PIE *h1esh2-r/n
Gloss: ‘blood’ (item 33 in Bjørn 2017)

Hit. ēsḫar-, CLuw. āsḫar-; Toch. A ysār, Toch. B yasar; Lat. aser, sanguīs; Latv. asins; Gr. ἒαρ; Ved. asnás (gen.).

Notes: An inherited heterokliticon (alternating *-r and *-n– in the casus rectus and obliquus, respectively) and thus grammatically considered part of the oldest strata of PIE, the antiquity of the item is, of course, corroborated by the distribution in all the ancient branches. Latin aser is known only from a gloss, but seems to be continued in the first element of the common form san-guis (the latter part is more obscure, cf. de Vaan 2008: 537f.). According to Mallory & Adams this term signifies the internal ‘living’ blood as opposed to external ‘dead’ *kréuh2-, but this latter form is without reflexes in Anatolian and Tocharian (1997: 71).

External comparanda:
Kartvelian: *zisxl ̥– > e.g. Georgian sisxl-, Svan zisx
Sumerian: úš- ‘b., gore’

Discussion: Although formally hardly a direct match, the Kartvelian form may inform the phonology of PIE, where *h1– should match with *z-, *e with *i, *s = *s, *h2 with *x, and, ultimately, possibly *-r with *-l ̥. But since Gamkrelidze & Ivanov connect Kartvelian by positing voiced reduplication of the root (1995: 774), the resemblance is rendered significantly less transparent. If viable, the item may then be compared semantically with ‘heart’ (item 69) as they find themselves within same technical field, and can thus conceivably have been transferred as technical or cultic epithets, cf. how Latin and Greek technical terms in medicine are used in modern English, e.g. (neo-Greek) rhinoplasty of the (inherited Germanic) nose. Weak circumstantial evidence supporting such a scenario may be found in the fact that it’s the only demonstrably inherited term in Kartvelian, whereas PIE may have distinguished two roots, but note that PIE, then, are more likely to have absorbed an additional term. The directionality proposed by Gamkrelidze & Ivanov (1995: 774) would leave Kartvelian without a native word for blood. Kaiser & Shevoroshkin reject the comparison on typological grounds since “the word for blood is among the first 25 [most stable] words” (1986: 369), but the history of the term in the IE languages attest differently with demonstrable loss in the Celtic, Germanic, and Slavic branches. The simple Sumerian comparandum brings little to the table and may be internally derived (cf. Sahala 2009: 13). This must, at best, be considered a tentative comparison pending further evidence.

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PhD stud. at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History (Jena) MA in Indo-European Studies (2017) from the University of Copenhagen. Graduated with the thesis "Foreign elements in the Proto-Indo-European Vocabulary" that forms the basis of my blog. Particular fields of interest are the formation and dissolution of PIE with reference to Uralic and Caucasian languages.

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