Atar > Av. Athravan Skr. Atharvan

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages and Linguistics (EHL)' started by mojobadshah, Nov 6, 2013.

  1. mojobadshah Senior Member

    Given that Atar "fire" has no Vedic equivalent isn't it a likelihood that the Avestan Atar developed into both the Avestan Athravan and the Sanskrit Atharvan?
  2. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    The Iranian word for “fire” is ātar- (zero-grade ātṛ-, āϑr-), with long ā in the first syllable.

    The word for “priest” is Vedic atharvan-, with short a, and with th not t, so it cannot really be related to Iranian ātar-. In Avestan the “priest” word retains its initial short a in gen. sing. aϑaurunō and a few other forms, but has long ā in nom. sing. āϑrauua etc., evidently because the ancient Iranians connected it with the “fire” word, but by our perception this is a folk etymology.

    (This is a summary of K. Hoffmann, Avestische Laut- und Flexionslehre, 2nd ed., 2004, pp. 56, 145.)
  3. mojobadshah Senior Member

    Is it possible that Atar and Athravan became associated by folk etymology and Av. Athravan gave rise to Skr. Atharvan?

    The word angra as in the devil Angra Mainyu is closely related to Sanscrit ang- move quickly, in angiras, fiery messengers (cf Greek angelos), anga, limb of the body, anguli, finger as a mover, angara hot coals (cf. Eng. anger, moved to anger). The Angiras were descendents of Angi the fire god and the first Atharvans. Could Agni have been a substitute for Atar?
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2013
  4. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    Not possible.
  5. Wolverine9 Senior Member

    American English
    Based on my understanding, in Avestan /t/ can become /ϑ/ in certain grades, but in Sanskrit /t/ doesn't become /th/. Is this a correct assessment? Also, I think the OP is reading an older source that suggests the Sanskrit word is a loan from Avestan rather than a cognate. Do you know if there is a reason why that is now considered unlikely?
  6. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    Yes, Aryan tr becomes ϑr in proto-Iranian. This does not happen in Sanskrit.

    The word occurs already in the Vedas. There is no evidence for Iranian borrowings into Old Indian at such an early stage. And even if there were, you would still have to account for the shortening of the first vowel in aϑaurunō.
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2013
  7. Wolverine9 Senior Member

    American English
    So, in other words, aϑaurunō > atharvan is unlikely because āϑrauua would've been the more likely form to be borrowed?
  8. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    Yes, if it really came from the "fire" word.

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