ONE SHLYAG PER RALO.

I’m reading my third Veltman novel (see previous posts on Strannik and Koshchei the Immortal), Svyatoslavich vrazhii pitomets: Diva vremyon krasnogo solntsa Vladimira [Svyatoslavich, the devil’s nurseling: Diva in the time of the red sun Vladimir], and he continues to be unlike any other novelist I’ve read: you never have any idea what he’s up to or where he’s going until he gets there. This one is set in the late tenth century and starts off with Svyatoslav going around convincing various peoples to pay tribute to him rather than to the Khazars (whose royalty and aristocracy had converted to Judaism in the 8th century); the Vyatichi agree enthusiastically, saying “We don’t want to pay the Jews по шлягу с рала [po shlyagu s rala]!” The phrase (in italics, presumably quoted from a chronicle) means ‘one шляг per рало,’ but since neither noun was familiar to me, this didn’t help me much. The second was looked up without difficulty, but it had an interesting etymology; ralo turns out to be an archaic word for ‘plow’ (replaced by плуг [plug], borrowed from Germanic) from a Proto-Slavic *ordlo, related to Greek άροτρον [arotron], Latin aratrum, Old Irish arathar, and Lithuanian arklas, among other words, all meaning ‘plow’ and all derived from the Proto-Indo-European verb *H2érH3ye- ‘to plow.’
The other noun was more of a struggle to track down; it turns out to be an older form of the word Vasmer lists under ше́ляг ше́лег [shelyag, sheleg], defined as ‘old coin worth 1/8 of a brass kopeck’ and borrowed (via Polish szeląg) from Middle High German schillinc ‘shilling.’ Vasmer’s forms are via Polish, that is; Veltman’s is an earlier borrowing that took the form шьлѧгъ, with a “soft yer,” a “reduced” i that disappeared when unstressed, giving шляг [shlyag]. It gave me a thrill when I figured it out.

Comments

  1. all derived from the Proto-Indo-European verb *H2érH3ye- ‘to plow.’
    To be pedantic, they’re all derived from the PIE root *h2erh3-. I don’t think a PIE verb *h2érh3ye- is reconstructable; the apparently cognate Hittite verb shows a different root extension, hārš- ’till the earth’, from PIE *h2órh3-s-. Although, this Hittite verb looks suspiciously similar to Western Semitic ḥrš ‘plow’, which has cognates all over Semitic, so it actually isn’t clear what’s going on.

  2. рало is actually survived in modern Russian as орало (plow) in a fixed phrase Перековать мечи на орала from Isaiah 2:4 They will beat their swords into plowshares…

  3. Dmitry Prokofyev says:

    D.O.: seconded. The verb “орать” (to till, plow) and the noun “оратай” (plowman), though undoubtedly archaic, can also be encountered e.g. in bylinas.

  4. To be pedantic, they’re all derived from the PIE root *h2erh3-.
    Good point. (I took the reconstructed verb from The Oxford Introduction to Proto-Indo-European and the Proto-Indo-European World, by Mallory and Adams, and I figured they must know what they were talking about.)

  5. fixed phrase Перековать мечи на орала from Isaiah 2:4 They will beat their swords into plowshares…
    or more recently reinterpreted as
    Лубянка по ночам не спит,
    Хотя за много лет устала,
    Меч перековывая в щит
    И затыкая нам орало.

  6. орало is a secondary derivative based directly on the verb орать, just like Latin arātrum and arātor ‘ploughman’ with their long medial ā from arāre. In the verb, Slavic *or- was prevocalic and so didn’t undergo liquid metathesis. рало is older, and directly cognate to Polish radło and Czech rádlo ‘scratch plough’ (from Balto-Slavic *arH-tla-, cf. Lith. arklas). See also (archaic) Polish rataj ‘ploughman’ vs. the verb orać ‘to plough’.
    The technical English word for a primitive plough is ard, a recent loan from Norwegian, where it reflects ON arðr рало (except that a different allomorph of the instrument noun suffix was generalised in Balto-Slavic).
    As for the present stem *h₂árh₃-je/o-, it’s excellently attested in several branches of IE. True, Anatolian has a different stem (presumably from the same root) with a slightly different meaning. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the *-je- present is a “neo-IE” innovation. Anatolian lost the PIE aspectual contrast between “present” (imperfective) and “aorist” (perfective) stems. The -s- stem found there may the fossilised reflex of a sigmatic aorist.

  7. Self-correction: …ON arðr, a close relative of рало

  8. P.S. Curiously, the Germanic word *arþra- (the ancesor of arðr was borrowed early into the Baltic Finnic languages (losing its first *r in the process), hence e.g. Finnish aura ‘plough’.

  9. Thanks! What a pleasure it is to have someone around who knows this stuff.

  10. Indeed. Piotr, what do you think of the odd resemblance I noted above between the Hittite and Semitic words? Sheer coincidence?
    Anatolian lost the PIE aspectual contrast between “present” (imperfective) and “aorist” (perfective) stems.
    Is this uncontroversial? I thought some IEists saw this contrast as a post-Anatolian innovation.

  11. As for the “aorist/present” system (the inherent aspectual value of verb roots, not motivated by any derivational means), it’s a kind of contrast which is easier to lose than to develop from scratch (and indeed, it has been lost many times independently in various lineages). Anatolian has most of the same characterised present stem types, the as the rest of IE — except the common-or-garden “simple presents” like *bhér-e/o- — and it has some traces of formations homologous to derived (sigmatic) aorists. It’s obvious that the actual PIE verb system was very different from the “classical” reconstruction of 100+ years ago, but aspect just doesn’t look like a non-Anatolian innovation.

  12. Piotr, what do you think of the odd resemblance I noted above between the Hittite and Semitic words? Sheer coincidence?
    I can’t offer an informed opinion on the Semitic root. But there’s one thing I know for sure. Any isolated similarity, no matter how amazing, can well be accidental, and the burden of the proof is on those who think it isn’t.

  13. Any isolated similarity, no matter how amazing, can well be accidental, and the burden of the proof is on those who think it isn’t.
    Indeed!
    One may well look at earth/aard and ‘ardˤ/eretz and notice the similarity.

  14. Or, say, West Semitic *qart- ~ *qiryat- ‘town’ vs. Indo-European *ghordh-o- ‘town, homestead, enclosure’. This doesn’t mean that real connections don’t exist; only that chance lookalikes are a dime a dozen.

  15. IMAO, nobody should be allowed to say anything new about language relatedness until they have read Ringe’s wonderful monograph on chance resemblance and passed a test on it.

  16. As for the “aorist/present” system (the inherent aspectual value of verb roots, not motivated by any derivational means), it’s a kind of contrast which is easier to lose than to develop from scratch
    Isn’t “the inherent aspectual value of verb roots” just a way of saying “Aktionsart”? That’s hardly a feature specific to Indo-European. Or am I misunderstanding?
    Also, the argument that a feature must be an innovation in some branch because it’s “easier to lose than to develop from scratch” doesn’t hold water, does it? The innovation must have occurred at some point; either it occurred before PIE (and was lost in Anatolian) or it occurred in post-Anatolian “core IE”. Neither scenario seems inherently superior.

  17. On Hitt. hārš- / WSem. ḥrš, of course a relationship can’t be proven, but given the near-identity in both sense and sound plus the geographical proximity and the fact that technological words are often borrowed, I don’t think it’s altogether Hummelmorsian (with apologies to Hally) to speculate about a possible loan scenario. The problem would be that the direction of borrowing, as far as I can see, would have to be from Anatolian to Semitic (because of the existence of the more basic root *h2erh3- in PIE), which is the opposite of what you’d expect given the history of the spread of agriculture (not to mention a few millennia too late, unless one is of the Renfrew school). Still, if it is a coincidence, it’s a more striking one than any of Piotr’s Quechua-Eurasiatic parallels in that it has three matching consonants, like *qart- / *ghordh-o- (which, however, you can’t adduce as showing that “chance lookalikes are a dime a dozen”, since we don’t know that it is a chance lookalike). (I haven’t read the Ringe monograph.)

  18. Also, the argument that a feature must be an innovation in some branch because it’s “easier to lose than to develop from scratch” doesn’t hold water, does it?
    But I made no such claim. The innovation, in this case, would be the “catastrophic” collapse of aspect in Anatolian. That’s definitely easier that the fairly rapid rise, in the other subfamily of IE, of a very consistent and obligatory division of verb roots into perfectives and imperfectives (independently of the system of derived stems whose aktionsart is determined by morphology). It wouldn’t be the only example of a grammatical category lost in Anatolian, perhaps as a consequence of massive contact effects in Asia Minor.
    Even in Tocharian, we find numerous ex-aorists of various types “recycled” as preterites — relics of an already decaying old category rather than a new system in a nascent state. By contrast, *bhér-e-ti type presents are totally absent from Anatolian, very few in Tocharian, and enormously productive elsewhere. Such a distribution is consistent with their supposed origin as subjunctives of root aorists, acquiring an imperfective value.

  19. I still don’t see the logic of this:
    The innovation, in this case, would be the “catastrophic” collapse of aspect in Anatolian. That’s definitely easier that the fairly rapid rise, in the other subfamily of IE, of a very consistent and obligatory division of verb roots into perfectives and imperfectives (independently of the system of derived stems whose aktionsart is determined by morphology).
    The aspect distinction had to arise sometime; other arguments aside, it could just as well have arisen after the separation of Anatolian as before. The key words here seem to be “fairly rapid”, i.e. the idea is that there wouldn’t have been enough time for this innovation to arise between the separation of Anatolian and the further dispersal of core IE; but do we really know how quickly such a distinction can arise in a language? If it can happen in a matter of centuries, then there’s no problem.
    (To be clear, I’m just making a methodological point about this kind of argumentation; I’m far from qualified to make an informed case for the post-Anatolian hypothesis. But I note that other IEists are less confident than Piotr; Craig Melchert I believe is agnostic on this question.)

  20. The problem would be that the direction of borrowing, as far as I can see, would have to be from Anatolian to Semitic (because of the existence of the more basic root *h2erh3- in PIE), which is the opposite of what you’d expect given the history of the spread of agriculture (not to mention a few millennia too late, unless one is of the Renfrew school).
    There’s another difficulty: the Proto-Semitic shape of the root seems to have been *ḥrṯ, with [θ]. If similarity decreases as you go back in time, cognacy becomes less probable. Of course it’s hard to exclude the possibility that the Anatolian verb is a borrowing from “dialectal” Semitic (with a final sibilant) and has nothing to do with PIE *h2erh3-.
    … like *qart- / *ghordh-o- (which, however, you can’t adduce as showing that “chance lookalikes are a dime a dozen”, since we don’t know that it is a chance lookalike).
    I think we do know that. Both are deverbal, and each is derived from a different verb in its own family (‘meet, gather’ in Semitic, and ‘encircle’ in IE, cf. English gird < *ghr̥dh-jé/ó-). This pretty well rules out shared ancestry.

  21. Craig Melchert I believe is agnostic on this question.
    Melchert himself provided some Anatolian evidence for an aspectual contrast in PIE in his 1997 article (though with a question mark in the title). I wouldn’t die for my preference — it’s just what the sparse evidence suggests in combination with typological considerations, not a mathematical certainty.

  22. I have no idea why my post got truncated again. Perhaps I shouln’t have used a left angle bracket for “comes from”. OK, let’s try again. English gird COMES FROM *ghr.dh-jé/ó-, with the same verb root which underlies the deverbal noun *ghordh-o-. The derivational history of the IE ‘town’ word rules out a real connection with WSem. *qart.

  23. Yeah, the left angle bracket has to be written as & lt ; (without spaces), in which case it appears correctly upon posting; otherwise it disappears and takes everything following it with it, as you discovered. Thus: <. I fixed your earlier comment in this way.

  24. There’s another difficulty: the Proto-Semitic shape of the root seems to have been *ḥrṯ, with [θ].
    Hmm, good point. (Although many Semitic triliteral roots are extended from earlier biliterals, so…) Anyway, if it is a coincidence, it’s one of the most striking ones I know (more so than e.g. Persian bad ‘bad’ or Mbabaram dog ‘dog’).

  25. …if it is a coincidence, it’s one of the most striking ones I know…
    Less striking than, for example, Dutch elkaar : Basque elkar ‘each other’, or Latin ēvapōrāre : Polish wyparować ‘evaporate’, or Greek θεός : Lat. deus? Is it stranger than the fact that cookie is unrelated to cook, and amenable to amenity? Polish has the verb deprawować ‘deprave’, of course borrowed from Latin, but if you ask any non-linguist in Poland, it’s a safe bet that they associate it folk-etymologically with Polish prawy ‘honest, righteous’ and interpret the prefix as negative. It makes perfect sense, and the match involves three consonants and a vowel.

  26. I meant, “More striking…?”

  27. I do find it more striking than most of those, but that’s probably because I don’t know either Basque or Polish.

  28. Still, I would claim that the Dutch/Basque equation is much more striking. The semantic match is perfect (not just close, like the one between Anatolian and Semitic); the formal match leaves nothing to be wished — three identical consonants and two practically identical vowels, all in the right order (not merely the same consonantal skeleton). Even better than that — the original morphological segmentation is the same in both cases (elk-ar : elk-aar), and the components also match each other perfectly between Dutch and Basque. The only little problem is that they have totally independent etymologies.

  29. David Marjanović says:

    Yay, a thread that’s still open!
    From an earlier one:

    Thanks, I knew the Latin prodigy of the kjempe family, but not that the Kemps belonged there. Or that the German branch was so productive.

    Indeed, to use fechten for “fight” is pretty much poetic nowadays; its basic meaning has narrowed down to fencing.
    From this thread:

    replaced by плуг [plug], borrowed from Germanic

    Or indeed the other way around. That could explain why it’s apparently limited to West Germanic, IIRC, and also why it has a /p/; a /p/ in a native Germanic word would point to PIE */b/, which is so suspicious that Vennemann derives this word from Semitic */p-l-g/ “divide” (because a ploughshare divides the earth, as opposed to just scratching it).
    Source: some critique of Vennemann I once read somewhere.

    One may well look at earth/aard and ‘ardˤ/eretz and notice the similarity.

    Of course Vennemann has done exactly that. I’m actually inclined to accept this one.
    Now I’ll briefly mention the elephant in the room before going to bed at last: Nostratic. Semitic */ħ-r-s/ could be cognate to Hittite */χ-r-s/, although obviously not in any kind of agricultural meaning, and if the Semitic side actually had /θ/ instead of /s/, borrowing from Semitic to Hittite/Anatolian and random coincidence are the only remaining options. On the other hand, Semitic */kʼ-r-t/ cannot possibly be cognate to IE */gʰ-r-dʰ/ – according to the Moscow school, the IE side would need to have **/k-r-d/, **/kʲ-r-d/ (…so, “heart” instead of “girdle”…) or **/kʷ-r-d/ depending on the vowel, while according to Bomhard (the last Glottalicist), the IE side would need to have **/g-r-t/ (presumably again with */gʲ/ and */gʷ/ as alternatives).

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