Monday, 21 November 2011

ciao and slave

Who knew that Italian ciao was a variation of schiavo "(I am your) servant" from medieval Latin sclavus "slave".

slave was borrowed from Old French esclave, which is related to the Latin sclavus. The Latin word was borrowed into English as Slav.

Further etymology of sclavus is uncertain. In my previous post I write that Slav and slave seem to be derived from Proto-Slavic *slovo "word" or *slava "fame, glory" but I think I was wrong. The OED says Old Slavic Slovēne is supposed to be derived from slovo, but is it really? The whole thing is a bit of a muddle.

10 comments :

Glen Gordon said...

I'd love to know the etymology of "slave" as well but it looks like time has erased many leads. It really is an interesting muddle.

Takis Konstantopoulos said...

Similar story in Swedish. The greetings `tja' or `tjena' is an abbreviation of `tjenare' which is a variant of `tjänare’in the phrase ‘Jag förbliver Eder ödmjukaste tjänare’ (I remain your most humble servant).

be_slayed said...

What makes you doubt the origin from *slovo "word" or *slava "fame, glory" ?

goofy said...

be_slayed: just because I haven't seen any clear statement to this effect. All the OED says is that Slovēne "is supposed to be derived from the stem of slovo word, sloviti to speak."

Hermeneuo.com said...

I think you guys are on the right track. I never understood why the derivation of Common Slavic (CS) Slovēne from *k'lew- 'hear' was considered controversial. It seems the IE verb *klew- (attested in CS sly- > Proto-CS *ślū) is the origin of all the words in question:

CS *slovo 'word' > Proto-CS *ślavam
CS *slava 'fame' > Proto-CS *ślāvā cf. Indic śravas Greek klewos
CS *slověne 'Slavs (pl)' > Proto-CS *ślavēnai (?)
CS *slavitь 'glorifies' > Proto-CS *ślāviti =(?) Indic śrāvayati

It seems IE *e, inasmuch as it ever existed, must've merged with Proto-CS *a before labials sometime long ago.
Is it a question of which word exactly *slověne is derived from? Would that have archeaological implications? I'm wondering if the vowel lengths point to the answer. Input welcome. Ciao!

Glen Gordon said...

Hermeneuo: "It seems IE *e, inasmuch as it ever existed, [...]"

??

Hermeneuo.com said...

Oh, I had assumed that to have phonemic status a sound had to appear in minimal pairs (e.g. bat : bet).

I haven't seen any examples of PIE *o and *e being in phonemic opposition. I'd appreciate any thoughts on whether they are distinct phonemes.

goofy said...

According to Fortson in Indo-European Language and Culture, *e and *o are distinct phonemes. I think I found a minimal pair in *krét-u-s "insight, intelligence", and the genitive form *krót-u-s.

Hermeneuo.com said...

Great find. I think it's an example of IE apophony (cf Fortson 4.12; 4.16). The classic 'proof' of *e≠*o also involves apophony: Indic cakram=*kʷekʷlos=Greek kyklos, yet I fail to see what this actually proves beyond च≠क. As with the etymology of *slovene, on the surface *e:*o is an inconsequential chicken-and-egg trifle, yet entire 'historical narratives' might indeed hinge upon it. Interesting stuff, thanks for bringing it up.

goofy said...

Yes *krét-u-s / *krót-u-s is apophony, but it's still a minimal pair, isn't it?