Re: Milk and a Gaulish Love Poem

From: richardwordingham
Message: 14443
Date: 2002-08-22

--- In cybalist@..., Piotr Gasiorowski <piotr.gasiorowski@...>
> <milk> (PGmc. *melk- ~ *meluk-) goes back to the root *h2melg^- 'to
milk', with a reflex of the *h2 visible only in Greek (<amelgo:>);
the full grade *(h2)melg^- is also found in Slavic *melz-ti 'to milk'
and Lith. mélz^-ti, with the *g^ properly satemised, whereas Slavic
*melko 'milk (n.)' is clearly a loan from Germanic, though why the
Proto-Slavs should have borrowed it is a complete mystery to me. Lat.
mulgeo contains the zero grade *(h2)mlg^-, which also underlies the
Celtic mlig-/blig- words (Welsh blicht < *mlg^-tu-).

How do we know Latin 'mulgeo' contains the zero grade? According to
Kennedy's Latin Primer, 'el' and 'ol' (short vowels, not long vowels)
became 'ul' before any consonant but 'l'. ('v' counts as a vowel in
this context.) I didn't notice any exceptions when I was trying to
work out why molo 'to grind' could not have come from an earlier

> <llefrith> and OIr. lemnact 'sweet milk' share what seems to be the
root *lem-; I have no idea what non-Celtic words might be cognate.
> Lat. lact- and Gk. galakt-, both root nouns, resemble each other,
and since both are mysterious, maybe it's one and the same mystery
(*glakt-?). There's plenty of room for speculation here. There are
some other 'milk' words but not what you might call a really common
IE term for 'milk', which is a bit surprising. We can suspect an
accidental attestation gap rather than hypothesise that the IEs kept
cows but didn't milk them.

We've got *h2melg^ for the verb 'milk'; its the noun that's missing.
Thus we should hypothesise that they kept cows, sheep or goats and
milked them, but didn't drink the milk :)

Actually, that isn't as crazy as it seems. Many peoples transform
milk before they drink it. The Turks ferment it; some Nilotic people
mix it with blood before consuming it. About 25 years ago there were
reports that the ability of adults to digest milk was largely
restricted to Europeans - there were subsequent arguments as to
whether this ability was genetically determined. If milk-drinking
spread from the cloudy North West, we might even have an explanation
of why the Proto-Slavs should borrow the Germanic word!

> ----- Original Message -----
> From: guto rhys
> To: cybalist@...
> Sent: Wednesday, August 21, 2002 2:14 PM
> Subject: [tied] Milk and a Gaulish Love Poem
> Could someone explain the 'milk', 'lact-' and 'llefrith/blith'
(Welsh) root and its reflexes in other languages?