Turscar, Prátaí, Páistí.

Máirtín Mac Con Iomaire and Dónall Ó Braonáin write for Raidió Teilifís Éireann about Irish names for food:

Languages are a window into different cosmologies, a way of looking at the world differently. This especially applies to Irish food history and much can be learnt from the Irish language about our ancestors’ cattle-based economy and transhumance traditions, influenced by Ireland’s temperate climate, where regular rain meant grass grew nearly all year round. Consider the etymological richness of ‘Bóthar’, the Irish word for road (from ‘’—cow), defined in width by the length and breadth of a cow, a signifier of the long affair of our bovine past; extending also to our ‘buachaillí’ (boys) and ‘cailíní’ (girls), meaning, respectively, cowboy or herd boy and little herder, the suffix ‘ín’ denoting the diminutive. […]

In his iconic book Cladaí Chonamara, Seamus Mac an Iomaire gave Irish names and descriptions for 43 different types of seaweed from his native west Galway. Extending this descriptive profusion, rabharta means a spring tide (which provides an abundance of cast-up seaweed), and the word garbhshíon or scairbhín na gCuach (rough weather of the Cuckoos) refers to a particular time between late April and early May when rough or harsh weather throws up seaweed on the coastline, which is also gathered for fertilising potato beds. […]

The triad ‘Turscar, Prátaí, Páistí’ (cast-up seaweed, potatoes, children) reinforces the historical interconnectedness between the weather, cast-up seaweed / wrack, potatoes, and population growth in coastal parts on this island. The adoption of the potato as a staple food directly influenced the dramatic population growth in Ireland from one million in 1590 (roughly coinciding with the introduction of the potato) to 8.4 million in the 1840s. […]

A pernicious fallacy that continues to be peddled is that Ireland does not have a rich food tradition, or varied food culture, often based on historiography that has neglected to engage with any sources in the Irish language. For example, the Harvard historian Hasia Diner stated in Hungering for America: Italian, Irish and Jewish Foodways in the Age of Migration that ‘Irish writers of memoir, poems, stories, political tracts, or songs rarely included the details of food in describing daily life’ unlike those of other peoples.

But it is clear that Diner did not consult with any source in the Irish language nor indeed with many English language sources. The correspondences of Daniel O’Connell, the letters of Jonathan Swift, the diary of Humphrey O’Sullivan and the travel narratives of John Gamble are all rich in food and beverage related discussion.

The American food historian Ken Albala points out that the first thing a cultural historian should do is learn the language of the culture being studied. In The Popular Mind in Eighteenth-Century Ireland, Vincent Morley notes how the failure of so many historians to use Irish language sources had a remarkable effect on our official history. In a review of Morley’s book, Declan Kiberd noted that ‘it would be hard to imagine French people paying much heed to a history of their country, written by someone with no working knowledge of its language; but they do (or did) things differently in Ireland’. […]

Manchán Magan’s Thirty-two Words for Field inspired the title of our forthcoming chapter ‘Seventy-Two Words for Potato: Irish Language sources for Food History’ in Irish Food History: A Companion. In the coming days, as you travel about, pay attention to the Irish place names you pass. Remember the etymology of the words ‘bóthar’, ‘buachaill’ and ‘cailín’.

Amazingly, two of those etymologies are correct: bóthar and buachaill are in fact from the word for ‘cow’ (cailín, alas, does not seem to mean ‘little herder’). And if you’re wondering, as I was, about páiste ‘child,’ Wiktionary sez:

From Early Modern Irish páitse (compare Manx paitçhey, Scottish Gaelic pàisde), from Old French page, from Late Latin pagius (“servant”) (possibly via Italian paggio), probably from Ancient Greek παιδίον (paidíon, “boy, lad”), from παῖς (paîs, “child”); some sources consider this unlikely and suggest instead Latin pagus (“countryside”), in sense of “boy from the rural regions”.

Also, quite unexpectedly, rabharta ‘spring tide’ was familiar to me because I own a copy of Sorley MacLean’s Spring Tide and Neap Tide: Selected Poems, 1932-72/Reothairt is contraigh: Taghadh de dhàin, 1932-72. Thanks, Trevor!


  1. J.W. Brewer says

    “Complaints about the monotony of our cuisine are much exaggerated. Why, in former times we ate 43 different sorts of seaweed with our potatoes.” As it happens, I recently have been seeing social-media statements from an Irish-American lady of my acquaintance complaining that corned-beef as a St. Patrick’s Day staple is a purely diasporic innovation, because back on the Auld Sod it’s just bacon bacon and bacon (all very good bacon on offer for the tourists these days, of course).

    FWIW, wikipedia asserts that Ireland was historically a major center of corned beef production but mostly for the export market, such that “Before the wave of 19th century Irish immigration to the United States, many of the ethnic Irish did not consume corned beef dishes. The popularity of corned beef compared to back bacon among the immigrant Irish may have been due to corned beef being considered a luxury product in their native land, while it was cheap and readily available in the United States.”

  2. Jen in Edinburgh says

    I think I see the argument – the caile which takes a diminutive suffix to form cailín (it’s caileag in Scottish Gaelic, same idea different ending) is the same as the caill in buachaill, so the words must be related in meaning.

    The problem is that it’s not true – buachaill seems to have come in one piece from Greek (βουκόλος/boukólos), while caile is related to a Greek word παλλακή/pallakḗ.

    (It had not occurred to me that buachaill was a close relative of bucolic.)

    Gaelic caileag ‘girl’ and cailleach ‘old woman’ are oddly unrelated – cailleach apparently comes from caille ‘veil’, related to Latin pallium

  3. The Poor Mouth has lots of pigs, but somehow scarcely anyone eats pork; only potatoes.

  4. David Marjanović says

    buachaill seems to have come in one piece from Greek (βουκόλος/boukólos),

    Isn’t it rather just the cognate?

  5. Jen in Edinburgh says

    I took it as a borrowing from Latin borrowed from Greek (as the OED gives for English bucolic), but you’ll know better than me. It doesn’t seem to split within Gaelic the way that cowherd can be split in English, though, as if it has come from somewhere as a complete word.

  6. Rich and fecund material. I had suspected byre was connected with and that whole PIE-based complex involving bucolics and cows (not bull, which is from PIE *bʰel-). Prompted by the post to check, I found that byre is in fact cognate with bower, bothy, booth, boer, and a host of other lexemes – from PIE *bʰuH- and therefore in fact connected with everything else of noetic interest.

    On the matter of seaweed, I knew that it was excellent for preparing soil for potatoes and had a role in the Great Hunger of 1845–1852. But I still can’t tell just how and how much seaweed itself was part of the Irish diet before, during, immediately after, and long after (as an element of haute cuisine, or oat cuisine) the famine.

    As for Ulysses, which anything Irish impels me to recall or consult afresh, seaweed first appears in “Proteus”, as seawrack: “Ineluctable modality of the visible: at least that if no more, thought through my eyes. Signatures of all things I am here to read, seaspawn and seawrack, the nearing tide, that rusty boot.” And later in the episode, and later in the novel. But I find no connection with potatoes, which themselves turn up 26 times. Some of those times, in sequence:

    First, as a shrivelled talisman (accompanied by his famous lemon-scented soap) that Bloom is concerned not to lose from his pockets: “On the doorstep he felt in his hip pocket for the latchkey. Not there. In the trousers I left off. Must get it. Potato I have.” And later (a little after hearing the shouted order “Roast and mashed here”):

    I am looking for that. Yes, that. Try all pockets. Handker. Freeman. Where did I? Ah, yes. Trousers. Purse. Potato. Where did I?
    Hurry. Walk quietly. Moment more. My heart.
    His hand looking for the where did I put found in his hip pocket soap lotion have to call tepid paper stuck, Ah, soap there! Yes. Gate.

    Second, as an element in the poorest Irish diet contrasted with the well-to-do priest’s fare:

    From Butler’s monument house corner he glanced along Bachelor’s walk. Dedalus’ daughter there still outside Dillon’s auctionrooms. Must be selling off some old furniture. Knew her eyes at once from the father. Lobbing about waiting for him. Home always breaks up when the mother goes. Fifteen children he had. Birth every year almost. That’s in their theology or the priest won’t give the poor woman the confession, the absolution. Increase and multiply. Did you ever hear such an idea? Eat you out of house and home. No families themselves to feed. Living on the fat of the land. Their butteries and larders. I’d like to see them do the black fast Yom Kippur. Crossbuns. One meal and a collation for fear he’d collapse on the altar. A housekeeper of one of those fellows If you could pick it out of her. Never pick it out of her. Like getting L. s. d. out of him. Does himself well. No guests. All for number one. Watching his water. Bring your own bread and butter. His reverence. Mum’s the word.
    Good Lord, that poor child’s dress is in flitters. Underfed she looks too. Potatoes and marge, marge and potatoes. It’s after they feel it. Proof of the pudding. Undermines the constitution.

    Undermines the constitution, indeed.

    Third, the familiar hot-potato meme but in the context of informers and political intrigue:

    Never know who you’re talking to. Corny Kelleher he has Harvey Duff in his eye. Like that Peter or Denis or James Carey that blew the gaff on the invincibles. Member of the corporation too. Egging raw youths on to get in the know. All the time drawing secret service pay from the castle. Drop him like a hot potato. Why those plain clothes men are always courting slaveys.

    Fourth, in a direct reference to the Famine:

    Mr Bloom turned at Gray’s confectioner’s window of unbought tarts and passed the reverend Thomas Connellan’s bookstore. Why I left the church of Rome? Bird’s Nest. Women run him. They say they used to give pauper children soup to change to protestants in the time of the potato blight. Society over the way papa went to for the conversion of poor jews. Same bait. Why we left the church of Rome?

    Fifth, “In liver gravy Bloom mashed mashed potatoes.”

    Sixth, itemised in an inventory of Irish bounty:

    Thither the extremely large wains bring foison of the fields, flaskets of cauliflowers, floats of spinach, pineapple chunks, Rangoon beans, strikes of tomatoes, drums of figs, drills of Swedes, spherical potatoes and tallies of iridescent kale, York and Savoy, and trays of onions, pearls of the earth, and punnets of mushrooms and custard marrows and fat vetches and bere and rape and red green yellow brown russet sweet big bitter ripe pomellated apples and chips of strawberries and sieves of gooseberries, pulpy and pelurious [a Joycean coinage], and strawberries fit for princes and raspberries from their canes.

    Seventh, several adventures and epiphanies in “Circe”:

    (Shocked, on weak hams, he halts. Tommy and Jacky vanish there, there. Bloom pats with parcelled hands watch, fobpocket, bookpocket, pursepocket, sweets of sin, potato soap.)

    The talisman potato’s origin story:

    BLOOM Mamma!
    ELLEN BLOOM (In pantomime dame’s stringed mobcap, crinoline and bustle, widow Twankey’s blouse with muttonleg sleeves buttoned behind, grey mittens and cameo brooch, her hairplaited in a crisping net, appears over the staircase banisters, a slanted candlestick in her hand and cries out in shrill alarm.) O blessed Redeemer, what have they done to him! My smelling salts! (She hauls up a reef of skirt and ransacks the pouch of her striped blay petticoat. A phial, an Agnus Dei, a shrivelled potato and a celluloid doll fall out.) Sacred Heart of Mary, where were you at all, at all?
    (Bloom, mumbling, his eyes downcast, begins to bestow his parcels in his filled pockets but desists, muttering.)

    Testimony in the court proceedings against Bloom:

    MRS BELLINGHAM (In cap and seal coneymantle, wrapped up to the nose, steps out of her brougham and scans through tortoiseshell quizzingglasses which she takes from inside her huge opossum muff.) Also to me. Yes, I believe it is the same objectionable person. Because he closed my carriage door outside sir Thornley Stoker’s one sleety day during the cold snap of February ninetythree when even the grid of the wastepipe and ballstop in my bath cistern were frozen. Subsequently he enclosed a bloom of edelweiss culled on the heights, as he said, in my honour. I had it examined by a botanical expert and elicited the information that it was a blossom of the homegrown potato plant purloined from a forcingcase of the model farm.

    A temporary loss of the valued potato, to Zoe the whore (who at first confuses it with more anatomical or pathological items):

    ZOE You both in black [Stephen Dedalus and Bloom are both in mourning]. Has little mousey any tickles tonight?
    (His skin, alert, feels her fingertips approach. A hand slides over his left thigh.)
    ZOE How’s the nuts?
    BLOOM Off side. Curiously they are on the right. Heavier I suppose. One in a million my tailor, Mesias, says.
    ZOE (In sudden alarm.) You’ve a hard chancre.
    BLOOM Not likely.
    ZOE I feel it.
    (Her hand slides into his left trouser pocket and brings out a hard black shrivelled potato. She regards it and Bloom with dumb moist lips.)
    BLOOM A talisman. Heirloom.
    ZOE For Zoe? For keeps? For being so nice, eh?
    (She puts the potato greedily into a pocket, then links his arm, cuddling him with supple warmth. He smiles uneasily. Slowly, note by note, oriental music is played. He gazes in the tawny crystal of her eyes, ringed with kohol. His smile softens.)

    An account of the potato as a benign import from the New World, contrasted with malign tobacco (mentioned earlier as likely to stunt growth in a Dublin street urchin – but Bloom puffs on a cigar in “Cyclops”):

    BLOOM (In workman’s corduroy overalls, black gansy with red floating tie and apache cap.) Mankind is incorrigible. Sir Walter Raleigh brought from the new world that potato and that weed, the one a killer of pestilence by absorption, the other a poisoner of the ear, eye, heart, memory, will, understanding, all. That is to say, he brought the poison a hundred years before another person whose name I forget brought the food. Suicide. Lies. All our habits. Why, look at our public life!

    Skipping a briefer mention (“cricket and archery outfitters, riddlemakers, egg and potato factors, hosiers and glovers, plumbing contractors”), a salvific invocation:

    THE DAUGHTERS OF ERIN Kidney of Bloom, pray for us. Flower of the Bath, pray for us. Mentor of Menton, pray for us. Canvasser for the Freeman, pray for us. Charitable Mason, pray for us. Wandering Soap, pray for us. Sweets of Sin, pray for us. Music without Words, pray for us. Reprover of the Citizen, pray for us. Friend of all Frillies, pray for us. Midwife Most Merciful, pray for us. Potato Preservative against Plague and Pestilence, pray for us.

    The talisman returned:

    BLOOM (Gently.) Give me back that potato, will you? Zoe Forfeits, a fine thing and a superfine thing.
    BLOOM (With feeling.) It is nothing, but still a relic of poor mamma.
    Give a thing and take it back
    God’ll ask you where is that
    You’ll say you don’t know
    God’ll send you down below.
    BLOOM There is a memory attached to it. I should like to have it.
    STEPHEN To have or not to have, that is the question.
    ZOE Here. (She hauls up a reef of her slip, revealing her bare thigh and unrolls the potato from the top of her stocking.) Those that hides knows where to find.

    Sundry further mentions:

    (A yoke of buckets leopards all over him [Garrett Deasey; master of the school Dedalus had taught at and much concerned with coins] and his rearing nag, a torrent of mutton broth with dancing coins of carrots, barley, onions, turnips, potatoes.)

    He [Bloom] walks, runs, zigzags, gallops, lugs laid back. He is pelted with gravel, cabbagestumps, biscuitboxes, eggs, potatoes, dead codfish, womans slipperslappers.

    (The women’s heads coalesce. Old Gummy Granny in sugarloaf hat appears seated on a toadstool, the deathflower of the potato blight on her breast.)
    STEPHEN Aha! I know you, grammer! Hamlet, revenge! The old sow that eats her farrow!

    Eighth and finally, later brief mentions. In “Eumaeus”:

    not to mention the chip potato variety and so forth, over in little Italy there, near the Coombe

    And in “Ithaca”, from Molly:

    … all his fault of course ruining servants [this is about the serving girl whom Bloom had attempted to molest] then proposing that she could eat at our table on Christmas if you please O no thank you not in my house stealing my potatoes and the oysters [mentioned more than once as an aphrodisiac] 2/6 per doz going out to see her aunt if you please common robbery …

    … I had the devils own job to get it out of him though I liked him for that it showed he could hold in and wasnt to be got for the asking he was on the pop of asking me too the night in the kitchen I was rolling the potato cake theres something I want to say to you only for I put him off letting on I was in a temper with my hands and arms full of pasty flour in any case I let out too much the night before talking of dreams …

    … if he knew she broke off the hand off that little gimcrack statue with her roughness and carelessness before she left that I got that little Italian boy to mend so that you cant see the join for 2 shillings wouldnt even teem the potatoes for you of course shes right not to ruin her hands …
    … knowing shes pretty with her lips so red a pity they wont stay that way I was too but theres no use going to the fair with the thing answering me like a fishwoman when I asked to go for a half a stone of potatoes the day we met Mrs Joe Gallaher at the trottingmatches and she pretended not to see us in her trap with Friery the solicitor we werent grand enough till I gave her 2 damn fine cracks across the ear for herself take that now for answering me like that and that for your impudence …

    See also Bloom’s potato, which will reward reading. (I don’t know why this author says that Bloom does not eat the potatoes that he “mashed mashed”. It had it all seemed to be mixed together, so the mere fact that other items on the plate are mentioned as consumed does not warrant exclusion of the potato element.)

  7. Combining a couple of current threads, when it comes to seaweed the mot juste [in The Guardian] is female-led seaweed company

  8. @Jen in Edinburgh: You write about “caille” ‘veil’, related to Latin “pallium”. Actually, it would be fairer to speak of “caille” as a borrowing from Latin “pallium”: the latter word seems derived from the Indo-European root *pel-, “to cover”, and if so its Celtic (and therefore Gaelic) cognate should have no initial consonant at all (Indo-European *p was lost in Celtic, almost without a trace).

    The earliest stratum of Latin loanwords in prehistoric Old Irish, however, shows a substitution of /k/ for Latin /p/ (As a consequence of the loss of Indo-European *p in Celtic, Early Old Irish still lacked a /p/ phoneme): cf. “cásc” as the word for Easter, from a prehistoric pre-Old Irish*/kaska/ borrowed from a Latin (?Romance?) form /paska/. “Caille” shows the same /k/ = /p/ correspondence, and thus I am sure it must be a loan from (roughly) the same time period.

    (Even if the above etymology of “pallium” proves to be wrong, I do not believe it is possible for a Latin /p/ to correspond to Old Irish/Modern Gaelic /k/ EXCEPT as a consequence of a (relatively early) borrowing from Latin to prehistoric Old Irish. Could any Hatter better acquainted than I with matters relating to the diachronic phonology of Latin and Celtic confirm this?)

  9. PlasticPaddy says

    @Etienne, Jen
    It surprised me that Middle Irish bratt is also from Latin brattea (for bractea). But could the Latin word be a Gallicism (with intrusive c?)? If not, this is another illustration of the physical robustness of the pagan Irish, who needed no covering other than body paint and the odd tattoo, despite a harsh climate.

  10. See also Bloom’s potato, which will reward reading.

    Thanks for that; it was indeed worth my while. I agree with you that there is no reason to think what was mashed was not thereafter consumed.

    I realized I didn’t know what “teem” meant in “wouldnt even teem the potatoes for you,” so I looked it up; OED: “Chiefly Irish English. To drain the water off (boiled potatoes, etc.).” Of course the Joyce quote is one of the citations.

  11. Jen in Edinburgh says

    So when it’s teeming with rain, is the sky also having its water drained off it? I like this idea.

    (Actually, the OED does list rain together with that meaning, where I would have taken it as the ‘teeming with folk’ one – ‘ To be vibrantly full, throng, swarm with’)

    I have now been told off for saying that one word was a borrowing when it’s only a cognate, and for saying that another was cognate when it was actually a borrowing. I just won’t say anything 🙂

  12. I’m fairly sure my mother told me cailín came from “little cloak”. I suppose this was a folk etymology; while caille means “veil” in modern Irish, the sense in cailleach “nun; crone; witch” might be “[black] cloak”. I think caile and caille would sound different in other dialects but are homophones in Munster.

  13. J.W. Brewer says

    As I may have mentioned before, when I was but a callow lad and assigned to read _Ulysses_ in English 129 (40 springs ago this year), we were given as the prompt for our essay the instruction to pick some word used some reasonable number of times in the book (not too many not too few) and then use the concordance* the university library had copies of to locate all of its occurrences in the text, and … talk coherently about those occurrences and try to say something interesting about what they showed about what Joyce was doing with the word. I’m not sure what word I used (I have a vague memory of “candle” but that’s not guaranteed to be even 51% likely to be accurate), but I doubt any of my classmates tried “potato.” Although maybe they should have!

    *Not remembering the name but googling right now, Hanley’s 1951 _Word Index to James Joyce’s Ulysses_ may have been it, unless there was enough market demand for a rival concordance to have been published by ’84.

  14. David Marjanović says

    Could any Hatter better acquainted than I with matters relating to the diachronic phonology of Latin and Celtic confirm this?

    Parts of Gaulish turned *kʷ into p, so theoretically a loan from Gaulish into Latin would work, too, but whether that’s at all plausible is well beyond my knowledge. The a makes it look native in Latin; Latin has a lot of a that are somewhat tricky to explain.

  15. Potatoes and marge, marge and potatoes

    it seems relevant to the cows (bucholic or bothy-bound) the way that poverty is indicated by ersatz dairy here. it brought this to mind (from the clancy brothers):

    ahem! ahem! me mother has gone to church
    she says i cannot play with you because you’re in the dirt
    it isn’t because you’re dirty, it isn’t because you’re clean
    it’s because you’ve got the whooping cough and eat margarine

  16.  caile is related to a Greek word παλλακή/pallakḗ

    One fact about caile that should be explained by an any etymology is its original treatment as grammatically masculine, both in Classical Irish (Early Modern Irish) and modern times—see Dinneen (1927) here and Ó Dónaill (1977) here, for example. (Similarly, Old Irish ‘woman’ was originally neuter, and only later feminine.) The entry for caile in the eDIL has some citations relevant to the grammatical gender of the word. The sources of the first two citations in the eDIL are Oswald Bergin’s edition of Irish grammatical tracts here (where caile occurs in a list of masculine nouns with a note about this anomaly) and from the poetic works of Dáibhí Ó Bruadair here (stanza 32, where the lenition of c after the definite article in the genitive an chaile is regular for masculine nouns, not feminine). An etymology of caile should provide an account for this grammatical behavior of the noun.

    Here is a relatively recent treatment of caile in Patrizia de Bernardo Stempel (1995) ‘Zum Genus Femininum als ableitbarer Kategorie im Keltischen’ (in W. Smoczyński (ed.), Kuryłowicz Memorial Volume. Part One), with its footnotes (note the summary by J. Vendryes, Lexique étymologique de l’irlandais ancien, that I have boldfaced):

    3.1.3. Epicoena oder Quasi-Communia, aus gr. ἐπίκοινα, werden jene Substantive genannt, die einen noch älteren Typus darstellen, und zwar grammatikalisch in jeder Hinsicht Maskulina sind, jedoch semantisch auch das entsprechende weibliche Wesen bezeichnen können (z.B. ital. sindaco ‘der Bürgermeister/die Bürgermeisterin’).

    Den alten Rest eines Quasi-Commune stellt das Maskulinum air. caile ‘maid, serving-girl’ dar, das m.E. als *kʷl̥(h)-yo-s zu idg. *kʷel(h)- ‘sich herumbewegen, fürsorglich um jmd. herum sein’⁴⁰ zu interpretieren ist. Im Laufe der Sprachentwicklung hat das Wort die Bedeutung ‘Mädchen, unverheiratete Frau’ angenommen und ist im Irischen unter Beibehaltung des maskulinen Genus durch das Deminutiv⁴¹ cailín ersetzt worden, während das im Schottisch-Gälischen bewahrte caile zum Femininum überging.⁴²

    ⁴⁰ IEW 639f..; es handelt sich um dieselbe Verbalwurzel, die u.a. in lat. anculus (mit dem aus der Metanalyse anc-ulus entstandenen Femininum ancilla), gr. ἀμφίπολος enthalten ist. Bemerkenswert dazu Ernout/Meillet: ‘En celtique […] un mot correspondant […] a dû exister; il a été remplacé par le mot atteste en gallo-latin sous la forme ambactus’ (DELL, 32). Vgl. außerdem die Diskussion von Pennaods Ansatz für bret. plac’h ‘Mädchen, Magd’ bei Verf. (1987, 61 Anm. 110a), und auch ansonsten ist die Wurzel im Keltischen durchaus vertreten, nicht zuletzt in ir. buachail(l). sch.-g. buachaille ‘Kuhhirte’ (bzw. später ‘Junge’) und Verwandten. Um so erstaunlicher ist die Ratlosigkeit von LEIA-C-12: ‘Étymologie inconnue. Le genre masc. laisserait supposer peut-être un terme injurieux’ (s.V. ²caile).

    ⁴¹ Die uns schon aus den klassischen Sprachen geläufige Verflechtung von Femininum und Deminutivum (z.B. lat. puer : puella wie liber : libellus) ist insofern typologisch verankert, als es sich, wenn überhaupt in Sprachen nicht-belebte oder nicht-menschliche Wesen als Feminina eingeteilt werden, zumeist um Signifiés mit den semantischen Merkmalen ‘schwach’, ‘untätig’, ‘klein’ handelt (oder gar ‘rund’ im Gegensatz zu ‘lang’ und dann auch ‘hoch’ als geradezu physische mit dem Maskulinum verbundene Eigenschaften).

    ⁴² Heute steht also nir. catlín ‘girl, young unmarried woman’ als Maskulinum dem Femininum sch.-g. caile ‘girl’ gegenüber.

    Attractive as the semantics and general morphology of this account may be, there are phonological objections—see, for example, Nicholas Zair (2012) The Reflexes of the Proto-Indo-European Laryngeals in Celtic, page 91:

    MIr. caile ‘serving girl, maid’ is reconstructed by de Bernardo Stempel (1995: 432) as *kʷl̥h₁-i̯o- (cf. Gk. τελέθω ‘come into being’, Toch. A källāṣ ‘leads, brings’, (post-Vedic) Skt. cīrṇáḥ ‘practised, observed’ < *kʷl̥h₁-i̯o-; LIV 386–388). The same semantics are found in Gk. ἀμφίπολος ‘handmaid’. Formally, however, this cannot be correct because *kʷl̥h₁-i̯o- would give *kʷali̯o- > *kʷoli̯o- > *coile by rounding of *-a- to *-o- after *kʷ- (McCone 1996: 118). Therefore caile remains unexplained (LEIA C-12).

    Here is the relevant portion of Kim McCone, Towards a Relative Chronology of Ancient and Medieval Celtic Sound Change (1996) that was referenced:

    Older Ogam inscriptions still distinguish from k by means of the signs transcribed Q and C respectively but C can be used for both on later inscriptions: e.g., gen. sg. CUNAMAQI /kunaṽakwi/ (OIr. nom. Conmac) but MAC /mak´/ for earlier MAQI /makʷi/ (OIr. nom. sg. mac ‘mac’ < *makʷkʷos, MW mab < *makʷos, Gaul. acc. sg. mapon). It would appear, then, that simplification of and to k and g took place in the course of the sixth century A.D.

    However, prior to loss of the labial element i and a were rounded to u and o respectively after or : e.g., OIr. coire ‘cauldron’ < *kʷor´eya < *kʷariyah < *kʷaryos (> MW peir) < *kʷr̥-yos; OIr. goire ‘filial piety’ < *gʷor´eya < *gʷariyā (> MW gwared) < *gwr̥-yā; OIr. cruth ‘shape’ < *kʷruθu < *kʷriθuh < *kʷritus (> MW pryt) < *kʷr̥-tus; OIr. guidid /guð´ǝð´/ ‘prays’ < *gʷuð´iθ´ĭ < *gʷiðiθi < *gʷediti (cf. MW gwediaf).

    (Apologies for OCR and automatic html tagging errors.)

    The mysterious group of Latin paelex, Greek παλλακή, Biblical Hebrew פִּילֶגֶשׁ pîlegeš, etc., seems to be separate from caile.

  17. Wow, you’ve outdone yourself! Thanks as always for your dogged research and willingness to share your results.

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