Water

PIE *wed-r
Gloss: ‘water’ (item 128 in Bjørn 2017)

Attestation: Hit. wātar; Toch. A wär, Toch. B war; Lat. unda ‘wave’; OIr. uisce; Goth. watō; Lith. vanduó; OCS voda; Alb. ujë; Gr. ὓδωρ; Phr. βεδυ; Arm. get ‘river’; Ved. udan-, Av. vaiδi ‘watercourse’.

Notes: Attested in all branches of IE, this item indubitably constituted the common PIE word for ‘water’. The various Ablaut grades required to connect all the forms are unproblematically explained from analogy of the inherited heterocliticon, still very much alive in Hittite, and necessarily also so in Proto-Germanic where the Western branch has generalized the casus rectus, hence German Wasser and English water, while the Northern branch opted for the oblique *-n-desinence, cf. ON vatn.

External comparanda:
Uralic *wetä
Semitic: e.g. Arabic wādin ‘river, valley’

Discussion: Along with ‘name’ (item 61), this item represents the central lexical material in favor of the Indo-Uralic theory (cf. Kortlandt 1989: 81), but has similarly been sought explained as a loanword by, e.g., Koivulehto (1993: 184), and even Collinder (1960: 81), although Joki concedes the possibility of greater antiquity for the item (1973: 344). Unlike ‘name’, however, the formal correspondences are more favorable to a direct loan from PIE to Uralic, namely in corresponding vocalism and consonantal sequence. Salminen (1989 and 2001:394) provides the best defence of the loan hypothesis by drawing attention to the fact the the two branches of Uralic that do not brand the PIE comparandum, i.e. Saami čáhci and Khanty seč, continue the ostensibly inherited Uralic root for water, *śäčä-, albeit in the latter with a slight semantic drift to ‘flood’; this scenario may be compared with the proposed comparanda for *ieg– ‘ice’ (item 64). The Semitic comparandum, suggested by Brunner (1969:131-132), is certainly not as attractive and may only gain weight in light of Nostratic, albeit a lack of clear Afro-Asiatic cognates obstructs this path. Alternatively, and rather unlikely, a relatively late borrowing from an Iranian language could provide both formal and semantic circumstances for the connection.

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bjorn

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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