Re: [tied] Fjall, pilis, polis...

From: Piotr Gasiorowski
Message: 7522
Date: 2001-06-09

Dear Tomas,
It's a difficult question. The problem is that PIE had several homonymous or near-homonymous roots with different meanings, all involving the sequence *pel-, and (semantic evolution having its quirks, zigzags and convergences) it isn't always clear which branch-specific term belongs to which etymon. The fact that two words sound similar or even the same does not guarantee that they have the same ultimate origin. Let me begin with what we CAN work out and what is uncontroversial:
*pelh1- 'fill'. The best-known derivatives, apart from various verb stems, are *plh1-no- 'full' and *polh1-u- 'much, many'. There are also numerous more complex formations based on this root.
*pelh2- 'flat, open'. Lots of derivatives, several subsenses, *pélh2-tu- 'open field' (Eng. field, German feld), *plh2-no- 'flat' (Lat. pla:nus), *polh2-jo- (Slavic *polje), *plh2-m-ah2- 'palm (of one's hand)'.
*pl(o)th2-u- 'wide, broad', cf. Lith. platus. Not necessarily related to *pelh2-. Often means 'expanse, earth, land, country' (OE fold, Skt. pr.thivi:, Celtic *litu-). Here presumably belongs Slavic *pletje 'shoulder-blade, (du.) shoulders, back'.
There are more such roots, but only the ones above are potentially relevant to your question. Now more speculative stuff:
The prototype of Gk. polis, Lith, pilis, Skt. pu:r is usually reconstructed as *p(o)lh1-(i-) 'hill-fort, citadel'. The quality of the laryngeal is not quite certain, and there are subtle internal difficulties (Greek and Lithuanian have an i-stem as opposed to the Indic root noun, Greek has a mysterious dialectal variant with initial <pt->). It is hard to decide if this word can be related to *pelh1- and *polh1-u- (as "a place for many people"?).
North Germanic fell ~ fjall (borrowed into English as <fell>) is another hard nut to crack. Since it may have meanings like "upland stretch of open country", "barren hill", etc., one could in theory assign it to *pelh2- in the sense "open, spread" (though a fell is anything but "flat"). As an alternative, it is compared with German Fels 'rock' and treated as a Germanic root without known external cognates.
I'd conclude that <pilis> and <fjall>, obscure as they are in terms of etymology, are unlikely cognates.
----- Original Message -----
From: Tomas Baranauskas
Sent: Saturday, June 09, 2001 7:48 PM
Subject: [tied] Fjall, pilis, polis...

Thank you for explanation of Ana-fial. Yet the other question: can the Old Norse <fjall> ("mountain, hill") be related with Lithuanian "pilis" ("castle", sometimes - "hill-fort", cf. <piliakalnis> - "hillfort")? Lith. <pilis> is related with Lith. <pilti> - "to pour, to strew" and the latter word - with Lith. <pilnas> ("full"; thus the original meaning of <pilti> was "to make full, to fill"; cf. <pildyti> - "to fill" - the word "fill" is obviously related wth Lith. "pil-").
There is also opinion that Lith. <pilis> is related to Greek <polis> (with the original meaning "akropolis"). And can the Slavic word <pole> ("field") have relation to all this (<pole> was also a territorial unit, community, just like polis)? Cf. German <veld>, Eng. <field>...