18 March 2013

Greek párdos, párdalos 'leopard' (updated)

Greek párdos, párdalos 'leopard' is a word with cognates in Indo-Iranian (Sogdian prwδnk, Pashto pāng 'panther', Sanskrit pdāku- 'tiger, panther'). The Greek word was borrowed into Latin pardus, later used with leo 'lion' in the compound form leo pardus, and it was semantically reanalyzed in Romance as an adjective 'blackish; brown', firstly referring to the spots of leopards and later generalized to other things1.

A similar word can be found in Hittite parš-ana- 'leopard', corresponding to the Hattic genitive ha-prašš-un 'of leopard' and Persian pārs ~ fārs 'panther', in turn borrowed into Western Mongolian phars, bars 'snow leopard; tiger' and Old Turkic bārs 'tiger' (although some Turkic languages preserve the meaning 'panther'). This is also the probable source of Russian bars 'leopard'2.

Gamkrelidze-Ivanov consider this to be a substrate loanword from some language of Asia Minor, whose alternation d ~ s would reflect a dental fricative3. In my opinion, the source would be related to East Caucasian (Nakh-Daghestanian) *bħertsˀi(~ -e) 'wolf, jackal'4, linked by Starostin to Sinitic *prāts 'a k. of mythical predator'

Probably also related is Mongolian beltereg 'young of wolf' < *berteleg (EDAL 175). The form börtü (berte) činua is translated as 'multicolored wolf (name of the legendary ancestor of Chinggis Khan)' and börtü is glossed as 'mottled, speckled, grey', in a similar way to Latin pardus.
1 J. Coromines (1973, 2008): Breve diccionario etimológico de la lengua castellana, p. 414.
2 T.V. Gamkrelidze & V.V. Ivanov (1995): Indo-European and the Indo-Europeans, p. 421.
3 T.V. Gamkrelidze & V.V. Ivanov, op.cit., p. 425-426.
4 Also related is the isolated Lezghian (Tabarasan) form barči 'tracking dog, bloodhound'.

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