05 January 2016

A Reduplication Manual for Drivers, Metalworkers, and Birdwatchers

The case of *kʷékʷlo- is relatively clear, perhaps because the word is not as old as some other Indo-European vocabulary, and its derivation from a verb root is at least semi-transparent. The same goes for several other reduplications with the same structure (echo + known root in zero-grade + thematic vowel). Unlike *kʷékʷlo-, they are less securely attested, appearing only in one or two branches of Indo-European. For example, Latin aurum ‘gold’ has a nice Baltic cognate, Lith áuksas (dialectal áusas).  A careful comparison of these words, taking into acount the Baltic tonal accent, leads to the reconstruction *h₂áh₂uso- (= *h₂é-h₂us-o-, originally neuter, as in Latin) for the common ancestor of Italic and Baltic.[1] The verb root here is *h₂wes- ‘light up, dawn’. Gold is therefore “that which glitters”, and we can speculate that the reduplication symbolically suggests the intermittent flickering of reflected light.

Another interesting example, this time restricted to Baltic and Slavic, is the word for ‘cuckoo’: Lith. gegužė̃, Old Russian zegzicažеgъzuľa (< Proto-Slavic *žеgъzа, extended with various suffixes).[2] The ancestral Balto-Slavic form can be reconstructed as *geguźaH. Because of its tongue-twisting, repetitious consonant pattern the word is often “explained” as onomatopoeic, though it bears little actual resemblance to any noise characteristic of the common cuckoo. If, however, we try to analyse it as a *kʷékʷlo-type reduplication and travel back in time beyond Proto-Balto-Slavic , its structure becomes clearer: *gʰegʰuǵʰah₂ (= *gʰe-gʰuǵʰ-e-h₂), a feminine noun based on the verb root *gʰeuǵʰ- ‘hide’ (known from Indo-Iranian and Baltic). I’ll leave open the question whether the Balto-Slavs dubbed the cuckoo “the hiding one” because it is notorious for hiding its eggs in other birds’ nests, or because it’s frequently heard but almost never seen:

          No bird, but an invisible thing,
          A voice, a mystery. [3]

Both explanations make enough sense to justify the etymology.[4]

A strange reduplication hiding in a reed warbler’s nest.
Let us use the following shorthand notation: R is a root morpheme and E is its reduplicative echo (filling a CV template). The vocalism of a morpheme will be shown in brackets: R(ø) means a root in zero-grade (without a vowel), E(e) means an echo in e-grade, and E(é) means that the e-grade echo is accented. A *kʷékʷlo-type derivative can be defined as follows: E(é)-R(ø)-o-. The accent was shifted to the thematic ending when an o-stem formed a collective, and it’s possible that the vowel of the echo was phonetically weakened as a result, yielding E(ə)-R(ø)-é-h₂,  but this was a superficial change, easy to reverse by analogically restoring the full vowel of the singular. Note that while ‘wheels’ often occur as a specific set, ‘gold’ is an uncountable mass noun and ‘cuckoos’ do not form natural assemblies. Therefore, of the reduplicated words discussed so far, only ‘wheel’ had a frequently used collective form.

The “thematic” suffix *-e/o- was very productive in the formation of adjectival derivatives. Proto-Indo-European adjectives had the same patterns of declension, and adjectives could be substantivised (converted into nouns) by so-called “internal derivation”: not by suffixation, but by modifying the accent or vocalism. Many thematic nouns must have originated as adjectives turned into nouns simply by retracting  their accent from the thematic vowel. If this happened after the period of dramatic vowel changes – strongly sensitive to the location of stress – which produced the Indo-European ablaut patterns, the accent retraction did not affect the vocalism of the adjective. Some nouns retracted their accent just because they were nouns, even if thy had no adjectival counterpart.[5] When such a derivational pattern became productive, reduplicated thematic nouns could be formed from verb roots directly, skipping the adjectival stage, but the meaning of the noun was still “descriptive”, referring to a characteristic action carried out in an iterative or frequentative manner (“turning round and round”, “flashing again or again”, “hiding habitually”).

Since we have examples of E(é)-R(ø)-o- from both Anatolian and Core Indo-European, the type must have originated already in Proto-Indo-European; but given the limited distribution of most of the nouns formed in this way, they were probably coined at the “dialectal” stage, when the descendants of Proto-Indo-European were already diverging into distinct languages. Younger derivatives are typically more transparent and less irregular than old ones – which is precisely what makes their derivation productive. In the next post, I shall try to argue that an older layer of reduplicated nouns, less transparent and harder to analyse, can also be identified.

[REDUPLICATION: back to the table of contents]

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[1] Michiel C. Driessen. 2003. *h₂é-h₂us-o-, the Proto-Indo-European term for “gold”. Journal of Indo-European Studies 31, 347–362.

[2] The accumulation of stops and fricatives makes the word prone to phonological distortion, so the ancestral sequence ž…gz may change into ž…gžz…gzz…z or gž…gž by assimilation at a distance. The Modern Polish word for ‘cuckoo’ is kukułka (an onomatopoeic innovation with a different kind of reduplication), but conservative forms, such as zazula and gżegżółka, have survived in regional dialects. Most Poles remember the funny-looking word gżegżółka (pronounced [gʐɛˈgʐuwka]) from the classroom spelling-tests they were tortured with in their school days. They may dimly recall that it referred to some sort of bird. Schoolteachers, however, rarely explain which bird it is – they probably aren’t sure themselves. Gżegżółka has therefore become  an interesting example of a word which has no real communicative function but has been co-opted for a marginal social use (testing schoolchildren’s orthographic memory). See zyzzyva for a similar phenomenon.

[3] William Wordsworth, To the Cuckoo.

[4] The idea is mine, but you are free to share it as long as you credit your source. It has the additional advantage of making it possible to connect Balto-Slavic *geguźaH with the Proto-Germanic word for ‘cuckoo’, *ɣaukaz, on solid formal grounds. The similarity between them has been noticed before, but mere similarity means little without a detailed morphological analysis.

[5] Note that many PIE thematic nouns were accented on a zero-grade syllable, e.g. *h₂ŕ̥tḱos ‘bear’ or *wĺ̥kʷos ‘wolf’.

32 comments:

  1. In Brazil some native species of cuckoos are also considered to be phantasmagoric entities or bad omen birds. The squirrel-cuckoo (Piaya cayana)is called alma-de-gato "cat's soul".

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  2. How is it thought that that /k/ got into the Lithuanian word?

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    1. The behaviour of *s in the RUKI-rule environment (except after *r) is complex and still poorly understood. It was probably regular at first (*HaHuša- > *áuša-. But *š merged back with *s in most of Baltic (except Lithuanian). In Lithuanian the merger was partial and not very consistent in some environments. It produced the now non-standard form áusas (cf. Old Prussian ausis). To complicate things furter, sporadic insertion of a velar stop before sibilants (especially, but not exclusively if they are part of a consonant cluster) happens frequently in Baltic, with much dialectal variation. I don't know if the Baltologists have a good explanation for it, or just accept it as a messy fact of life. They do have a technical term for it, the "k-Einschub".

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  3. And what about 'cuckoo' itself? Is it possible to tease apart new onomatopoeic formations from inherited ones? The Latin and Sanskrit versions, at first glance, look similar, though the vowels are all over the place.

    The dictionary tells me there's a still living Scottish/Northern English reflex of *ɣaukaz - 'gowk'. Nice to know that 'cuckoo' hasn't quite managed to kick out all the other chicks...

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    1. Well, transparently onomatopoeic cuckoo words can be formed at any time. Middle English cuccu, cokkou would have developed into modern [ˈkʌkoʋ] (cf. the derivative cuckold), so at some point the vowels were set back to their imitative values (or the word was re-borrowed from the Cuckoo language).

      The Scottish word is really Scandinavian (ON gaukr), but yę̄ke, descended from Old English ġēac 'cuckoo', remained in sporadic use throughout Middle English. The bird is still officially called gaukur in Modern Icelandic, geykur in Faroese, gjøk/gauk in Norwegian, gök in Swedish, and gøg in Danish.

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    2. Middle English cuccu, cokkou would have developed into modern [ˈkʌkoʋ]

      Maybe it did. This line from the OED appeared in a Languagehat comment today:

      1594 Shakespeare Lucrece sig. G1, Why should..hatefull Kuckcowes hatch in Sparrows nests?

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    3. That's right. The OED has a quotation with cuckow from as late as 1797. Cuckoo began to appear in the 16th century.

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  4. Hmm, I have [kʊk-] in "cuckold" too. Could be a northernism from my parents... it never occurred to me it could be pronounced any other way before.

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    1. It probably is a Northernism (or, less probabbly, secondary contamination with cuckoo). All pronunciation dictionaries give [ˈkʌkəld ~ ˈkʌkoʊld] for British and American English alike.

      http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/cuckold
      http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/cuckold
      http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cuckold
      https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/cuckold#Pronunciation

      etc.

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  5. Romain Garnier, in the following Glotta article:

    https://www.academia.edu/1922376/_Nouvelles_consid%C3%A9rations_sur_leffet-Kortlandt_

    has analysed δῆρις 'querelle' as an ancient reduplicated noun *dḗr-i-(< *dé-h1r-i- < *dé-dr-i- < *dé-dr(H)-i

    What do you think of this idea? (this would be a type slightly distinct from the one you have been discussing in this series of posts).

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    1. I like it. I could even use it to support my analysis of *gʷih₃wó- as an obscured reduplication (*gʷi-g[ʷ]w-ó-).

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    2. My French is a bit ropey these days, but I don't get why he or Kortland need to reconstruct the *-h1- stage. Why can't they just postulate the /d/ being lost with compensatory lengthening?

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    3. Well, they see it all in the light of the "Glottalic Theory". The presence of *h₁ is harder to establish than that of the other laryngeals (no colouring, no high-vowel breaking, just a lengthening effect).

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    4. Do you mean they're assuming that h1 was a glottal stop, and therefore a natural transition between some sort of preglottalised /?t/ and zero?

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    5. As Kortlandt himself puts it in the article referenced by Garnier, "the buccal features of the initial consonant [of the cluster] were lost while its glottalic feature merged with the reflex of the PIE laryngeal *H₁." There are similar Leiden School explanations for Lachmann's Law in Latin and Winter's Law in Balto-Slavic.

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    6. Do you find those convincing? Clackson calls the Winter's Law explanation ingenious, but says, "All the long vowels in the words under discussion can all be explained in other ways, not reliant on the glottal theory."

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    7. That's my opinion too. The strongest point of the glottalic theory is its explanation of the missing *b, but, to quote Fortson (2010: 60), "...the statistical frequency of a sound does not necessarily indicate anything about that sound's history." One has to consider the total evidence, not just the bits that seem to support one's pet theory.

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  6. I almost forgot another interesting case of reduplication already mentioned in this blog: from *kʷet- 'to group into pairs' (a fossilized verb lexeme) we've got Lithuanian kek(e)tà 'detachment, flock', Uralic *kakta ~ *kæktæ '2', Altaic *gàgtà 'one of a pair' and IE *Hok´te-h₃(u) '8' (where H stands for an unspecified "laryngeal"), a fossilized dual (2x4=8). As other numerals, this is most likely a Wanderwort.

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    1. "IE *Hok´te-h₃(u) '8' (where H stands for an unspecified "laryngeal")"

      Doesn't it have to be h3 given the colouring in Greek and Latin?

      And now you have the reduplicated consonant leniting, rather than the root consonant... which also shifts for some reason from the labiovelar to the palatal series. Plus shouldn't the dual plural be -eh1?

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    2. As other numerals, this is most likely a Wanderwort.

      It can't easily be Nostratic inheritance in any case: Proto-Altaic = Proto-Nostratic *g should correspond to PIE *gʰʲ/gʰ/gʰʷ, and PA/PN *t should correspond to PIE *d at least according to the Moscow School. Further, PN *ga should become PIE *gʰe, not gʰʷe with labialization out of nowhere.

      Doesn't it have to be h3 given the colouring in Greek and Latin?

      Yes – if the observed *-ō really is a coloured *-eH. It might not be; *-oh₁ has also been suggested in this word.

      the word has an exact correspondence (including the fossilized dual suffix) in Kartvelian *o(ś)tx(w)-

      "Exact" with unexplained metathesis, unexplained fricativization and two whole segments whose very presence is unclear?

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    3. Doesn't it have to be h3 given the colouring in Greek and Latin?
      I don't think so. For example, Mallory-Adams (2006) reconstruct it that way.

      .. which also shifts for some reason from the labiovelar to the palatal series
      In fact, the word has an exact correspondence (including the fossilized dual suffix) in Kartvelian *o(ś)tx(w)- '4'. But what puzzles me is that both '4' and '8' in IE are "doubled" with regard to their external counterparts, and the former isn't reduplicated at all.

      we should seriously consider the possibility that the familiar reconstruction *kʷetwores is not Proto-Indo-European at all but represents a “dialectal” innovation which replaced its older synonym in the common ancestor of Tocharian and the extant branches of the family.
      That's right. To make a long story short, '4' would belong to the "Kurganic" layer, as other IE lexicon relative to technical innovations such as the wheel or the horse.

      In the next post, I shall try to argue that an older layer of reduplicated nouns, less transparent and harder to analyse, can also be identified.
      In my opinion, the numeral '8' would be one of these cases, even if it doesn't fit into the mainstream model.

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    4. Yes – if the observed *-ō really is a coloured *-eH. It might not be; *-oh₁ has also been suggested in this word.
      I think he was referring to the initial "laryngeal".

      "Exact" with unexplained metathesis, unexplained fricativization and two whole segments whose very presence is unclear?
      You're right. I thought Kartvelian *x would correspond to IE *h₃, but now I see I was mistaken and it would correspond to *k´ instead.

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    5. Proto-Altaic = Proto-Nostratic *g

      PA *g can also come from PN *q, but that would give PIE *h₂.

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    6. I don't support "PN" more than I do with "PIE" (in fact, I regard the former as an enhanced version of the latter), but in this case it's quite clear we're dealing with a Wanderwort.

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  7. Reduplications?
    a)Greek tetrax, tetraon, tetraion, tatyras, "black cock, wild cock", tetaros "pheasant", tityros, Lit. tetervas, ON thiDurr, Sansk. tittiras < PIE *tetr(w)-?
    b) Latin cico:nia "stork" < *kek-
    c) Latin tetricus <*tetr-

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    1. We have it in Slavic too: Pol. cietrzew, Russ. téterev, Czech tetřev, etc. < Proto-Slavic *tetervь 'black grouse'. The full grade of the base in Balto-Slavic is interesting. I'll have to look at it more closely.

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    2. And I'd add Latin nimbus < *ne-nbH-o- and maybe viverra < *we-wr-?

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    3. The 'little furry animal' word is more likely a full reduplication (see this Language Hat thread, where cuckoos are also discussed).

      Nimbus could reflect metathesised *nebʰ-no- (as in fundus), though *nambV- 'moisture, dampness' is common in the Iranian languages, which also have traces of *nab- as a verb root, so I wouldn't exclude *né-nbʰ-o-.

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  8. Dear Piotr,

    Yet again an interesting and valuable piece.

    Linking the cuckoo words with *gʰeuǵʰ- ‘to hide’ indeed seems to be better than regarding them as onomatopoeic. This particular issue prompted me to write a post yesterday – with acknowledgment, of course. In it I offer and prefer a third option with regard to the semantic motivation behind *gaukaz.

    Considering some of the Germanic derivations of this root, like Old Norse gýgr ‘giantess’, Old Danish gyg ‘onderground one’, gyger ‘murderer, robber’ and Norwegian gygr, jyvr, gjøger ‘witch’, and more importantly West-Germanic *gaugalōn-/*gaukalōn- ‘to do (magic) tricks’ (whence Old High German gougolon, goukelon, Middle Dutch gokelen, Dutch goochelen), Middle Dutch goken ‘to deceive, to fool’, obsolete Dutch guig/guich ‘something strange, crazy; mockery’ and Dutch guichelheil ‘pimpernel’ (lit. ‘madness-cure’), the root seems to have extended/shifted its semantic field to ‘to deceive, trick, fool’ (and beyond) rather early. Therefore I would prefer to think Old Germanic *gaukaz referred primarily to the deceiving ways of the cuckoo, rather than its hiding. Though of course, the two concepts remain inextricably linked.

    What do you think?

    - Olivier

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    1. It's an interesting idea, certailny worth pursuing. In Indo-Iranian the root meaning is 'hide, cover, keep secret'; Lith. -gū͂žti could be glossed 'take under one's wings' (also literally, of birds) or 'hide (intrans.), lie in wait', dependind on the prefix it takes. See also Ved. guh-, góha- 'hiding-place, lair', gúhā 'cave, cavern', and Lith. gužtà 'nest'. But the semantic distance between playing hide-and-seek and deceiving is narrow, and certainly the meaning 'fool, dupe' is often associated with the Germanic 'cuckoo' words.

      Guus Kroonen proposes other Germanic derivatives of *gʰeuǵʰ-: *gʰóuǵʰ-mo-s > *ɣaumaz 'heed, attention' (ON gaumr, MDu. goom), requiring somewhat different semantics ('guard, protect', closer to the Baltic development). My derivation of *ɣaukaz would of course have to involve Kluge's Law: *gʰouǵʰ-nó- > PGmc. *ɣau(k)ka- -- I'm pretty sure Guus would like it.

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    2. I think Greek has kykhramos as kind of partridge or quail.

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