Re: [tied] The "Mother" Problem

From: Piotr Gasiorowski
Message: 36038
Date: 2005-01-26

On 05-01-24 09:57, petegray wrote:

> As for the formation of the two stems, a theory I find interesting is that
> the -ter affix, used for things in opposed pairs, was added to the root for
> "looking after" (peH) which we find in Latin pa:sco and elsewhere. Since it
> was stressed, the root appeared as zero grade: pHter. This was then
> re-interpreted as p-Hter, and the new "suffix" -Hter was added elsewhere to
> make the family words (ma-Hter, bhra-Hter, dhug-Hter, etc). But this theory
> doesn't explain why the accent was moved back.

Well, stress retraction is expected if there is a full (non-high) vowel
in the first syllable, as in *bHráh2t(o)r-. The same should have
happened in *máh2t(o)r- as opposed to *ph2tér- and *dHugh2tér-. On the
other hand, analogical levelling between 'father' and 'mother' (not
extending to 'brother') would have been a natural process, so the
end-stress of Indic and pre-Vernerian Germanic may be secondary, and the
initial stress of Greek phonologically regular.

But why is there a full vowel in the 'mother' and 'brother' in the first
place? *m.h2ter- and *bHr.h2ter- don't violate any PIE phonotactics, and
the proportional equation *(p)a(p)pa- : *(m)a(m)ma- :: ph2ter- : X would
have produced *mh2ter-, wouldn't it? Perhaps some kind of contrastive
reinforcement was employed here, in order to preserve the relationship
between the Lallwort and its formal counterpart (*m.h2tér -->
*máh2tor-). 'Brother' is harder to explain, since I don't think anything
like *bHra- (with an initial cluster!) is likely to be an IE nursery
word (no offence meant to modern Jamaicans). My feeling is that the word
was once more slightly complex than it appears to be, and that some kind
of compositional simplification occurred in it.