PIE *ghel-u(H)-
Gloss: ‘tortoise’ (item 24 in Bjørn 2017)

RusCS želvĭ; Gr. χέλυς ‘t., chest cavity’

Notes: While Vasmer considers the Slavic forms derived from a verbal root ‘to bend’ (1955: 414f.), the Greek forms are significantly more contested (cf. Frisk 1966: 1086f.), and Beekes even prefers substrate origin (2010: 1623ff.).

External comparanda:
Kartvelian: *γl-az1– ‘crocodile’

The scattered yet very concretely matched IE evidence does lend credibility to external origins, but the Kartvelian comparandum does not match semantically. The comparison, suggested by Smitherman (2012: 510), is unfocused and draws on a proposed common verbal root ‘twist, turn’ (cf. Fähnrich 2007: 488f.) that would render the animal derivations secondary anyhow. Further circumstantial evidence may bolster future attempts, but the connection seems quite improbable.


Two different items denote poles or beams

PIE *ĝhalgho
Gloss: ‘pole’ (item 22 in Bjørn 2017)

OHG galgo; Lith. žalgà; Arm. jałk.

Despite formal problems with the second velar, the Armenian form surely belongs to the set (Martirosyan 2010: 429f.). Such a very limited distribution of the term is hardly conducive for a reconstruction dating to the earlier strata of PIE.

External comparanda:
Uralic: FU *śalka

It seems strange that Koivulehto prefers ascribing this word to PIE proper (2001: 238) rather than a dialectal continuant hereof, given the limited distribution within Uralic. Regional distribution of this term within IE likewise questions the claim of a truly ancient borrowing (cf. Kroonen 2013: 165). Phonetically, this word resembles *śata- ‘hundred’ which is traditionally considered a borrowing from early Indo-Iranian on account of the palatal treatment of the initial PIE palato-velar as well as the a-vocalism. Such an origin for this case is, obviously, unattractive without Indo-Iranian cognates, but the fact remains that there is no evidence suggesting great antiquity for the relation. A substrate word from an unknown source in Northern Europe could be defended in the same stratum as *kond-u- ‘hand’ (item 77), although the connection with Armenian then requires special attention. The great resemblance between Lithuanian and Fenno-Ugric thus makes a dialectal borrowing most likely.


PIE *kŝeul-
Gloss: ‘beam, post, piece of wood’ (item 71 in Bjørn 2017)

Goth. sauls ‘column, post’; Lith. šùlas ‘post, jamb, doorpost’; Rus. šúla ‘garden post’; Gr. ξύλον, var. σύλον.

Several aspects make the native status of this item highly questionable, including the atypical onset cluster, the very specific meaning in all attestations, and the distribution limited to a small handful of (nearly contiguous) European branches (cf. Beekes 2010: 1037f.).

External comparanda:
NE Caucasian: *č̣ɨwłu ‘beam’ > e.g. Chechen č̣erg ‘transversal ceiling crossbeam’

The phonetic shape of this reconstruction certainly seems to correspond with the reception in the IE languages, and the superimposable semantics bolster this scenario. Somewhat problematic is the geographic distance between the IE languages in Europe and the NE Caucasian family, but the fact that prehistoric migrational patterns, of people and, especially, words remain ephemeral, this cannot be elevated to a decisive counter-argument when, on linguistic evidence alone, the comparison is so attractive. Given the lack of internal explanation for the item in PIE, the item may well have emanated from NE Caucasian, as suggested by S. Starostin (2009: 97), or a language related hereto.


PIE *ĝenu-
Gloss: ‘chin, jaw(-bone)’ (item 17 in Bjørn 2017)

Toch. A śanwe-ṃ (du.); OIr. gin; Goth. kinnus; Gr. γένυς; Phr. α-ζήν ‘beard’; Ved. hanu-, Av. zanva (acc. du.).

Notes: The problematic velar reflexes in Indo-Iranian formally require *ĝh, which has been proposed as “Homoionymenflucht”, i.e. dissimilation from *ĝonu- ‘knee’ (item 20) with which it was colliding in the Indo-Iranian vowel collapse of *e and *o to a (Mayrhofer 1996: 801f.), although *-o- in ‘knee’ is lengthened due to the effects of Brugmann’s Law.

External comparanda:
NE Caucasian: *č̣ănV ‘chin’ (NCED s.v.)

S. Starostin makes no distinction as to the stage of transfer (2009: 85), but the palatal development of an inherited plain velar in front of a front vowel is a strong argument in favor of a dialectal loan from a stage of Indo-Iranian into NE  Caucasian (Dolgopolsky 1987: 19), and, if the vowel reconstructed by Nikolayev & Starostin is to be preferred to Dolgopolsky’s cover symbol, the vocalism helps substantiate a loan with the hallmark traits of Indo-Iranian (§


PIE *dhoHn
Gloss: ‘grain’ (item 14 in Bjørn 2017)

(?)Hit. dannas ‘kind of food’, (?)Luw. tannas ‘id.’; Toch. B tāno; Lith.  dúona ‘bread’; Ved. dhāna-, Av. dāna.

Adams considers the earlier suggestion to derive it from the verbal root *dheh1– ‘put, place’, but concedes it as semantically strained (2013: 303). The identity of the Anatolian forms with the rest of the IE stock is tentatively suggested by Watkins (1965: 121), somewhat substantiated by the meaning in Lithuanian, but other, more immediate, alternatives likely reject the comparison (cf. Tischler 1991: 99).

External comparanda:
Semitic: *dúχn– ‘millet’ (Dolgopolsky 1987: 15, 1989: 5)

Orel & Stolbova connects the Semitic root to Central Chadic *dwan– ‘corn’ (1995: 166), adding credibility to an Afro-Asiatic origin. Diakonoff remains sceptical pending further knowledge of the importance of ‘millet’ in the diet (1985: 127), and the comparison may further be questioned by the semantic drift required to fit the IE attestations. The connection is attractive in light of the spread of agriculture, but remains inconclusive.


PIE *dheĝh-om
Gloss: ‘earth’ (item 10 in Bjørn 2017)

Hit. tēkan, HLuw. takam- (dat.-loc.sg.); Toch. A tkaṃ, Toch. B (t)keṃ; Lat. humus; OIr. ; Goth. guma ‘man’; Lith. žẽmė; OCS zemlja; Alb. dhe; Gr. χθών; Ved. kṣás, Av. zam-.

This item harks back to the oldest layers of PIE with representation in most branches, including the decisive ancient Anatolian and Tocharian that further help establish the original sequence of the obstruents (D-G) that underwent metathesis sometime in late middle PIE (to G-D). This item has been mentioned as an argument in favor of Tocharian as the second branch to leave the PIE dialect continuum (cf. Kretschmer 1931).

External comparanda:
Kartvelian: *diɣwam- ‘fertile soil’ > Georgian diɣvam– ‘black earth, sufficiency’ and Svan diɣwam ‘damp low place with f.’.
Kartvelian (alternative): *diqa- ‘clay’ > e.g. Georgian tixa, (?)Svan gim

Klimov proposes the connection with ‘fertile soil’ (1998: 41), which semantically seems a viable loan item due to its specialized meaning and formal triconsonantal quasiidentity (D-G-M), although the vocalism seems somewhat discontinuous; the labial
treatment of the IE velar similarly needs to be explained. These considerations would establish PIE as the provider of the term. Alternatively, Gamkrelidze & Ivanov suggest that the meaning ‘clay’ in Kartvelian may be related to PIE ‘earth’, and that the Svan form represent a simplified stem *ĝhem– < *dhĝhem– (1995: 774) to illuminate internal PIE development as well, but note that Klimov does not include Svan in this cognate set (1998: 72), reducing the reconstruction to Georgian-Zan, while Fähnrich treats it along with Mingrelian gim-e ‘below’ (2007: 107). This Svan form is, moreover, not an exact semantic parallelism, but the connotations in PIE with inherent association with ‘human’, e.g., at least some European languages, Goth. guma and Latin homō (cf. Mallory & Adams 1997: 366), could mend the comparison somewhat. The sequence of the obstruents in either Kartvelian comparandum would surely establish the loan to an early stratum of PIE, i.e. before the metathesis sometime after the presumed split of Tocharian. Kaiser & Shevoroshkin reject the hypothesis on formal grounds (1986: 368), but, all things considered, the connection with ‘black soil’ appears most attractive if the similarity is not merely due to chance resemblance.


PIE *də2p-
Gloss: ‘sacrifice’ (item 7 in Bjørn 2017)

(?)Hit. tappala– ‘person responsible for court cooking’; (?)Toch. A tāpā– ‘to eat’; Lat. daps; ON tafn; (?)Gr. δαπάνη ‘cost’; Arm. tawn ‘feast’.

While there is no consensus on an IE reconstruction for Hittite (cf. Tischler 1991: 114f., although probably formally possible, cf. Kimball 1999: 387f.), and the Tocharian connection is denied on phonological grounds (cf. LIV2: 104 fn.11), Kroonen suggests a derivation to the verbal root *də2p- ‘to slaughter’ for the Latin, Armenian, and Germanic forms, cf. Greek δάπτω (2013: 504). Note that there is no imperative other than convention preventing the reconstruction of a central vowel *-a-, especially if the item cannot be traced to ancient PIE.

External comparanda:
Semitic: *δabḥ- (Dolgopolsky 1987: 15, 1989: 5)

Orel & Stolbova connect the Semitic form to East Chadic and Lowland East Cushitic forms to produce the Afro-Asiatic reconstruction *ǯabaḥ– (1995:549). As a cultural term this item may well have travelled, and, despite voiced criticism (e.g. Diakonoff 1985: 124f.), IE scholars like Kroonen (2003: 504) consider the similarity plausible. The fact that a PIE verbal root has been deduced need not deter a loan from Semitic as is indicated by the various IE derivations that surely points to a native or nativized basic root, which may, indeed, have entered the language at an early stratum. More conspicuous does the unvoiced rendition of the Semitic sequence *-bḥ– in (P)IE appear, possibly attributable to intermediate languages. The lack of clear Anatolian and Tocharian cognates make a truly old transfer difficult to substantiate, yet the current indecisive nature of the Hittite form may turn to provide either evidence for a very old connection or a complete rejection hereof.

to drill

PIE *bherH
Gloss: ‘to drill’ (item 5 in Bjørn 2017)

Lat. forō; ON bora; (?)OLith. barti ‘to scold’; (?)OCS brati ‘fight’; (?)Ved. bhr̥ṇāti ‘to threaten, scold’

Notes: The Germanic and Italic forms are likely denominatives (Kroonen 2013: 85), although an iterative formation may similarly explain the o-grade (de Vaan 2008: 235f.). The rest of the set is disputed as from the same root (LIV2: 80), and none of the ancient branchings is attested.

External comparanda:
Semitic *brʔ ‘to work with a sharp instrument’ (Bomhard 1981: 403)
Uralic: *pura- ‘(to) drill’> e.g. Fin. pura ‘drill’, Proto-Samoyed *pȇrȇ– ‘id.’
Sumerian: bur(u(d)x) ‘breach, depth, hole; to perforate’
[Add: Kartvelian: G. burd- ‘bore, drill, perforate’]

As a ubiquitous verb not otherwise expected to be borrowed, an innovative technique could have helped spread the item. There is a semantic link in Uralic with the verb *pure– ‘to bite’ (UEW 405f.) which may be compared to the situation in IE, making an ancient connection more attractive. Further connections may also be found in the Turkic languages, cf. Turkish bur– ‘to drill’, as suggested by Rédei, who proposes onomatopoetic, and consequently chance, resemblance (UEW 405). Not included by Orel & Stolbova (1995), Semitic is seemingly isolated in Afro-Asiatic, although Bomhard suggests two Cushitic forms, both meaning ‘broken piece’ (2008-II: 64). Sahala actually prefers a Semitic origin for the Sumerian comparandum, explicitly Akkadian būrum ‘pit, well, cistern’ (2009: 5), but the semantic side is better matched by the general term. The meaning ‘well’ is secured for Semitic (cf. Tyloch 1975: 56f.).
[Add: The Georgian form seems to fit the picture, but I have yet to find a Kartvelian etymology. The situation would altogether benefit from a look at words for drilling in other parts of the world (to establish onomatopoeia) as well as the archaeological record regarding drilling technologies (for possible loanword scenarios).]

High, strong

PIE *bherĝh
Gloss ‘strong, high’ (item 4 in Bjørn 2017)

Hit. park- ‘to raise, elevate’, CLuw. parraia-; Toch. B pärk- ‘to arise’; Lat. fortis < Old Lat. forctis; ON bjarg ‘mountain’; Gr. φράσσω, φράγνυμι ‘barricade, enclose’; Arm. barjr; Ved. barh- ‘make strong’, br̥hánt-.

Strong PIE etymology with cognates in all decisive branches.

External comparanda:
Kartvelian: *brj1- > Mingrelian burǰ-aph-i ‘battle’, Svan li-burǰ-iel ‘to ram with horns, fight (of bulls)’
HU: Urartian burgana (Dolgopolsky 1987: 22)

Smitherman proposes a connection with the Kartvelian gloss ‘high; strong; old’ (2012: 514, cf. also Diakonoff 1990: 61), but the meaning seems overly inspired by PIE, and Klimov’s reconstruction ‘to wrestle’ is more faithful to the attestations (1998: 18). The Urartian form is similarly inhibited by mistranslation (actually ‘pillar, column’, cf. Diakonoff & Starostin 1986: 99) and consequently of no immediate relevance to PIE.


PIE *bhei-
Gloss: ‘bee’ (item 3 in Bjørn 2017)

Lat. fūcus ‘drone’; OIr. bech; ON ; Lith. bìtė; OCS bičela.

Notes: The distribution is limited to the European branches of IE that represent several different formations. Mallory & Adams suggest that the word is internally derived from the verbal root *bhei(H)– ‘to strike, attack’ (1997: 57).

External comparanda:
Egyptian: bj.t

According to Gamkrelidze & Ivanov (1995: 773) this item is significant in the placement of the PIE homeland in the Near East (or at least close to Ancient Egypt), yet the distribution of the term within IE coupled with the apparent internal derivation makes a foreign intrusion unlikely (cf. Diakonoff 1985: 127). The possibility of folk etymological reanalysis is, of course, always present, but further circumstantial evidence need be provided before a more favorable scenario for their relation can be envisaged, tentatively through the proposed Neolithic substrate (§ 2.5).


PIE *bhar-(s-)
Gloss: ‘barley’ (item 2 in Bjørn 2017)

Lat. fār; (?)OIr. bairgen ‘bread, loaf’; Goth. bariz-eins ‘of b.’; OCS brašĭno ‘food’, Rus. bor ‘millet’; Alb. bar ‘grass’; (?)Gr. Περσεφόνη ‘Persephone (? = the grain-slayer)’ (PN)

It is noteworthy that a bare stem may also exist in Celtic and Slavic (Russian bor ‘millet’) next to the somewhat more prolific extensions. The inclusion of the Greek deity is highly dubious (cf. Chantraine 1968: 889), and, even if accepted, would not introduce significant new evidence to the picture already painted by the more secure attestations. Lehmann proposes that the lexeme be internally derived from a verbal root (1986: 62), but the a-vocalism and the external comparanda treated immediately below demand that the possibility of foreign influence, at least, be entertained (cf. de Vaan 2008: 201f.).

External comparanda:
NE Caucasian: *bVrcị̌nV
NW Caucasian: possibly Adyghe ‘grain’, Abkhaz ‘id.’
Semitic: *barr-/burr- ‘cereal, wheat’

Some objections have been raised to the Semitic loan hypothesis, e.g. by Mallory & Adams who consider a borrowing ‘unlikely’ based on the morphology (1997: 51), while Diakonoff’s rejection of the claim, based on its putative isolation in Semitic (1985: 126f.), has become mute in light of the fact that Orel & Stolbova (1995: 56) connect it to an almost ubiquitous Afro-Asiatic root, *bar-/bur– ‘grain, cereal’, which certainly advocates for Semitic (or related) origins. Gamkrelidze & Ivanov insist that the IE branches representing the item were in direct contact with speakers of a Semitic proto-language (1995: 770), but, as several other instances suggest (e.g. *ghaid– ‘goat’, item 21), the proposition of an agricultural
substrate, possibly even related to Semitic (§ 2.5), blunts the urgency of the claim. Note, too, that the semantic shift from ‘wheat’ or ‘cereal’ speaks against direct contacts. Dolgopolsky introduces the Caucasian comparanda, and questions a Semitic provenance on the basis of its simpler stem that lacks the *-s (1989: 15f.), but, as shown above, a similar IE variant could represent the original state only secondarily derived. The North Caucasian comparanda seems to reflect a higher complexity than either of PIE and Semitic, possibly hinting at greater antiquity, but, more likely, a window to PIE phonetics may be encountered here, seeing that there is a decent argument in the proposition that the desinence *-inV in North East Caucasian reflects the PIE derivational suffix *-in-o-, cf. Slavic *boršĭno– ‘flour’, Latin farīna ‘id.’, and probably also Goth. barizeins ‘of barley’ (ibid., cf. also S. Starostin 2009: 91 and further Matasović 2012: 291). This comparison is also favorable due to identical semantics. A tentative history of the term can thus be schematized as Afro-Asiatic > Semitic & Old European substrate → middle or late PIE → North (East) Caucasian.