Currently I'm working on my master Thesis which focuses on biradical nouns of the shape C(e)C1 and CVC. One of the words I've looked into is the Kabyle word for fetus.
Kab. tadist (ta) pl. tidusin (td), tidusa (td)
The second plural formation is probably the original one, it's quite rare to see it. The first plural is very productive.
Now I've gone looking for cognates, and I have found some exclusively in Libyan Berber languages, but the meaning of these words struck me as odd.
Ghadamès tadist, tadiss pl. tədisēn 'belly', Aujila tedûšt 'id.', ElFoqaha tadîst 'belly'
I'm somewhat troubled by this difference in meaning. You'd have to assume that since a fetus is unborn, and still in your belly, you could refer to it as 'your belly'. That's a very playful way with words, so playful in fact, that I find it hard to believe that this would become the only meaning of the word.
It's a shame that it's specifically the Libyan dialects that have this word, especially Aujila and ElFoqaha are very badly described for obvious reasons. So badly in fact, that we're not even sure what Paradisi, the main source of both these languages, meant exactly with his rather exotic transcriptions. He has about 15 different ways to denote vowels, which is odd in a group of languages where, generally, there are vowel systems that range from usually 3/4 to about 7 in the most extreme cases.
It would be interesting to see if maybe the words in those languages have a double meaning. That would mean the development is particularly ancient which would give a bit more space for it to take place.
I'm curious if any of my readers have come in contact with such a development before in other languages.
[Edit] I may not have access to Libyan situated Berber speakers, but I do have access to Kabyle speakers, so I contacted a friend with experience in Kabyle berber who asked an informant what they thought tadist meant.
The speaker says tadist means 'pregnancy' and he gave the following meanings example sentences.
aqlin s tadist 'I am pregant' (litt. I am with pregnancy)
tameṭṭut attsen s tadist 'The woman is pregnant' (She is with pregnancy)
This gives a nice parallel in Tamazight where adis (the masculine form) can mean both 'belly' and 'pregnancy'. That it's found in Tamazight (and Tarifit as Lameen points out in the comments) shows that it's not only Libyan. I wonder why adis slipped past me when I worked through Taifi when collecting the data. I did find it in Amaniss' digital dictionary though.
In fact the idiomatic nature of the sentences mentioned above would still work if the meaning was 'belly'
I am with a belly, the woman is with a belly = pregnant. Then, only when the word lost its use as belly (because it was replaced by taεbuṭṭ) the word came to mean pregnancy.
A semantic shift from 'having a belly' to 'pregnancy' is something I find absolutely acceptable. So did Dallet really mistake 'pregnancy' with 'fetus', I wonder how that happened.
Maarten Kossmann (p.c.):
Well, maybe it was a taboo term for foetus. I would in principle believe Dallet, who worked, among others, with Kabyle doctors.
1 I generally use e to transcribe the schwa, which often can be a dummy vowel.