Friday, 16 January 2009

equine and Philip

All this talk about wheels and horses on the Log makes it a good time to look at *éḱwos, the Proto-Indo-European word for "horse". Ringe says it's apparently unanalyzable, but Watkins suggests it can be segmented *eḱw-o-, "a suffixed form akin to the lengthened o-grade adjective *ōḱu-, swift".

*éḱwos became Latin equus, then equine, equestrian. In Greek, *éḱwos apparently became ἵππος hippos, but this is problematic because the appearance of initial /h/ and the change from *e- to i- are unexplained. Greek ἵππος is found in words such as hippopotamus, Hippocrene... and Philip, from φίλιππος "fond of horses", from the combining form φιλο- (from φιλέω "to love") plus ἵππος.

In Valis, Philip K. Dick gives himself the pseudonym "Horselover Fat": Philip "lover of horses", and Dick, German for "fat".

In Old English, *éḱwos became eoh, which subsequently disappeared. The word horse has cognates in other Germanic languages, but it's thought to be of non-Indo-European origin - altho the OED mentions a theory that it's connected to Latin currere "to run".

In Italic languages, equus was supplanted by caballus (cheval, cavallo, etc), but the feminine form equa survived in Anglo-Norman ive "mare".


Glen Gordon said...

I'd like to think rather that *h₁oh₁ḱu- is derived from *h₁éḱwos.

According to the diachrony I currently propose for Mid and Late IE (i.e. Pre-IE stages), the long vowel could be explained by a-Epenthesis which was employed to counteract awkward word-initial consonant clusters that were forming at the onset of Syncope due to the reduction of unstressed vowels. My theory works better if we assume that this athematic u-adjective was originally a thematic adjective (i.e. *h₁oh₁ḱwós). This then explains word-initial *h₁o- in "fast" as simple prothesis. The relationship between "fast" and "horse" would also be identical to other lexical relationships where *h₁o- seems to appear in one of the pairs (i.e. *h₁óh₂uyom "egg" vs. *h₂éwi- "bird"; *h₁oḱtṓu "eight" vs. *kʷétwōr "four (inanimate form)"). But I digress.

Jkellymap said...

"Equa" also survived to become "yegua", the Spanish word for "mare".

Adam Roberts Project said...

It would be nice to think that the fossilised ancestral horse eohippus derived its name from a duplicated combination of 'eoh' and 'hippos'. But it's actually, as we all know, from the Greek 'eo', dawn (as in eocene, when the beastie lived). Nevertheless I think I prefer my spurious etymology.

mahendra singh said...

then from whence comes pferd? just curious, not trying to make any trouble …

goofy said...

Mahendra: good question. I found the answer in the OED entry for "palfrey", which is from post-classical Latin "palafredus", meaning "horse for travelling, post-horse":

"The post-classical Latin word was also borrowed into the continental West Germanic languages, in which it became the usual word for ‘horse’, compare Middle Dutch pērt (Dutch paard), Old Saxon palafrith, (in compounds) pereth, perth (Middle Low German pērt, German regional (Low German) Peerd, Perd), Old High German pfarifrit, palafrid (Middle High German pferfrit, pferit, phert, German Pferd)."

mahendra singh said...

Thanks, very interesting

So, perhaps there was an older Germanic word for horse, (also derived from the PIE?) but supplanted by the late Latin word or perhaps the Germans/Norse never had a word for horse before Latin contact?

I am curious about all this because I always thought that one of the "strategies" of deducing PIE was finding common root-words which must have existed in the milieu of the speakers of PIE, the horse almost certainly being one of them

goofy said...

Yes, there was an older Germanic word for "horse" derived from *éḱwos, but it didn't survive in all languages:

*éḱwos > Proto-Germanic *ehwaz > Old Norse jór, Old English eoh; cf. also Old Saxon ehuskalk ‘mounted retainer’, Gothic aíƕatundi ‘thornbush’ (*‘horse-tooth’).