Alternative etymologies VI Cover Image

Alternatiivseid etümoloogiaid VI: karsima, luga, tera(s), tiib ja tõrkuma
Alternative etymologies VI

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

Summary/Abstract: The article presents new or revised etymologies for the words luga (Juncus), karsima ‘to cut off branches’, tera(s) ‘strip of leather for reinforcing stitching’, tiib ‘animals’ (birds, insects) flying organ’ and tõrkuma ‘to not obey, resist’.The vernacular word luga : lua ~ loa ~ luga, denoting herbs of the genus Juncus, is known in the South Estonian dialect area and in some adjacent dialects. This plant name has been adopted as the official Estonian word for the plant family Juncaceae and the genus Juncus: loalised and luga respectively. The word luga is not found in other Finnic languages, and has been regarded as of unknown etymological origin. I suggest a possible Baltic origin, comparing Estonian luga to Latvian luga, also ļuga ‘swampy floating mat in an overgrown lake’ and Lithuanian lū́gas, lū̃gas ‘low spot submerged by river; swampy river branch; pool of water; muddy pool, quaking bog; pond; deep spot in a river’, liūgas ‘small marsh, morass’, liugė́ti (liùga, liugė́jo) ‘to sway, waver’. The comparison is based on two facts: Juncus plants grow in humid and wet meadows, pastures, and on the banks of bodies of water; according to semantic typology, the name for the place where the plant grows may have begun to denote the plant itself. The presumptive loan base featured the vowel u-, not ū- (*luga- ~ *lugā), as Baltic ū > Finnic ū, but the phonetic structure of the loan base does not allow for further specification as to whether the word is an older Baltic or newer Latvian loan; however, considering the relatively small South Estonian usage area of luga, the newer Latvian loan hypothesis is more likely.The verb karsima ‘to cut off branches’, known in the Coastal and Islands dialects of Estonian, has equivalents in all Finnic languages except Livonian. It is an eventual Baltic loan: *skardī- > Old Proto-Finnic *karti- > Late Proto-Finnic karsi-, compare to Lithuanian skardу́ti (skar̃do, skar̃dė), skárdyti (skárdo, skárdė) ‘to kill, butcher (animals); to cut, sever; to tear apart, rend with teeth, rip, break (e.g. thunder breaking trees) etc’, Latvian skā̀rdît ‘to break into small pieces, stamp, pound, pulverize’. Jorma Koivulehto has suggested a Germanic etymology for the verb karsia: Proto-Germanic *skarđian-, compare to Old Icelandic skerđa ‘to dent, damage, reduce’, Old English scierdan ‘to wound’, vüsks skerten ‘to tear apart, injure, cripple, reduce’. As with Baltic loans, the older stratum of Germanic loans also took part in the phonological change ti > si, as a result of which both etymologies are acceptable from a phonological point of view, where both the Baltic and Germanic loan base is related to the same Indo-European archetype: semantically, however, the Baltic verb is closer to the Finnic karsima.Finnic terä represents many homonymous stems of different origin: ‘cutting face of an edge tool; grain; strip of leather for reinforcing stitching etc’. I have previously shown that Finnish terä ‘sun/moon disc; corolla, petal; blossom’ as well as Estonian tera ‘(sun)ray’ and terendama ‘to reflect in the air, loom’ are old Baltic loans: < Baltic dialectal *stera- ‘ray, reflection, gleam, glow’. In the article I seek to demonstrate that this same Baltic dialectal loan base *stera- is also the source of North Estonian tera, teras, South Estonian teräs(s) etc ‘strip of leather for reinforcing stitching’. The word has been recorded in all Finnic languages except Livonian, e.g. dialectal Finnish teräs ‘strip of leather for reinforcing stitching; peripheral slat of door or window’, tere ‘strip of leather’; unplowed wedge of field land between furrows’, Karelian terä ‘width of fabric’ etc. Finnic etymological tradition links this word family to the native Finno-Ugric (more specifically Finnic-Volgaic) word terä ‘cutting face of an edge tool, grain’. However, a Baltic etymology is both phonologically appropriate and semantically more logical, drawing a connection to concepts related to the development of clothing. The eventual loan base is Baltic dialectal *stera-, compare to Latvian stara ‘zone, piece of land; rag, tatter; branch, twig’, (bikšu) stara ‘trouser leg’; compare to Slavic *ster-: Russian простерéть ‘to stretch forward, out’; Indo-European archetype: *ster- ‘band, line, ray’. In the Baltic languages, derivatives with a b are more common: Lithuanian sterblė̃, ster̃blė ‘skirt, front piece of woman’s skirt or jacket, bottom edge of a piece of clothing; katuseräästas’, Latvian starbele, starbeles ‘ridge (a strip of fabric or leather sewed on to a piece of clothing to serve as a hem), fringe, wide hem’, ster̃bele ‘coat hem, fringe, gird’; Indo-European archetype *ster-b- ‘to spread out, stretch out, strew, scatter about’.Coastal siib : siive, North Estonian tiib ~ tiiv : tiiva, tiivas : tiiba ~ tiiva, South Estonian siib ~ siiv : siiva ~ siivo, siivas : siiba ‘big pinion (of bird); lateral or protruding side of something (e.g. windmill, seine, plow; hem of a piece of clothing etc) has equivalents in all Finnic languages except Veps, e.g. Finnish siipi ‘bird’s wing, quill; linnutiib, tiivasulg; fish’s fin; side net of seine etc’, Karelian šiibi id. The Finnic equivalents of this word derive from the same Baltic loan base as Estonian teivas, Finnish seiväs etc, but as a separate borrowing: Late Proto-Finnic *sīpa- ~ *tīpa- << Old Proto-Finnic *sejpa- ~ *tejpa- < Baltic *steiba-, compare to Lithuanian stíebas ‘spar, buttress, pillar; stick, pole; stalk, reed, stub; quill’; Indo-European archetype *steib(h)- ~ *stēib(h)-, *steip- ~ *stēip- ‘rod, bar, cudgel; stiff(ened); to compress, tighten’. The semantic line of Estonian tiib etc ‘animals’ (birds, insects) flying organ’ is vividly represented in the loan base: Lithuanian plunksnos stiebas: iš žąsies stíebo pasidarė plunksną i rašė ‘quill: one made a pen from a quill and wrote’. Analogous substitution is assumed in the cases of Baltic loans such as Estonian liig, Finnish liika, Estonian riit, Finnish riitta, Estonian and Finnish tiine, Estonian kiitma, Finnish kiittää. Presumably, the loan base was a neutrum noun, one of the forms of which served as the origin of the Finnic loan (compare to Russian neutrum nouns крыло́ ‘(bird’s) wing’, перо́ ‘feather, pen; fish’s fin’. In Finnic languages, especially in Estonian, the alternation of stems ending in as- ~ äs- and a- ~ ä-is widespread, including in Baltic loans (e.g. Finnish ankerias ~ ankeria, apilas ~ apila, Estonian jääras ~ jäär; Estonian tiib ~ tiivas and siiv ~ siivas are also products of this secondary development. The semantic development of Estonian tiib and related forms progressed as follows: ‘bird’s wing or tail feather’ → ‘bird’s wing (as well as the flight/movement organ of other animals)’ → ‘a lateral part of an object that resembles a bird’s wing’. In the Northern Finnic languages (Finnish, Ludic), the original meaning of this Baltic loan comes forward, ‘bird’s wing or tail feather’.Estonian tõrkuma ‘to not obey, resist, hold back, refuse; to err, go astray; (South Estonian) to tremble, shudder’, is an eventual Baltic loan, with a plausible etymological equivalent in Courland Livonian te̮r̄gə̑b ‘(he/she) berates/scolds’: *terk(k)V- < Baltic *derk- (~ *derg-), compare to Lithuanian dérgti (dérgia, dérgė) = der̃kti (der̃kia, der̃kė) ‘to curse, slander, defile, vilify; to ruin, damage, to work poorly, fecklessly; to behave nastily, to be mischievious; to live immorally, licentiously; to hit, strike etc’, dergùs ‘ugly, repulsive, disgusting’, Old Prussian dergē ‘(they) hate’, dergēuns ‘intolerable; hated, despised’, Latvian der̂gtiês ‘disgusting, unpleasant, repellent, to sicken/disgust’, Indo-European archetype *dergh- ‘to tear, break, tug, haul; to hurt’. The expected Finnic substitute of Baltic*-rk- is *-rk- (> Estonian-Livonian -rg-; Courland Livonian te̮r̄gə̑b is an example of this substitution), but the alternative substitution *-rkk- (> Estonian -rk-) cannot be ruled out, or it is the result of a separate development: tõrkuma : tõrgun has conformed to the pattern of -uma verbs (featuring consonant gradation) expressing frequentativity. The verbal nouns tõrk and tõrge ‘machine failure etc; inhibition of ability to function, reluctance to do something’, as well as some dialectal forms, derive from tõrkuma. Previously, hesitant and contradictory opinions have been expressed about this Estonian word family. The Baltic etymology proposed herein unites all of the stem variants discussed in a phonologically and semantically logical manner.

  • Issue Year: 2019
  • Issue No: 65
  • Page Range: 255-273
  • Page Count: 19
  • Language: Estonian