Light and the world

Penyafort

Senior Member
Catalan (Catalonia), Spanish (Spain)
While the Romance languages don't seem to have inherited it, one of the meanings of the Latin word lux 'light' was 'world' too.

In Slavic languages, the relationship between light and world is obvious in the terms derived from svetъ.

The same proto-Indo-European root giving lux in Latin (or leukós 'white' in Ancient Greek) gave loká/roká in Sanskrit, 'light' and 'world', from which the words for the world, not only in some modern Indian languages, but by influence in non-IE languages such as Burmese (lauka:) or Thai (lôok) and, as a calque from Sanskrit, in Chinese shì jiè < loka dhatu (and, by Sinic influence, in Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese).

In view of all this, my question is: Are the words for light and world related in your languages, either clearly or by etymological connection to other languages?
 
  • apmoy70

    Senior Member
    Greek
    Hi Penyafort, I dont think the adj. «λευκός» has the connotation of world in Greek. There are toponyms that bear the adjective white e.g. the name of the island of «Λευκάς» Leu̯kắs (fem. nom. sing.), «Λευκάδος» Leu̯kắdŏs (fem. gen. sing.) which took its name from its white rocks < Classical adj. «λευκός» leu̯kós, and the Greek name of the Cypriot capital, «Λευκωσία» [lef.kɔˈsi.a] (fem.) --> Nicosia named after the abundance of Sandstone in the area, a rock which was called in Byzantine Greek «λευκή οὐσία» leu̯kḗ ousía --> white material > «Λευκοὐσία» with crasis > «Λευκωσία».
     

    JoMe

    New Member
    Hebrew
    Are you sure lux means simply world? Maybe it means the lighted world as opposed the the underworld, or the world as anything lighted thus one can see. So world seems to be a figurative meaning for lux in specific context, not a standalone meaning.

    In my language (Hebrew) light means night (not a typo. among several other meanings). It's a cultural-religious thing. I don't think we have a meaning related to world, although God said "there shall be light" when creating our world.
     

    bibax

    Senior Member
    Czech (Prague)
    In Latin the noun lux has many figurative meanings (esp. in poems), e.g. day, eye, ...

    In Czech, world and light are different words, but related:

    svět (masc.) = world;
    světlo (neut.) = light, a substantivized adjective form (světlý = adj. light);
     
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    Circunflejo

    Senior Member
    Castellano de Castilla
    While the Romance languages don't seem to have inherited it, one of the meanings of the Latin word lux 'light' was 'world' too.
    In Romanian, lume means world and meant light too and it seems that dialectically it still means light too. The usual word for light in Romanian is lumină; clearly connected etymologycally to lume.
     

    bearded

    Senior Member
    Italian
    «Λευκωσία» [lef.kɔˈsi.a] (fem.) --> Nicosia
    How is the phonologic modification from Leyko-/Lefko- to Nico- to be explained? In Italian the city is in fact called Nicosia.

    As for light/world, the Italian word luce only means light - no reference or connection to the meaning 'world'.
     

    apmoy70

    Senior Member
    Greek
    How is the phonologic modification from Leyko-/Lefko- to Nico- to be explained? In Italian the city is in fact called Nicosia.
    ...
    It can't be explained because the two words are unrelated. The accepted theory is that Nicosia comes from the prominent Orthodox monastery of st. Nicholas established in the 11th c. and throve in the Late Byzantine Period and during the Crusader Kingdom of Lusignan (Cyprus was conquered in the 12th c. by the Franks). There's perhaps a relation between the Frankish name of Nicosie/Nicosia, Cyprus, and Nicosia, a town in Sicily.
     

    danielstan

    Senior Member
    Romanian - Romania
    In Romanian, lume means world and meant light too and it seems that dialectically it still means light too. The usual word for light in Romanian is lumină; clearly connected etymologycally to lume.
    Indeed the Romanian lume (< lat. lumen) had the meaning of "light" in religious books printed in XVI century, while today it means only "world".
    This dual meaning is a typical example of linguistic calque from South Slavic svetъ and is a proof of Romanian - Bulgarian bilinguism between 6th - 12th centuries.
    Another example is Romanian vită (< lat. vita = "life") which means "cow" or other big domestic animal with horns:
    it is a calque from Slavic život which means both "life" and "animal".

    A list of Romanian calques from (South) Slavic could be found here: Al-Rosetti-Istoria-Limbii-Romane-1986.pdf
    pages 292 - 293.
    (the abbreviations used in these pages mean: v. sl. = vechea slavă = "Old Slavic"; dr. = "Daco-Romanian"; bg. = "Bulgarian"; s.-cr. = "Serbo-Croatian")
     
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    Awwal12

    Senior Member
    Russian
    In Russian "light" (n. свет, svet) also means "world", although in that meaning it mostly occurs in a set of idiomatic expressions (for example, it doesn't form relative adjectives at all). The main word for "world" is "мир" (mir), which also means "peace" (an old Slavic calque of Latin "pax").
     

    danielstan

    Senior Member
    Romanian - Romania
    Isn't the meaning of light still kept in some expressions like scoate la lume?
    I never heard this expression.
    I googled a scoate în lume and found 1 link refering to a ieși la lume with the meaning "to get to the light, in an open space",
    but they say this expression is rarely (rar) used (I never heard it):
    lume - Wikționar
    Another link:
    lume - dexonline
    remarks for this expression (pop., îe.) = (popular, învechit) = thus is used in non Standard Romanian and is old.

    Note on the Romanian infinitive:
    It is used in sentences with the particle a or not, depending on the verb:
    El nu știe a scrie.
    El poate scrie.
    A scrie este o activitate intelectuală.
    Verbul a scrie este de origine latină.


    When used in discussions about Romanian grammar, the form with a is preferred in order to avoid confusion with the indicative of 3rd person, singular.
    The confusion might happen with a sentence like:
    Scoate la lume.
    which is grammatically correct (as indicative, 3rd pers.), but it implies a missing subject:
    El scoate la lume.
     

    Circunflejo

    Senior Member
    Castellano de Castilla
    never heard this expression.
    I googled a scoate în lume and found 1 link refering to a ieși la lume with the meaning "to get to the light, in an open space",
    but they say this expression is rarely (rar) used (I never heard it):
    lume - Wikționar
    Another link:
    lume - dexonline
    remarks for this expression (pop., îe.) = (popular, învechit) = thus is used in non Standard Romanian and is old.
    Sadly I can't find now the source where I found the expression (it included other Romanian expressions with lume; most of them dated but some of them seemed to be still in use even if just dialectically). Instead of a scoate în lume, I searched scoate la lume and I got several examples of use both current and old/popular.
     

    AndrasBP

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    In Hungarian, 'world' is világ /'vila:g/, an old word of Finno-Ugric origin. Originally it meant "light" or "brightness" and this meaning is preserved in derived words such as világos (adj. light, e.g. a room or a colour) and világít (v. to emit light, to shine).
    The semantic shift from "light" to "world" presumably happened under Slavic influence.
     

    Penyafort

    Senior Member
    Catalan (Catalonia), Spanish (Spain)
    I dont think the adj. «λευκός» has the connotation of world in Greek.
    I see, though I was rather pointing there to a connection with the word. I remember countless hours as a student being told by my philosophy teacher that in Greek the word for world/universe and order was the same, kósmos, so I wouldn't forget it. :D

    Are you sure lux means simply world? Maybe it means the lighted world as opposed the the underworld, or the world as anything lighted thus one can see. So world seems to be a figurative meaning for lux in specific context, not a standalone meaning.
    You're absolutely right. It is rather a figurated sense, as in coming to the light=coming to the world. Some dictionaries out there are misleading about it.

    In my language (Hebrew) light means night (not a typo. among several other meanings). It's a cultural-religious thing. I don't think we have a meaning related to world, although God said "there shall be light" when creating our world.
    Interesting. Light being night is certainly quite unique, I'd say.

    In Romanian, lume means world and meant light too and it seems that dialectically it still means light too. The usual word for light in Romanian is lumină; clearly connected etymologycally to lume.
    Indeed! :thumbsup: How could I forget that one?

    As Danielstan says, I guess that's the price to be paid for being a Latin island on a Slav sea: being exposed to many calques of the sort.

    In Hungarian, 'world' is világ /'vila:g/, an old word of Finno-Ugric origin. Originally it meant "light" or "brightness" and this meaning is preserved in derived words such as világos (adj. light, e.g. a room or a colour) and világít (v. to emit light, to shine).
    The semantic shift from "light" to "world" presumably happened under Slavic influence.
    Interesting. So apparently the light=world connection seems to be pretty much related to Slav influence, at least in Europe, rather than being a relatively clear connection.
     

    apmoy70

    Senior Member
    Greek
    I see, though I was rather pointing there to a connection with the word. I remember countless hours as a student being told by my philosophy teacher that in Greek the word for world/universe and order was the same, kósmos, so I wouldn't forget it. :D
    And in MoGr the word for world remains «κόσμος» [ˈkɔz.mɔs] (masc.) but we now have a different word for the universe, «σύμπαν» [ˈsim.ban] (neut.), a construction by Isocrates (4th c. BCE) who formed it to describe the wholeness of the universe, «σύμπᾱν» súmpān (neut. nom. sing.), «σύμπαντος» súmpăntŏs (neut. gen. sing.) < Classical prefix & preposition «σύν» sún + neuter form «πᾶν» pân of the adj. «πᾶς» pâs.
     

    Vukabular

    Member
    Serbian
    And in MoGr the word for world remains «κόσμος» [ˈkɔz.mɔs] (masc.) but we now have a different word for the universe, «σύμπαν» [ˈsim.ban] (neut.), a construction by Isocrates (4th c. BCE) who formed it to describe the wholeness of the universe, «σύμπᾱν» súmpān (neut. nom. sing.), «σύμπαντος» súmpăntŏs (neut. gen. sing.) < Classical prefix & preposition «σύν» sún + neuter form «πᾶν» pân of the adj. «πᾶς» pâs.
    κόσμος [ˈkɔz.mɔs] < Κοσμᾶς Ἰνδικοπλεύστης / Cosmas Indicopleustes also known as Cosmas the Monk. Around 550 A.D. Cosmas wrote the book Christian Topography. A major feature of his Topographia is Cosmas' worldview that the world is flat, and that the heavens form the shape of a box with a curved lid...
     

    apmoy70

    Senior Member
    Greek
    Ιt's the other way around, κόσμος > Κοσμᾶς; κόσμος in ancient Greek had the meaning of ornament, decoration too, therefore the first name for males Κοσμᾶς means the one that decorates.
    But I think we're awfully off-topic now.
     

    Graciela J

    Senior Member
    Spanish - Argentina
    In my language (Hebrew) light means night (not a typo. among several other meanings). It's a cultural-religious thing. I don't think we have a meaning related to world, although God said "there shall be light" when creating our world.
    Which is the Hebrew word for light that means night?

    light = אור

    (or)

    night = לילה
    (laylah)
     
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