Friday, August 26, 2011

About the close relatives of Proto-Indo-European

There are numerous theories about the original location of Proto-Indo-European, the direct ancestor of English and most other languages of Eurasia. A key-factor in the quest for the homeland is the existence of close relatives of PIE. So far I have identified three of them:

- Hurro-Urartean, once spoken in Eastern Anatolia, and substratic to Armenian. The area where HU was spoken in the Antiquity more or less coincides with the historic Armenian highlands as indicated in the map.

- Hatti, which preceded Hittite in Central Anatolia and which died during the 2nd millenium BCE. Hatti is interesting in particular because it has duh- ‘daughter’, a cognate of PIE *dhugHter.

A third family of languages which appears to be very closely related with PIE is Caucasic Nakh. It is a rather small family that includes three languages: Chechen, Ingush and Batsbi. From a geographic point of view Nakh belongs to the North-Eastern branch of so-called “Caucasic” languages. The genetic relationships between all “Caucasic” languages remain controversial.

The features of modern Nakh which is embryonic in Hatti is the existence of Class-Prefixes. One of them is w- for male and y- for female (human) beings. These prefixes, probably pronouns, appear to suffixed in PIE. This certainly accounts for a set of words described in a previous post:

- *dheH1l-u- ‘suckling’ (Mallory-Adams 2006:558 a dialectal word).
- *magh-u- ‘young adult’ (Mallory-Adams 2006:544). English maid.
- *man-u- ‘man, male’ (Mallory-Adams 2006:544). English man.
- Cf. the word *pu- ‘child’: Sanskrit putrá ‘son’, Latin puer ‘child’, Greek paFís ‘child’.
- *suhxn-ú- ‘son’ (Mallory-Adams 2006:556). English son.
- *wet-u- in Latin vetus ‘old’, Balto-Slavic *vẽtusos ‘oldman’. Probably related to *wet ‘year’ (Mallory-Adams 2006:564).
The word magh-u- is quite possibly related with Nakh *nax ‘man’ with a change *m > *n in Nakh, whence the name of the Nakh family is derived.

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