Are there relation between greek words and semitic ?

  • Schem

    Senior Member
    Najdi Arabic
    The words seem unrelated in meaning and etymology.

    As for the thread's title, proto-IE supposedly borrowed from proto-Semitic but these were mostly technical or agricultural terms.
     
    The Greek ἀρχαῖος/archaios comes from ἀρχή/archē “begin, origin”, derived from the verb ἄρχω/archō “to be the first, to begin, to rule”, which is somewhat obscure in origin but, assuming an Indo-European etymology, may be traced back to *hₐergʰ- (the same root as in the German ragen). The meaning of the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European root is as always rather vague, but centered perhaps around “to rise, to begin”. Unlike in Semitic, there seems to be no trace of an initial u̯-, and the proto-Indo-European *gʰ is not a match to the Semitic . So, if the etymology is correct, there must be no connection between these Greek and Semitic words.
     
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    Abaye

    Senior Member
    Hebrew
    warḫ has a strongly-established Semitic etymology (although not in Arabic unless related to راح) so alleged borrowing from an IE language must be some six millennia old or more. Was Greek neighboring the Semitic world at that time? Was Greek χ of that time pronounced similarly to Semitic ḫ?

    Borrowing from Semitic to IE introduces similar questions, e.g. how would the Semitic ḫ ח ح be realized in early phase of Greek or another IE language. A digamma in *Fἀρχή could support borrowing but I don't know if it was ever there.
     
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    Delvo

    Senior Member
    American English
    ...six millennia old or more. Was Greek neighboring the Semitic world at that time?
    Probably not. The linguistic ancestors of the Greeks would not have entered Greece yet but they would probably still have been farther north and west than any Semitic population I've heard of, especially from before the Phoenicians started sailing.

    Was Greek χ of that time pronounced similarly to Semitic ḫ?
    No. You're presumably thinking of the modern pronunciation, but, back when the Romans started transliterating Greek words into the Roman alphabet, it was an aspirated plosive (kʰ). The Romans rendered the Greek letters Chi, Phi, and Theta as "ch", "ph", and "th" because that's how they sounded: a plosive (c/p/t) followed by an "h". And that's thousands of years after the time you describe. Backing up those extra few millennia puts us into the era of Proto-Indo-European, when those sounds were still voiced (gʰ/bʰ/dʰ). The closest Semitic thing to PIE would have been "g", or "g" followed by "h".

    Borrowing from Semitic to IE introduces similar questions, e.g. how would the Semitic ḫ ח ح be realized in early phase of Greek or another IE language.
    If the transfer happened during (or before) the PIE era (which is indicated by the presence of cognates in other IE languages), a laryngeal is the obvious choice, which means it would not exist as a consonant anymore by the time Greek becomes Greek, and its former presence would be detectable only by its lingering influence on the adjacent Greek vowel.

    If it happened during the era of the Greek language as a distinct thing from other IE languages after the loss of the laryngeals (which would present the problem for us of how it got into other IE languages), the only real choice is the sound "h", but Greek normally had that at the beginnings of words, so the idea of putting it in the middle of one creates some problems I won't elaborate on for now, but their solution would definitely not have involved χ.
     
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