Ainu and Austric

From: Francesco Brighenti
Message: 58332
Date: 2008-05-03

Dear Arnaud,

--- In, "fournet.arnaud"
<fournet.arnaud@...> wrote:

> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Francesco Brighenti" <frabrig@...>
> > John Bengtson (Mother Tongue XI) proposes Ainu as a member of
> > a "Greater Austric" macro-family which would also comprise
> > Austronesian, Austroasiatic, Daic, Hmong-Mien, and Nahali -- see
> > the pdf version of the paper at
> >
> >

Sorry, I realized that this online paper isn't Bengtson's _Mother
Tongue_ XI paper! The latter is much longer and presents more than
100 "Greater Austric" lexical comparisons, most of which include
Ainu reflexes. The paper contains, among other things, a note on
phonological comparisons between Ainu and Nihali (for the latter is
included by Bengtson in his proposed "Greater Austric" macro-phylum)
and another one on a possible Austric substratum in Burushaski.

So, you ought to read the full paper in MT before asking:

> Francesco, are you aware that the data provided can also prove
> that Ainu is PIE or Uralic ? I don't think you can prove anything
> with ten look-alike that don't look alike and have different
> meanings.

Here I will offer my comments on some of your improvised Ainu-
Eurasiatic lexical comparisons, keeping in mind that I have
Bengtson's paper on my desk, while you don't (:^)).

You write:

> man : kur
> What about *kor "young man" ?
> Cf. Greek kouros

I have always seen this PIE verbal root reconstructed as *k^er-,
*k^er@-, *k^ore-, or *k^re:-, and its meaning is always stated to be
the verb 'to grow', not the noun 'young man' (which is only a
particular development of this root in Greek).

> What about Uralic *koj, *kom "man" ?

The Proto-Uralic forms of the words you mention, as given in the
Tower of Babel databases, would be:
*koje (?) 'man, person'

*koj(e)-mV 'man, person'

These proto-words looks very distant from Proto-Ainu *kur 'man,
person' (--> Kamchatka Ainu ku:r 'men' = Sakhalin Ainu guru, Kuril
Ainu kor-gur [redupl.?] 'husband'). On the contrary, the Austric
proto-word *qulo 'man', thus reconstructed by Hayes and cited in
Begtson's MT paper, looks much closer to Proto-Ainu *kur. Look at
the Austroasiatic reflexes of this noun root!

> Me [actually, I -- Francesco]: ku
> What about *eg(h)o ?

In the MT article, Bengtson gives the reconstructed Austric proto-
form of the 1st pers. sg. pronoun as *kVw (Peiros) or *(a)(n)qu
(Hayes). Proto-Ainu *ku 'I' (nominative) matches this root well, and
the oblique form of the same pronoun, *an 'me', matches well the
corresponding pronoun in Nihali, eN 'me/my'.

As to your proposed Ainu-IE connection, the Tower of Babel databases
connect the Proto-Austric form of this pronoun to PIE *eg^, *eg^h,
*eg^(h)om, *eg^o 'I' through Proto-Eurasiatic *?VkV (or *?VgV) 'I,
myself' -- see Starostin's long-range etymology at

Therefore, your comparison may go in the right direction although it
is the Proto-Austric form of the pronoun, not its Proto-Ainu form as
such, that should be compared in this case. In his MT paper (p.
242), while discussing and rejecting Greenberg's hypotesis of the
Eurasiatic (Nostratic) affiliation of Ainu, Bengtson writes:

"One of the most decisive facts is that Ainu totally lacks the
characteristic Eurasiatic *me/*te 'me/thee' pronominal pattern,
having instead *ku/*an 'I/me'... and *E 'thou', with clear parallels
in Austric... Greenberg admitted this, e.g... '<m> is the basic
indicator of first person, and is found in every subgroup [of his
Eurasiatic macro-phylum -- Francesco] except Ainu...'; and
under 'Second-person <t>'... there is no mention of any Ainu reflex."

> Blood : kem
> this word does not look at all Austric !

Does it not? Why?

True, Proto-Ainu *kEm 'blood' has been compared to Proto-Samoyed
*kem or *k@... 'blood', Proto-Altaic *k'i_a:no 'blood, blood vessel',
yet an Austric etymology for this term appears more likely. Besides
*kEm 'blood', Proto-Ainu has *kam 'flesh', and ultimately these
might be ablaut (or umlaut) variants of the same word. The
reconstructed Proto-Austric words for 'blood', *hVm (Peiros) or *xam
(Hayes), match Proto-Ainu *kEm/*kam very well.

> Head : pa
> Cf. PIE preH2
> Cf. Finnish pää.

I don't know of a PIE root preH2 meaning 'head', but as regards
Finnish pää 'head', it is probably very distantly connected to Proto-
Ainu *pa 'head' through a long-range etymology. Indeed, Starostin
compares Proto-Austric *pVN 'head, top' (which, according to
Bengtson, may be the root of Proto-Ainu *pa through loss of final
velar nasal) and Proto-Eurasiatic *pVNV 'face, head' (which may be
the root of Finnish pää through the intermediate Proto-Uralic form
*päNe) -- see at

> Root : rit
> Cf. English root !

Huh? You mean I should compare Proto-Ainu *rit 'root (--> shin-
rit 'roots of plants, ancestors', kem-rit 'blood vessel',
ryt 'tendons' etc.) with PIE *wer@..., *w(e)ra:d-, *wr@... 'twig,
root, branch, sprout'? Or are you asking me to compare Ainu and
English *directly*?

> Fire : apoy
> Cf. PIE puH2

The connection of Proto-Ainu *apOy 'fire, hearth' (> Hokkaido Ainu
ape, ambe, Kamchatka Ainu a:peh, Kuril Ainu aboi) with Nihali a:po
and Proto-Indonesian *apuy (= Proto-Austronesian *Sapuy, acc. to
Peiros < Proto-Austric *?puj-X 'fire, burn') was firdt proposed by
Kuiper back in 1948. Also in this case, you have selected for your
comparison a putatively "Eurasiatic" term (one of the PIE words
for 'fire', *peH2w-r., later colored to *paH2w-r.) which is,
however, connected by Starostin, in a long-range etymology, to Proto-
Austric *?puj-X via Proto-Eurasiatic *p'VxwV 'fire' -- see at

> Proves nothing...

I invite you to read Bengtson's paper before jumping to such


Bengtson, John D. 1996. "Nihali and Ainu." _Mother Tongue_ 2: 51-55.

Blaz^ek, Vaclav. 1996. "Seeking the Relatives of Nihali." _Mother
Tongue_ 2: 57-60.

Begtson, John D., and Vaclav Blaz^ek. 2000. "Lexical Parallels
Between Ainu and Austric and Their Implications." _Archiv
Orientalni_ 68: 237-258.