Sanskrit-Hindi-Nepali यक्ष & Romany "yag"

< Previous | Next >

Delvo

Senior Member
American English
Looking up translations of "demigod" in Sanskrit, Hindi, and Nepali yields यक्ष. The Sanskrit word also gets translated into English as "spirit" and "ghost". In Romany, "spirit" gets translated as "yag", but the associated examples show a different meaning: not "spirit" meaning something like a ghost or angel or god or demon but "spirit" meaning the part of a person's personality that motivates him/her to do challenging things, most synonymous with "ambition" or "motivation" or "drive" or the phrase "fire in the belly".

So, if we were to try to draw a line connecting the Sanskrit/Hindi/Nepali word यक्ष and the Romany word "yag", we would be dealing with both a couple of phonetic shifts in how it sounds (loss of final "ʂa" and k→g) and a semantic shift parallel to English's two meanings for "spirit". Do those sound changes make sense? Are यक्ष & "yag" actually related, or is the similarity coincidental?
 
  • aevynn

    Senior Member
    USA
    English, Hindustani
    Some Romani-English dictionaries say that yag means "fire" in addition to some of the other meanings you described. This sounded sufficiently like the Hindi-Urdu word aag, meaning fire, to me, and I know this word can be chased back to Sanskrit agni, so I went to Turner's comparative etymological dictionary and searched for agni and found the Romani yag listed there:
    eur. yag f. ʻ fire ʼ (y -- from f. article)
    The "eur." is Turner's abbreviation for "European (Gypsy)" and the "f." for "feminine." Googling further, it seems that the Romani definite article in front of feminine nouns takes the form "e", so the epenthesis of a y sound seems not too surprising.

    This makes it seem like the meanings of Romani yag that you describe are related to the core meaning "fire" in the same way that the meaning of the idiom "fire in the belly" is related to the core meaning of "fire."

    Probably the similarity with yaksha is coincidental. As far as I know, yakshas in South Asian mythology are not really spirits in the sense of the internal essence of a person, but spirits in the sense of external mythological creatures associated with nature (see the Wikipedia page for more), so it would be feel fairly surprising if those external mythological creatures became internalized.
     
    Last edited:
    • Agree
    Reactions: Dib

    Delvo

    Senior Member
    American English
    I can add more to that now. Some examples of how the sounds of यक्ष evolved in other Indic languages include:

    Pali: yakkʰa
    Māhārāʂʈri & Šaurasenī: 𑀚𑀓𑁆𑀔 (jakkʰa)
    Old Gujarati: जाख (jākʰa)
    Old Hindi: जाक (jāka)

    So we do get known examples of replacement of the original "kʂ" with "kkʰ", and "kʰ" with vowel lengthening, and "k" with a lengthened vowel... and a shift from "y" to "j"... but no sign of any language in which the unvoiced plosive becomes voiced. The time span here includes the time when the Roma would have left India and before & after that. So this word and the one you described co-existed all along and maintained the same distinction in voicing between them all along.

    The Old Gujarati and Old Hindi examples are interesting because the modern forms of those languages have both replaced their own naturally evolved word with its Sanskrit equivalent.
     
    Last edited:

    desi4life

    Senior Member
    English
    I can add more to that now. Some examples of how the sounds of यक्ष evolved in other Indic languages include:

    Pali: yakkʰa
    Māhārāʂʈri & Šaurasenī: 𑀚𑀓𑁆𑀔 (jakkʰa)
    Old Gujarati: जाख (jākʰa)
    Old Hindi: जाक (jāka)

    So we do get known examples of replacement of the original "kʂ" with "kkʰ", and "kʰ" with vowel lengthening, and "k" with a lengthened vowel... and a shift from "y" to "j"... but no sign of any language in which the unvoiced plosive becomes voiced. The time span here includes the time when the Roma would have left India and before & after that. So this word and the one you described co-existed all along and maintained the same distinction in voicing between them all along.

    The Old Gujarati and Old Hindi examples are interesting because the modern forms of those languages have both replaced their own naturally evolved word with its Sanskrit equivalent.
    The Sanskrit यक्ष is more common now but hasn’t completely replaced जाक/जाख and other forms such as जक and जख, which are still used by some people.

    k > g is a common sound change in Indo-Aryan. Some examples include प्रकट > प्रगट, भक्त > भगत, and काक > काग.
     

    Delvo

    Senior Member
    American English
    k > g is a common sound change in Indo-Aryan. Some examples include प्रकट > प्रगट, भक्त > भगत, and काक > काग.
    Can you describe what circumstances that happened in and what circumstances it didn't happen in?
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top