Thursday, July 21, 2011

About the word ‘beaver’ *bebhrus (Part I)

Before we proceed to explain the Indo-European word ‘beaver’ *bebhrus, it is necessary to make a preliminary survey of a particular set of PIE roots that can be called fundamental adjectives. These words usually have an accented final ú-suffix in Sanskrit and a final suffix  -uis in Latin. In coherence with accent on the final suffix the root is in zero-grade in Sanskrit, a feature that can be interpreted as a sign that this formation is ancient and of true PIE dating. Hittite parkuis ‘clean’ is an instance of this formation in Anatolian, confirming this dating.
In a number of lexemes, it would seem that the suffix is *H-u instead of *u but some items do not seem to involve any laryngeal: *H1ed-u-, du- ‘bad’, *teg-u ‘thick’.
- *H1es-u- ‘good’ (Mallory-Adams 2006:534 *wesu- ‘excellent’, 538 *(H1e)s-u- ‘good’): Greek eu- ‘good’, Hittite a-aš-šu-uš ‘good’. 
*H1eduōl- ‘evil’, 548 ‘pain’): Sanskrit duṣ, dur‘bad’, ed-u-, du- ‘bad’ (Mallory-Adams 2006:534 *H1Latin dis, Greek dus ‘bad’. Borrowed as English dys-, dis-.
- *sweHad-u- ‘sweet, pleasant’ (Mallory-Adams 2006:549). English sweet. Possibly a derivative of *H1es-u- ‘good’.
- *pe-u-(H)- ‘to stink’ (Mallory-Adams 2006:557). English foul.
- *pelH1-u- ‘much, many, full’ (Mallory-Adams 2006:546 *pelH1-u-): Sanskrit purú, Latin plūs, Greek polús. English full.
*re-u-, *H1er- ‘empty (space)’ (Mallory-Adams 2006:547 *reu-Hx): Latin rūs ‘country-side’, rāris ‘rare’, English room.
- *bhenğh-u- ‘abundant’ (Mallory-Adams 2006:523 ‘abundant’): Sanskrit bahu ‘abundant’, Greek pakhus ‘thick, big’. English big < bugge is usually not derived from this root. Latin pinguis ‘fat’ may belong here in case the initial p- was influenced by the root pei- ‘fat’.
- *pau < *p[e]H-u- ‘few’ (Mallory-Adams 2006:535 a dialectal word): not in Sanskrit, Latin paucus, paullus ‘few’, Greek páuros ‘few’. English few. The word *pu- ‘child’ is probably another root: Sanskrit putrá ‘son’, Latin puer ‘child’, Greek paFís ‘child’.
*werHx-u- ‘wide, broad’ (Mallory-Adams 2006:563): Sanskrit urú. Lubotsky posits *H1urH-u, with an initial laryngeal, probably to account for Greek euru- but this is not the usual reconstruction.
- *Haenğh-u- ‘narrow’ (Mallory-Adams 2006:546): Sanskrit amhu (only in compound).
- *gʷreHa-u- ‘heavy’ (Mallory-Adams 2006:539): Sanskrit gurú, Latin gravis, Greek barús. Possibly attested in English quern < OE cweorn ‘sort of hand-turned grain mill’.
*H1le(n)gh-u- ‘light (of weight)’ (Mallory-Adams 2006:543): Sanskrit raghú ‘fast, light’, Latin lĕvis ‘light’, Greek elakhús ‘short, small’. English light. This root has a structural similarity with *H3lig- ‘bad, sick’.
- *teg-u ‘thick’ (Mallory-Adams 2006:535 ‘fat’): only in Celtic and Germanic. English thick.
- *tenH2-u- ‘thin, long’ (Mallory-Adams 2006:559, 544 *ten-): Sanskrit tanú, Latin tenuis ‘thin, small’, Greek tanaós ‘long’. English thin.
*pltH2-u- ‘broad, flat’ (Mallory-Adams 2006:528 *pltH2-u-): Sanskrit prthú‘broad, large’, Greek platús ‘flat, broad’, Hittite palhi ‘broad’ (without affix -t-). An alternative reconstruction is *plH2-t-u. English flat.
*H2eǩ-u- ‘pointed, sharp’ (Mallory-Adams 2006:554 *H2eǩ-).
- *dh(o)ng-u- ‘dark’ (Mallory-Adams 2006:531).
- *H1oǩ-u- ‘fast, quick’ (Mallory-Adams 2006:540). Latin accipiter ‘fast-flying (hawk)’.
- *H1el-u- ‘red’ (Mallory-Adams 2006:551).
- *H2el-u- ‘mad, drunk’ (Mallory-Adams 2006:526 haelut ‘beer’). English ale.
- *H2erd-u- ‘(moutain) high’ (Mallory-Adams 2006:540). Latin arduus.
- *mrğh-u- ‘short’ (Mallory-Adams 2006:554). Latin brevis.
- *pek-u- ‘beautiful, rich’ (Mallory-Adams 2006:540). English fair.
- *t(e)s-u- ‘quiet, silent’ (Mallory-Adams 2006:551 a dialectal word).
*widh-u- ‘wild, uninhabited nature’ (Mallory-Adams 2006:536 *widhu ‘forest’). English wood.
 To be continued.

Best. A.

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