24 June 2015

Basque ol(h)a 'forge, foundry'

Basque ol(h)a 'forge, foundry' is a word conflated by most specialists with its homonymous 'hut; dwelling' (geographically restricted to a few dialects), a confusion also extending to the widespread toponymic suffix -ola1However, upon a closer scrutiny they reveal themselves as two different words. Firstly, Roncalese õla 'hut' has a nasal vowel, a remnant of a former initial nasal consonant. And secondly, the respective derivated verbs are different, as on the one hand we've got ol(h)atu (LN, Z) 'to hit with violence', and on the other, olhatü (Z) 'to stay on huts; to go to the pastures (in transhumance)'.

I think the Basque word would be a loanword from Celtic *ordā (f.) 'hammer' (Middle Welsh orth, Breton orz)2, possibly through retroflexion of the dental stop (as in Sweden and Norwegian), which ultimately evolved into a lateral. However, as no plausible IE etymology can be posited for the Celtic word, a non-IE origin is likely. Assuming -an- is some kind of suffix, a good cognate would be Etruscan urθan 'to make, to manufacture', attested in the past form urθanice '(he) made'. 

This way, we're left with a Tyrrhenian verbal root *ur-d- which I'd link on the one hand to IE *wer-g´- 'to work'3 (zero Ablaut), where IE *-g´- ~ Tyrrhenian *-d-, and on the other to Urartian ur-/or- 'to make, to work'4, which Diakonoff-Starostin4 relate in turn to Nakh-Daghestanian *=ahwV(r) 'to do' (NCED 1826).
1 Compare for example Loiola 'pottery', from lohi 'mud', and Gisasola 'broom bush', from (g)isats 'broom'.
2 There's also a masculine form *ordo- (Old Irish ord, Gaulish Ordo-). See R. Matasović (2009): Etymological Dictionary of Proto-Celtic, p. 300.
3 Incidentally, the amateur linguist Gianfranco Forni (who regards Etruscan as an IE language) derives urθan from an IE participle *H3er-to- 'risen' < *H3er- 'to rise' (Latin orior). However, to me this is not only semantically questionable but also phonetically inconsistent, as it wouldn't explain the voiced stop in Celtic, of whose connection with the Etruscan verb he's of course unaware.
4 N. Diakonoff & S. Starostin (1986): Hurro-Urartian as an East Caucasian Language, §163.

10 June 2015

Basque etxe 'house' (updated)

Basque etxe /etʃe/ 'house' is a native word without Romance cognates. The most conservative variant, attested in old texts, is etse /etśe/, with etxe, itxe (G, HN) resulting from palatalization and etze /etse/ (B) from the merging of sibilants /tś, ts/ into /ts/ in Western dialects. There's also the combinatory form etxa-, well attested in toponymy (even outside today's Basque-speaking areas), as in Javierre1 < Etxaberri 'new house'.

Rather interestingly, etxe means 'floor' in the Western compound burtetxe (B), gurtetxe (G, HN) 'floor of a cart', (L) 'framework of a cart', whose first member is burdi, gurdi 'cart, carriage'. 

This kind of semantic drift across long periods of time (e.g. several millenia) is very usual, so one must take it into account in long-range comparisons2This is why I'd link the Basque word to Caucasian *=asA ‘to sit, to stay’ and Uralic *aśe- ‘to put, to place, to lay; to put up a tent’3.
1 From which derives the personal name Xavier/Javier.
2 Unfortunately, paleolinguists (including Nostraticists) very often neglect to do so, as in the comparison with Caucasian *tsˀ[i:]ju 'house' proposed by Bengtson.
In fact, the amateur linguist Eduard Selleslagh-Suykens had a similar idea to mine, although he chose the wrong cognate.