Friday, 8 February 2008

hippopotamus and feather

The Proto-Indo-European root is *peth₁- "to rush, to fly" (not to be confused with *peth₂- "to spread"). The suffixed form *peth₁-rā- became Proto-Germanic *feþrō "feather", Old English feðer, then feather.

The o-grade form *poth₁- plus the Greek suffix -amo- became Greek ποταμός potamos "river" ie, "rushing water". This combined with Greek ἵππος hippos "horse" (from PIE *eḱw-o "horse" as in equine) to form hippopotamos "river horse".

The suffixed form *pet-nā- became Latin penna "feather", and this became Old French penne and English pen, as in the writing instrument, which was made from feathers.

5 comments :

Glen Gordon said...

I wonder if by chance you know why *h₁ becomes a like that in Greek potamós when it's historically flanked by two *o's in which case it can't be caused by some kind of vowel harmony. Afterall, the initial laryngeal in *h₁néh₃mn̥ "name" becomes o in Greek ónoma. Me confused.

goofy said...

Watkins says -amo- is a Greek suffix, implying that the a isn't from the laryngeal at all. I should have made that clear.

Glen Gordon said...

Aaaah. Clarity. Thanks for that.

PhoeniX said...

I'm wondering why they're reconstructing *h₁néh₃mn̥ "name" that way. I've always seen it reconstructed with an initial *h3, and I'm not really sure what's stopping us from doing so.

goofy said...

fwiw...
The American Heritage Dictionary of IE roots has *h₁no(h₃)mn̥ and says onoma is assimilated from enuma, preserved in proper names in Laconian.