A charming NY Times story by Melissa Sanford on the perilous flight training of urban falcons (the NY Times link generator won’t give me a blogsafe link for some reason, so this link will rot in a week) says “It takes a young falcon, known as an eyas, a week or so to learn to fly,” which of course sent me to the dictionary to find out how to pronounce eyas. It’s EYE-as, and the etymology turns out to be worth knowing as well: Middle English eias, from an eias, alteration of *a nias, an eyas, from Old French niais, from Latin ni:dus, nest; see sed- in Indo-European roots (AHD). So eyas, like orange and umpire, is the result of metanalysis (false division of the article + noun unit: “a nias” > “an eyas”). Another piquant fact: the French word niais, which once had the same meaning as the English word, now means ‘silly’ (or, in the words of Larousse, ‘simple, un peu sot’).


  1. Another one for the metanalysis list: OE nædre > MnE adder

  2. joe tomei says:

    Since long range relationships always seem to arouse the comment gods around here, I thought that I would pass this on, especially since I just got my copy of Gamkrelidze and Ivanov _Indo-European and the Indo-Europeans_ today (because of the high spending ways of the Japanese ministry of education, thank you very much.) and your citation of *sed- got me going.
    At any rate, I’m looking up *sed- and the PIE form for sit they list is *set- rather than *sed- (they argue for a more “phonologically natural” interpretation of Bartholomae’s law, see this PDF for an explanation here ) Trying to figure out why they change the final consonant, I see that they also list *es- as a root for sit, so more digging. They seem to extend (I think) Meillet’s observation (which is that IE gender arises from an animate/impersonal division) and argue for doublet verb lexemes for active and inactive classes, so that there is a verb form for animate objects and one for inanimate objects with verbs like be, stand, lie/sleep, and sit given as examples. They present a lot more info about the distinction. and there are others who have explored/are exploring this, check out 2.2 here
    So, having argued for a second root for sit that was *es- (which they relate to Sanskrit a:s-, Avestan a:s-/a:h-, Hittite eš-, and Greek he:stai ‘sits’), they then suggest a connection to Hurrian ašš- and Urartean aš-, which then suggests a connection to Proto-Uralic *ase- (there should be an acute accent over the s)
    Apologies in advance for using your post as an excuse to dip into G&I, but my 5 year old doesn’t appreciate how cool this is.

  3. I always welcome my posts being used as excuses to dip into the farther reaches of language history! I am, as you probably know, skeptical of attempts to connect IE to other language families, but am always willing to examine the evidence; I’ll have to see if the NYPL has Gamkrelidze and Ivanov so I can take a look.

  4. joe tomei says:

    I should note that the work doesn’t aim to link PIE with other Proto languages, but rather to do a reconstruction of IE that takes into account typology and the information from Hittite. They note the connection and cite Illi?-Svity? in this regard. It is translated from Russian by Johanna Nichols, and the preface should be quite interesting for you.

  5. Better and better. I’ll look for it.

Speak Your Mind