Etymology of Arabic ʿankabūt عنكبوت (spider) and some loans

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages and Linguistics (EHL)' started by Daybreaker, Dec 27, 2012.

  1. Daybreaker

    Daybreaker Junior Member

    Germany
    Carinthian-German
    What do you think of عنكبوت ʿankabūt (spider) being derived from the Greek oktopod (eight-footed)? The Arabic version looks like an exact transliteration of its Greek counterpart, except for the shift from /-kt-/ to /-nk-/. I find it quite logical, but sort of problematic, for the word seems to be well-integrated into Classical Arabic, hence it appears in the Quran.
     
  2. origumi Senior Member

    Hebrew
    In Biblical Hebrew (Isaiah, Job, and also in modern Hebrew) the word is akkabish, in Aramaic it's akkabit or akkubit. All start with letter Ayin. Therefore my guess is Semitic (pre-Greek) origin, even if originally taken from a non-Semitic language. Some say the Arabic word is borrowed from Aramaic, for example: http://biblesuite.com/hebrew/5908.htm, while the Hebrew / Aramaic word is "of uncertain origin". Being the name of the 29th sura, the word indeed must have been strongly established in the Quran time.
     
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2012
  3. Abu Rashid

    Abu Rashid Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Australian English
    It's an interesting word to consider because the Hebrew shin / Aramaic taw, would suggest the last letter would've originally been tha, and should still be in Arabic. This would suggest Arabic borrowing from Aramaic. However, due to the noon in Arabic, it seems like either a) Arabic did not borrow it from Aramaic, or b) Arabic borrowed it a very long time ago before Aramaic began to assimilate the noon saakin (noon with a stop on it).

    Something also to keep in mind is that the Arabic plural عناكب suggests the final letter is not actually part of the word but some kind of an appendage (of what kind I'm not sure).
     
  4. origumi Senior Member

    Hebrew
    I assumed so too (even wrote it) but then saw an alternative spelling with "th" (so erased).
    http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/Lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H5908
     
  5. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    The spelling with ث in the English translation of Gesenius (first ed.) is wrong. Outside of Arabic, this word is attested in Hebrew as ʻakkābīš and in Targumic Aramaic as ʻkbytʼ and ʻkwbytʼ, as has been noted by Origumi. Arabic ʻankabūt seems to be borrowed from an (unattested) Aramaic form with the typical Babylonian Aramaic dissimilation of –kk- to –nk-, and with the feminine ending –ūtā instead of -ītā.

    To Abu Rashid’s astute note I would add that, as a general rule, Arabic nouns with more than 4 consonants form broken plurals from the first 4 consonants only. E.g., the Iranian loanword fihrist has the plural fahāris.
     
  6. Daybreaker

    Daybreaker Junior Member

    Germany
    Carinthian-German
    Thank you for your replies.
    I do not think that listing other Semitic cognates of a this word can prove otherwise, because 1) of its significant resemblance to the Greek origin; 2) there are several cognates for عنكبوت ʿankabūt within the Arabic language itself (عنكب ʿankab, عنكبة ʿankabaʾ, عنكباة ʿankabāh, عنكباء ʿankabāʾ, عنكبوّة ʿankabūwa). The loss of one consonat in the plural is nothing special and is being observed with nearly all multiconsonantal words whose plurals just need to fit a certain plural pattern (عناكب ʿanākib, عناكيب ʿanākīb, عنكبوتات ʿankabūtāt, عناكبيت ʿanākabīt, عِكاب ʿikāb, عُكُب ʿukub, أعْكُب ʾaʿkub, أعْكَب ʾaʿkab). See Lane's dictionary.

    As for the loanwords mentioned in the title of this thread, I will open a new thread soon.
     
  7. apmoy70

    apmoy70 Senior Member

    Greek
    If I may add, as a native Greek speaker, the problem with your hypothesis is that Greeks have never associated the name octopod/octapous with spider; yes, it's true the arthropod critter is eight-legged but it has always been called «ἀράχνη» ă'răxnē, [a'raxni] in MG pronunciation (cf. arachnoid, arachnophobia etc) and never octapous (the ancients even constructed a myth -the myth of the weaver Arachne- trying to explain why spiders weave webs)
     
  8. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    The Semitic parallels show one thing at least: ـنـ is not merely an inner-Arabic scribal error for ـتـ , as you seem to suggest in the original query. There is no –t- in the other Semitic forms.

    The second problem with your hypothesis is the proposed representation of Greek –d by Arabic –t. I think you will have trouble finding any parallel for this.
     
  9. Daybreaker

    Daybreaker Junior Member

    Germany
    Carinthian-German
    Some nations have always been quite inventive when it comes to creating new vocabulary out of a language they do not have command of, but which is omnipresent around them for cultural or political reasons. For instance, have a look at the German word for "mobile phone": "das Handy" (looks like an English word, but is made up out of the German word for "hand" - die Hand, in analogy to the English adjective "handy". Also, there is the Turkish word for "school": okul, which was constructed through the stem of the Turkish verb "oku-mak" (to read, learn, study) + /-L/ in resemblance to the French word for "school" (école). As for the Arabs, they do have the word فكرلوجيا (fikrulūǧīya) in addition to إيديولوجيا (īdiyūlūǧīya). Or look at all the modern (e.g. homophobia) medical terms (e.g. tyrosine-kinase inhibitor) that are nearly invariably Latin and/or Greek and were never uttered by ancient tongues, not even borrowed from them, but simply invented by western individuals who think that these terms have to be in Latin/Greek.

    Having all this in mind, I am pretty sure, that there is likeliness to find more than one word in the entire Arabic language that was invented by the Arabs themselves in a similar fashion.

    For Greek /t/ to Arabic /d/: إراديون ʾirādiyūn from ιερατειον (sanctuary)
    For /d/ to /t/ + /t/ to /d/: متريدس matrīdis from ἀρχιμανδρίτης archimandrites (archimandrite)
    For /d/ to /t/, /ṯ/, and /ṭ/: أكاتستون ʾakātistūn, أكاتسطون ʾakātisṭūn, أكاثستون ʾakāṯistūn, أكاطستون ʾakāṭistūn from αχάδιστος (Akathist Hymn)
    For /d/ to /ṯ/: أناثيما ʾanaṯīma from ανάδεμα
     
  10. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    Interesting, but I am not convinced. These words all belong to specialised Melchite-Christian technical vocabulary, whereas ʻankabūt is real living Arabic? Or am I wrong? And the last one is actually ἀνάθεμα, is it not?
     
  11. Daybreaker

    Daybreaker Junior Member

    Germany
    Carinthian-German
    I am aware, that this cannot be considered as totally convincing material at all.
    The last one should probably be spelled ἀνάθεμα, you're right.
    But the book that I cited from, spelled it ανάδεμα.
    Feel free to download the book from my own website:
    arabicum.net/ar-kirchentermini-1.pdf
    arabicum.net/ar-kirchentermini-2.pdf
     
  12. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    No, Graf spells it correctly (with ϑ not δ).
     
  13. Abu Rashid

    Abu Rashid Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Australian English
    The existence of these cognates in other Semitic languages show us that the term existed prior to the Greek cultural influence on the region. Also the fact that the regular assimilation of the 'n' with a stop on it in Hebrew & Aramaic, whilst being retained in Arabic seems to exist in the word, suggests it's been in use in these languages for quite a long time.

    This is the point I find the strangest in your arguments. The two words do not resemble one another at all.

    This is how the Greek letters usually correspond to Arabic:

    ο = ع :tick:
    κ = ك :cross:
    τ = ت :cross:
    ώ = و :cross:
    π = ف :cross:
    ό = ع :cross:
    δ = د :cross:

    And still none of them resemble your Greek claim.

    There is a certain tendency towards a very Euro-Centric position when it comes to claiming loanwords in Semitic languages, and in Arabic in particular. Some of them are plausible, others like this are about as valid as the kinds of etymologies we find from Edenics enthusiasts. Just because something looks somewhat similar to you does not indicate a borrowing.
     
  14. Abu Rashid

    Abu Rashid Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Australian English
    If this word were coined during the Abbasid period, this might hold. As Arab scientists were coining many words based on their extensive understanding of Greek language and culture. But this word clearly existed in various Semitic languages 1500+ years prior to this period. At that time, Arabs, and other Semites would've had very little understanding of Greek. They may have picked up a word in common currency amongst Greek speakers themselves, but it's highly unlikely they would've been coining new Greek words, especially to name something like a spider.
     
  15. Daybreaker

    Daybreaker Junior Member

    Germany
    Carinthian-German
    Thanks a lot, Abu Rashid. I am really keen on posts like yours.

    You are definitely right in saying that resemblance/similarity alone is not a proof for borrowing or genetic relationship. Those are called false friends, I know. But in terms of historical facts, that's where I must admit some lack of knowledge. Btw, I'm afraid I don't get your chart right. No prob.

    On the other hand, even as-Suyūṭi in المزهر في علوم اللغة العربية al-Muzhir fī ʿulūm al-luġa al-ʿarabīya stated:
    "(The tribes) Taġlab and al-Yaman were neighbors to the Greeks on the (Arabian Pen)insula."
    وتغلب واليمن كانوا بالجزيرة مجاورين لليونان
     
  16. Daybreaker

    Daybreaker Junior Member

    Germany
    Carinthian-German
    It may be that I mixed up the two Greek letters.
     
  17. Abu Rashid

    Abu Rashid Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Australian English
    The insistence of some that such and such an Arabic word _must_ have a Greek or Latin origin becomes tiresome after a while. What you are experiencing here is my impatience with such positions. If you don't like that, then exert a little more effort in the path of trying to understand the way words develop historically, instead of insisting it must be so, simply because to your eye they look similar.

    The point of the chart is to demonstrate that the only letter which matches up properly is the first one. The rest are a stretch to try and make them match up. When you need to stretch all but one letter to try and make them match up, then the resemblance is really not all that convincing is it? That's my point.

    Being neighbours is one thing. Coining new words in their language then borrowing them into your language is another. I agree this kind of thing potentially could've occurred during the Abbasid period, due to the massive absorption of Greek terminology, and the scholarly level of those introducing these terms.

    Also as already mentioned the word seems to have come into Arabic via Aramaic. It also seems to have existed in Hebrew & Aramaic at a time before they had merged the phoneme /θ/, which in Aramaic became /t/ and in Hebrew became /ʃ/, but in Arabic remained as /θ/ (which is why it's most likely Arabic borrowed it from Aramaic). This would explain the phonology of the word in all 3 Semitic languages perfectly. Which indicates it probably came into Hebrew & Aramaic sometime around 750 B.C or before, and then was borrowed from Aramaic into Arabic around 250 B.C or any time from then up until the Islamic period, at which time we find it in its current form.
     
  18. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    An interesting quotation, but I think it shows only that as-Suyūṭī had no idea of historical geography. You will not find al-Hamdānī claiming that Yemen is next door to Greece.
     
  19. Daybreaker

    Daybreaker Junior Member

    Germany
    Carinthian-German
    You seemingly overreact here. He just meant the two tribes that used to have their dwellings close to Greeks, not the region called "Yemen".
     
  20. Abu Rashid

    Abu Rashid Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Australian English
    Greeks and ancient Yemenis did live side by side, and influence on one another's languages is well established.
     
  21. Daybreaker

    Daybreaker Junior Member

    Germany
    Carinthian-German
    Unfortunately I don't understand which part of my "Thanks a lot..." expresses the opposite of "Thanks a lot...". Plz take into account that English is not my native language. Once again I can say that I'm really glad you all participate in this discussion, enriching it with many interesting contributions.

    My aim is to find out the real origin of the word, and you gave me good reasons not to adhere to the assumption of a Greek part in the play.

    So if anybody has an idea about where all these Semitic words for "spider" could stem from, while it's not Greek, plz let me know. Even if they are pure Semitic, there must be a certain meaning at the bottom of it.
     
  22. Abu Rashid

    Abu Rashid Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Australian English
    Your English is good enough (flawless actually) that it could seem like sarcasm when you said this, and that's what I assumed it was, my apologies :)

    I don't know if it is originally Semitic, but it's possible. Looking at the Semitic word for scorpion suggests perhaps they were both portmanteaus of existing Semitic roots.
     
  23. origumi Senior Member

    Hebrew
    But then if the Hebrew cognate is there long before any Greek influence - how can it be of Greek origin? The book of Isaiah is dated to 800-600 BC (for different parts by different scholar).
     
  24. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)


    There was very limited trade between the Roman Empire and Arabia Felix, mostly through middlemen. The number of loanwords in both directions is negligible.
     
  25. rayloom Senior Member

    Paris, France
    Arabic (Hijazi Arabic)
    The oldest mention in a Semitic language (according to an online source) is an Eblaite text, where it occurs as a place name.

    By the way, the Hebrew ending with /š/ would suggest that the Aramaic ending with /t/ is not the feminine marker. As for the -nk-, it might be the result of a dissimilation occurring in Aramaic (but not attested in this word). However, it seems some Semiticists differ with such a view, see section 26 here, and also the listing in the starling database here (where also the -ut ending might be viewed as an "Aramaism", since forms not ending with -ut do occur in Arabic as well).
     
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2012
  26. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    Thank you for these references.

    The Eblaite a-ga-ga-bi-išKI is (as you say) a place name. It is possible that it derives from the word for “spider”, but this can hardly be regarded as certain. In any event, it has an extra vowel between the two guttural stops.

    The article by Pennacchio is in my opinion a very shabby piece of work. The dissimilation of geminates is a very well-known phenomenon in Babylonian Aramaic, discussed in detail by (for example) Beyer in Die aramäischen Texte vom Toten Meer, and mentioned also (specifically with regard to Arabic loanwords) in the article “Zindīḳ” in Encyclopaedia of Islam (2nd ed.) (both missing from P.’s bibliography).

    The starling database has the defect that it is compiled from dictionaries and not from a sifting of primary sources. It needs to be investigated whether all the variants listed in the mediaeval Arabic dictionaries actually occur in any texts.
     
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2012
  27. aruniyan Senior Member

    Tamil
    The Tamil word for spider is Ettukaalpoochi, (eight legged insect) looks like a false friend to ankabut ?

    the Danish Edderkopp also sounds similar.
     
  28. origumi Senior Member

    Hebrew
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2012
  29. yields Junior Member

    Rabat, Morocco
    Arabic - Morocco
    Hello Daybreaker,
    The word you might be looking for is the arabic Okhtobot أخطبوط (Octopus) which indeed is closer to the greek word - I don't think it's related to عنكبوت .
    What do you think ?

    Usually I think loanwords appear where a population never encountered the thing named before, and I am practically sure spiders were known during ancient archaic periods, as for octopus it might be loaned, who knows.
     
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2012
  30. sotos Senior Member

    Greek
    I don't see any proximity of "ankabūt" to "oktopod", but we could discuss a remote connection between ankabūt and the Gr. arachne (spider). In Greek dictionaries I see that arachne is of uncertain etymon, with some suspecting an etymology from "arkys" (net, web). The question is if the "ark-" can turn to "ank-" in semitic languages. Could the -būt be a productive suffix?
     
  31. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    Not very likely. And what about the rest of the Greek word?

    Definitely not.
     
  32. origumi Senior Member

    Hebrew
    One of the links up the thread suggests that arachne is derived from Canaanite arag = to weave, through the Phoenicians.
     
  33. thelastchoice Senior Member

    Arabic S.A.
    It seems an old thread, but I just wanted to add something about عنكبوت which is in my opinion a pure Arabic word as the root عكب means compactness and closeness in general and عَكَب means the closeness of toes which resembles the closeness of the spider's legs and hence the Arabic name عنكبوت. You me refer to لسان العرب.
     
  34. Moseley Junior Member

    English
    This roots spawns the word
    الْعَنْكَبُوتِ
    (spider).

    Are there any more examples of this in the Arabic language?

     
  35. Lark-lover

    Lark-lover Senior Member

    Arabic
    Off my head are these :
    عندليب a nightinagale
    بلبل a bulbul(ortolan)
     
  36. Zoghbi Senior Member

    arabic (Algeria)
    Yes there is a lot of four letter roots in arabic but very few beside the three letter ones (all the arabic language is based on, and according to studies, ancestral semitic is only formed by three roots or two roots there is no consensus).

    These four letter roots came from another language like : درهم from greek δραχμή, فندق from ποντικος, فلسفة from φιλοσοφία, جوهر from farsi, etc etc..

    They came also with the repetion of two letter and suggests a sound: تمتم بلبل زلزل دقدق بحبح ....
     
  37. Moseley Junior Member

    English
    So where possibly did الْعَنْكَبُوتِ come from?
     
  38. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
  39. Moseley Junior Member

    English
  40. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    The link that you quote has merely pasted an entry from the very old Hebrew dictionary by Gesenius. The suggestion that Hebrew ʽakkābīš is “compounded of” ʽkš and ʽkb is impossible. The three Arabic forms quoted in Gesenius’s entry are all ghost words. Do have a look at what I wrote in no. 5.
     

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