The alternative etymologies I Cover Image

Alternatiivseid etümoloogiaid I
The alternative etymologies I

Author(s): Lembit Vaba
Subject(s): Pragmatics, Historical Linguistics, Comparative Linguistics, Finno-Ugrian studies, Baltic Languages
Published by: Teaduste Akadeemia Kirjastus
Keywords: etymology; loanwords; Estonian; Finnic languages; Baltic languages;

Summary/Abstract: The article presents alternative etymologies for the Estonian words koost ‘(wooden) spoon’ and kaugas ‘men’s shirt breast with a double waist, used as a pocket; wallet’ and the Northern Finnic word represented by Finnish kaukalo ‘trough’. The word koost is found primarily on the western Estonian islands. Julius Mägiste has proposed a Russian etymology for it, as a borrowing based on *kopusta ‘mixing tool’. Mägiste’s Russian etymology presumes the phonological development chain *kopusta > *koβusta > *kovosta > koost, proposed specifically for this case, which is implausible. Koost is most likely of Baltic origin, from a loan base the successors of which are lithuanian kaũstė / kaustė̃ ‘vessel hollowed out from a tree trunk, drinking horn’, latvian kaũšķins ‘ladle’ etc. Upon its borrowing, the Baltic au was replaced by ou, which later developed into a long ō. this kind of substitution and phonological development is characteristic of livonian, where vowels are in quantitative and mostly also qualitative paradigmatic alternation, including ou : ō. The borrowing has presumably come to Estonian via Livonian, where it is no (longer) recorded. Although the presumed Baltic loan base lacks phonological features of diagnostic value, the word’s geographical distribution indicates that it could have been borrowed from Curonian. The proposed connection between kaugas ‘men’s shirt breast with a double waist, used as a pocket; wallet’ and latvian kabata ‘pocket’ requires a remarkably complicated phonological adaptation for a relatively recent borrowing and is unconvincing. kaugas is most likely an older Baltic loan, having originated from the stem *kauk-, the possible Indo-European archetype of which is *(s)keu- / *kou- ‘to make curved, curved, hollow, cavity’ and/or *(s)keu- ‘to cover (up), wrap (up)’. The members of this large and diverse Baltic word family include Lithuanian káukė ‘mask, face cover, gas mask’, kiáuklas / kiáukutas ‘cover, shell’, káukė ‘mortar, wooden ladle, dish, basin etc.’, kaukẽlė ‘wooden dish’ and others. kaugas does not denote a pocket on a garment in today’s meaning. A pocket woven/sewn into a piece of clothing is a sufficiently new phenomenon that the Baltic loan base could not possibly have carried that meaning. Among the oldest forerunners of pockets was a piece of skin, which could be pulled with the aid of a sheep-split into the shape of a small round bag or purse. In this context, derivations of the *kauk- stem such as káukė and kiáuklas / kiáukutas can be seen to fit in the semantic field of the loan base. Estonian words for ‘pocket’ such as tasku, vikk, 231 kalits, kulit etc. have been borrowed into estonian on the basis of words in other languages denoting pockets. Kaugas is not among them, as it belongs to a much earlier loanword stratum. The Baltic loan base *kaukāl- / *kaukōl- ‘vessel hollowed out from a tree trunk’, the successor of which is e.g. lithuanian kaukẽlė ‘wooden dish’ has been borrowed into Finnic as *kaukal-: Salaca livonian kougil, Karelian koùgõl ‘kneading trough’, votic kaukalo / kaukolo ‘trough hollowed out of wood’, Finnish kaukalo ‘trough’ etc. the sequence -Vl in these Finnic words is the representation of the loan base’s productive deverbal affix *āl- / *ōl-, one of the essential meanings of which is conveying the result of an action. An earlier explanation held kaukalo and its equivalents to be derived from the stem kauka-‘distant, far, for a long time’, on the basis of the fact that kaukalo denotes an oblong vessel. This is, however, merely a folk etymology. The Baltic loan base contains a reference to the way in which such vessels were made.

  • Issue Year: 2014
  • Issue No: 60
  • Page Range: 219-231
  • Page Count: 13
  • Language: Estonian