Sonntag, 21. Juni 2009

Notes on the etymology of TORRENT

The word "torrent" evokes images of gushing flood waters, raging currents of water, sweeping everything away, of heavy showers of rain... so I was surprised to learn that it is etymologically derived from a word meaning thirsty, even dry or desiccated.  It is a loanword from French: torrent, which originates from Latin torrens -torrentem "rushing stream". As the suffix indicates, it is the ppa (participle present active) of a verb, namely the Latin torrere "to parch".

So, what could be the connection between a rushing stream and something which is dried out, thirsting for some water?

Supposedly, the contrasting meanings are linked by the image of a mountain creek or river which may be a raging current in spring, but dries out in summer.

By the way, the Proto-Indo-European word *ters- simply means "thirsty" or "dry", with no implication of waters, floods, and creeks yet. 

In the Vedic (old Indian) language, for example, we have the adjective trshāna meaning "thirsty". The German verb ver-dorren means "dry up", "wither", while the corresponding causative verb dörren means "to parch". There is also the archaic word darren, which denotes the traditional procedure of parching cereals in the oven. 

Mittwoch, 13. Mai 2009


German LICHTERLOH is a (sort of) compound adverb meaning (burning) "with a bright flame". I came across this word through Andrew Hammel's Word of the Week  in his blog German Joys . Its etymology is worth a glance:
The element LICHT(er) is a genitive form of "licht" meaning "bright, light", derived from Proto-Indo-European *LEUK- "shine", as to be found in Latin LUX or Vedic ("Sanskrit") ROCATE (with the l having changed into r) "shines", the root is also there in Greek LEUKOS "white".
Now we get to the second element -LOH:
LOHE means "flame" (LOUG in Old High German) which is derived from the above mentioned root *LEUK "shine".
So, we find that the two components of LICHTERLOH are both derived from the same Indo-European root, *LEUK.
Moreover, there is a quite similar word, now to be found only in place names:
LOH (like in Güterloh, Oslo), in Old High German meaning "grove", "clearing". Connected with Vedic LOKA "free space, world" and Latin LUCUS "grove", it is derived from the Proto-Indo-European noun *LOUKO which belongs to our root *LEUK- "shine".
So we can see an etymological connection between two quite different semantic fields:
one with the meaning "shine" in its centre (connected with "bright", "fire", "burning", "(blazing) white"), and an altogether different lexical branch with the core meaning "free space", "clearing", "grove" (the German word for grove is LICHTUNG showing a similar connection between a (supposedly) "cleared piece of land" and words tied to "shine, be bright".
The link between the two concepts is, presumably, the notion that a clearing is a place where the light of the sun pervades the air to get through to the ground.
The concept common to both semantic fields is BRIGHTNESS, it seems to me.

Mittwoch, 18. März 2009

Indiens Sprachen

Wussten Sie,

  • dass in Indien mehr als 122 Sprachen gesprochen werden?
  • dass diese Sprachen zu 4 großen Sprachfamilien gehören, die untereinander, historisch gesehen, nicht verwandt sind?
  • dass die sogenannten indoarischen Sprachen Indiens wie Hindi, Urdu, Bengalisch, Singhalesisch, Sanskrit (um nur wenige zu nennen), mit den europäischen Sprachen urverwandt sind?
  • dass die alte indische Sprache Sanskrit (Vedisch)  dem Altgriechischen und Lateinischen in Wortschatz und grammatischer Struktur noch sehr ähnlich war?
  • dass die Sprache Romani der europäischen Sinti und Roma eine indoarische Sprache ist?
  • dass die indischen Sprachen in verschiedenen Schriften geschrieben werden, die alle auf der alten Brahmi-Schrift basieren?
  • dass in der indoarischen Sprache Panjabi parallel 3 verschiedene Schriften verwendet werden, je nachdem, welche politische oder religiöse Gruppe sich ihrer bedient?