Re: [tied] PIE Word Formation Q&A (1)

From: Patrick Ryan
Message: 43994
Date: 2006-03-29

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Sent: Wednesday, March 29, 2006 4:02 AM
Subject: [tied] PIE Word Formation Q&A (1)


Q. What is the function of the thematic vowel *-e/o- in nominal stems?

A. It seems to have formed adjectives of origin, belonging, or a similar
kind of abstract connection (*X-o- = 'having to do with X'). For
example, RV avya- means 'coming from sheep (<avi->)', and Lat. septimus
means 'seventh' ('connected with the number seven (<septem>). Hence the
hypothesis (discussed here a few months ago) that, e.g. the verbal
adjectives in *-tó-/*-nó- go back to *-(e)nt-é/ó-, e.g. *kWr.tó- 'done'
('coming from the doer, *kWr-ent-'). Adjectives can easily undergo
substantivisation, so that we also have a great number of thematic
nouns, often with contrastive accent distinguishing them from related
end-stressed adjectives. Some nouns and adjectives with final *-o- are
etymologically opaque, which means that their hypothetical base is
unattested on its own. For example, *wl.kWo- 'wolf' seems to contain the
suffix *-o-, but we can't identify the underlying root (*welkW-?).

I think it is a fundamental mistake to regard the nominal (or verbal) thematic vowel as an affix.
It is, rather, the retention of a final vowel that was preserved because of the stress-accent.
PIE was developed from a PAA language in which a primary mechanism was to express singular roots by stress-accenting the penultima ('CV-CV) opposed to plural roots stress-accented on the ultima (CV-'CV). Subsequently, 'CVCV roots were simplified to (')CVC.
This is seen most apparently in the nominative (originally ergative) singular of nouns: CVC+s; as opposed to the nominative (originally ergative) plural in which the affix is added to the plural form: CV-'CV+s.
It is incorrect to regard *wl.kWo-s as containing the suffix -*o- for the simple reason that *l. is not a PIE phoneme, it is only a stress-unaccented form or *l. A form like *wl.kW- (before any affix) would present a word with _no_ stress-accent, which is virtually an impossibility.
*wl.-kWo- is a very old compound of *wel-, 'wool (referring to sheep)' + *kWe/o, which will be a verbal element of some meaning relating to the preoccupation of wolves with flocks. That it is very old is shown by the Egyptian word wnš, 'jackal' so the connection apparently goes back to Nostratic. It is sufficiently old that the verbal element could be represented as a single syllable (*CV). As a consequence, we will never be able to identify it in any probable way in PIE since the simplest verbal roots are all *CVC. *wl.-kWé- will have been an early form which became *'wl.-kWo- when the stress-accent was shifted to the penultimate.

Q. When is the thematic vowel replaced by *-i/j-?


(1) In composition, cf. Lith. mai~nas 'exchange' < *moino-s vs. Lat.
commu:nis 'common, general' < *kom-moini- 'shared mutually'.

(2) When a thematic adjective is derived from an already thematic base,
e.g. RV as'vya- 'pertaining to horses' from <as'va-> horse.

(3) Before certain suffixes, e.g. diminutive *-ko- (yielding *-iko-).
Note also the alternation of *-e-h2 with *-i-h2 in feminines.
It is incorrect to assert that the thematic vowel was "replaced" by -*y.
There is no relationship between them (thematic vowel and -*y). The ultimate stress-accentuation, resulting in a thematic vowel, originally indicated plurality. *-y was relational or derivational.