Re: [tied] the cat

From: CeiSerith@...
Message: 15922
Date: 2002-10-04

In a message dated 10/4/2002 2:45:47 PM Eastern Standard Time, alexmoeller@... writes:

We learn the cat was brought to Europe from Egypt and this is
why there should not be an IE-radical for this animal.
Is this indeed true?There was no cat in Europe until the
phoenicians brought some in 900 BC from Egypt to Europe?
Let see some languages here and what the word "cat" means in
each one

French=Chat ,Welsh=Cath ,Polish=Kot ,Sanskrit=Puccha
,Persia=Pushak ,Italian=Gatto ,Spanish=Gato,
Lithuanian=Puize ,German=Katze ,Russian=Kots ,Irish=Pus , Rom
=pisica, latin= felis
As a first observation we will see there seems to be two
groups .
One with "k:t"  and one with "p:s"
chat, cath, kitt, gato, katze, kots, kot
pushak, pus, pis (rom. -ica from pisica is the diminitiv ,
generaly "ica" beeing a dimunitiv making suffix in romanian)

I just ask because there are big similarities for the name of
this word and second, because there seems indeed to be grouped
in two groups.
I asked myself what to do with the latin word "felis". I
cannot put it in the group with "k:t" but if I think that
*bh>f in most  cases in latin language  and in romanian an P-
dialects from galic "bh>b(p), then I should have the tendency
put the latin "felis" in the group with "p:s"

Any ideea about?

   The Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture (article written by D.Q. Adams and J.P. Mallory) gives this for "cat:"

   ?*bhel- "wildcat; any small carnivore."  Wels bele (< *bhelogo-) "marten," Lat fe:le:s "(wild) cat; any small carnivore, OInd bharuja- "jackal" (only lexically attested), Maldivian balu "dog."  This word seems to be the most likely candidate for the PIE designation of the wildcat (Felis silvestris) which, whatever homeland model one adopts, must have been part of the faunal environment of the PIE speakers as it is found from Ireland into Asia while in Central Asia we have the Pallas' cat or the manul (Felis manul) and in India the yellow cat (Felis libyca) and the jungle cat (Felis chaus).  However, the original meaning of the reconstructed word, if indeed it can be ascribed PIE antiquity, is doubtful.  Another possibility is that the Wlesh and Latin words alone belong together with a meaning of "marten."
   ??*kat- "cat."  OIr cartt "cat" (if not from Latin), VulgLat cattus~gattus "wild cat."  From Latin are derived both the Baltic (OPrus catto "cat," Lith kate: "cat," Latv kake "cat") and Slavic (Rus kot "cat") names of the cat.  Cf. also Arm katu "cat" and Oss gaedy "cat."  The appearance of the word cattus is relatively late in Latin, as was the introduction (from Egypt?) of the domestic cat which is its typical referent (though it may refer like the older fe:le:s to the wildcat as well).  The word cattus is presumably borrowed from some non-Latin source as, in turn, the source of many of the other European words for "cat."  ...
   There follows a discussion of the difficulties of determining when the cat was domesticated, and then this:

   Whatever the precise date of its domestication, it is to Egypt and such lexical forms as Nubian kadi:s "cat" that the chain of borrowings of both the animal and the word is initiated.  Domestic cats are said [they do not say by whom] to have spread into the Aegean world before the twelfth century BC and the cat was present in Italy by the first centuries BC from whence it spread throughout the Roman Empire and beyond.  Its arrival in India may be set to the third millennium BC.

   Gamkrelidze and Ivanov disagree, and say, among other things:

   It is based on *khath- "cat," from which are derived verbs meaning "give birth" (to small animals) and names for the young of small animals.
   The assumption that the word for "cat" is ancient in this entire group of dialects [OPruss, Lith, Latv, ORuss, Russ, Pol, LSorb, Cz dial, Slovak, Bulg] and not a recent loan from Vulgar Latin into Baltic and Slavic is supported by the special religious significance of cats from earliest times in Baltic and Slavic traditions. 

   They then go on to discuss the similarites with non-IE languages, such as Nubian kadi:s, "cat" and Georg k'at'a, among others, concluding:

   Given all these facts, the links between Near Eastern languages and cultures and the Indo-European dialects and traditions (Baltic, Slavic) located far from the Near East are striking.

   They don't seem to mention ?*bhel-.  (This seems a rather common homophone in PIE.)
   I'm not qualified to discuss the phonological aspects of the question.  Semantically, however, ?*bhel- seems rather a reach; I find it quite funny that the root is attributed to reflexes meaning both "cat" and "dog."
   As for G & I's contention that the "cat" root is PIE, albeit likely borrowed from a Near Eastern language, based on the Baltic and Slavic evidence, I would have to place that in the hands of the phonologists to determine whether the words can more profitably be derived from VLatin.
   As for the semantic link with "to give birth," I can only point out that a lot more common animals also give birth, and I would have to wonder why a number of languages would single out cats as their basis for this phenomenon.  Again, however, I am not qualified to decide whether the "give birth" words are indeed related to "cat."  It just seems odd to me.

Ceisiwr Serith