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.

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