Sibling Semantics

From: Richard Wordingham Message: 17472
Date: 2003-01-08

The following posting, , really ought
to be on Cybalist.

--- In, Piotr Gasiorowski
<piotr.gasiorowski@...> wrote:

----- Original Message -----
From: <richard.wordingham@...>
To: <>
Sent: Monday, December 16, 2002 6:52 PM
Subject: [@ustronesian network] Re: cognate sets for 'bird'. Treating
semantics in a constrained way.

> Latin fra:ter 'brother'
> Greek phre:te:r 'kinsman'
> Sanskrit 'bhra:tar- 'brother'

> Latin soror 'sister'
> Greek heor 'niece'
> Sanskrit sva:sar- 'sister'

> Piotr, how confident are we in the Proto-Indo-European meanings of
> kinship terms here? Hebrew ah. 'brother, kinsman' springs to mind
> here, as when Abraham calls his nephew Lot his brother.

The fact that the 'brother' word patterns with other kinship terms
with *-h2ter- ('father', 'mother', 'daughter', 'husband's brother's
wife') makes it very likely that it referred primarily to a
biological brother. It could occasionally have this meaning even in
Greek, though <adelphos> was the normal term. The semantic agreement
of Indo-Iranian, Balto-Slavic, Armenian, Germanic, Italic, Celtic and
Tocharian guarantees that it's at least a common non-Anatolian IE
family term (it would have only been batural, however, to extend its
meaning in the way seen in most branches). The *-h2ter- words are
poorly attested in Anatolian (only 'daughter' is attested there, I
think). Since Anatolian vocabulary is in general imperfectly
preserved and it's likely that many attestetion gaps are accidental,
most IEists are guilty of regularly ignoring this difficulty and
treating non-Anatolian vocabulary as if it were really PIE. This is
methodologically incorrect (like confusing PMP with PAN) if Anatolian
is coordinate with the rest of the family. It's a pity that we lack a
generally recognised term for the sister clade of Anatolian. (And to
think that the IE reconstruction is often taken as a model example!).

The story of 'sister' is similar. Szemerényi reconstructed the
meaning of *swesor- as '(any) woman of the same family', but his
analysis is too speculative for my taste. On strict comparative
grounds the original meaning 'natural sister' seems much better
warranted. No Anatolian attestation either.

--- End forwarded message ---