Russian Dialect Etymological Dictionary.

I’m reading Veniamin Kaverin’s 1982 tale Верлиока [Verlioka] (a verlioka, or wyrlook, is a one-eyed giant of East Slavic mythology), in which the young Vasya, created by a clerical error, is drawn to the willful Iva, who falls for the laughably formal Leon but becomes disillusioned by him and decides she and Vasya should get married. They’re too young to do so immediately, but they decide to take a honeymoon trip anyway, in the course of which Iva is abducted by Leon, who turns out to be the demonic Verlioka, who has been jealous ever since Vasya and Iva were lovers named Lorenzo and Giulia in 16th-century Venice. It’s obviously got motifs from Ruslan and Ludmila — there’s even a learned tomcat — and it’s a lot of fun; too bad it doesn’t seem to have been translated into English. At any rate, at one point Vasya is trying to decide how to bury a helpful raven (who wants a memorial mass said for him because he’s a Catholic, “крещен в Ирландии, где до сих пор лучшие из моих братьев сражаются за истинную веру” [baptized in Ireland, where to this day the best of my brethren fight for the true faith]; there are two Old Irish words for ‘raven,’ bran [related to Russian ворон] and fiach); he decides to mark the grave with a гурий [gurii], a pyramid of stones. Naturally, I wondered about the etymology, but Wiktionary didn’t give one.

Fortunately, assiduous googling led me to Sergei Myznikov’s brand new Русский диалектный этимологический словарь [Russian Dialect Etymological Dictionary], which has an entry on it; after providing the various regions where it occurs and its various forms, it says:

Если не связано с игрой слов на исконной почве, возможно связать со словом кекур (см.), которое близко семантически. Вряд ли следует сопоставлять с фин. hura ‘беспорядок, разруха’

If it’s not linked to wordplay on indigenous soil, it could be linked with the word kekur (q.v.), which is close semantically. It can hardly be compared with Fin. hura ‘disorder, ruin’

It says ке́кур ‘tall rock by the seashore, rocky cliff’ may be related to Fin. keko ‘shock, stook (of grain).’ I don’t know how convincing any of those comparisons are (and I don’t know what is meant by “wordplay on indigenous soil”), but I’m glad to have found this new reference; at least I now know гурий doesn’t have an obvious etymology. (There’s another, more common, гурий which is simply the Russian equivalent of English houri.)


  1. David Eddyshaw says

    Brân is “crow, raven” in Welsh, too. I don’t think it can be related to ворон. (The equivalent of that in Welsh would have been gwarn, I think.)

    I don’t believe that there was a rule *wr ->br in Celtic: cf (off the top of my head)

  2. David Eddyshaw says

    Thurneysen also has Old Irish froích “heather”, which (as I would not have realised without prompting) is cognate to Welsh grug “heather” (for *gwrug.)

  3. I don’t think it can be related to ворон.

    Rats, it seemed so obvious! I’ll delete that.

  4. Welsh grug “heather”

    Man, that word does not sound like it means ‘heather.’ More like a caveman’s name.

  5. What are the regions in which гурий occurs? (Just the White Sea region?) It reminds me of Persian گور gōr (modern Iranian gūr) “grave, tomb, sepulchre, monument, desert, waterless plain”, but that seems far away if it is only attested in the north.

  6. The Far North, along the White Sea: Olonets, Murmansk, Kandalaksha, etc. So Persian influence seems unlikely.

  7. David Eddyshaw says

    More like a caveman’s name

    Grug actually sounds fairly like “Greek.” Are you saying Greeks are not euphonious? Them’s fighting words …

  8. January First-of-May says

    Are you saying Greeks are not euphonious?

    IIRC one of the old theories for the etymology of Graeci was “the croaking ones”, though I believe that the general modern opinion is that the Graeci were merely the people from Graea.

  9. Гурий was a reasonably common Russian name from (as Wiki says) Hebrew for young lion, גּוּר אַרְיֵה. I don’t see how it helps with cairn meaning. Russian national corpus quotes an article from Soviet Arctic, 1938, where гурий/cairn is used as a term of art with little explanation.

  10. Dmitry Pruss says

    I only knew the word in its meaning of cairn, never aware of its 2nd meaning in Russian.

  11. Dmitry Pruss, do you think of гурий “cairn” as a dialect word, or just a technical term of archaeology and anthropology?

    The article quoted by D.O. above relates to this, I think, the inscription on the cairn made over the remains of the members of the Terra Nova Expedition.

    Not directly related to the question above… I was curious about how far Tatar loanwords spread north. Looking into this question, I found this in a Russian-Komi dictionary (Zyryan):

    могила: гу

    Doubtless just coincidence, and nothing to do with Tatar гүр, “grave, tomb”, from Persian.

  12. Suspiciously but unlikelily close to Arabic rujum which denoted the exact same thing, e.g. this place.

  13. PlasticPaddy says

    Re wordplay, does he mean something like gor ‘hill/mountain” so something like “stones heaped up to look like a hill’?

  14. January First-of-May says

    Dmitry Pruss, do you think of гурий “cairn” as a dialect word, or just a technical term of archaeology and anthropology?

    Not Dmitry Pruss, but I personally think of it as a technical term. OTOH IIRC it’s very common for that kind of technical term to be extremely regionalized, with different regions using their own terminology borrowed from the local dialect and/or language.

    Russian Wikipedia has the article at Тур (груда камней) and mentions гурий and каирн as synonyms. I only know тур in this context as the place at the top of a mountain where climbers leave their messages (of course there’s a bunch of more common irrelevant meanings, such as “tour” and “aurochs”), and I don’t think I’ve ever seen the “word” каирн (a direct transliteration (!) of the English term) in Russian text before.

  15. Dmitry Pruss says

    No, I didn’t think that гурий “cairn” was a dialect usage. Rather, it was being used by the explorers of the North who erected tall cairns at the shoreline points for better navigation or to mark their exploits. So its usage was related to geographic exploration and to a certain era within the age of discovery. The other Russian word for cairn, тур, has a very different usage – a trail or direction marker in mountainous terrain. They are usually much smaller, just a few stacked rocks high, while a typical гурий may be two meters tall – just about as tall as humans can erect with bare hands.

    Of course the Arctic explorers might have learned the words from the Pomors but the dialectal origin wasn’t visible anymore in the expedition reports. But in the Pomor anthropological literature it’s clear that their seafaring range is defined by tall cairns and wooden crosses: “поморы ставили гурии (каменные столбы-пирамиды) и приметные кресты”

  16. John Cowan says

    Cairn also means ‘a heap of stones covering a corpse when burial or burning are not feasible’. It’s a borrowing from Scottish Gaelic with cognates in the other Celtic languages, but I don’t know which sense came first. Does that match either of the Russian words?

  17. David Eddyshaw says

    GPC relates the cognate Welsh carn “cairn, hoof, handle” to the various IE words meaning “horn” and “hoof”; assuming it really is all one basic word, the shape seems to be the common factor. I must say, though, that if I saw a proposed reconstruction of a protolanguage by a long-ranger that happily equated words with such disparate meanings I would give a supercilious snort of smug Splitter superiority. (And the “hoof/handle” one is masculine, whereas the “cairn” one is feminine, though this is not very clear from the GPC entry.)

  18. Splitter or not, how do you get from ‘hoof’ to ‘cairn’? Could they just be homophones, with one having an as yet unknown etymology?

  19. David Eddyshaw says

    Well, yes: that’s what I was implying.

    (The gender difference probably can’t be pushed too far, as quite a few words do fluctuate, and/or have changed gender over the history of the language. Still, it does at least mean that the words, though homophonous, are nevertheless unequivocally formally distinct as far as Welsh is concerned.)

    [Just found a helpful list in Williams’ Elfennau Gramadeg Cymraeg of no less than eleven pairs of homophonous nouns with different genders, though he doesn’t list the two carns among them.]

  20. Pomor burial crosses are very different from Pomor navigational crosses although both types were made from driftwood. You can see examples of both here:

  21. So no one has actually offered an explicit semantic path from one to the other, right? I wonder who first decided to lump the two together.

    I see that Matasović also unites the two without comment.

  22. Cairns are still, of course, used to mark trails in particularly rugged or rocky locations.

    Many years ago, my father and I drove up from Boston to climb Mount Washington, and there were several interesting cairn-related encounters along the way. The area is a public park, but a lot of the facilities are operated by private concessioners, including the steep road* up the mountain and the cog railway to the summit. The visitor center and camping facilities near the base are operated by the Appalachian Mountain Club.** We weren’t camping but staying in a nearby motel; however, the night before the climb, my father and I went by the visitor’s center to get some information. We were both very experienced and skilled high-impact climbers, and we arrived at the center dressed in T-shirts, jeans, and hiking boots—apart from the omission of our light backpacks, our usual climbing attire. The guy running the information desk there gave us the runaround when we told him we wanted to know the hardest way up the mountain, short of rock climbing. He wouldn’t give a straight answer and kept telling us we should really be trying one of the easy trails. As we left, my father observed, based on watching how the man helped other customers, that in order to get a straight answer out of him, one had to be wearing three hundred dollars worth of Gore-Tex. However, from looking at the maps for ourselves, we thought we had figured out which way we wanted to go.

    In the morning, we arrived back at the base of the mountain and, seeing that somebody else was working at the visitor’s center, we asked her what the hardest hike up the mountain was, so that we could avoid it. Phrased that way, we got exactly the information we wanted: that the hardest nontechnical way up the mountain is the Tuckerman Ravine Trail. (When we finally got to talk to a professional park ranger at the top of the mountain, he told us that the Tuckerman Ravine Trail is the hardest nontechnical trail in the eastern United States.) So we set off up the very steep hike, with the way marked by cairns of varying sizes. (The smallest a cairn can be is four rocks—since two rocks together are just two rocks, and three rocks piled up is supposed to indicated that you are in distress—but there is no upper limit to the size of trail marker cairns.)

    Unfortunately, we ended up losing the trail. We came out in the hollow between two arms of the mountain, and although it was early June, there was still a fair amount of snow on the ground. We searched but could not find the next cairns under the snow, and that left us with a few options. There were several ravines opening down into the bowl where we were. We could make our best guess which one was Tuckerman Ravine and head up; we could give up and go back down; or we could wait and hope somebody who knew the way came along. We decided to guess, since we knew from the map approximately which direction the correct ravine ran. However, we chose wrong and went up the next ravine over.

    At this point in the story, it becomes important that the top of Mount Washington is the windiest place on Earth. As long as we were sheltered by the arms of the mountains, this had little effect. It was windy, but nothing extreme. However, as we reached the top of the ravine, we lost all shelter from the gusts. Besides realizing that we had come the wrong way, we discovered that the terrain changed completely. Where it was exposed to the wind, the slope appeared to be covered in a uniform layer of low vegetation. However, the depth of the plant growth was actually extremely variable. It could be several inches down to rock or several feet. The top was kept very smooth by the high winds, but it was virtually impossible to tell how deep the vegetation went without stepping on it and finding out. We scrambled awkwardly up this for another few hundred feet upward, before the vegetation gave out entirely, with every third of fourth step resulting in a deep plunge into the unseen undergrowth.

    Finally, the plants gave out entirely. We did have to do a little rock climbing, up over a rather modest cliff, and then we were finally up atop one of the mountain’s protruding arms, and we could connect back up with the trail. However, in this exposed position, the wind was so noisy that it was impossible to hear each other unless we yelled as loudly as we could directly into each other’s ears. All the cairns marking the trail along the ridge were wrapped up in chicken wire, to keep them from being blown apart, and some of them were enormous. After an hour of climbing through stiff wind, we were very tired, and he eventually found refuge in the lee of a gigantic cairn. It was about ten feet across at the base, and rose like a cylinder for about six feet, then tapered in a cone for another five or six. It formed a large enough windbreak that we could carry on a conversation with just ordinary levels of shouting, and we could get some food out of our packs and eat. In fact, we devoured every bit of food that we had brought with us.

    After that, the rest of the way up was rigorous, due to slope and wind, but at least we were back on the trail. The most remarkable things was that we could see fluffy white clouds constantly blowing by us. Many of them were small—some just a few feet across—although there were plenty that were quite a bit larger. Unlike the fog billows one encounters at sea level (or even in the Great Smokey Mountains, where I was earlier this week), they were white and opaque even when they were small. It was impossible to get a good inspection of any of them, of course, since they were all whipping past at enormous speeds.

    We made it to the top and, after a rest and a discussion with the rangers, we got ready to descend. Having gone up the harder than hard way, we picked one of the easy trails for the trip down. In the facility at the top, there is a display that lists everyone known to have died on the mountain—and, when available, some information about how they died. Since the first recorded fatality in 1849, there had been a little over one hundred deaths on the mountain. As we started our descent, and passed just out of sight of the summit facilities, we met a man coming up, dressed in three hundred dollars worth of Gore-Tex and looking on the verge of collapse. He asked how far it was to the top. We offered him water (I always make a point to offer water to another climber I see in distress) and told him he was almost there. He asked if he could get there by continuing to follow the “graves” and we pointed the way.

    * The road is nicely paved near the bottom and the top. However, once it gets out of sight from either end, it reverts to bare dirt and gravel. The recording they give you to listen on the way up tells the listeners that they are experiencing the oldest man-made tourist attraction in the eastern United States. A friend who drove to the top (on a different trip) expressed incredulity that they would claim the road was the oldest man-made tourist attraction. I suggested that maybe they were actually claiming that Mount Washington was the oldest man-made attraction in question. After all, if you are going to tell an obvious lie, why not make it a real whopper?

    ** “The Appalachian Mountain Club are assholes,” as a colleague explained to me, when I told him this story.

  23. Brett, WP has a photo of cairns on a snowy Mt. Washington, guiding the way to the peak.

    I wonder when AmE duck, in the sense of a trail-marking cairn, usually a small unofficial one, started to be used. Cf. Inuktitut inuksuk, and Zemblan steinmann (“a heap of stones erected as a memento of an ascent”).

  24. @Y: I think that meaning of duck may originate with this one (per the OED, itself ultimately from the bird sense):

    A boy’s game, also called duckstone, duckiestone; also one of the stones used in this game, and sometimes a player.

    1821 Blackwood’s Edinb. Mag. Aug. 35/2 The duck is a small stone placed on a larger, and attempted to be hit off by the players at the distance of a few paces.
    1888 F. T. Elworthy W. Somerset Word-bk. Duck, a game.
    1893 Cassell’s Bk. Sports & Pastimes 255 The players [at Duckstone] then, standing at home, ‘pink for duck’, that is, they throw their stones towards the block, and he whose stone remains farthest from the block is first duck.

    The OED has no recent citations, but the word duck is still in use as the name for this family of games. Wikipedia has an article about a slightly different version of the game than the one I remember.

  25. David Eddyshaw says

    I wonder if this has any connection with the game from which the non-evil search engine DuckDuckGo gets its name?

  26. DuckDuckGo probably comes from Duck Duck Goose.

  27. Another explanation for duck-as-cairn is that in the original design, one of the stones is flat and projects out to indicate a direction.

  28. @David Eddyshaw: Do they not play Duck, Duck, Goose in Wales (or Ghana)?

  29. @Brett:

    wow! i’m glad you got out of that okay – going off-trail on the Headwall is no joke! i’ve been up that trail many times, starting when i was a kid (new england raised), but never in more than a dusting of snow. and i’ve definitely eaten in the lee of that that big cairn!

    i don’t think i’ve ever heard “duck” used for a cairn, though.

  30. I wonder if it’s a West Coast thing.

    In my experience, ducks are piles of a few rocks, created impromptu. Some hikers consider them a helpful thing to construct for the benefit of future hikers. Other hikers consider them a nuisance proliferated by amateurs, the equivalent of graffiti, and take pains to take them apart. Personally, I have been helped and confused by ducks on different occasions (not the animals. Real ducks are always confusing.)

  31. @David Eddyshaw: Do they not play Duck, Duck, Goose in Wales (or Ghana)?

    I had never heard of it, but then I grew up in Japan, Thailand, and Argentina and missed various formative experiences of your basic American kid. I just asked my wife and it turns out she played it, though not often. Now that stupid search-engine name makes sense!

  32. David Eddyshaw says

    They may well play such things in Wales and Ghana, but I myself have only heard of it because of the search engine. I expect I was just never invited to join in (wipes eye.)

    I see that the French version involves no ducks, but an item of haute couture.

  33. I see that Matasović also unites the two without comment.

    Ackchyually (as the children say)… Matasović (Etymological Dictionary of Proto-Celtic, top of p. 191) rejects the association completely:

    “GPC [Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru] treats carn ‘mound’ and carn ‘hoof’ as one word, which cannot be true for semantic reasons.”

    Matasović has two entries *karno-, one for “horn, hoof” and one for “cairn”. But his discussion in the entry “cairn” isn’t very clear. I think he is saying Cornish carn may be a ghost word, and if it is not, then it may mean ‘hoof’ rather than ‘heap’. He does cite Campanile 1974, who says the following about the relationship of Indo-European family of Sanskrit śr̥ṅga-, English horn, etc., on the one hand, and the family of Irish carn ‘cairn’, on the other:

    scr. śr̥ṅga-, lat. cornu, ant. a. ted horn. etc. Questa serie lessicale nulla ha in commune con quella rappresentata da irl. carn “mucchio di pietre”, cimr. carn “id.”, bret. karn “pietrone”, di probabile origine preindoeuropea.

  34. I wonder who first decided to lump the two together.

    The etymology of “cairn” from “horn” is in the OED (from 1888?), with an explanation of the semantic shift:

    The word is found in all the Celtic langs.; OIrishcarn, carnn, carnd occurs as neuter; Welsh, beside carn fem. ‘heap’, has carn masc. ‘hoof’ and ‘haft of knife’, etc., indicating an earlier sense ‘horn’. If these are to be identified, the word must be = the recorded Gaulish karn-on neut. ‘horn’; in which case the primary sense would apparently be ‘cairn on a mountain top’ i.e. the ‘horn’ on its ‘head’; which is quite possible, though not certain. The word enters into the names of various mountains in Scotland and Wales. Welsh has also the collective derivative carnedd, as in Carnedd Llewelyn, etc.

    To play devil’s advocate in defense of this position, we can also recall Swiss German Horn (as in Matterhorn, Finsteraarhorn, Lauteraarhorn, Schreckhorn, Breithorn, etc.), given by DWB as follows:

    schweizerisch horn ein spitziger fels auf einem hochgebirge. Stalder 2, 55; horn heiszen sie hier (im Berner oberland) den höchsten gipfel eines felsens, der meist mit schnee und eis bedeckt ist und in einer seltsamen horngestalt oft in die luft steht.

    And in this regard, we can note a shift on in the opposite semantic direction in the history of Irish. Old Irish benn is “mountain, peak” but also “horn (of an animal)” (translating Latin cornu). In Modern Irish, sliabh (Old Irish slíab “mountain, moorland”) is now the usual word for “mountain”, while beann (Old Irish benn) has gone over to “horn, antler, prong” completely. But Scottish Gaelic still has beinn as “mountain, hill” beside sliabh “hill, heath, moor”. (Also note Middle Welsh bann, “peak, top, hill; horn; turret, beacon; angle, point”.)

  35. David Eddyshaw says

    Campanile’s statement seems reasonable. I’m a bit surprised at GPC for lumping the two words together, especially given the gender difference. Homer nods …

    Still, you’re right that the semantic gap is not totally unbridgeable … if mountains have feet, why shouldn’t they have horns?

  36. Splitter or not, how do you get from ‘hoof’ to ‘cairn’? Could they just be homophones, with one having an as yet unknown etymology?

    Here is a summary of such a position, which is that of Vendryes and others on the family of Irish carn, etc., “cairn”, from Delamarre (2003) Dictionnaire de la langue gauloise, under karnitu “(il) a érigé (une tombe)”: 

    Pour l’étymologie, on rapproche le v.irl. carn ‘tas de pierres, notamment au-dessus d’une tombe’, gall. carn ‘tas de pierres’, carnedd ‘id., ruines’ (*carnijii), et le NL bret. Carnac. La racine *kar- ‘pierre’ semble pré-i.-e. mais on rapproche le v.norr. hǫrgr ‘tas, amas’, ags. hearg ‘temple’ (*karukos) ; selon J. Vendryes « cela suppose qu’à l’origine le tas de pierres a pu être l’objet d’un culte (comme sépulture d’un héros) chez les Germains comme chez les Celtes », LEIA C-40, LG 73 et selon W. Meid, Inscriptions 13 « Here, in the civilized Mediterranean world, we are a further stage away from the simple heaping-up of stones; karni-, a verb with archaic content, has become a technical term for the erection of a grave ».

    Similarly, Pokorny under 3. kar “hard”:

    desgleichen germ. *har(u)gaz ‘Steinhaufen, Opferstätte’ in anord. hǫrgr ‘Steinhaufen’, ags. hearg m. ‘heidnischer Tempel’, ahd. harg `Hain, Tempel’ (finn. Lw. karko `Holzstoß, Stapel’, harkko `Klumpen, Haufen’), vielleicht auch zu air. cymr. bret. carn ‘Steinhügel, Steingrab’, und ahd. hart `Bergwald’, ags. harað, -eð ds.; kaum hierher als ‘Waldbewohner’ der altgerm. VN Χαροῦδες, Harudes, ags. Hæreðas, aisl. Hǫrdar; eher zu air. caur, cur `Held’ (*karut-s).

  37. It’s also interesting that a similar association between “hoof” and “handle” occurs elsewhere in Goidelic: Old Irish cos “foot, leg (of human beings and animals)” and “stem, support, handle, shaft of various objects” (definitions from the eDIL) and Scottish Gaelic cas “foot, trotter; leg; shaft; handle”.

    For lagniappe… I came across the (Iberian) Galician toponyms Carnoedo and Carnota, which have been interpreted (here, for instance) as containing Celtic *karno- “cairn”. Here are the entries for these two words in the dictionary of Juan Cuveiro Piñol, but I gather his philology and linguistic analysis are suspect.

  38. Xerîb, I missed that line in Matasović, but further down the page, under *karno- ‘heap of stones, tomb’, he says, “I am not sure whether Co. carn ‘heap’ exists art all. It might be the same as OCo. carn gl. ungula, O/Bret. carn gl. ungula caballi” etc. He is too telegraphic to be clear as to whether the ‘horn’ belongs there. But I should have glanced up at the previous entry, which you quoted.

  39. PlasticPaddy says

    With cos I would say the connection is more between “leg” (the long bit you can grab on to, support) and handle. I agree that cos means both leg (whole or upper part of leg-foot assembly) and foot (bottom part of leg-foot assembly). But I think leg is more suggestive in this metaphorical use, and a “leg-like” support is more similar to a handle than a “foot-like” support, if the meaning of “handle” was an extension of the meaning of “support”, which would seem a more basic extension of the concrete meaning = leg and/or foot.

  40. @PlasticPaddy


    I think this the semantic development you outline so well for Irish is probably the one which accounts for the two meanings “hoof” and “handle” of Welsh carn. I should have been clearer in drawing attention to the two apparently parallel semantic developments in the different branches, which is what I meant to do. And Welsh coes is also both “leg, shank” (not “foot” at all, I think, unlike Irish) and “handle”, so there is even a parallel within Welsh. I looked for a close parallel in English, that other language of Britain and Ireland, but didn’t find one.

    I had been wondering to myself if the Welsh meaning “handle” could also be directly from the meaning “horn”, the handles of a vessel being likened to the horns of livestock, but that didn’t seem to be the case. I would be interested if anyone knows any examples of such a semantic shift. A bit like Sanskrit kárṇa-, both “ear” and “handle (of a vessel), helm or rudder (of a ship)”—probably no relation to the Celtic *karno-, although I think people have attempted to connect them. (Maybe the reverse shift could even happen, the horns of a sheep, goat, or head of cattle being called its “handles”?)

    (If we judge by the probable cognates of Irish cos and Welsh coes (sometimes suspected of being a Latin loanword), such as Latin coxa “hip” and Sanskrit kákṣa- “armpit, groin, hip, side” (and maybe Tocharian B kakse “loins(?)” and things in German like Middle High German hahse, hehse “Kniebug des Hinterbeins’ (besonders vom Pferd)”), then it looks like “leg” would have been the earlier meaning, too, and “foot” an extension within Irish. This is interesting. One hears from the people that track these things that it usually goes the other way, like ancient Greek πούς “foot” (LSJ: “properly the foot from the ankle down wards… but also of the leg with the foot”) to Modern Greek πόδι “leg, foot”.)

  41. The Swiss horn seems to my eye appropriate to sharp, pointy Alps, not so much to rounded Celtic hills or to cairns.
    [Note: keeping in mind that Celts were once Swiss, too.]

    That said, I think of horns as long, such as the horns used to make drinking vessels and bugles out of, but ‘horn’ is used as a metaphor for stubby things, too, as witness the cognate corner. The Colexification database shows corner/horn colexification also in Mandarin, several Tai-Kadai languages, and a number of Slavic languages (Polish, Czech, Slovak, Ukrainian, all descendants of Proto-Slavic *rogъ), as well as Norse, Icelandic, Swedish, and Breton.

    That said, I think the Celtic etymologists have been too cavalier about the semantics (as etymologists often are, alas), and I have not seen any exploration (and possibly rejection) of other possibilities, e.g. two different proto-words merging into the homophonic *karno-.

  42. There is also the mystery of Carn Cabal. Is the carn just ‘cairn’, or originally ‘hoof’?'s_dog_Cabal

    Here is the relevant passage from an edition of The Wonders of Britain:

    §73 Est aliud mirabile in regione quae dicitur Buelt. Est ibi cumulus lapidum, et unus lapis superpositus super congestum, cum vestigio canis in eo. Quando venatus est porcum Troynt, impressit Cabal, qui erat canis Arthuri militis, vestigium in lapide, et Arthur postea congregavit congestum lapidum sub lapide in quo erat vestigium canis sui, et vocatur Carn Cabal. Et veniunt homines et tollunt lapidem in manibus suis per spacium diei et noctis, et in crastino die invenitur super congestum suum.

    §73 There is another marvel in the region which is called Buelt. There is a mound of stones there and one stone placed above the pile with the pawprint of a dog in it. When Cabal, who was the dog of Arthur the soldier, was hunting the boar Troynt, he impressed his print in the stone, and afterwards Arthur assembled a stone mound under the stone with the print of his dog, and it is called the Carn Cabal. And men come and remove the stone in their hands for the length of a day and a night; and on the next day it is found on top of its mound.

    Here is the beginning of the note in Rachel Bromwich and Daniel Simon Evans (eds.)Culhwch and Olwen: An Edition and Study of the Oldest Arthurian Tale (1992), p. 153, on the carn in question:

    Cauall ki Arthur: instances of cafall < Lat. caballus ‘horse’ are found in the Hengerdd (CA 1203; CL1H vii, 22a; and cf. PT 38m on caffon). This word in its original meaning ‘horse’ is found above in 11.337, 739, where Call, Kuall, and Kauall are the three horses of Cleddyf Kyuwlch. Since carn means both ‘hoof’ and ‘cairn’ it seems more probable that Cabal/Cafall originally designated Arthur’s horse (whether as a common noun or as a personal name) rather than his hound. But the misunderstanding goes back at least as far as the passage describing Arthur’s hunt for the Twrch Trwyd (Trwyth) in the Mirabilia attached to HB (see introduction p. lxvi and n.75). In GER the mistake – if it is one – of representing Cauall as Arthur’s hound rather than his horse is perpetuated in the ref. to annwylgi Arthur, Cavali oed y enw (WM 402,19-20).

  43. On the origin of the meaning “handle” of Welsh carn again… Was the meaning “drinking horn” actually inherited, and then “handle, hilt” developed from that? Hmmm.

  44. David Eddyshaw says

    Welsh coes (sometimes suspected of being a Latin loanword)

    GPC just says its a Latin loanword, but Thurneysen says rather that it was merely “influenced” by coxa, presumably because of the unexpected vowel, though he doesn’t specify exactly.

    I think (though I wouldn’t swear to it) that the expected outcome of *-ks- in Welsh would be ch; compare Middle Welsh subjunctives like duch “may bring”, Middle Welsh ech “out of”, or Welsh uchel “high” beside Old Irish úasal and Gaulish Uxellos; and of course chwech “six.”

  45. PlasticPaddy says

    GPC also has

    [bnth. Llad. Saxonica (lingua), cf. Crn. Diw. Sousenack, Zouznak, Zaznak, Llyd. Diw. Saozneg]
    So what am I missing? Were the consonants [CHI]s (Sa[CHI]sonica) or does ks have a different reflex after a (or æ)?

  46. David Eddyshaw says

    That’s because it’s a Latin loanword; I was talking about the reflex of *ks in inherited words.
    Coes would do fine for a loanword from coxa. Presumably inherited ks must already have been altered enough prior to the Roman occupation that it no longer sounded like Latin x to the Britons.

    It’s not a matter of which vowel precedes: cf traethawd from tractatus, just like doeth from doctus; the preceding dipthongisation is part of the sound change of *kt -> th. (That one actually occurs in inherited vocabulary too, e.g wyth “eight”, aeth “went.”)

  47. PlasticPaddy says

    Thanks. I just realised this.

  48. David Eddyshaw says

    Presumably inherited ks must already have been altered enough prior to the Roman occupation that it no longer sounded like Latin x to the Britons

    This might well be to do with the Brythonic change of *s -> h, (e.g. hen “old”) which applies in all word positions (though */st/ has become /ss/ and then single s.) This doesn’t happen in Latin loanwords (e.g saeth “arrow”) so inherited /s/ must already have changed enough by Roman times that it was no longer usable to represent Latin s.
    Accordingly, inherited /ks/ could have become something like /χh/ by Roman times, whereas Latin /ks/ was adopted as /χs/ (judging by later developments, and the parallel development /kt/ -> /χt/.)

    [Thanks, btw: I had been racking my brain for a Welsh word borrowed from a Latin word with -ax- and coming up with zilch. Saeson. I could kick myself …]

  49. David Marjanović says

    how do you get from ‘hoof’ to ‘cairn’?

    “Cairn” and “horn” have the same shape, “hoof” and “horn” are the same material. Easy.

    Quite possibly too easy. It’s always possible to come up with a story to make a semantic change work.

    (The gender difference probably can’t be pushed too far, as quite a few words do fluctuate, and/or have changed gender over the history of the language. Still, it does at least mean that the words, though homophonous, are nevertheless unequivocally formally distinct as far as Welsh is concerned.)

    Reminds me of die Kiefer “pine”, der ~ das Kiefer “jaw”, not thought to be related to each other or, presumably, to Kiefer Sutherland.

    Presumably inherited ks must already have been altered enough prior to the Roman occupation that it no longer sounded like Latin x to the Britons.

    Textbook wisdom (as far as I understand from reading Wikipedia and the like), definitely Matasović, is that *ks had become [xs] by Proto-Celtic already. This is thought to be the explanation for the many Gaulish xs spellings, with the x being inspired by the earlier use of Greek letters in Gaul. It would be shared with Germanic (where the [ks] of modern English, High German and Scandinavian is definitely due to reversals, and the Dutch & Low German outcome is [s] like in Irish).

    the preceding dipthongisation is part of the sound change of *kt -> th.

    And it’s shared with northwestern Romance, not to say French.

  50. David Eddyshaw says

    I wonder what the deal is with Scots Gaelic Sasainn “England” and its derivatives?

    Wiktionary cites Old Irish Saxain, where x presumably stands for chs.

    If I’m right about the Brythonic, the Old Irish can’t be borrowed from Brythonic. Unless the spelling has been influenced by Latin, I suppose. Is chs -> s a thing over the history of Irish?

    Textbook wisdom (as far as I understand from reading Wikipedia and the like), definitely Matasović, is that *ks had become [xs] by Proto-Celtic already.

    Indeed: that’s why it belatedly occurred to me that it must have been changes to the /s/ segment of the consonant cluster that rendered the Brythonic reflex of original /ks/ a bad match to Latin /ks/; happily it’s clear that exactly such changes must in fact have already occurred to /s/ in other positions by Roman times. Moreover a change *χh -> χ (the modern reflex) is pretty plausible … and the fact that /s/ did not become /h/ in Irish explains the great difference in outcomes between Goidelic and Brythonic.

    [Thought of another example of Welsh ch from *ks: echel “axle”, a word which seems to be unknown to Wiktionary.]

  51. David Eddyshaw says

    I was just recently reading about this very change of /s/ to /h/ but I can’t remember where …

    Ah, yes: Language and History in Early Britain, what else?

    Jackson has an interesting extended discussion of this on pp517ff, pointing out that although all but a very few Latin words with /s/ have ended up with /s/ and not /h/ in Brythonic, Greek and Roman sources always write the sound which is now /h/ in Brythonic as s, e.g. Sabrina for the river Hafren, and that some early Irish loans show /s/ too: one of St Patrick’s names was Sucat /sugad/, which is Welsh hygad “warlike.”* The English heard it as /s/ too (as in “Severn.”)

    So the British sound was close enough to /s/ that foreigners heard it is as such up until the sixth century or so, but already different enough by the second century that Britons felt that Latin /s/ was a different sound entirely.

    * You didn’t mess with early Celtic saints if you knew what was good for you. Eh, Sweeney?

  52. David Eddyshaw says

    It belatedly occurred to me to see what Jackson says about /ks/; I have (of course) been reinventing the wheel above, but apparently correctly, except that the Brythonic reflexes can be /h/ or zero intervocalically (e.g. Modern Welsh de, deau, Middle Welsh deheu “right-hand, South”, cf δεξιός, etc etc.) He confirms that the development of Latin /ks/ was quite different, using as examples Saeson and coes (yup!) and also crwys, croes “cross”, along with Middle Welsh peis from pexa (whatever those mean.)

  53. David Eddyshaw says

    [Google Chrome just offered to translate this page from German for me. It must have concluded that discussions of historical linguistics are in German by default]

  54. Ganz richtig!

  55. Stu Clayton says

    Much depends on “where you’re at”, as the hippies used to say. I have argued Chrome into submission, it doesn’t now dare offer to translate German or anything else.

    A simple argument, really – I don’t *want* to understand everything. It’s part of my strategy for cognitive modesty. Millions of graphemes flit before my eyes like sparrows on speed – nobody expects me to understand these, right ?

  56. There will be a test.

  57. John Cowan says

    The area is a public park

    The summit area is a state park; the rest of the mountain is a national forest (which means it can be logged).

    the Tuckerman Ravine Trail […] although it was early June, there was still a fair amount of snow on the ground

    Unsurprising, as the Tucks has a lot of ski trails, mostly used from early April to mid-July. (During the winter special training and experience are needed, as the risk of avalanches is highest then.)

    windiest place on Earth

    It held the surface-level record (231 mph / 372 km) from 1934 until 2009, and still holds the record for winds not part of a tornado or tropical cyclone. Indeed, the permanent building at the summit is chained to the mountain to hold it in place and is made of granite so that it doesn’t burn down due to fires induced by wind friction.

    when available, some information about how they died

    I have been told that the deaths for which no reason is given were deaths on the Cog Railway, which keeps its name off the plaque to promote its “perfect safety record”.

    the oldest man-made tourist attraction in the eastern United States

    As a committed Gricean, I interpret this as meaning the oldest (1861) man-made tourist attraction built as such. The White House is an older (1792, rebuilt after arson 1815) tourist attraction, but it was built as the Executive Mansion. I have not been able to determine when tours of the house began, though during the Jackson Administration (1829-37) the White House foyer was open to visitors, and the last party of Jackson’s final term was an invitation to We The People (and probably some foreign diplomats) to come and eat the 1400-pound / 635 kg wheel of cheese that Jackson had been sent by some admirers of his from Western Massachusetts (nowadays known as Hat Country).

  58. @John Cowan: While most of the land around Mount Washington is under the jurisdiction of the United States Forest Service, part of the United States Department of Agriculture, it is administered as a park—although it might, in fact, be fairly difficult to formulate a legally correct definition of a “park.” Park-like territories can be governed by departmental policies, by executive order, or by act of Congress (in increasing order of authority). National monuments are typically designated by the president, while national parks are created by act of Congress (sometimes out of previously existing monuments). There are also specific laws controlling activities on national monument lands, while areas like the National Forest area around Mount Washington are administered under park-like rules set at the level of the Forest Service or the Department of Agriculture. Typically, when an area is designated as a national park, monument, seashore, etc., administration of the area is transferred to the National Park Service (part of the United States Department of the Interior)—but not always! I asked the rangers at the Congraee National Park about this (after a tour guide made a statement that equated the system of national parks, monuments, etc. with the territories administered by the Park Service), and they were completely unaware that there could be non-Park-Service national monuments. I actually only know such monument, the Newberry National Volcanic Monument outside Bend, Oregon. The Forest Service originally created it, as the Lava Lands park, out of the part of the Deschutes National Forest that contained Newbury Crater, the nearby obsidian flow, and several cinder cones. After several decades, the area was designated as a national monument, moving its park designation from the level of departmental rules to presidential action. However, the area remains under the administration of the Deschutes National Forest, not the National Park Service.

  59. Statues are tourist traps, is one way to look at them. I’m seeing our deprived, benighted forebears taking the family out for a refreshing ten-mile walk to town to see the bronze statue of the beloved King atop his valiant horse, and while they are there, buying apples from a peddler for the entire family at a farthing apiece.

  60. “A farden?! I could get an apple for a ha’farden at Goody Audrey’s!”

    “Why, get ye yer apples at Goody Audrey’s, then; if ye want to be seein the King, ye’ll pay a farden and like it!”

  61. January First-of-May says

    an apple for a ha’farden

    I often wonder how did medieval (and other, but especially medieval) economies worked in terms of low-end purchases (and I suspect that apples by the unit, as opposed to e.g. by the pound or bushel, probably qualified) and appropriate denominations. There was no half-farthing coin in Britain except briefly in the 19th century, but there were surely many items that cost this little, or even less; elsewhere (and/or elsewhen) there could even have been no coin below the silver penny.

    I suppose that in principle however low you make the lowest denomination there’s probably still something that’s worth less than that, though of course with modern mass production it’s possible to make the lowest denominations worth sufficiently little that anything worth less than that might as well be a gift.

  62. You just sell more for the lowest denomination, say two for a farthing.

    The last item I know of to be regularly sold for a penny in the US is a gumball, from a machine. Even that might be my imagination. I recollect (or imagine) matchbooks selling for a nickel.

  63. David Eddyshaw says

    I used to buy walnut whips for a penny each (i.e. 1/240th of a pound) at Charing Cross station in Glasgow on my way to school in the 1960s.

  64. In the discussion of cent shops in The House of the Seven Gables,* it seems like a lot of items sold for a penny apiece, even when they might, in bulk, go for quite a bit less. For little Ned, who is a regular customer and buys a lot of gingerbread cookies, Hepzibah and Phoebe are willing to let him have a extras when he runs out of pennies.

    * Coincidentally (or not), it’s book number 77 at Project Gutenberg.

  65. John Cowan says

    “Why, get ye yer apples at Goody Audrey’s, then; if ye want to be seein the King, ye’ll pay a farden and like it!”

    “Why it says, ‘Pickles 10 cents?’ At Shmuels-down-the-block, it says ‘Pickles 5 cents’!”

    “So buy from Shmuels-down-the-block.”

    “But Shmuel is out of pickles!”

    “Listen, lady. When I am out of pickles, I also sell them for 5 cents!”

  66. David Marjanović says

    So the British sound was close enough to /s/ that foreigners heard it is as such up until the sixth century or so, but already different enough by the second century that Britons felt that Latin /s/ was a different sound entirely.

    That’s amazing. What sound could that have been? [sʰ], attested today in about 10 languages worldwide? Could [θ] have gotten out of the way of the current [θ] soon enough?

    Edit: I should link to the whole horror of the [s] >>> “[h]” change in the Bashkir-Tatar area (in Russian, but with a very colorful dialect map). [θ] features (and so do heaps of other sounds less similar to [s]).

  67. David Eddyshaw says

    There is an alternative theory that the contrast was between a /s/ subject to lenition (to /h/) and one that wasn’t.

    Ah yes: due to Schrijver, and described on p69 of

    More accurately, S’s proposal is that lenition of /s/ got screwed up because there were /s/’s derived from /st/ that didn’t lenite, so most words got stuck in lenited form. From the point of view of Brythonic itself, it makes no difference; it’s more in the nature of an explanation of an already well-known sound change.

    It only seems to work with the English loanword evidence (says Laker) if you accept S’s view that the Lowlands were actually Latin-speaking at the time of the English invasions. It may have the advantage of not requiring the odd phonological set-up implied by Jackson’s view, but seems to engender implausibilities of its own. I can’t at this point see how it gets round the idea that at some point Brythonic had a sound that sounded like Latin /s/ to Romans, but not to Britons; I suppose that it means that this odd state of affairs need not have persisted for so long.

  68. David Eddyshaw says

    The development (? redevelopment) of /θ/ in Brythonic was indeed fairly late; it can’t be later than the sixth century because it’s found in Welsh, Cornish and Breton, but there is no evidence for spirantisation of *tt *pp *kk in Romano-British sources; Latin words with *tt *pp *kk behave subsequently just like inherited words, e.g. Welsh cath “cat”, cyff “stump”, pechod “sin”; and even sixth-century loans into Irish don’t have it (Old Irish catt, cepp, peccad respectively.) [All stolen from LHEB p 565.]

    So while the sound that Britons felt was not like Latin /s/, but that Romans heard as /s/, could have been /θ/, that wouldn’t explain why the English heard it as /s/ in the sixth century, by which time it can’t have been /θ/ any more (and, or course, the English had a perfectly good /θ/ of their own.) So presumably Schrijver’s view is that English names like “Severn” were actually borrowed from Latin, not British.

  69. David Eddyshaw says

    How about /ʃ/? Neither Latin* nor sixth-century English had that sound, and /s/ would have been a natural enough replacement.

    * Some forms of spoken Latin did, sure: but judging by Welsh loans, British Latin didn’t: cf ysbaid “period, term, gap” from spatium.

  70. David Eddyshaw says

    Jackson marshals quite a number of arguments against the idea that /s/ -> /h/ was “stuck” lenition (which goes back all the way to Zimmer in 1893 and was apparently held by Pederson, no less); for example, there is no evidence that lenition was actually a process in British by the end of the first century, and Latin loanwords undergo lenition (once it really does start off) just like native vocabulary.

    Jackson does make the interesting observation (p520) that all the secure instances of the English borrowing placenames with initial /s/ corresponding to British /h/ are likely to have antedated Severn/Hafren, and that the English might well have been familiar with the name of that river before they actually got there with their conquests in 577; so that is not incompatible with Schrijver’s idea that the English got these placenames in a form already pre-mangled with initial /s/ from Latin speakers. At this point, Schrijver’s argument doesn’t seem to depend on his idea about lenition of /s/ at all, in fact, only on his views about British Latin, rather than Brythonic, being the language of the Lowlands at the time of the invasions.

    If you accept that (if only for the sake of argument) then all that needs explaining is why the Romans heard the sound-corresponding-to-Welsh-h as /s/; given that Latin had no /θ/ /ʃ/ or indeed even /h/ by this point, let alone more exotic fricatives, there’s an embarrassment of riches when it comes to guessing what the sound might actually have been.

  71. If you accept that (if only for the sake of argument) then all that needs explaining is why the Romans heard the sound-corresponding-to-Welsh-h as /s/
    Maybe I’m missing something, but if the sound change was recent, the Romans would have borrowed the place names when the sound was still [s] and simply preserved them that way?
    I’ve got nothing against the idea that the lowlands spoke Romance, but wouldn’t it also be possible that they spoke a form of Brythonic to which the change /s/ > /h/ hadn’t spread?

  72. David Eddyshaw says

    That wouldn’t explain why the Britons didn’t hear Latin /s/ as equivalent to whatever sound it was that eventually became Welsh /h/; however you cut it, Brythonic in Roman times must have had a sound that differed from Latin /s/ but for which /s/ was the best that monoglot Latin-speakers could do, alongside a different sound that Britons did equate with Latin /s/.

    The idea that Lowlanders might have spoken a form of Brythonic where PIE was still just /s/ (as in Irish) is interesting. I suppose whether it works depends on just how Latin loans ended up in the Brythonic languages though. If they were borrowed into Lowland Brythonic first, and the uncouth Highlanders learnt them from refugees from the south, I suppose that would work. It’s striking just how very basic some of these Latin loans are, though: “child”, “want”, “don’t do”, “green”, “dry” … we’re not just talking just some rarefied learned layer of vocabulary here.* I can see these sort of words being adopted in the context of a lot of bilinguals, from a prestige imperial language, but from refugees? Even posh refugees?

    Also, why would the uncouth highlanders only adopt Latin words with initial /s/ from these influential refugees? There are a few native words with initial /s/ from PIE /s/**, and one or two with /h/ for Latin /s/, but the general pattern is overwhelmingly native /h/, Latin-loan /s/.

    * GPC suggests that even peth “thing” may be of the same origin as French pièce, but the French word may itself be of Celtic origin.

    ** Saith “seven” is an obvious one. It has actually been suggested that even this is a Latin loanword; but it may have resisted the sound change because that would have left it too liable to be confused with wyth/oeth “eight”, I guess.

  73. David Eddyshaw says

    (By pure chance, there is a book on the top of the pile beside me titled Saith Pechod Marwol, “Seven Deadly Sins”, with two of the very words I’ve just mentioned.)

  74. PlasticPaddy says

    @hans, de
    You can find placename doublets with h or s, e.g.,
    Cae rhyd yr henedd (Cardiganshire)
    Cae ‘r senedd (Merionethshire)
    is a good site for searching for these. I don’t know what these doublets say about the language spoken in the places, and I agree that senedd is a borrowing from Latin (and the spelling may have preserved the s).

  75. There are a few native words with initial /s/ from PIE /s/**, and one or two with /h/ for Latin /s/, but the general pattern is overwhelmingly native /h/, Latin-loan /s/.
    But that then looks to me like a purely chronological question – the place names were loaned into British Romance from Brythonic when Brythonic still had /s/ or something close to it, while the loans from Latin (except for your “one or two”) made their way into Brythonic only after /s/ had become something else.
    So the chronology could look like this:
    1) British Latin / Romance loans place names in /s/ from Brythonic; Brythonic loans a small number of words in /s/ from Latin / Romance
    2) Brythonic /s/ becomes /h/, with intermediate steps (/θ/ /ʃ/ , or whatever). During this phase, Romance may still loan Brythonic words with the intermediate phoneme substituting Romance /s/ for it, either because it’s the closest phoneme or in a conventionalised substitution*1). Brythonic loans from Romance substituting its new /s/, as it’s closer to Romance /s/ than the intermediate phoneme.
    3) The Saxons loan British place names from Romance with /s/, perhaps also developing a conventionalised substitution for the Brythonic phoneme in place name loans directly from Brythonic.

    *1) Similar to how Russian loans render both English /θ/ and /t/ as /t/.

  76. David Eddyshaw says

    I don’t see any great advantage in separating (1) and (2), and it assumes a significant period during which Romans were listening to Britons but not vice versa, which is hard to picture.

    Even separating 1/2 from 3 seems gratuitously complicated at the end of the day: all you need to assume to make it unnecessary is to suppose the sound-that-was-destined-to-become-Welsh-h was present in neither Latin nor sixth-century English; I don’t think you have to be too creatively exotic to come up with candidates now I’ve thought about it some more.

    That’s not to say that your scenario is impossible, by any means; but it seems to be multiplying hypotheses beyond necessity.

  77. David Eddyshaw says


    Senedd is certainly borrowed from Latin, though it’s one of a number of words that makes me wonder if my forebears were actually all that good at Latin: it seems to be an unholy merger of senatus and synodus.

    Incidentally, Senedd is now the official name of the Welsh Parliament. I feel it’s a pity that the opportunity was not taken to declare that the official English name should by “Welsh Synod.” For the grandeur … it could pronounce frightful anathemas on the heretics at Westminster …

    “Senateford” strikes me as a rather odd name for a place. There is actually a native word henedd “oldness”, but that admittedly seems an even odder thing to call a ford after.

  78. “Senility Ford”

  79. David Eddyshaw says

    Actually, now I look at GPC, it suggests Old French sened (from senatus) might be involved somewhere, which would at least help with the vowels, and perhaps vindicate the Latinity of the Ancestors.

  80. David Eddyshaw says

    “Senility ford”

    Caution! Old people crossing!

  81. John Cowan says

    It’s striking just how very basic some of these Latin loans are, though: “child”, “want”, “don’t do”, “green”, “dry” … we’re not just talking just some rarefied learned layer of vocabulary here.

    That’s exactly what you’d expect on the assumption that the refugees from the east slotted into the low-prestige part of western British society, as the vast bulk of refugees do. It’s true that during language shift the phonology and syntax of the language being shifted from tend to survive and the vocabulary to be lost in the refugee dialect of the new language. But any vocabulary that does survive tends to be precisely the basic words. What’s more, there were enough refugees that these basic words eventually spread to both groups: see my anecdote about Christian Civilized Barbarians being more acceptable rulers for the British Latins than Heathen Barbarous Barbarians.

    By the same token, though the English did not shift to French, the words that survived from Old English into modern English are basic vocabulary (about 1800 roots according to my calculation).

    Senedd is certainly borrowed from Latin, though it’s one of a number of words that makes me wonder if my forebears were actually all that good at Latin: it seems to be an unholy merger of senatus and synodus.

    Again, just what you expect: the lower-class refugees would have a limited grasp of Latin Fancy Talk, the analogue of how black American preachers in the late 19C and early 20C impressed their parishioners by using terms that they had only a partial grasp of, as by ending their sermons with “And now I shall redound to my sanctum sanctorum.” (Fancy talk now means stylized boasting.)

  82. PlasticPaddy says

    Is nf > n a thing in any dialect? Then you could have henfedd / senfedd (“old grave / ditch”) > henedd /senedd in the placenames.

  83. David Eddyshaw says

    I don’t think it’s outright impossible; f /v/ is very weakly articulated a lot of the time, and has mostly disappeared altogether word-finally in actual speech.

  84. Мы ночевали тут же на сендухе. Лесному человеку вырубить нодью с костром на всю ночь, с шалашом для ночлега, с постелью, с варилом, даже со столиком для еды, едва ли больше стоит времени, чем нашей хозяйке заправить примус. Вот мы и кулеша из рябчика славно похлебали, попиваем чаек, и так радостно возвращается нам наше детское «почему». Это наше детско-охотничье «почему» совсем не то, когда взрослые люди, опасаясь отдаться чарам красоты, говорят: «А почему?» У детей и охотников «почему» выходит из удивления, вопрос рождается в радостном соприкосновении своей целины с целостью мира. И правда, устроив все с ночлегом, едой, чаем, как не дивиться нам на досуге этому мрачному лесу с гигантскими перестарелыми деревьями, уцелевшими только потому, что чем-то не пришлись к рукам человека.


    К этимологии рус. диал. сéндуха*
    В докладе рассматривается вопрос о происхождении северного
    русского диалектизма сéндуха. В говорах восточносибирского села
    Русское Устье это слово означает ‘тундра; природа’ [Чикачев, 1990,
    160], в других зонах Северной России для него фиксируются значения
    ‘пустое место’, ‘открытый воздух’, ‘пространство вне дома’, ‘ночлег
    под открытым небом’ [СРНГ, 37, 163; КСГРС].

  85. гурий


    IPA(key): /ˈʋuo̯ri/, [ˈʋuo̞̯ri]
    Rhymes: -uori
    Syllabification: vuo‧ri
    Etymology 1
    From Proto-Finnic *voori, from Proto-Uralic *wëre or *wärä. Compare vaara, a Sami borrowing possibly from the same Uralic root.


    1. mountain (large mass of earth and rock)
    2. mountain (large amount)
    3. high hill (especially in toponyms)

  86. Мы ночевали тут же на сендухе.

    Thanks for that passage from Prishvin; he’s always a pleasure to read.

  87. Juha!

    Your suggestion of an etymology of гурий from a Finnic source like Finnish vuori is quite interesting. I wonder, are there are other examples of Finnic loanwords in Russian with Finnic v > Russian g?

    I was just thinking that it recalls the persistent coexistence of variant pronunciations with [ɣ], [v] and [w] in Northern Russian dialects, as in the genitive endings -его, -ого and in things like восподин for господин (whatever the deeper Slavic origin of these variations… cf. also things like the odd cognate set containing Russian гусеница, Polish gąsienica but dial. wąsienica, Kashubian wǫsevńica, BCSM gusenica, Bulgarian gъsenica but dial. въсеница, Slovene gosenica, vosenica).

    Perhaps a reflex of Finnic *voori in one of Finnic languages in contact with Russian was borrowed into a Northern Russian dialect that had such variation, and the variant with /ɡ/ ([ɣ]) ended up winning out as the word spread? I am not qualified to judge the phonological, geographic, and chronological likelihood of such a scenario, however.

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