Monday, 7 January 2008

Parcheesi and venti

Parcheesi is a trademark used for a westernized version of pachisi, an Indian game similar to backgammon. Hindi पचीसी pacīsī is from पच्चीस paccīs "twenty-five". This was formed from two words: Sanskrit पंच paṃca "five" plus विंशतिः viṃśatiḥ "twenty".

paṃca is from Proto-Indo-European *penkʷe "five" and so is related to five and finger.

viṃśatiḥ is from Proto-Indo-European *wih₁-ḱm̥t-íh₁- "twenty". This became Latin vīgintī then Italian venti, which Starbucks uses for their 20 ounce cup.

*wih₁-ḱm̥t-íh₁- is itself a compound formed from *wi- "in half, two" and *dḱm̥t-íh₁-, the suffixed zero-grade form of *deḱm̥ "ten".


Glen Gordon said...

The word "twenty" should in fact be updated to *wiH₁ḱm̥tíH₁. Long high vowels are unnecessary in Proto-IE because they are all the product of compensatory lengthening due to a lost laryngeal.

Glen Gordon said...

In hindsight, I should be more accurate: almost all are the product of compensatory lengthening due to a lost laryngeal. In a case like the 2ps pronoun which is often cited as *tū, for example, I personally don't believe that this is the original PIE form. One can make the argument that it was in fact *tu (as reconstructed on this site from the University of Texas) while later in some dialects, it developed a form with a lengthened vowel once laryngeals were already lost and once long high vowels were already part of the phonemic inventory of these post-IE languages thanks to compensatory lengthening. Unfortunately, some naive souls reconstruct godawful alternatives to the long vowel, as if *tū wasn't bad enough, like *tuh₂ (as in this table). Tsk, tsk. I urge people to throw those ill-conceived thoughts in the wastepaper basket. A more efficient theory is a happier theory, I always say.