Meanings of IE roots

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ThomasK

Senior Member
Belgium, Dutch
I am simply wondering... I can safely say, I suppose, that IE roots are based on a hypothesis, subtantiated of course by phonetic/etymological rules, but how about the meanings of those roots: also based on a hypothesis?

Is that hypothesis considered to be fairly or quite reliable or... ? Reference to websites is very welcome!
 
  • As far as I imagine, there is no way to learn the meanings of reconstructed roots, so semantics remains — and will remain forever — the weakest part of historical linguistics. The basic procedure is that one finds two words in related languages, say the English become and Dutch bekomen, and then tries to speculate what their original meaning could have been. This hasn't seriously changed since the dawn of science. I have never seen any strict rules presented anywhere: it's all more or less intuitive.
     

    ThomasK

    Senior Member
    Belgium, Dutch
    Quite so. Just wanted to be sure how it worked, but you confirm what I had guessed. Thanks!

    Become/ bekom(m)en is an excellent example of a strange semantic shift indeed [btw: I suppose the fact that in West Flemish we use komen to convey the idea of becoming (I become old, ik komme oud) can be considered an ingweonism]...
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    A classic example is Latin flavus "yellow" cognate with blue. Did Germanic innovate, and if so, how did it drift? Did the PIE word originally mean blue, or yellow, or green, or cover all or part of those? I think old historical linguists tended to duck out of this by positing a lot of words meaning "bright, shining", when really it had a more definite meaning but we can't tell what.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    Become/ bekom(m)en is an excellent example of a strange semantic shift indeed [btw: I suppose the fact that in West Flemish we use komen to convey the idea of becoming (I become old, ik komme oud) can be considered an ingweonism]...
    Become is common Germanic. In this case the original meaning is reasonably clear, viz. to come close/arrive ("bij komen"). The different meanings is different modern languages (turn into, grow something, being proper/becoming for, receive) are all semantic shifts from this original meaning. In English the meaning to arrive at a place is attested up to early modern English.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    Well, it is obviously the same base verb, with and without the be- prefix. The meaning turn into is rooted in the base verb itself. Cf. uses like How comes? which works in English, German und Dutch alike.
     

    Sobakus

    Senior Member
    A classic example is Latin flavus "yellow" cognate with blue. Did Germanic innovate, and if so, how did it drift? Did the PIE word originally mean blue, or yellow, or green, or cover all or part of those? I think old historical linguists tended to duck out of this by positing a lot of words meaning "bright, shining", when really it had a more definite meaning but we can't tell what.
    What if the old historical linguists simply considered more evidence, such as Latin fulgēre "to shine", flagrāre "to be ablaze", flamma "flame", AGr. φλέγμα "heat" and φλέγω "I burn", Sanskrit भ्रज (bhrája) "shining; a fire", Russian бе́лый (belyj) and Lithuanian bãlas "white", Old Norse bál "fire", English bale(-fire)? :rolleyes:
     
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    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    Okay, perhaps not the best example if you take off the stem extensions and look at everything from the root. But the particular stem giving flavus and blue was probably a colour, and it's not obvious what.

    And in fact, going back and 'researching' this, I was amused by the confusion in Wiktionary, which under 'blue' has:

    from Proto-Germanic *blēwaz (“blue, dark blue”), from Proto-Indo-European *bʰlēw- (“yellow, blond, grey”)

    But if you click into the Proto-Germanic it glosses it as:
    1. blue
    2. a dark bluish or grey colour, black
    and 'related terms' include *blakaz meaning "black" and *blaikaz meaning "pale, white". Meanwhile, if you click into the PIE . . . bleat, blow? I have no idea whether those are supposed to be coincidental homophones of the same root, or semantic developments of a single one.
     

    Sobakus

    Senior Member
    Okay, perhaps not the best example if you take off the stem extensions and look at everything from the root. But the particular stem giving flavus and blue was probably a colour, and it's not obvious what.
    Taking off the stem extensions is precisely what makes it obvious - it's like determining the common element in trickster, tricky, trickery, trick-or-treat if you've never met the word "trick" before. The relevant reconstructions are found under *bʰel- and *bʰleyǵ-.
     
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    j.Constantine

    New Member
    Spanish
    I found this
    bhel-1

    To shine, flash, burn; shining white and various bright colors.
    ▲ Derivatives include blue, bleach, blind, blond, blanket, black, flagrant, flame.
    I. Suffixed full-grade form *bhel-o-.
    1. a. beluga from Russian belyĭ, white; b. Beltane from Scottish Gaelic bealltainn, from Old Irish beltaine, "fire of Bel" (ten, tene, fire; see tep-) , from Bel, name of a pagan Irish deity akin to the Gaulish divine name Belenos, from Celtic *bel-o-.
    2. phalarope from Greek phalaros, having a white spot.
    3. phalaenopsis from Greek phallaina, moth (< *"white creature").
    II. Extended root *bhleə1-, contracted to *bhlē-.
    1. Suffixed form *bhlē-wo-. blue from Old French bleu, blue, from Germanic *blēwaz, blue.
    2. Suffixed zero-grade form *bhl̥ə-wo-. flavescent, flavo-; flavin, flavone, flavoprotein from Latin flāvus, golden or reddish yellow.
    III. Various extended Germanic forms.
    1. bleach from Old English blǣcan, to bleach, from Germanic *blaikjan, to make white.
    2. bleak1 from Old Norse bleikr, shining, white, from Germanic *blaikaz, shining, white.
    Is related,maybe
     

    fdb

    Senior Member
    French (France)
    Become is common Germanic. In this case the original meaning is reasonably clear, viz. to come close/arrive ("bij komen"). The different meanings is different modern languages (turn into, grow something, being proper/becoming for, receive) are all semantic shifts from this original meaning. In English the meaning to arrive at a place is attested up to early modern English.
    There is a nearly identical semantic shift with French de-venir. Also Persian šudan, still “go” in Early New Persian, then “become” in Modern Persian.


     

    ThomasK

    Senior Member
    Belgium, Dutch
    I found this
    bhel-1

    To shine, flash, burn; shining white and various bright colors.
    ▲ Derivatives include blue, bleach, blind, blond, blanket, black, flagrant, flame.

    I. Suffixed full-grade form *bhel-o-.
    1. a. beluga from Russian belyĭ, white; b. Beltane from Scottish Gaelic bealltainn, from Old Irish beltaine, "fire of Bel" (ten, tene, fire; see tep-) , from Bel, name of a pagan Irish deity akin to the Gaulish divine name Belenos, from Celtic *bel-o-.
    2. phalarope from Greek phalaros, having a white spot.
    3. phalaenopsis from Greek phallaina, moth (< *"white creature").

    II. Extended root *bhleə1-, contracted to *bhlē-.
    1. Suffixed form *bhlē-wo-. blue from Old French bleu, blue, from Germanic *blēwaz, blue.
    2. Suffixed zero-grade form *bhl̥ə-wo-. flavescent, flavo-; flavin, flavone, flavoprotein from Latin flāvus, golden or reddish yellow.

    III. Various extended Germanic forms.
    1. bleach from Old English blǣcan, to bleach, from Germanic *blaikjan, to make white.
    2. bleak1 from Old Norse bleikr, shining, white, from Germanic *blaikaz, shining, white.
    Is related,maybe
    Hope I have not missed an answer to this question, but: Is there any plausibility in connecting all those words/ meanings? What is the [methodological?] basis for that? Is it based on phonetic rules connecting roots and then exploring/... the various concrete meanings and then trying to distil some abstract underlying meaning...
     
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