Re: [tied] The "Mother" Problem

From: Piotr Gasiorowski
Message: 36054
Date: 2005-01-27

On 05-01-26 17:07, Rob wrote:

> How is "stress retraction [to be] expected if there is a full (non-
> high) vowel in the first syllable"? If that were the case, it seems
> to me that we should see *péxte:r instead of *pxté:r.

No, PIE *ph2té:r contained only one phonological vowel (as opposed to

> Was there a root in IE *mex- meaning 'nourish' or something similar?

I don't know of any such. But the existence of something like *mama,
*mamma, *ama or *amma for 'mom' is almost guaranteed by the general
tendencies of baby-talk (not to mention the existence of such items in
historically known IE languages). For 'dad' we find words of the same
structure but with *t or *p instead of *m.

> It seems to me that both *méxte:r and *bhréxte:r were recent
> developments within IE. If those words had been "coined" when pitch-
> accent was still distinctive(*), we would have seen either *mxté:r
> and *bhrxté:r or *méxto:r and *bhréxto:r. In other words, the
> atonic /e:/ means that the pitch-accent was no longer distinctive.

The forms with unstressed *e: do look relatively young and analogous to
such regular cases as *ph2té:r, *dHugh2té:r, etc. I'm inclined to
reconstruct *bHráh2to:r and *máh2to:r for PIE, with branch-specific
analogical levellings of stress and vowel quality in post-PIE times.

> I also hypothesize that the suffix *-xter is a reanalysis of the
> word *pxté:r from **p(e)x-tér- to **p(e)-xtér-. Once the meaning
> changed from "protector" or "provider" to "father", it could be
> extended to other kinship terms.

Yes, that's a common view.

> An interesting related question is
> this: in nomina agentis, was the nom. sg. originally *-térs, like in
> *pxté:r (< *pxtérs), at least in animate nouns?

Alternating with *-tor-s > *-to:r if the stress was on the verb root.
"Originally" is a dangerous word. The reconstructable forms of the
suffix are PIE, but of course one may speculate ad libitum about its
pre-PIE prehistory. A variant with *l rather than *r is also marginally
attested -- cf. the *-tlo-/*-tro- alternation in the (related?) suffix
of PIE nomina instrumenti.

> Finally, I propose that the word for "brother" comes from the root
> *bher- "carry": *bhr-xter-. Perhaps the older form of the word was
> *bhrtérs "a (fellow?) carrier".

Many people have proposed such a connection, but I'd like to see a
convincing explanation of the *bHrá- part with its full vowel and
retracted stress. If PIE-speaker had intended simply to emphasise the
etymological link between *bHer- and 'brother' by applying some kind of
vr.ddhi reinforcement, the word would surely have ended up as
*bHérh2to:r. The vowel was inserted in the wrong place, which is strange.