I think therefore I remain

From: Glen Gordon
Message: 7233
Date: 2001-04-28

I am not siding with Miguel here at all. To claim that *es- originally meant
"to sit" or "to stand" (specifically mammalian actions) is certainly much
more problematic than the all-inclusive sense of "to remain" in explaining
all the derivative forms. Sometimes I wonder if Miguel just likes to hop
onto my bandwagon to hitch a ride and to get off wherever he likes :)

>I'd appreciate some extra support for such an argument, e.g. other
> >derivatives preserving the old meaning of *h1es-

Well, we've already mentioned some that we can play around with and perhaps
more. We can review the list so far:

*e:s- "to sit" (*H1e:s-)
*es-u- "good" (*H1esu-)
*?s-�nt- "true/existent" (*H1s�nt-)

Who knows, maybe even *es-x-r "blood"...? At any rate, *e:s- can be easily
explained as the lengthened perfective of "to remain" and thus "to be in a
state of remaining"/"to stay". However, *e:s- is naturally a mediopassive
verb, so *e:sxoi is understandable. Now, the mediopassive conjugation must
certainly have been derived from the perfect anyways (1ps perfective *-xa >
mediopassive *-xo-i). Thus, *e:s- could have mosied over from the perfect
(*e:s-xa) to the mediopassive (*e:s-xa-i > *e:sxoi) at a time when the
mediopassive was first developing (Middle IE 6000-5000 BCE).

The other formations like *es-u- and *?s-�nt- can just as easily be
explained with the meaning of "to remain" since the semantics are quite
similar... *es-u- "remaining, flourishing", *?s-�nt- "remaining". Can't do
that with "sit" though... *?s�nt- "sedentary" > "true/existent"? Or *es-u-
"sitful" > "good"??? Doesn't seem like a "sitful" idea, Miguel :P

Then on the other hand, how does one explain *es-u- with the meaning of "to
be"? I have a much harder time seeing how an adjective like "existent" could
end up meaning "good" or "proper". So I guess, everyone will just have to
accept that IE *es- meant "to remain"...

>(even if *sed- had taken over the verbal paradigm of "to sit", some
> >semantic archaisms should have survived among nouns or adjectives
> >related to *h1es-). As far as I can see, the meaning "sit" is >expressed
>by *sed- even in not-entirely-productive formations like >*ni-sd-o- 'nest'
>(not **ni-h1s-o-).

While valid for Miguel, this is not a relevant counterarguement for me
(teehee). Since I claim *e:s- to be a derivative of *es-, it may be that
*sed- was used long before *e:s- came into existence to establish itself in
the vocabulary like *sed- has done.

>On the other hand, *h1es- has derivatives like *h1s-�nt- 'true, >existent'.
>Shouldn't parsimony make us favour something like "be (the >case), be real"
>as the primary meaning of *h1es-, after all?

I would argue that this illusional parsimony starts to erode when one steps
back and examines the language groups most closely related to IE. Nowhere
can one credibly find *es- "to be" in any other Nostratic language but IE.
Likewise with *e:s- "to sit" (Please don't mention the supposed Uralic
cognate, folks, since that has problems). Not even Etruscan has what we're
looking for where one finds /am-/ and /sath-/ respectively.

Given this, the same parsimony would, at the very least, force us to
conclude that *es- and its phonetic twin *e:s- is in some way a special
development within the bounds of IE itself. Since *e:s- can be validly
explained away as the perfective formation of *es- both morphologically and
semantically, it is also parsimonious therefore to presume that one verb
underlies the two forms at some previous stage of IE rather than assuming
that they are two seperate verbs since this leaves a loose thread (ie: the
lonely *es- suspiciously lacking a perfect form contrary to a majority of

>I wonder if it's significant that the two IE adjectives meaning >"good,
>proper", *h1es-u and *wes-u, look as if they were related to >*h1es- and

Yes, thank you, Piotr. It IS significant :) Since *es- originally meant "to
remain" and since *wes- means similarly "to dwell", there are absolutely no
problems here at all with my idea. On the other hand, the secure Late IE
meanings of "to be" and "to dwell" are not as semantically proximate and are
a bit harder to explain without accepting that *es- was once "to remain".

Further, I find it significant that *es- is a composite verb form as it is,
being mixed together with *bheux- and *wes-. This fact makes it apparent
that *es- was not THE verb form for "to be" and calls into question its
original semantic position. The other two verbs have their own seperate
original meanings "to appear" and "to dwell" so why not *es-? We also know
that a language can get along quite nicely without there being an
established verb "to be". Given also the phonetic motivation to confuse *es-
and *wes-, it's hardly surprising that they should be later intertwined and
a source of mutual influence for each other.

Finally, by presuming that *es- originally meant "to remain" we arrive at a
better solution to its prehistoric etymology. As I alluded to above,
Nostraticists have so far failed to explain the verb's origins within a
Nostratic context and the verb is not well attested outside of IE. What else
could it be then but an ancient loan from a neighbouring language?

A Semitoid language, of course, since we find Akkadian /as^s^u/ "to sit" if
I recall correctly. Bomhard's Nostratic reconstruction *?as'- (#434) is far
too weak. As with his flawed proposal of *sab- "seven" (#188) which itself
is nothing more than evidence of ancient Semitoid contact that had produced
IE *septm, Nostratic *?as'- must be likewise abolished for the same reasons.

So in all, IE *es- would appear to be a borrowing from Balkan Semitish c.
6500-6000 BCE at which point it had meant "to remain". After about a
thousand years of existence within the IE vocabulary (c.5500 BCE), *e:s- "to
stay" developed out of *es- as the perfective form, later transfered to the
newly created mediopassive which itself was derived from the perfective.
Between 5500 BCE and 4000 BCE, a span of 1500 years, there was more than
ample time for the meaning of *es- to shift to "to be" and for the verb to
establish itself as a necessary element in sentences expressing equation,
quality or state.

The end.

Well, nitey-nite, boys. This darling is getting her well-deserved beauty
rest :)

- gLeN

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