Indo-European

Welcome to the Indo-European section!

Here we deal with the phonology, morphology and semantics of IE kin terms, proto-Indo-European reconstructions, ethnological interpretation of PIE kinship vocabulary, IE homeland and wider relationships of IE languages in the context of the “Nostratic” and/or “Eurasiatic” hypotheses. I am cautious about any proposals of a genetic connection beyond the level of first-order language families, but much research has been done in this direction, and it has to be accommodated within the global studies of human kinship systems. It is my opinion, though, that existing Indo-European kin term etymologies are inadequate in so far as they fail to match typological profiles established in anthropology. They also contain pervasive phonological irregularities that strip existing reconstruction of their convincing power. By simple logical extension, therefore, their use in Nostratic studies is problematic.

Besides kinship terms, other systemic lexical domains, such as numerals and animal names, have poor, if any, etymologies. My project, therefore, involves systematic re-comparison of IE vocabulary in search of unacknowledged connections between different lexical items. The methodology is a kind of mirror-image of long-range comparison, for it purports to establish genetic connections between known etymological nests within a single, well-studied, and richly documented language family.

Under this methodology, semantic, morphological and geographic variation is as important as phonetic variation, for the simple reason that phonetic reconstruction depends on which items are included in the etymological nest. Etymology therefore has a priority over phonology, and no reconstruction of the phonological system of a proto-language can be considered complete if it can be shown that it does not lead to successful etymological solutions for a bulk of systemic vocabulary. Purely phonological etymologies (such as Lat uxoor < *uk- + *soor 'woman' or Slavic *celoveeku < *celo- 'tribe' + *veeku 'child') are usually meaningless and distributionally impossible. There is no IE language in which *soor 'woman' is attested, and Slavic languages know no such word as *veeku 'child'. The absence of a unitary interpretation of the PIE phonological system (neogrammarian, laryngeal, and glottalic theories are mutually exclusive) is consistent with the pervasive gaps in IE etymology.

So far, in addition to kin terms proper, several potential cognate sets have been identified (see Etymological Samples). They share unmistakable commonality in semantics and morphology. The semantic connections are especially solid because they provide a logical path explaining the emergence of one concept on the basis on another. Phonologically, these nests contain intriguing “deviations” from the established IE sound laws. For instance, they demonstrate that the so-called “laryngeals” present in such famous Hittite words as hantezzi, pahhur, hartagga, mehhur, pahhs, happinant correspond to e/o + palato- or labiovelar stops in other IE dialects alternating with lengthened and colored vowels or zero. The observed connection between ‘laryngeals’, on the one hand, and centum-specific and satem-specific phonemes seems to be quite logical, for palatovelars and labiovelars are similar to laryngeals in their historical behavior: they tend to get lost in daughter dialects leaving residual palatal or labial traces. This finding constututes the first material proof of the existence of “laryngeals” coming from IE branches outside of Anatolian.

An emerging phonological model provides robust etymologies for such IE zoonyms as *wlkwos ‘wolf’, *arktos ‘bear’ and *owis ‘sheep’ or numerals such as “hundred,” “four,” and “eight.” It also contains a possibility that the well-known “centum” words in satem languages imply PIE *kH and *gH and not *k’ and *g’. (Comp. Kurylowicz’s treatment of mahi vs. megas, aham vs. egoo, duhitaa vs. thugateer, and hanuh vs. genus in Sanskrit and Greek with Slav *gonsi ‘goose’ vs. Skrt hamsa and Gk kheen). Furthermore, IE *k is found to alternate with IE *s (see BLOOD-STREAM, SLEEP-INTOXICATE, SWEET-SOUR).

Indo-European textbooks need revision, or, rather, reversal to the original observations on Hittite-IE correspondences by Hrozny, Marstrander, Friedrich, Pedersen, Hammerich, and Hendriksen, and Martinet, who could not bypass such facts as Slav *kosti next to Hitt hastai, Lat ossis, Gk osteon; IE *g’enH- next to Hitt *hass-, *hans- ‘to give birth; and Lat senex next to senaatus.

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