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'.

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