Burushaski and Indo-European Kinship Terms: Burushaski suffix -taro and IE suffix *-ter.

Ilija Cašule, of Macquarie University in Australia, is attracting more and more attention with his Indo-European-Burushaski hypothesis. As part of his thoroughgoing comparison between Indo-European and Burushaski, Cašule has looked at kinship terms (see p. 12 in the attached). Although, at first glance (see here), Burushaski kin terms support the Dene-Caucasian placement of Burushaski (if one is willing to entertain any long-range proposals at all), Cašule brings up the Burushaski plural suffix -taro used almost exclusively with kinship terms, which does strike one as similar to the ubiquitous Indo-European kin term ending -ter. As I argued at length elsewhere (here and here), IE kinship terms are puzzling in a lot of respects. One of them is the fact that many key kinship terms are already complex morphological structures at the Proto-Indo-European level, and the daughter languages don’t shed any light on the function of those widely-spread IE suffixes. Other language families typically maintain a clear trace of the semantic and pragmatic functions of kinterm-specific grammatical forms, but in IE languages such grammatical forms are obscure. Hittite data has so far contributed nothing to our understanding of the meaning of PIE -ter (or *Hter in some laryngeal reconstructions). Nostratic kinterm reconstructions are of very poor quality and they contain nothing approximating IE *-ter (see Dziebel, G. V. “Reconstructing ‘our’ kinship terminology: Comments on the Indo-European material in A. V. Dybo’s and S. V. Kullanda’s The Nostratic terminology of kinship and affinity.” Kinship Algebra, No. 10 (2006)). This suggests that the most divergent IE language hasn’t been found yet. And, who knows, maybe Cašule found it and it’s Burushaski.

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