Re: [tied] "Fish" in Slavic

From: Grzegorz Jagodzinski
Message: 45439
Date: 2006-07-20

---- Original Message ----
From: george knysh
Sent: Friday, July 14, 2006 11:22 PM
Subject: Re: [tied] "Fish" in Slavic

> (1) Is something akin to "ryba" either in the sense
> of "fish" or fish-like behaviour, known in any other
> IE language? Starting with Baltic, as otherwise
> closest to Slavic.

The etymology is obscure, but it does not mean that there is no
proposals. But, IMHO, none of existing hypotheses is fully

The Slavic word "ryba" < Proto-Slavic *ru:ba: "fish" is being
compared with German Raupe "caterpillar". The semantic difference is
not so large as it seems to be, especially because the MHG ruppe,
ru:pe and OHG ru:ppa, ru:pa meant also "burbot, Lota lota" (so, a
species of fish). Naturally, the details are unclear. We do not know
for sure whether the two words (the Slavic one and the German one)
are cognates, whether they are inherited in any of the languages, and
if only in one of them, then in which. No further IE etymology is
clear in this case, too.

The Toporov's hypothesis (on a link between "ryba" and "*re,b-"
'colourful, spotted') is also inconvincible because of both
phonetical and semantic problems, especially y2 (y : e,) is
problematic. Even existence of "re,b-" is doubtful. For example,
Russian rjabina "rowan, Sorbus", as if < *re,bi:na:, is probably of
another origin, see Polish jarze,bina, Ukrainian orjabyna and similar
forms in all Slavic languages except Russian. Even if Polish
"jarze,baty" really means "spotted, speckled", Czech "jarabĂ˝" means
"dark red, brown", and this meaning is considered original (cf. Old
Icel. jarpr "brown", Greek orphnos "dark"). It is quite probable that
no "*re,b-" ever existed, and that Slavic words and meanings are
the result of mixing two original stems, "*jare,b- < *a:remb-"
meaning "dark" and "*re^b- < *raib-" meaning "spotted" (cf. Russ.
rjaboj vs. Lith. raibas, and also OHG repahuon "partridge" with
comparison to Polish jarza,bek "hazel grouse" - both mean related
species of birds). Neither "*jare,b-" nor "*re^b-" could be
considered directly related to "*ru:b-".

Jacobson proposed another hypothesis. According to him, "ryba"
shows a rare type of metathesis, and comes from "u:r-ba:". The root
"u:r-" would mean "water, fluid", see Latin u:ri:na or Pokorny under
au(e)-9, aued-, auer- (pp. 78-81). As -ba: means names of actions, the whole
could mean "watering" (doing something related to water), next "fishing" and
finally "fish". Let's assume it could be possible. But even leaving apart
semantic problems, the anlaut u:- in Slavic should get a w-prothesis
(traditionally spelt v-; as no exceptions are known, the process of *u:- >
*wu:- must have occurred rather long time ago). On the other hand, Slavic
metatheses are not too old, as we can observe dialectal differences. So we
might expect that the original *u:r- would yield *wu:r- > **vru:- > **vry-
rather than ry-. This makes this hypothesis not very probable.

And finally, "ry-ba" <-- "ry-ti" ("dig", but probably also "roar") or
"rva-ti" ("tear, burst, draw") causes semantic problems. Even "ry-ba" <--
"rva-ti" "gather / pick flowers" (supposingly "gather fish") is problematic
because the original meaning of ry-/rva- < *ruH-/*rwaH- must have been
"break, tear", also "tear the ground, dig", and not "collect, gather".
Flowers are being torn when collected, fish are not, so all is correct.

Finally, we could suppose that both German and Slavic word come from a
non-IE substrate because no IE etymology seems to be plausible, and no other
IE languages seem to have any cognates of "ryba" and "Raupe".

Grzegorz J.

All new Yahoo! Mail "The new Interface is stunning in its simplicity and ease of use." - PC Magazine