Foreign Elements in Proto-Indo-European.

Rasmus Bjørn has created the webpage Prehistoric loan relations: Foreign elements in the Proto-Indo-European vocabulary; the introductory text is self-explanatory:

This page allows historical linguists to compare and scrutinize proposed prehistoric lexical borrowings from the perspective of Proto-Indo-European. The first entries are all (135 in total) extracted from my master’s thesis “Foreign elements in the Proto-Indo-European vocabulary” (Bjørn 2017). Comments are encouraged at the bottom of each entry. New entries will be added, also on request.

Take this not as the conclusion, but an invitation to join the conversation.

The thesis is available for download here (PDF).

Via this LH comment by David Marjanović; thanks, DM!

Comments

  1. David Eddyshaw says:

    The English could do with a bit of cleaning up.
    (His English is, however, some orders of magnitude better than my Danish.)

    The actual substance of the thesis looks fascinating. I will be interested in what the many LH experts on the matter have to say.

  2. Trond Engen says:

    It’s long, seems thorough, and the subject really needs this kind of work. I’ve read the first couple of chapters and skimmed the rest, so I probably should hold back my comment for a day or two, but I want to keep the thread alive.

    What I glean from the concluding chapters is that there have been borrowing in both directions, with Uralic as well as with other families, but there are no clearly identifiable adstrates (i.e. whole semantic classes with a shared identifiable origin). I’m slightly disappointed with that, But that’s not Rasmus Bjørn’s fault, it’s the Indo-Europeans who failed to provide him with the data to support it, I suppose “Old European Farmer’s Language” could turn into that, but it would take a lot more work with the substrate.

    On a more critical note, I don’t think he’s using the latest accepted reconstructions for all families. I don’t know much about the current consensus on the various Caucasian families, but Uralic-Yukaghir is thoroughly dead. Or at least not relevant on the timescale of this work. Borrowings from Uralic into Yukaghir would be another matter.

  3. Thanks for the preliminary report!

  4. Trond Engen says:

    Badly edited before posting, though. I was supposed to do housework.

  5. David Marjanović says:

    I’ve finally taken a look at the thesis itself. My impression from the website is unfortunately confirmed: the Uralic data are from the Uralisches etymologisches Wörterbuch, which dates from 1988 and was already outdated (by a few years) when it came out and contains many unreliable reconstructions; it’s apparently worse than Pokorny’s for IE – search this page for UEW. Nothing more recent is listed among the sources at all.

    Uralic-Yukaghir is thoroughly dead

    My impression from our recent discussion here is that it remains one of several possibilities – but that’s quite irrelevant, because the only cited source is from 1940. The several papers from the 21st century have evidently escaped the author’s attention, even though he cites the etymological dictionary of Yukaghir, which dates from 2006.

  6. Oh dear. Thanks for the sad update!

  7. Trond Engen says:

    Uralic-Yukaghir

    I think I’m building my impression chiefly on Ante Aikio’s The Uralic-Yukaghir lexical correspondences: genetic inheritance, language contact or chance resemblance?. And by “thoroughly dead” I don’t mean that Uralic-Yukaghir is impossible. Nothing is impossible, and geography alone calls for an occasional look in that direction. But it does seem to be far beyond retrieval. And the common source would certainly be much deeper than Uralic, so it wouldn’t matter for loanwords in PIE.

  8. Trond Engen says:

    And of course this post on Protouralic, where I got the link to Aikio’s paper.

  9. Citing the UEW instead of hunting down etymological corrections made in specialist literature is not necessarily an indication of something being wrong, though. Many of the Uralic “core” vocabulary reconstructions that come up here like *kala ‘fish’, *mete ‘honey’, *mura ‘cloudberry’ have been well enough established already since the mid-1900s. The references also contain plenty enough newer works on IE-Uralic contacts, which to me is a good sign that the author working with established material, not just data-stripmining Uralic dictionaries (for which the UEW would indeed not be the proto-lexicon you want to rely on).

    re Yukaghir: I’ve started indexing Nikolaeva’s book sometime back, and it’s interesting how the Uralic-Yukaghir hypothesis actually looks much better from the Y side. The documented word material is scarcer than it first looks like — yes, there are 2659 entries, but most of them not even common Yukaghir entries, but rather words attested only from a single dialect, and/or recent Russian, Yakut or Evenki loanwords. (I get the impression that further fieldwork on the Yukaghir varieties would be valuable, as long as they still are there.) Looking only at word groups that are well-attested across the various dialects, there is an at least decent proportion of Uralic parallels. But I also share the impression by Häkkinen and to a degree Aikio that they would have to be in several layers, the newest being loans…

  10. I had an impression that Yukaghir was isolated from contact with Uralic speakers for over 3500 years.

    So that would make these “newest” layer rather old.

  11. David Marjanović says:

    Citing the UEW instead of hunting down etymological corrections made in specialist literature is not necessarily an indication of something being wrong, though.

    Sorry if I gave that impression – it merely increases the probability of something being wrong.

    I’ve started indexing Nikolaeva’s book sometime back, and it’s interesting how the Uralic-Yukaghir hypothesis actually looks much better from the Y side.

    Interesting indeed.

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