Dictionary of Basque (unfinished).
3 D. Boutkan & M. Kossmann (1999): Some Berber Parallels of European Substratum Words, §3.1, in JIES 27, p. 87-100.
4 Borrowed into Akhvakh muqˀ:ali.

16 July 2013

Spanish chocho (slang) 'vulva' (updated)

Due to its phonetic features, Spanish chocho /tʃótʃo/ (slang) 'vulva'1 (with regional variants chocha, chucha) is considered to be of "expressive origin"2 by Spanish linguists. However, to me it's a loanword from Basque txotxo /tʃótʃo/ (B, G) 'penis' (child word), a variant of tutu (B) 'vulva', (L) 'spout (of a jar)', (Bazt, L), ttuttu /cucu/ (Bazt, L) 'feeding bottle'3


This etymology refers to the labia ('lips' in Latin), and thus I'd link the above words to Germanic *tut- 'to project' (Dutch tuit ‘spout, nozzle’, Middle Dutch tute ‘nipple, pap’, Middle Low German tute ‘horn; funnel’), Kartvelian (Georgian) čˀˀ- 'peak, tip, spout (of a jug)', East Caucasian *t(t)ʃot(t)ʃV 'tip, spout' (Chechen cˀuzam 'spout (of a tea-pot, jug)', Lezghian cˀucˀ 'spout (of a tea-pot), Kryz cˀɨcˀ 'clitoris; ring-stone'), and Tungusic *tʃitʃu- 'penis, spout (of a tea-pot)'.
1 The homonymous chocho 'white lupin' is a loanword from Mozarabic śóś < Latin salsu- 'salted'. See F. Corriente (2003): Diccionario de arabismos y voces afines en iberorromance, p. 287. 
2 It must be remarked that expressiveness (a goal which can be achieved by mimicking children language, as in e.g. expressive palatalization, extensively used in Basque for conveying an affective or diminutive meaning) doesn't necessarily implies a phonosymbolic (i.e. onomatopoeic) origin.
3 There's also the homonymous tutu, ttuttu 'tube, pipe; horn, bugle', conflated by Bengtson.