Origin of Finnish "harja"

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages, and Linguistics (EHL)' started by Triginta Septem, May 14, 2013.

  1. Triginta Septem Member

    Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
    English - America
    Wiktionary gives the etymology of Finnish harja "comb" as "from a Baltic language, compare Lithuanian šerys," But wouldn't it be more likely that it comes from a Germanic language (probably < PGmc hērą), especially considering that there is an attested Late Proto-Germanic or Proto-Norse word harja on the Vimose Comb (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vimose_inscriptions)?
  2. Ригель

    Ригель Member

    After a quick scan it would seem possible that both the Baltic and the Germanic words go back to a common origin, i.e PIE *ghers. I haven't got the chance to look up in Finnish etymological dictionaries at the moment though, hope someone else can fill in that.
  3. eamp Member

    German (Austria)
    There's a mistake on etymonline though, neither the Germanic nor the Lithuanian word can go back to *ǵʰers. Rather you need a root like *ḱer.
    The Lithuanian word, which apparently means "bristle" by the way, could then maybe go back to a *ḱeri̯os and the (NW-)Germanic "hair" to *ḱērom.

    As for the Finnish word, I don't know. The word on the Vimose comb may actually mean "comb", but I know of no matching word in later Germanic languages right now, so that seems a bit uncertain. Also, according to the online dictionary I just checked, Finnish "harja" actually means "brush", that's somewhat closer in meaning to Lithuanian šerys "bristle" (pl. šeriai). I know š > h is regular in Finnish for loans from Baltic of a certain age, not sure about the vocalism of the first syllable though, would a form *šaria- be needed and is this attested anywhere in Baltic? Still, without better evidence from Germanic a Baltic source seems more likely to me right now.
  4. Triginta Septem Member

    Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
    English - America
    Wiktionary gives *keres- as the root, but that should probably be *ḱeres-, the Lithuanian word obviously having the satem sound, rather than the centum. ^^'

    I thought about that being a normal change, too, but (at least before you shared the plural) I figured that the Germanic was closer, and just as likely, Finnish having such a huge number of Germanic loans. Now I don't think there's such a good chance. It would be interesting though, to have another mention of Germanic harja, as we only have it written once, and I don't know of any descendants. I'm fairly convinced that word is related to hērą, anyways.
  5. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    This is the explanation given for harja in Häkkinen's etymological dictionary:

    "The word is an old loan from Baltic, and corresponds on the loaning side to (e.g.) Lithuanian
    šerys 'bristle of a pig' and the Latvian plural form sari 'bristles, horsehairs, horse's mane; hair'. The meaning of an animal's bristles or horsehairs is the original one, but in Finnic, the same word also refers to the ridge of a roof."

    (Häkkinen, Nykysuomen etymologinen sanakirja, p.171; my translation)
    Last edited: May 15, 2013

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