10 October 2016

Latin costa 'rib; side, flank' (updated)

Latin costa 'rib; side, flank' has been traditionally liked by Indo-Europeanists to Old Church Slavonic kostĭ 'bone'1, although more recently De Vaan considers this etymology to be dubious, among other reasons because of semantic mismatch2

In fact, the Slavic word is undoubtedly linked to IE *H2ostH1- 'bone', although its initial velar stop can't be accounted for in the mainstream model. However, the amateur linguist Glen Gordon explains this alternation  *k- ~ *H2-3 as a consequence of an early borrowing from a femenine variant of Semitic *kˀa(w)ʃ- 'bow'4 (cfr. Phoenician qšt5), with a semantic drift 'bow' > 'rib' > 'bone'. 

In most Romance languages except Romanian, the meaning 'rib' of Latin costa was transferred to diminutive forms (e.g. Spanish costilla, French côtelette), while the main word specialized into geographical meanings: '(hill) slope' (e.g. Spanish cuesta) and 'shore' (Catalan and Italian costa), which spread as Wanderwort: Spanish costa, English coast, Dutch and Swedish kust, German Küste, Danish kyst, etc.

There's in addition Middle High German Gestade 'bank' and Old Irish ces 'flank, rump steak', césán 'flanks', which can't be readly derived from costa although they're semantically and phonetically close. This makes me wonder if all these words could be Semitic loanwords akin to or from Phoenician qsˁt 'edge, limit' (f.)6 < Semitic *qītʃˀ- 'end, to finish' < Afrasian *kˀajatʃˀ- (HSED 1562), with Latin and German having got the femenine variant and Goidelic the masculine one.
1 A. Ernout & A. Meillet (1959): Dictionnaire étymologique de la langue latine, p. 146.
2 M. De Vaan (2008): Etymological Dictionary of Latin and the other Italic Languages, p.140. 
3 Regarded by Gamkrelidze-Ivanov as different reflexes of a former *qʰ. T.V. Gamkrelidze & V.V. Ivanov (1995): Indo-European and the Indo-Europeans, pp. 111-113.
4 G. Gordon (2008): Possible Proto-Semitic Loanwords in Pre-IE. 
5 Mª J. Estanyol (2008): Diccionari abreujat fenici-català, p 113.
6 Mª J. Estanyol, op. cit., p 112.

07 October 2016

Latin voltur 'vulture' (updated)

Latin voltur, vultur 'vulture' is linked by scholars such as Mallory-Adams to Greek blosyrós 'terrible, fearsome' and blosyrōpis 'grim-looking' (seemingly from Aeolic in account of *w- > b-), thus reconstructing an IE protoform *gʷl̥tur-1.

However, the Latin word is most likely a loanword from Etruscan velθur 'hawk, falcon', attested in the gentilic Velθur-na, which is likely associated to the city of Capua (cfr. capys 'hawk, falcon'). On the other hand, if the ancient toponyms Vulturnum (Castel Volturno) and Vulturnus (Volturno)2 are actually related to vultur, then we could add to Etruscan velθ 'underground, netherworld', velθu-na 'human', velθ-ra 'infernal tunnel' (Moretti) to this etymology, pointing to a Tyrrhenian protoform *gʷVrd- 'underground'.

This would be also the origin of Greek Ōrth(r)os, the name of an infernal dog, although from a different substrate language.
1 J.P. Mallory & D.Q. Adams (2006): The Oxford Introduction to PIE and the PIE World, p.145.
2 Hence (ventus) Vulturnus 'SE wind' > Spanish bochorno 'foehn, sirocco'.

Celtic *marko- 'horse' (updated)

According to Gamkrelidze-Ivanov1, Celtic *marko- 'horse' (Old Irish marc, Middle Welsh march, Gaulish márkan [acc.])2 and Germanic *márxa-/*margá- 'horse, mare' (Old Icelandic marr 'horse', merr 'mare', Old High German marah- 'horse', meriha 'mare') is an Asian Wanderwort related to horseback riding in the Eurasian steppes before the first millenium BC.

The closest forms would be Sinitic *mrāʔ and Tibeto-Burman *mrāŋ 'horse', with schwebeablaut. These Sino-Tibetan words3 look as different formations from a lexeme found in Altaic *mórV 'horse' (Mongolian *mori, Tungusic *murin, Korean *màr). One of these derivations, with a nasal suffix (*morin), found in Mongol and Tungusic, would be the origin of the Tibeto-Burman word as well as North Caucasian *far-nē 'horse, mare'. The other would be a diminutive *mor-qa reflected in the Sinitic and Celto-Germanic words.
However, Sanskrit mṛga 'deer, antelope' would point to a possible origin of this Wanderwort in the domestication of wild horses by the Botai culture of northern Kazakhstan (3,500-3,000 BCE). 
1 T. Gamkrelidze & V. Ivanov (1995): Indo-European and the Indo-Europeans, p. 472-473.
2 R. Matasović (2009): Etymological Dictionary of Proto-Celtic, p. 257.
3 For which Sergei Starostin reconstructs a Sino-Tibetan protoform *mrāH / *mrāŋ.