Wool

PIE *ul ̥h2neh2
Gloss: ‘wool’ (item 127 in Bjørn 2017)

Attestations: (?)Hit. ḫulana-, (?)CLuw. ḫulana/i-; Lat. lāna; Welsh gwlan; Goth. wulla; Lith. vìlna; OCS vlŭna; Gr. λῆνος; Ved. úrṇa-, Av. varənā.

Notes: While the Anatolian connection recently has enjoyed special and thorough attention by Pinault (2016) who provides a relatively shallow PIE genesis for the term, the formal correspondences have also been questioned, e.g. by Kloekhorst on formal grounds (2008a: 357f.), but the overall resemblance and direct semantic match does make the comparison worth entertaining.

External comparanda:
NE Caucasian: *ƛ̱wähnɨ > e.g. Avar ƛ̱uh (S. Starostin 2009: 84)
Sumerian: ú-li-in / wux-li-in ‘colored twine/wool’ [(Whittaker 2004: 410-11)]
[Add. Semitic: Akk. hullanu ‘a blanket or wrap of linen or wool’ (CAD h: 229), suggested in a Facebook-thread]

Discussion: According to Mallory & Adams (1997: 648) wool is not a naturally occurring material, but was dependent on the domestication and breeding of certain strains of sheep that appear to have been kept only in the fourth millennium BCE. This chronology is of some influence on the spread of the IE languages whose earliest historical identification is Anatolian in the late third millennium BCE. The exact sequence of the PIE reconstruction is also of great consequence to the strength of this comparison, but may, if viable, even be informed by the NE Caucasian material (the connection is continued by Matasović 2012: 290f.); metathesis is required no matter what paradigm is preferred. Note, too, that words for ‘goat’ show an incredible resilience to reconstructional fixation and enter the same general semantic field as the present item. An inferred Hurrian noun *ḫul(a) (Kronasser 1967: 45) very closely resembles the Anatolian material, and several different scenarios are thus conceivable depending on the mutual compatibility of the IE forms; most probable seems the proposition that wool entered the IE languages as a loan on at least two different occasions, very likely from the Caucasian and Middle Eastern cultures, where it also appears early as borrowing into Sumerian with specialized meaning (Sahala 2009: 11f.); the apparent lack of Semitic comparanda is in this regard interesting. [Add. With the inclusion of the formally rather attractive Akkadian item, a Semitic ‘conductor’ may be found, although the semantic line connection Sumerian and Akkadian is less than clear.]

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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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