Finnish/German kuning-as/os

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Perseas

Senior Member
Hello,

I read a Greek book, which deals with the language change, and it refers to the influence of German on Finnish. So, Finnish had borrowed many words from German from the 7th to the 17th century. For example, it says that the word king in Finnish is kuning-as from Germ. -os. Does it mean that in ancient German king was kuningos? I've done a search on internet and I didn't find the ending -os in German. Thanks in advance.
 
  • Frank78

    Senior Member
    German
    I guess you restricted your search on Old High German. But Finnish must have loaned it from Old Saxon/Low German (due to the geographic proximity) and there is "kuningos" in nominative and accusative plural.
     
    Finnish has a number ancient loans from Common Germanic and early Norse. Those that correspond to the Greek type with the nominative singular masculine ending in -ος may sometimes terminate in -as/-äs (which in Finnish and its sister languages is not an ending, but part of the stem), for example: kuningas, valas, ansas, parras, mallas, keihäs, rengas, rikas, varas, armas, autuas, hurskas, kernas, sairas, viisas, kallas (more often, however, a pure stem in a was borrowed: either abstracted from the Germanic declension or reflecting the accusative singular after the nasalization *-an>*-ã>-a). Also there is lammas borrowed from an -os/es-stem corresponding to the Greek γένος-type.

    In Germanic, this ending is directly attested in the earliest (before the 6th century, when massive syncope began) Norse runic inscriptions, for example: erilaz, raunijaz, Frawaradaz, þewaz, Wiwaz, harabanaz, stainaz, Erafaz, laukaz, Leugaz, leubaz, haitinaz. This z later became r: from the first attestations in West Germanic (where it mostly disappears word-finally, surviving in a few cases like the German wer), and in the middle 1st millennium in North Germanic, where it originally changed into a special kind of r transliterated as R (perhaps guttural or palatal), but several centuries later it, too, either disappeared word-finally or merged with the plain r. In Gothic -az>-s in most cases, but it survived in ƕazuh.

    In Common Germanic *o>a, and the final -s originally split into -s and -z, depending on the position of the stress (Verner's law: -s remained after a stressed vowel and became voiced after an unstressed one), but later -z was generalized, so that the inherited *-os uniformly became -az. The word kuningas from your question thus originates from late Common Germanic *kuningaz of the last centuries BC or the fist centuries CE, borrowed probably from the speech of Scandinavians, not from later German of course.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    Thank you. My book doesn't say precisely which German variety, so I searched only "Old High German".
    As a general rule: The vast majority of West Germanic loans into Scandinavian languages are from Saxon/Low German and rarely from High German. One would normally look for the Middle Low German form first.
    In Common Germanic *o>a, and the final -s originally split into -s and -z, depending on the position of the stress (Verner's law: -s remained after a stressed vowel and became voiced after an unstressed one), but later -z was generalized, so that the inherited *-os uniformly became -az. The word kuningas from your question thus originates from late Common Germanic *kuningaz of the last centuries BC or the fist centuries CE, borrowed probably from the speech of Scandinavians, not from later German of course.
    I agree. A West Germanic loan seems unlikely in this case. The nominative singular -s > -z had already disappeared in West Germanic.
     
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    I hesitated to write this when replying, but I think it is of didactic interest, so… The topic question has arisen because Greek uses the adjective γερμανικός for both “German” and “Germanic”, and so is the situation in a number of languages. English, too, applied German in both senses before the adjective for this group of languages was artificially created. That's why I prefer using (the rather exotic, I agree) terms Iranic and Indic to distinguish what pertains to the groups of languages from that of the respective countries, especially since in the historical sense both groups emerged far from the present boundaries (for Indic see for example Mitanni Indic, which most probably migrated to the Middle East directly from Central Asia with all its pantheon). Somewhat similarly, we find Italic vs. Italian, Hispanic vs. Spanish, Hellenic vs. Greek, Romance vs. Roman (and Romanesque)…
     

    Perseas

    Senior Member
    The topic question has arisen because Greek uses the adjective γερμανικός for both “German” and “Germanic”, and so is the situation in a number of languages.
    That's true. I didn't take that into consideration.

    My (Greek) book says that the first written sources of German/ic (Γερμανικής) date back to the 6th century, while the first written sources of Finnish to the 16th century. There are loans in Finnish that retain endings that have not been preserved in the surviving sources from the 7th century onwards. And then there is the example with kuningas.

    Therefore, I deduce that kuningos is not attested in those German/ic sources from the 6th to the 17th century, but it was used earlier. Also Finnish and Germanic languages must have been in contact before the 7th century.
     
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    Strictly speaking, the Gothic Bible is of the 4th century, so the first serious Germanic texts come from that time. On the other hand, Gothic is an archaic Germanic language when looking from the future, but it was probably the most advanced one in the 4th century, and the oldest runic inscriptions reflect considerably better preserved endings, with less vowel reduction and in particular with those -az (which had become -s in 4th century Gothic and were dropped soon after).

    Finnic languages (that is, not only Finnish itself but its sister idioms) in some way have acted as a refrigerator preserving many archaic-looking loans from the Indo-European languages they contacted with: the most archaic Slavic words (6–9th centuries), the Germanic ones (turn of the eras), Baltic (before CE) and even Indo-Iranic with e and o still not developed into a and so on…
     

    AutumnOwl

    Senior Member
    Swedish, Finnish
    My guess is that many German loan words in the Finnish language have first been borrowed into Swedish before they became Finnish. For the word kuningas, you have the Swedish konung, in old Swedish konunger.
     

    Awwal12

    Senior Member
    Russian
    That's why I prefer using (the rather exotic, I agree) terms Iranic and Indic to distinguish what pertains to the groups of languages from that of the respective countries, especially since in the historical sense both groups emerged far from the present boundaries (for Indic see for example Mitanni Indic, which most probably migrated to the Middle East directly from Central Asia with all its pantheon).
    Why not "Indo-Aryan"?
    My guess is that many German loan words in the Finnish language have first been borrowed into Swedish before they became Finnish. For the word kuningas, you have the Swedish konung, in old Swedish konunger.
    It was konungr (or "konungʀ"), not koninger. And in Swedish the term is inherited, not loaned. Finnish has loaned it from some early Germanic idiom of the region, as much as Lithuanian ("kunigas") and Proto-Slavic ("kŭnẽdzĭ", from Gothic) did; the semantic development "king" > "priest" in Lithuanian is parallel to that in Polish and likely induced by the latter.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    It was konungr (or "konungʀ"), not koninger.
    Koninger is attested in Old Swedish. I don't think the spelling variation is in any way significant. But the fact that it is a nominative ending is because the final -r is indeed from earlier -ʀ, which is from Proto-Germanic -z, in Gothic, with final devoicing, became -s:
    Finnish has loaned it from some early Germanic idioms, as much as Lithuanian ("kunigas") and Proto-Slavic ("kŭnẽdzĭ", from Gothic) did; the development "king" > "priest" in Lithuanian is parallel to that in Polish.
    That makes more sense then assuming the -s came from an Old Saxon plural form. But I don't see a direct loaning path from Gothic to Finnish. Could it be via a Baltic or Slavic language?
     
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    Awwal12

    Senior Member
    Russian
    You mean we don't need the assumption of Gothic as an intermediary but it could from any early Germanic dialect? I suppose so, yes.
    It could have been early Gothic (or some other early East Germanic), back when Goths were still inhabiting the Baltic coast, but the point is that we couldn't tell the difference anyway.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    DWDS (a scientific German online dictionary with etymological section) agrees with us without being specific:
    Ahd. kuning (8. Jh.), mhd. künic, künec, asächs. kuning, mnd. kȫninc, mnl. cōninc, cueninc, nl. koning, aengl. cyning, cyng, cing, engl. king setzen germ. *kuningaz ‘König’ voraus, das schon früh als gleichbed. finn. kuningas entlehnt wird.

    The part in bold means ... Germanic *kuningaz..., which was loaned early as Finnish kuningas with the same meaning.
     
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