26 April 2013

Semitic *gam(a)l- 'camel'


Semitic *gam(a)l- 'camel' is a widespread word which designates the dromedary of SW Asia and North Africa, first domesticated in Arabia before 2,000 BCE1, and was borrowed into Greek kámēlos and in turn into Latin camēlus

This appears to be a Wanderwort which originally designated some wild ungulate of the Eurasian steppes and which is also found in Baltic *kumel-iā̃, Slavic *kobɨ̄lā 'mare' and in Altaic (with metathesis): Turkic *Kulum 'foal', Mongolian *kulan 'ass', Tungusic *ku(l)ma- 'maral (Siberian stag)' (EDAL 911).
1 Another species of camel, the Bactrian camel, native to the steppes of Central Asia, was first domesticated before 2,500 BCE.

13 April 2013

Basque sagu 'mouse'

Basque sagu, sat- 'mouse' is a word found in compounds such as satandera (B, G), satandre (S, R) 'weasel' (and(e)re 'lady'), satitsu (G, HN) 'shrew' (itsu 'blind'), sat(h)or 'mole' (second member unknown) and saguzar (B, G) 'bat' (zahar 'old'), and which has cognates in Afrasian: Akkadian šikkû 'mongoose', Amharic ǝkokko (aškokko, ǝškokko) 'rock hyrax', Ge'ez sˁǝkˁwǝnkˁwǝn, sˁǝkˁwǝskˁwǝn 'field mouse; a kind of lizard'1, Central Chadic *Sakw- 'squirrel; dog'2, Omotic *sakw/*sikw 'chameleon; bat'. Also related are Kartvelian *tsiqˀw- 'squirrel, mouse' (Georgian ciqˀwi 'squirrel'), Dravidian *tśikk- 'mouse'.

Also related are Etruscan seχ 'daughter'3 and Old Turkish čekün 'young of marmot', Tungus čekše 'tarbagan (Marmota sibirica)'. Caucasian *tʃˀæku/*tʃækˀu 'young (of animals), boy' would also belong here.

Although Bengtson links the Basque word to Caucasian *tsa:rggwɨ:(~ -ǝ:,-a:) 'weasel, marten' (see here), from which Starostin thinks the Kartvelian word was borrowed, in my opinion this is a genuine Eurasiatic root which in some languages (Kartvelian4, Dravidian, Altaic5) conflated with a phonetically similar word 'small'6, probably for tabooistic reasons. 
1 Quoted by Dolgoposky (ND 310a). See also W. Leslau (2010): Concise Dictionary of Ge'ez, p. 226.
2 Where S is an unspecified sibilant.
3 Also spelled as secśec, śeχ. 
Kartvelian *tśˀukˀ- (Georgian cˀukˀ-an-a 'very small', Megrel čˀukˀ- 'mouse').
Altaic *tʃhjà:khe(~ -u) 'small'.
6 For which Dolgopolsky (ND 334) reconstructs a separated root, which he considers to be phonosymbolic. 

04 April 2013

Basque begi 'eye' (updated)

Basque begi 'eye' is cognate to Sino-Tibetan *mjVk 'eye' and Burushaski *-moq- 'face, cheek', with regular denasalization of initial *m-. This lexeme also appears as the second member of Nakh-Daghestanian *wimq’V 'witness; true' (NCED 2134), presumably a fossilized compound

By contrast, the Caucasian word for 'eye', *ʡwĭlʡi (NCED 34)1 reflected in IE *wel- 'to see' > Latin vultus 'face'.
1 Despite this, Starostin constructs from it a "Sino-Caucasian" etymology to which Bengtson links the Basque word.