Friday, 15 February 2008

Alice and edelweiss

The Proto-Indo-European root is *at-h₂el- "race, family". This was a compound formed from *at(i)- "over, beyond" (found in Latin at "but, yet, moreover" and Greek ἀτ-άρ "however") and *h₂el- "to grow, nourish", perhaps also "noble fosterling" (found in old). In Proto-Germanic, *at-h₂el- became *aþala-, which combined with *haiduz "manner, quality" (this is the same hood in knighthood, childhood and is from *(s)kai- "bright, shining", maybe the same as *sḱeh₂(i)- "to gleam") to form the Old High German name *Adalhaid "nobility", which was borrowed into Old French as Adélaide. This was contracted to Aliz, then Alice.

In German, *at-h₂el- shows up as Adel "nobility" and edel "noble". Edelweiß literally means "noble white" (from *ḱweid- "white"). In English it survives in atheling from Old English æþeling "prince".


'My NAME is Alice, but--'

'It's a stupid enough name!' Humpty Dumpty interrupted impatiently. 'What does it mean?'

'MUST a name mean something?' Alice asked doubtfully.

'Of course it must,' Humpty Dumpty said with a short laugh: 'MY name means the shape I am--and a good handsome shape it is, too. With a name like yours, you might be any shape, almost.'

9 comments :

Glen Gordon said...

Nitpicking about Pokornyisms again :)

Nowdays one should write *h₂el- 'to grow, to nourish'. So then *at-al- would be written *h₂et-h₂el- nowdays. The root for 'bright' is similarly missing a laryngeal: sḱeh₂(i)-.

Glen Gordon said...

Wait, maybe that's not the right link for 'bright'. Here is a better one.

goofy said...

These are from the American Heritage Dictionary of IE Roots, not Pokorny, but fair enough. Is there a more up to date dictionary I should consult? I'm getting a copy of Fortson's Indo-European Language and Culture.

goofy said...

The AHD lists *(s)kai- "bright, shining" and *sḱeh2i- "to gleam" as homophones for some reason.

goofy said...

Well, not homophones, but separate roots.

Glen Gordon said...

Goofy: "These are from the American Heritage Dictionary of IE Roots, not Pokorny, but fair enough."

Um, American Heritage Dictionary is in fact *directly citing* Pokorny's roots! So I don't see what significantly distinguishes the two.

Occasionally they mention "the older form", which is an antiquated and misleading statement since we now know since the 1950s that there simply is no stage of PIE where laryngeals didn't exist. Furthermore, the representation of laryngeals as "schwas" is outdated as well. They are consonants through and through.

Also, these "older forms" aren't consistently mentioned. You can fortunately always hunt for the more modern forms simply by doing a Google search, particularly doing one through Google Scholar or Google Books. Most of these roots will be referenced in at least one of these online book samples. ;) I call this "guerrilla searching".

Goofy: "The AHD lists *(s)kai- "bright, shining" and *sḱeh2i- "to gleam" as homophones for some reason."

Hmmm. An interesting factoid but I'm skeptical. It seems more like the editors of AHD are either not interested in updated info or are in denial about laryngeals. But yes, Fortson's book is a definite improvement over Pokorny and it takes into account modern knowledge about Anatolian and Tocharian.

goofy said...
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goofy said...

"Um, American Heritage Dictionary is in fact *directly citing* Pokorny's roots! So I don't see what significantly distinguishes the two."

The difference is that the AHD includes laryngeals. They city Pokorny simply for information. I realized that Pokorny is out of date, but I still think it can be useful for looking at derivatives - as long as you understand what its limitations are.

The AHD does simplify things because they are not a scholarly work. I try to be as accurate as I can, and include the laryngeals when they're listed. I have no idea why they don't list some laryngeals that other works do.

goofy said...

Another obvious difference between the AHD and Pokorny is that the AHD includes suffixes and grammatical information, that I assume has been uncovered more recently.