Monday, February 11, 2019

Language questions on quora


I
The so called "Indo European language family" is nothing more than a hoax, it's laughable sometimes with even "Proto Indo European" and other nonsense, why not look for homeland of Santa Claus?
Hans-Georg Lundahl, amateur linguist
Answered 8m ago

We have lots of words for which a common origin is necessary over more than one “branch of indo-european” or more than one “indo-european language family” (as opposed to hypothetically “the indo-european language family,” what you are talking about).

There are basically two possibilities to explain this:

  • Indo-European language families belong to one language family, the indo-european one.
  • Indo-European languages have early on borrowed from each other, before each of them got written.


I tend to the latter one, I don’t think “the indo-european language family” is a hoax, it is more like an error of interpretation.

To give an idea why we are talking of the subject, the word for foot is related in many languages. Foot in English and similar in similar Germanic; pedem (I take the accusative, which shows the root better than the nominative) in Latin, from which pié, pied, piede in Spanish, French, Italian and similarly in similar Romance; poda (same remark) in Greek, since I couldn’t look up Sanskrit, here is Hindi pad, which in wiktionary is given first meaning foot, second footstep and a few more, while Armenian votk’ (if Google translate wasn’t meddled with) just could be related too. Oh, Slavonic is the odd man out, noga is definitely not related, but Lithuanian, which is Baltic, has pėda. Welsh has troed which is, like noga an outlier.

To give you an idea of why there are doubts on the single origin hypothesis, the word for hand is hand in English and similar in similar Germanic languages, ranka in Lithuanian and ręka in Polish, and similar in other Baltic or Slavonic languages, cheira in Greek, manum in Latin (again giving accusative on both), and from Latin you have mano, main, mano in Spanish, French, Italian. In Armenian you have tzerk, while haath is Hindi. In Welsh you have llaw, and, interestingly, a word mun which could be related to Latin manum and to a very oldfashioned Germanic word, mund.

Hungarian and Finnish are supposed to be related in a way a bit similar to two different branches of Indo-European, and here we have, for foot, jalka in Finnish, láb in Hungarian, not related, käsi and kéz (obviously related) for hand in Finnish and Hungarian.

Other perspective, Persian and Arabic (Indo-European and Semitic) seem to share more vocabulary than English and Russian (Germanic Indo-European and Slavonic Indo-European). Both cases, too much for pure hazard. However, Persian and Arabic words from same (often Classic Arabic) origin are more similar, since the common origin in form of borrowing is more recent.

We can definitely say, the words in common between English and Russian, unless modern international vocabulary, have become so dissimilar that the common origin, whether common ancestral language or mutual borrowing, would probably be further back in time than 900 AD when Persian reemerges in writing with lots more Arabic words than previously.

Also, in historic times, there are no obvious occasions on which English and Russian could have borrowed from each other previous to modernity, so, if mutual borrowing, or common borrowing from a set of languages borrowing mutually even earlier, these are just as prehistoric (to when the history of these regions and languages starts to be known in written documents) as the other possibility, common ancestral language.

We know where English and Russian borrowed words like kosmonaut (=Russian astronaut) and so on, namely in modern media and dictionaries, but where English and Russian came from or what area they borrowed nose / нос (pronounced noss) from each other, that is something one needs to look for and speculate about, if one is curious.

By the way, the old homeland of Saint Nicolas is Myra, in what is now Turkey, and his relics are or to recently were in Bari, in Italy.

II
Do you find Slavic languages intimidating?
Hans-Georg Lundahl, amateur linguist
Answered just now

No, I find language learning when I don’t have a bed to sleep in intimidating, since even slight, but constant, sleep privation is incapacitating on language learning and other artistic talents.

Before I became homeless, I was just starting to get a grip on Polish, at university.

III
What is the difference between necaverunt and interfecerunt in Latin?
Hans-Georg Lundahl, knows Latin
Answered 55m ago

They are two different words both meaning “they killed”.

The exact shade of different connotations I don’t know, I did not analyse that deeply, but one can say that verb “necare” (of which necaverunt is perfect preterite third plural active) is simply a verb meaning kill, while “interficere” (of which interfecerunt is perfect preterite third plural active) is a composite which literally means “make between” probably derived via “interire” (literally “go between” but in fact “get lost, perish”, like “perire” means “go through”), so the “interficere” would be sth like “make someone perish” - when first the word was coined.

But by Classical times, this could have been some time ago, and the connotation could have shifted.

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