Re: [tied] Re: Milk and a Gaulish Love Poem

From: Piotr Gasiorowski
Message: 14444
Date: 2002-08-22

----- Original Message -----
From: richardwordingham
Sent: Thursday, August 22, 2002 10:31 AM
Subject: [tied] Re: Milk and a Gaulish Love Poem

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 *melo.
A good point. It can reflect *h2molg^-eje-, an "iterative/causative" formation like <moneo:>, or a denominal verb *h2molg^e-je- (which would presuppose a noun like *h2molg-o-s, but see <capri-mulgus> 'goat-milker'). For other examples of the o-grade, see Gk. amolge: 'milking', amolgion 'milk-pail'. We should probably assume an e-grade in Lat. mulctra ~ mulctrum 'milk-pail' < *h2melg^-trom.

> 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 :)
Oh yes, the verb root itself is widespread. Derivatives of *h2melg^- with "milky" meanings are also found in Tocharian and Albanian. I suppose a common noun for the product of milking originally existed -- most likely something trivial like *h2melg^-es- (nom./acc. h2melg^os) or *h2melg^-wr/-w(e)n-.

> 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!
Milk-processing is certainly a very old industry. There are early Neolithic ceramic strainers that may have been used in cheese production (though such things are difficult to prove). I suspect there were a number of terms for 'fresh milk', 'sour milk', 'cream', 'whey', 'beestings', and what not. I somehow can't believe the Slavs had no term for 'unprocessed milk' even if they should have been intolerant to lactose, but lexical replacement is sometimes simply capricious.