тÿжем (tüžem), the Mari word for "thousand"

AndrasBP

Senior Member
Hungarian
Hello,

In Mari, a Finno-Ugric language spoken in Russia, the word for "thousand" is "тÿжем" (Latinized: tüžem, IPA: tyˈʒem), which looks like a borrowing from an Indo-European language.

Is it possible to determine the source language and the approximate time of the language contact?
 
  • Awwal12

    Senior Member
    Russian
    For what it's worth, the reflexes of IE *tuHsont- are limited to Balto-Slavic and Germanic. I suspect that a Germanic source must be excluded for historico-geographical reasons. Any loan from East Slavic must be not later than the 10th century, and that would seemingly leave /ы/>/ÿ/ unexplained anyway at the very least.
     

    Sobakus

    Senior Member
    Any loan from East Slavic must be not later than the 10th century, and that would seemingly leave /ы/>/ÿ/ unexplained anyway at the very least.
    I don't understand why you say that. ы /ɨ/ must have developed from /ū/ with unrounding precisely via the high central/back rounded vowel /ʉ/, which corresponds to nothing other than the Finno-Ugric ü. I don't know when the unrounding happened, but no later than the 10th century seems like it's in the right ballpark. Judging by the graphy ъi in OCS, if ъ spelled a rounded vowel, ъi was probably still rounded for the inventors of the Cyrillic.
     

    Awwal12

    Senior Member
    Russian
    I don't understand why you say that. ы /ɨ/ must have developed from /ū/ with unrounding precisely via the high central/back rounded vowel /ʉ/, which corresponds to nothing other than the Finno-Ugric ü.
    But Mari /ÿ/ is [y], barely rounded itself, and nothing even remotely close to [ɨ].
    And Slavic /ɨ/ is UNrounded to begin with. That's why an earlier loan (with a rounded vowel in place - effectively pre-Slavic) looks definitely more likely.
     
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    Sobakus

    Senior Member
    But Mari /ÿ/ is [y], barely rounded itself, and nothing even remotely close to [ɨ].
    And Slavic /ɨ/ is UNrounded to begin with. That's why an earlier loan (with a rounded vowel in place - effectively pre-Slavic) looks definitely more likely.
    Firstly, what the Mari y and Russian ы is right now is a wholly separate thing from what they were over 10 centuries ago. And it's highly likely that over 10 centuries ago they were closer together than they are now. You seem to have arbitrarily decided that all the language stages where the ancestor of ы is rounded should be called pre-Slavic, which seems like upside down reasoning to me when the question is "when, at what language stage did the ancestor of ы become unrounded?". It argues the date of borrowing from the definition (already bad logic) which is based on the date of phonetic change which is unknown. It also ignores my observation that
    Judging by the graphy ъi in OCS, if ъ spelled a rounded vowel, ъi was probably still rounded for the inventors of the Cyrillic.
    In any case, whatever one wants to call the pre-10th century variety of Slavic which had a rounded vowel in place of ы, it does explain the correspondence between Russian /ы/ and Mari /ÿ/. You still haven't explained why you think otherwise.
     

    Awwal12

    Senior Member
    Russian
    You seem to have arbitrarily decided that all the language stages where the ancestor of ы is rounded should be called pre-Slavic, which seems like upside down reasoning to me when the question is "when, at what language stage did the ancestor of ы become unrounded?".
    I'm merely basing my reasonings on mainstream reconstructions of (late) Proto-Slavic. If that's arbitrary, then such degree of arbitrariness seems simply necessary to make any meaningful reasonings.
    Judging by the graphy ъi in OCS, if ъ spelled a rounded vowel, ъi was probably still rounded for the inventors of the Cyrillic.
    But what alternative digraph would be possible if ъi was unrounded? :) Meaning - was ъ chosen because it was rounded or because it was simply reduced? Summarizing: I don't see any decisive arguments for the rounded sound here.
     

    Sobakus

    Senior Member
    I'm merely basing my reasonings on mainstream reconstructions of (late) Proto-Slavic. If that's arbitrary, then such degree of arbitrariness seems simply necessary to make any meaningful reasonings.
    • It's useful and often necessary to define a theoretical reconstruction called, say, Proto-Slavic, as having had the phoneme /ū/ in its inventory, but it's not useful to turn on its head the question "when did that phoneme become unrounded" by saying that any language where it was still rounded was still Proto-Slavic. Such arguing around definitions of languages makes even less sense with reconstructed entities that aren't even languages in the sense that Russian or Latin is a language.
    • Proto-Slavic is reconstruced with the phoneme /ū/. Old East Slavic had a phoneme spelled ъi, typically said to represent /ɨ/. Russian has a phoneme /ɨ/ that is spelled the same. I proposed that on the way from /ū/ to /ɨ/ it had to have passed through an intermediate stage that I transcribed as /ʉ/, and which would be perceived by Ugric speakers as their /ü/. I suggested that this stage might have obtained at some time before the 10th century and would explain the correspondence between Russian and Mari. This stage developed out of the Proto-Slavic /ū/ and is therefore not part of the reconstructions you're referring to, so you cannot say that this stage of the language was Proto-Slavic by definition.
    But what alternative digraph would be possible if ъi was unrounded? :) Meaning - was ъ chosen because it was rounded or because it was simply reduced? Summarizing: I don't see any decisive arguments for the rounded sound here.
    I would not expect it to have been a digraph, and it's not intuitively obvious that two reduced vowels* (basically a front and a back schwa), one of which is rounded, would be chosen to spell a full unrounded vowel (though the 'central' part matches). I'm not saying it's anything like a decisive argument, just an observation that would fit with the phonetic shifts I've been outlining.

    edit: *only ъ is a reduced vowel (the back rounded one), i is a full one - got confused by the fact that ъi has been simplified to ы, and the first part ended up being the same as the other reduced vowel ь (the front unrounded one) entirely by accident.
     
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    Delvo

    Senior Member
    American English
    I suspect that a Germanic source must be excluded for historico-geographical reasons.
    Why? Sweden isn't far, the word is practically identical to its Swedish counterpart and rather different from its Slavic ones, and, although I don't know how widely the Mari themselves have travelled over the years, we do know that Swedes (Rus) were prominent in Russia several centuries ago.

    Any loan from East Slavic must be not later than the 10th century
    Why? Is that when the Slavic word converted the final *t into an affricate and lost the preceding nasal?

    Stray Varangians are possible. Stray Varangians leaving only the word for "thousand" and nothing else...
    Why say there aren't more?

    ...definitely no.
    Large numbers are concepts for which many languages have no native words, and concepts for which a language has no native words are most likely than most to get imported from another language even when few or no other words are.
     

    Awwal12

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Why? Sweden isn't far
    Far from what? Even if we consider the whole area of Mari languages (which apparently included Merya, though the only attested Merya words are toponyms), back then you would need to cross the Baltic sea and go up through the Neva to stormy lake Ladoga. From there you would basically need to reach the Volga, which can be achieved either by going up through the Volkhov, lake Ilmen, the Msta and, after moving your ships through a couple of portages, you would end up in the Tvertsa, which is a tributary of the Volga; or you could pass through the Svir, lake Onega, go up through the Vytegra and, after an extensive portage you would push your ships into the lake Beloye, from where you could go down the Sheksna, which is another tributary of the Volga. To make things worse, predominant Norse ship designs were generally unsuitable for extensive river navigation. Of course, that wasn't unachievable, and the Norse used those routes indeed - from the 8th to the 10th century, when they managed to found a chain of strongholds along the routes and adopted more suitable ship designs (that is, during the age of the Rus - but then the local Norse started to get quickly assimilated by the Slavic-speaking population which constituted the largest part of their tributary tribes and populated the largest cities). Even in Russian the number of Old Norse loans can be probably counted by the fingers of one hand (if we exclude several personal names). Then you can compare that to the numerous Germanic loans from different ages in Baltic-Finnic languages (because the Baltic Sea was rather a route than an obstacle indeed).
    Why say there aren't more?
    As a matter of fact, I'm not aware of a single established old Germanic loan in Mari. You may try, though. :)
    Large numbers are concepts for which many languages have no native words, and concepts for which a language has no native words are most likely than most to get imported from another language even when few or no other words are.
    They are. Trouble is, Old Norse wasn't a first or even a second candidate for such a loan.
    Why? Is that when the Slavic word converted the final *t into an affricate and lost the preceding nasal?
    It's when the last Old East Slavic dialects lost the nasal vowels (/n/ merged with /o/ long before that, but the nasal quality remained), thus making /m/ entirely unexplainable. The affricate comes from /-t/ + /-ja/ and is a bit more old than that (late Slavic - since the reflexes slightly differ in different branches), but we could suppose that Mari just dropped the final part.
     
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    Awwal12

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Could have been Volga Bulgars the importers of the word for Maris?
    Er... how? Volga Bulgars would have needed to loan the word first (being even more remote from the Baltic sea themselves), and the only surviving direct descendant of Volga Bulgar, that is, the Chuvash language, has perfectly normal Turkic pin for "thousand" (which looks inherited; cf. Tat. meñ, Nogai mıñ); Turkic tribes generally operated large cavalry armies throughout their history, for which they needed large numerals and had those from the start.

    P.S.: For reference, Permian languages have an early Indo-Iranian loan for "thousand" (that is, pre-Bulgar and even pre-Sarmatian).
     
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    Circunflejo

    Senior Member
    Castellano de Castilla
    Actually they arrived from the southern steppes somewhere between the Volga and the Don. The migration of Bulgaric tribes towards the Danube was independent and likely occured earlier than that.
    It makes sense. It seems that I misread my source. Sorry. Basically, I read they were at some point in the lower Danube and I thought about some Southern Germanic borrowing but I overlooked the rest of the context and what is worse, I totally overlook they were migrating westwards; not eastwards.:(
     

    Awwal12

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Finnish has actually 'tuhat' for thousand. May be there is a link with other Finno-Ugric languages?
    It seems an independent Baltic loan in proto-Baltic-Finnic; as far as I understand, reconstructing a common Proto-Volga-Finnic form is problematic (that is, if you recognise the validity of the Volga-Finnic branch in the first place, which is not universal). Cf., however, Erzya тёжа, Moksha тёжянь. Anyway, that's where some expert in FU is required.
     

    Circunflejo

    Senior Member
    Castellano de Castilla
    Pages 233 and 234 of Tiedon kumuloituminen ja tendrit lainasanatutkimuksessa by Santeri Junttila might provide some clue. Although it's far from giving a clear explanation, it disregards some sources that could be read and reading it all you might get some idea to research deeperly.
     
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