Sunday, August 18, 2013

Powerful tools for all linguists out there

This goes out to all you people who are into historical linguistics and not only. Ask yourself "what takes most time when studying words"? Many of you try to find similarities across languages and each time you find an interesting word, you start searching in your dictionaries how that word is/was in language X. Currently, and to some extend, Palaeolexicon helps you with that. It is not enough though... In version 2, we will introduce some powerful tools for your research.

So, here is the concept. You find this word in language X and you want to know if that word exists in a similar form in another language. Palaeolexicon has currently 8 dictionaries, 6 distinct languages and many non public dictionaries that still need some work until they reach out to you e.g. Latin, Sanskrit, Hittite, Hurrian etc. Right now, you need to manually search for words in those dictionaries and make your own comparisons. If you're lucky, we have already linked them together so that you can see the similarity across languages. In most cases that doesn't happen though. So, what about a tool where you type your word of interest, its meaning and then click on a magic button that does the work for you? You put for example the Latin word "nomen" and its English meaning which is "name". Palaelexicon's algorithm will then try to match your input with all available (public and non public) words in its database and suggest you the following: όνομα (Greek), ονομαν (Phrygian), nama (Sanskrit), namo (Saxon) and so on... Well, that is a bit too easy isn't it? What if the etymology of the word you search for is not exactly the same in some languages? Assume you search for old persian martiya which means man - Palaeolexicon will suggest you words like Venetic mortuvu 'dead', Greek μέροψ 'mortal', Armenian meranim 'to die', English murder and so on. Except from sounding similar, these words share similar meanings but not exactly the same. They have a semantic similarity regarding life and death. Their semantic similarity might then divided by distance, for example a cup is a hollow object or bend, but it is also a utensil. Sounds like you're about to save many hours of research right? Of course, keep in mind that computers are not humans and the last decision is up to you. 

If you have any more suggestion on what would save your precious time while researching, please don't hesitate to contact us. 

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Reading the Phrygian word ΒΕΔΥ

There are three* Phrygian words related to water and one of them is ΒΕΔΥ. The account for this word, comes from Clement of Alexandria who lived in the 2nd century AD and got exposed to the neo-Phrygian language. Immediately one would read the word as bedu which doesn't sound convicing at all to my ears. It doesn't take much time to understand that what Clemens heard from the Phrygians was wedy or vedy and not what reads in the latin alphabet as bedu. Remember that the Greek Β (beta) was not always equal to the Latin /b/. After some point, /b/ became a /v/, while /w/ (Ϝ - digamma), when not dropped, turned either to /v/ or U+vowel. The later is attested in both Phrygian and Greek, however we have no clear evidence that Phrygian /b/ turned to a /v/. In any case, we should seriously consider reading ΒΕΔΥ with a medieval Greek β, rather an archaic one. Besides, ΒΕΔΥ should have the same root as all other Indo-European words for water, that is to say *wed-o-/*wódr̥. There is not a single Indo-European language where the word for water starts with a B. Meanwhile, J. Pokornys Illyrian gw-> b- phonetic mutation theory, seems very unlikely. Some Indo-European examples on water listed below.

English: wæter
Hittite: watar
Luwian: wārsa
O.C.S: voda
Proto-Greek: *wydor (later ydor)
Cap. Greek: vuδokko
Tocharian: war
Ossetian: wydr
Lithuanian: vanduõ
Old Prussian: wundan
Old Norse: vatn
High German: wazzar
Umbrian: utor (*wutor ?)

* The other two words for water are ydor and akala, the later being the only one directly attested on inscriptions.