The Literary Salon

A free salon wherein patrons and passers-by may view or contribute ideas on literary and generally intellectual matters. The blog will strive to maintain its commitment to wit, humour and perspicuous analysis.

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Location: Toronto, now Ottawa, Ont, Canada

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Indo European Revisited

As some of you already know, I am an amateur linguist (in addition to a cunning linguist :). I am especially interested in Indo-European linguistics, and, given my knowledge of a few such languages, I am often fascinated by new discoveries, usually serendipitous ones.

I made one such (potential) discovery yesterday as I was randomly leafing through my 2 volume Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (make no mistake: there's nothing short about it). I noticed that Summer is a word of Germanic origin (Zomer, Somer, etc, in the living Germanic languages), and the word, as far as I know, in Avestic (the ancient Persian language of Zoroaster) was hama. I know that in Armenian, the word for summer is Amar, with the last r trilled as in Spanish. The affinity with the Avestic is beyond question, and even summer=amar is not beyond the realm of possibility. If we remove the initial S, we get umer, and with a few minor vocalic changes, we get to amar. Thus I posit that summer and amar are cognates, i.e., they have the same Indo-European source.

In case you were wondering, cognates sometimes look/sound similar, and sometimes they seem far removed. For example, the words wheel, chakra (Sanskrit) and kuklos (Greek) are cognates.

Interestingly, by the way, the map above suggests that the homeland of Indo European is, in fact, the Armenian highland, which is a more recent theory. Has the Crimean/Black Sea Kurgan culture hypothesis been since discarded?

Fascinating stuff, ain't it?
(I sometimes wonder whether I should have gone into linguistics instead of English, but I'm sure that if I were in the field, I would ask the same thing about English.)


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