Etymology of Persian کهن/kohan "old" & possible link to PIE *sen-

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PersoLatin

Senior Member
UK
Persian - Iran
OED *sen-:
Avestan hana- "old," Old Persian hanata- "old age, lapse of time;"

If کهن/kohan "old" is not cognate with *sen-, what is its etymology please?
 
  • Xerîb

    New Member
    English & français
    It descends from the word seen in Zoroastrian Middle Persian as <khwbn> /kahwan/ and in Manichaean Middle Persian as <qhwn>. Cognates include Parthian <kfwn>, Balochi kwahn, etc., Bactrian καββογο, and Khotanese kuhana-.

    According to Bailey, Dictionary of Khotanese Saka, p. 64, the root etymology is Iranian *kap-/*kaf- "to fall, befall, strike down" (Manichaean MP kp-, kf-, qf-, Kurmanji ketin, kev-, Zazaki kewtiş, kewn-, Balochi kapt-, kap-, kab-, all "to fall", but without verbal reflexes in New Persian). Iranian *kafvana-, as Bailey reconstructs it, would be *"fallen" > "old".

    Further Indo-European cognates would include Greek κόπτω "I strike, cut (off)", Lithuanian kapiù (kàpti) "I chop, fell (a tree)", and Albanian kep- "to hew, chisel". All these suggestion a Proto-Indo-European root PIE *kop-, "to fell, chop".

    Also note the existence of a homophonous root *kap-/*kaf- "to split" in Iranian ( New Persian کافتن ), from PIE *skobh- "to shave off, split (or the like)" (seen in Latin scabō "I scratch, rub", Lithuanian skabaũ (skabýti) "to pick off flowers, leaves, defoliate; to tear", skobiù, skabiù (skõbti) "to cut, carve, hollow out (wood)", Goth. skaban "to shear", Old English scafan, English shave).

    Cheung, Etymological Dictionary of the Iranian Verb, p. 233f, notes that in Iranian it is difficult to separate this root *kap/f- "fall" (< PIE *kop- "to chop, fell a tree") from *kap-/*kaf- "to split, shave" (from PIE *skobh-):
    They may originally refer to the (PIE) stages of [carpentry], first the felling of the tree (IE *kop- ‘to chop, fell’) and subsequently the cleaning and carving of the fallen tree into logs and planks (IE *skobh- ‘to pick clean, get rid of leaves; to split, shave’). These stages appear to be faithfully preserved in Lithuanian. The formal and semantic similarity of the two *kap/f- roots in many IE languages is no doubt the result of (mutual) interference. This may explain the disappearance of initial *s- in *kap/f.
     
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    fdb

    Senior Member
    French (France)
    It descends from the word seen in Zoroastrian Middle Persian as <khwbn> /kahwan/ and in Manichaean Middle Persian as <qhwn>. Cognates include Parthian <kfwn>, Balochi kwahn, etc., Bactrian καββογο, and Khotanese kuhana-.

    According to Bailey, Dictionary of Khotanese Saka, p. 64, the root etymology is Iranian *kap-/*kaf- "to fall, befall, strike down" (Manichaean MP kp-, kf-, qf-, Kurmanji ketin, kev-, Zazaki kewtiş, kewn-, Balochi kapt-, kap-, kab-, all "to fall", but without verbal reflexes in New Persian). Iranian *kafvana-, as Bailey reconstructs it, would be *"fallen" > "old".
    The derivation from *kap- “to fall” is semantically very difficult. By the way, the Bactrian word is in fact καβογγο /kabung/ < *kapuna-ka.
     
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    Xerîb

    New Member
    English & français
    Thank you for correcting the typo!

    I assumed that Bailey had in mind a development *'fallen (down)' > *'decayed, enfeebled' > 'old', with the semantics behind the development in English decay (Middle English decaien, Old French decheeir) from Vulgar Latin *dēcadēre, remodelling of Latin dēcidere, or English decline as in declining health and declining years, 'old age', English failing (e.g. "That kind old lady had been failing since the spring of 1829"), or indeed with the metaphor renewed in English in fallen into decay, fallen into decline. I don't have access to Bailey's 1945 article (Bailey, H.W. (1945), ASICA. Transactions of the Philological Society, 44: 1-38. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-968X.1945.tb00209.x ) where I am now. Does he discuss the semantics there?

    (Something like the middle step in such a development perhaps being seen here:
    Le roy ont apellé vieillard e chanu
    Car P[helippes] ert donc frelles e descheu.
    (Thomas of Kent, Roman de toute chevalerie)​
    and here:
    Quant veient lur parent qe a mort decline
    (ibid.).)​

    I am curious about the suffix *-vana- in Bailey's proposed *kafvana-. Is there a good example of a parallel deverbal formation with *-vana- to be seen in any other Iranian word? I'm curious because Vedic -vaná-, forming agent nouns and adjectives, is not common suffix.

    Out of curiosity, I just checked with the Kurmanji speakers around me and none of them said they initially felt an etymological connection between dikeve "falls" and kevn "old" (however the -v- in kevn actually relates historically to the earlier *-fv-), although they did laugh and agree: Wexta tiştekê ji dewra xwe dikeve kevn dibe.
     
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    fdb

    Senior Member
    French (France)
    I am curious about the suffix *-vana- in Bailey's proposed *kafvana-. Is there a good example of a parallel deverbal formation with *-vana- to be seen in any other Iranian word? I'm curious because Vedic -vaná-, forming agent nouns and adjectives, is not common suffix.
    The suffix –wana can form deverbal abstract nouns, as in Avestan āfriuuana- “blessing”; several Sogdian examples are cited in Gershevitch’s Grammar par. 1084. But it does not seem to form adjectives.
     
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