Tuesday, 1 October 2013

wool, lanolin, flannel

The word *h₂u̯l̥h₁náh₂ from Scheicher's fable is an extended zero-grade form of *h₂u̯elh₁- "wool". This became Old English wul and English wool.

The form *h₂u̯l̥h₁náh₂ became Latin lāna "wool" from earlier *wlāna. lanolin is formed from lāna plus oleum "oil" plus the chemical suffix -in.

*h₂u̯l̥h₁náh₂ became Proto-Celtic *wlanā and Welsh gwlân "wool". Add the individualizing suffix -en to get gwlanen "flannel", ie "something made from wool". gwlanen was possibly borrowed into English as flannel.

How to pronounce /wl/? A glide followed by a consonant seems impossible to me.

7 comments :

Peter Harvey said...

Interesting.

Would I be right in assuming that wool is from the first syllable and lana from the second, leaving the l as the only common feature?

goofy said...

That's right. Ignoring the laryngeals for simplicity, the form *wel became wool. And the suffixed form *welana became *wlana then Latin lana.

Christopher Culver said...

"How to pronounce /wl/? A glide followed by a consonant seems impossible to me."

The /w/ could have been phonetically realized as a bilabial approximate in that position, as is the case in plenty of languages on which we have historical data (the Slavonic languages, Mari...)

David Marjanović said...

How to pronounce /wl/? A glide followed by a consonant seems impossible to me.

Really? I find it trivial, and I don't even speak any language that has such clusters. Listening to myself, I think the lip rounding only ends during the [l], not before it.

The /w/ could have been phonetically realized as a bilabial approximate in that position, as is the case in plenty of languages on which we have historical data (the Slavonic languages, Mari...)

Which Slavonic languages? Ukrainian? Those I'm more familiar with use the labiodental approximant [ʋ] and/or possibly the fricative [v] just like in all other positions.

David Marjanović said...

the form *wel became wool

Wait a minute! No, it's the full extended *h₂u̯l̥h₁náh₂ that became wool. Consider such forms as German Wolle or Gothic wulla.

First, drop the laryngeals (with compensatory lengthening at the end). Then turn syllabic [l] into [ul]. Then turn [ln] into [lː] – the ll is real (not just in Gothic – southern German retains phonemic consonant length to this day). With the merger of [aː] into [ɔː] you arrive at Proto-Germanic *wullō. On the East Germanic side, regular word-final shortening directly gives you the Gothic form. On the Northwest Germanic side, umlaut triggered by [ɔː] turns [u] into [o], as preserved in German.

So, Latin and English have the *n in common, too, not just the *l.

goofy said...

David, /w/ by definition has to be followed by a vowel. At least that's how I learned it. The closest I can make is something like /wəˈlɑ/ - there is always an epenthetic vowel in there.

goofy said...

David, you're right, "wool" is derived from the form *h₂u̯l̥h₁náh₂.