PIE *spongh-
Gloss: ‘mushroom, sponge’ (item 117 in Bjørn 2017)

PIE (1) *sp(h)ong
Attestations: Lat. fungus; Gr. σπόγγος; Arm. sownk; (?)Ved. paṅgú ‘lame, crippled’

Notes: The formal problems in connecting the forms nonetheless fall short of dismantling the ultimate connection; only Vedic can rightfully be questioned within this context on semantic grounds.

PIE (2) *suómbh
Attestations: OHG swamp

PIE (3) *g(w)umb(h)
Attestations: OCS gǫba

External comparanda:
Uralic: *paŋka > e.g. Mari poŋgə̑ and possibly Nganasan fanka– ‘drunk’ (Joki 1973: 300f.)
Kartvelian *cumb ‘to become wet, soaked’

Discussion: The disparate yet somehow similar attestations support the consistent practice of identifying the item as non-native within IE in the standard etymological dictionaries (e.g. Beekes 2010: 1385, de Vaan 2008: 250), and there is ample reason to assume that the Uralic forms are somehow connected. A comparison with the spread of ‘orphan’ (item 62) from late PIE into FU could establish the relevant stratum for a transfer, while a loan from Uralic into IE is harder to substantiate given the initial cluster in IE. The Kartvelian form, suggested by Klimov (1998: 302), is less appealing, partly due to its semantic discontinuity, but an old Wanderwort could account for the spread as well as the internal IE inconsistencies, which may be corroborated by the exclusive distribution in European IE and Armenian; Kroonen thus suggests that the word stems from a substrate present in Europe before the arrival of the Indo-Europeans, which similarly makes a loan from (P)IE into Kartvelian implausible (2013: 495). [Add. See now also clover for a possible Kartvelianesque substrate in prehistoric Europe]

Curdled milk

PIE *twer
Gloss: ‘curdled milk, curds’ (item 125 in Bjørn 2017)

Attestations: Rus. tvaróg ‘quark’; Gr. τῡρός ‘curdled milk’; Ved. tuvara- ‘astringent’, Av. tūiri

Attestations only pertinent for the Graeco-Aryan and Slavic branchings, this produce term nonetheless appears to be reconstructable for late or late middle PIE. On the somewhat discontinuous semantics in Vedic, it may be noted that Middle Indic continuations retain the meaning ‘cheese’ (Turner 1966: 336). A case for an internal verbal derivational basis has not been satisfactorily posited (cf. Mallory & Adams 1997: 382f.). The phonetic structure is void of phonemes that represent the telltale developments of the pertinent dialects, and a wanderwort phenomenon cannot formally be excluded; the modern English word quark is similarly assumed to have traveled from Slavic through Middle High German.

External comparanda:
North Caucasian: *ˀV-twVr– ‘to become rolled up, turn sour, rot, putrefy’ > e.g. Archi tar-as ‘to roll up (of milk)’

Discussion: A North Caucasian origin of this term, as suggested by (S. Starostin 2009: 102) seems rather attractive as a technical term that emanated from the Caucasus, where the verbal derivational basis is transparent. The prefix here has to be discarded to fit the IE attestations, but this seems a minor problem; verbal roots normally interact more extensively with prefixes than nominals do (cf. Nikolayev & Starostin 1994: 82ff.). The possible linguistic fixpoints allow for a very concrete chronological hypothesis: The item likely departed from North Caucasian and entered either late PIE or, alternatively, differentiated IE languages still in close contact, and lastly reached the Germanic languages through Slavic.


PIE *h2ebVl-
Gloss: ‘apple’ (item 42 in Bjørn 2017)

Attestations: (?)Osc. Abella (toponym); OIr. ubull; ON epli; Lith. obuolỹs; OCS (j)ablŭko; (?)Thr. dinopula, synopula; (?)Pashaei wālī, (?)Kashmiri ambari-trel ‘small kind of a.’, (?)Pashto maṇá

Notes: The Thracian forms may well be connected as literal ‘dog-apple’, a perfect cognate of Lithuanian šun-obuolỹs (Markey 1988: 51), but there is no evidence for a PIE term (ibid. passim.). An Indo-Iranian strain may be included, but requires some irregular developments to fit with the European stock (Mallory & Adams 1997: 25), especially if the more erratic Iranian strain continuing *marnā– (Morgenstierne 1927: 45) is heeded. Here, like elsewhere, the reconstruction of *h2e– rather than *a– is based on assumptions of PIE that were evidently resolved by the ultimate dispersal of the dialect continuum. [Note: See also Kroonen 2016 and Fenwick 2016 for the root *smh2l-]

External comparanda:
Uralic: Fenno-Volgaic *omɜrɜ or*omena 

Discussion: Apples were only domesticated in the 1st millennium BC (Zohary 1990:39), and the item is a clear Wanderwort and traces its entrance to a handful of IE languages long after the dissolution of PIE (Campbell 1990: 163f., cf. also S. Starostin 2009: 93f.).
[Add. See Vennemann 2003: 466-468 for an Atlantic (~Semitic) origin ultimately related to PSem. *ˀabal- ‘genitals’]


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.]


PIE *ieg
Gloss: ‘ice’ (item 64 in Bjørn 2017)

Attestations: Hit. eka; OIr. aig; ON jaki ‘piece of i.’; Lith. yže; (?)Wakhi yaz ‘glacier’

Notes: Mallory & Adams suggest the Iranian comparanda (1997:286), and Turner further connects Kati, a Kafir language, yūċ ‘cold’, possibly related to Vedic śyai– ‘to freeze’ (1966: 38, 601), which would require prefixation, and the Indo-Iranian branch remains unsecure. This does not change the fact that the strong evidence in Anatolian with sound cognates elsewhere establish the item for early PIE.

External comparanda:
Uralic: FU *jäŋe > e.g. Fin. jää, Hun. jég

Discussion: Formal and semantic identity makes this connection attractive. Although the comparison usually is included in the Indo-Uralic hypothesis (cf. Čop 1970: 158 and Collinder 1965: 124), the limited distribution of a geographically important item in Uralic suggests a later entry. Semantically this item may be compared with *wed-r ‘water’ (item 128) with pan-Uralic distribution.


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.


PIE *w(ó)ih1-no
Gloss: ‘wine’ (item 133 in Bjørn 2017)

Attestations: Hit. wiyana-, HLuw. wi(y)ana; Lat. vīnum; Alb. vẽnë; Myc. wo-no, Gr. οἶνος; Arm. gini

Notes: An internal IE derivation has been proposed for this root, rather transparent even, from *ueih1– ‘to wind, twist’ with o-grade (de Vaan 2008: 680), and great antiquity is, indeed, conceivable with relative wide distribution, including Anatolian. Forms in Germanic, Baltic, Slavic, and Celtic forms are usually assumed to be through Latin, but the relative simplicity of the root renders any clear separation difficult, even of the cognates included above. The absence in the Central Asian branches of Indo-Iranian and Tocharian is noteworthy, see further under discussion. For a thorough treatment of the reconstruction and the overall likelihood of internal derivation, see Beekes (1987b).

External comparanda:
Semitic: *wajn
Kartvelian: *ɣwin- (Nichols 1997: 143 and Smitherman 2012: 505)
Kartvelian: Georgian-Zan *wenaq ‘vineyard’

The point of dispersal of the technical aspects of winemaking is of some pertinence to the current inquiry as viticulture may be traced to the Caucasus in the 6th millennium BCE (Fortson 2010: 42), but there need not be a contradiction when Zohary concludes that grapes, along with olives and dates, were only domesticated between 3700-3.500 BCE in modern day Israel and Jordan (1990: 39), since the fermentation of grapes, obviously, could have been done with wild species. The important lesson here, of course, is that the entire region, from the Caucasus mountains in the northeast, to the eastern Mediterranean in the west, were areas of possible early winemaking. Favoring a Semitic origin, Dolgopolsky notes that the root-final consonantal cluster is otherwise uncommon for PIE (1987: 16), but the donor language can hardly be Semitic since the internal cognates are only relevant in the western languages in immediate contact with the Mediterranean trade network, while the southern forms are considered secondarily borrowed (Lipiński 2001: 573). There is no trace of the root in any other Afro-Asiatic branch, which precludes a more ancient origin within that particular language family. Proof is an elusive phenomenon in historical comparative linguistics, so a strong conclusion like the one Dolgopolsky reaches on this term, i.e. that PIE and Semitic necessarily were in close proximity to one another (1993: 244), is bordering on tendentious. Diakonoff prefers a late borrowing from Mycenaean (1990: 59). The same term appears to be continued also in Hattic windu- (Chirikba 1996: 427), but due to the problematic nature of the language, the consequences of its presence here are difficult to evaluate. In Kartvelian Fähnrich (2007: 486) prefers an internal derivation, not much unlike the formation in PIE, to the verb *ɣun- ‘wind, bend’. The traditional explanation for these forms is a later loan from early Armenian that developed g- from PIE *w- via *gw- (Matasović 2012: 288 and Gippert 1995: 117ff.) and thus in formal accordance with the Kartvelian forms, but this still fails to account for the internal verbal connection. Consequently, both a loan from PIE → Semitic and Kartvelian, and, in the opposite direction, a loan from Kartvelian → PIE and Semitic, with subsequent folk etymological reinterpretation, are both viable trajectories. Otherwise a wholesale borrowing of the entire complex, i.e. with verbal root and nominal derivations, is required, but this scenario is hardly conceivable. A third option is a calquethat coincidentally resembles the external proto-type. The fact that Fähnrich accepts the loan etymology for Georgian-Zan ‘vineyard’ (2007: 159) thus introduces another layer of confusion; Dolgopolsky similarly deduces that the Kartvelian forms were borrowed directly from PIE *-ah2 due to the *-q that he considers a reflex of the PIE laryngeal (1989: 12f.). A peculiarity of the IE distribution is its complete absence in the eastern and likely also northern branches, and thus, conversely, presence only in the languages historically attested in the Mediterranean region in contiguous geographic relation with Kartvelian, Hattic, and Semitic. All things considered, a Kartvelian provenance seems more likely, emanating from the Caucasus throughout the region.


PIE *ker̂ -(ker̂ -)
Gloss: ‘chickpea’ (item 67 in Bjørn 2017)

Attestations: Lat. cicer; Alb. thjer ‘lentil’; (?)Gr. κριός; Mac. κίκκεροι; Arm. sisəṙn

Notes: De Vaan rejects the Greek comparandum as a chance resemblance and tentatively posits the verbal root *kerh3– (2008: 113). The widespread reduplication points to an old phenomenon (Greppin 1981: 6f.), and the Greek form, if connected, may thus be a simplified variant. The distribution is very centralized in the circum-Pontic area, especially the Balkans, which may provide lexical evidence of an ancient Armenian presence in that particular region (cf. Solta 1960: 331f.).

External comparanda:
NE Caucasian: *qarhV

Discussion: Dolgopolsky bases his loan trajectory (PIE → NC Caucasian) on paleobotanical arguments (1989: 16), but the linguistic side certainly does not warrant a reconstruction for PIE. A similar root is visible in NW Caucasian with the meaning ‘pea’, and a pan-North Caucasian phenomenon is substantiated by similar items in all branches, of which Abkhaz and Kryts show reduplication (Mikić & Vishnyakova 2012). A further comparandum is suggested in Burushaski gərk ‘peas’ and thus shows hallmark signs of a wanderwort scenario. A reconstruction for PIE looks more like an example of biased science than a valid inference of the scattered and inconsequent IE data, unfortunately prompting an indefensible conclusion on directionality.


Two etymologies of (P)IE lambs have external comparanda:

PIE *h1ln̥bh
Gloss: ‘lamb’ (item 36 in Bjørn 2017)

Attestations: Goth. lamb ‘sheep’; (?)Gr. ἒλαφος ‘red deer’

Notes: If rightly connected by Kroonen, this root has very limited and semantically difficult IE distribution, and for both branches necessarily different Ablaut grades (2013: 325f.). The traditional etymology for the Greek item departs from a possible Aeolic origin of the alternate form ἐλλός ‘fawn’ < *el-n-os, cf. Arm. eln ‘id.’, Lith. élnis ‘id.’, OCS elenĭ ‘id.’, Welsh elain ‘id.’ (e.g. Frisk 1960: 483ff.). Adams surely connects to these forms Toch. A yäl ‘gazelle’, B yal ‘id.’ and the rather elusive Hit. aliyan(a)- ‘(?)roebuck’ (2013:523 [note: contra Mallory & Adams, who connect it to Hit. ali- ‘soft’ (1997: 154)]), and further, more semantically tantalizing, Toch. B āl– ‘ram’ (2013:58). The labial obstruent in the main Greek lemma has then been compared to the identical ending of ἒρι-φος ‘youngling’ that is decisively derivational in Ved. vṛṣa-bhá– ‘bull’ from vr ́ṣan– ‘manly, powerful’ (Chantraine 1968: 333,372). This PIE suffix *-bhé– may be relevant for Germanic regardless of the heritage. Lehmann hesitantly connects all of the above from a root *el- ‘brown’ (1986: 226), which may as well be fitted with the initial laryngeal *h1-, but Germanic is formally difficult to include in this bulk. The Greek branch, along with its possible cognates, would surely help establish the root as of PIE origin, but the comparison is doubtful. [NOTE: See now also Vrieland 2017 in favor of the wider connection]

External comparanda:
NE Caucasian: *ɫVmbagV ‘sheep’ > Avar lémag, Akhvakh lãgi; Lezghian lap:ag

Discussion: What appears to be a new comparison nonetheless suggests itself straightforwardly with almost perfect alignment of three identical radicals; moreover, the Avar gloss is a) ‘sheep’ b) ‘1yr old sheep’ (NCED s.v.), mirroring the Germanic semantics. According to Nikolayev & Starostin the NE Caucasian form is likely to have been borrowed (ibid.). It is possible that this lexeme at an early stage complimented the proper PIE *h3ewi- ‘sheep’ (item 58), either as a loan from an unidentified source but in common with NE Caucasian, or as an internal derivation; the semantic fate in Germanic and possible elsewhere in IE surely indicates a kind of specialization. The lexeme was transferred into Finnish lammas ‘sheep’ from a Germanic language spoken in the Baltic region, either Gutnish or Gothic (Kroonen 2013: 326), both of which developed (or retained) the less specialized meaning. The connection may thus be compared to PIE *h2e(i)ĝ- ‘goat’ (item 40) as a lexical isogloss unique to NE Caucasian and western IE.


PIE *h2egw-no-
Gloss: ‘lamb’ (item 45 in Bjørn 2017)

Attestations: Lat. agnus; OIr. úan; OEng. ēanian ‘to yean’; OCS agnę; Gr. ἀμνός

Notes: Attestations reflect limited distribution, that nonetheless seems tightknit despite minor differences (Frisk 1969: 93f.). The item cannot be posited for the earlier stages of PIE, and appear to be a European regionalism.

External comparanda:
Semitic: *igl– ‘young animal’ (Gamkrelidze & Ivanov 1995: 769 [Add.: also Blažek 1996])

Discussion: Orel & Stolbova connect Semitic with cognates in Central Chadic, Cushitic, and Omotic to establish Afro-Asiatic *igal ‘cow, calf’ (1995: 247), and note should be made of the semantics that are consistently bovine except for the generalization that incurred very sporadically in Ge’ez to ‘young animal’ and possibly also Akkadian agalu ‘donkey’. Gamkrelidze & Ivanov choose to weigh the more general meaning (ibid.) that more readily resonates with the (P)IE reconstruction despite considerable evidence pointing to the conclusion of higher specialization (cf. also Diakonoff 1985: 129f.); the Semitic comparanda should consequently be rejected. Rather, the word may be connected with *h2e(i)ĝ- ‘goat’ (item 40), which requires both semantic drift and an explanation of the formally incompatible velars, that may be ascribed to its putative foreign nature.


Note: Marijn van Putten (p.c.) suggests, contrary to the conclusion in Bjørn 2017, that the connection to Semitic is of continued interest. The phonetic matchup is certainly worth entertaining, and I rely heavily on Diakonoff to dismiss the connection on semantic grounds. I hope to return to this etymology again and invite the reader to share arguments for and against in the comment section below.

PIE *h2ster
Gloss: ‘star’ (item 55 in Bjørn 2017)

Attestations: Hit. ḫaster-; Toch. A śreñ (pl.), Toch. B ścirye; Lat. stēlla; OIr. ser; Goth. staírno; Gr. ἀστῆρ; Arm. astl; Ved. stár-, Av. star-.

Notes: Latin requires an *-l- derivation that seems to be resonated in Celtic (de Vaan 2008: 585). The term is widespread and retains its meaning in all branches of attestation, making a reconstruction for the earliest strata of PIE unavoidable. Bomhard suggests that the noun is internally derived from the verb *h2eh1-s– ‘to burn, dry’ (1986).

External comparanda:
Semitic: *ʕaθar(-at)– ‘Venus, deified star’

Apparently a religious symbol in the Proto-Semitic world, the formation is not included by Orel & Stolbova (1995), which necessarily has consequences for the evaluation of possible provenance. Since the word is attested in IE to warrant reconstruction of an old and concrete meaning ‘star’, it is significantly more attractive to posit PIE as the potential provider vis-a-vis from the specialized and culturally dependent meaning in Semitic as propounded by Dolgopolsky (1987: 15f., 1993: 244). Moreover, the connotations in Semitic conducive for the comparison are demonstrably secondary cultural attributes to the deity (Diakonov 1985: 122f.), so this comparison can safely be ascribed to chance.