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David Marjanović
*a-ɣăyd '(goat) kid'

Unproblematic reconstruction.

Uncannily similar to one of the IE "goat" words, none of which can be reconstructed to PIE and all of which are probably loanwords.

What is ă supposed to be phonetically?


Yes, the similarity is probably not a coincidence. There are a couple of agricultural and animal husbandry Wanderwörter shared between Berber and Indo-European.

I did a little bit of work on Guus Kroonen's wonderful Database of Indo-European
Agricultural Terminology.


cf. also Proto-Semitic *gady 'id.', which is presumably related.



Also in metallurgy you find interesting ones:

*a-ẓrəf 'silver' certainly is related to the wanderwort family that 'silver' itself belongs to.
(http://dieat.inss.sc.ku.dk/display/entry.php?lemma_id=5443 I should add more cognates to this one)

Also: *a-ldun~a-buldun 'lead', uzzal 'iron' (cf. Hebrew barzel)

There are probably more, but I haven't found them yet.


*ă is normally thought to be a central low vowel [ɐ], but if I'm correct about mid vowel harmony, it's likely that it was closer to [ə]. It ultimately corresponds to Proto-Semitic short *a (a low front or mid short vowel), so does probably come from something like [ɐ] originally.

David Marjanović

Curiouser and curiouser. Were there Ancient European Farmers on both sides of the Mediterranean, perhaps?


I think you should think in that direction yes.

I just remembered another one: *a-agăr 'field', cf. Lat. ager.

It might be a loanword from Latin, but it has undergone Mid Vowel Harmony, and therefore shows up as igr in most Berber languages, quite different from the Latin word.


DIEAT doesn't mention any cognates outside of europe, but I believe the Sumerian word is quite similar as well...


David, Phoenix: there are a substantial number of very Indo-European-looking words in Ancient Egyptian too, which intriguingly cannot be traced back to any known branch of Indo-European and some of which as I recall relate to animal husbandry.

So: did these Indo-European loanwords enter Proto-Berber via Ancient Egyptian? Or the other way around? Or did Proto-Berber and Ancient Egyptian each borrow the words separately from some extinct and otherwise unattested Indo-European language of North Africa? Or did Proto-Berber and Ancient Egyptian each borrow their lexemes from different branches of Indo-European?

And in the case of the Ancient Egyptian loanwords, I have often wondered if they might be connected to some of the alleged Indo-European loanwords found in Ancient Hebrew? Sapir wrote a nice article on one such possible Indo-European loanword...

(Just thinking out loud here, in case that wasn't obvious)...I wonder: the Celtic scholar John Koch has argued that the Tartessian language (attested in inscriptions in Southern Spain) was in fact Celtic. Could Tartessian have been the source of (at least some) Indo-European loans into Proto-Berber?

If any reader out there is looking for a thesis topic, I hope my somewhat disjointed thoughts above has given you some ideas...


Dear Etienne:

For many of these words (e.g. 'bean') it's not so much Proto-Indo-European words that are entering Berber (and Basque and Egyptian etc.), but rather a language of the original agricultural settlers of Europe (and, apparently, North-Africa) that were there already before the Proto-Indo-Europeans arrived.

That's certainly the Hypothesis from which Guus Kroonen's database is working. It's elegant because it helps explain why there is such a strong mismatch between what archaeologists generally thing about the settlement of Europe, and what linguists think.

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