Indo-European Root Words–Translation and Metaphor–pt. 2a-modifiers

All other tasks are done today–so it is time to NOM again…

Today I want to look at the other Indo-European roots that I did not specifically cover in the previous post.  These roots are different from those in the last post in that the meanings that they have taken on in English (and usually in German as well) have changed–some more, some less–from the original root meanings.   Nevertheless, these words have managed to survive for over 6000 years and they also–like the more direct roots described in the previous post–are often in the category of things central to human existence.

Because these words have changed a bit in meaning–I will give both the original I/E root meaning and the more modern meaning. I have already done a bit of categorizing work on my own (but these categories are just that–mine… feel free to ignore them..) and I will introduce the words within these categories and discuss any patterns that show up in the meaning changes.  Additionally, it will be helpful think of how these early Indo-europeans metaphorically mapped the original meanings onto other activities… how they came to bind certain words/meanings to other kinds of meanings.   Looking at this, we can try to grok a bit of how these people perceived/framed the world around them.

Today’s words will all be in the category of “modifiers” and mainly consist of adjectives (in the modern words) and some prepositions/adverbs.
The layout will be: IE Root Meaning–> Modern word

naked –> bare
fat –> dapper
naked –> callow
quiet –> while
eager –> lust
young –> maid
solid –> fast, fasten
dry –> thirst
lively –> wake
wet –> water

light, bright –> bald
white –> elf (Alps)
multi-colored/reddish –> Yew (tree)
gray –> Hare
dark –> Gm. Daemmerung (Dusk/Twilight)

front –> end
between –> middle
down –> nether
foremost –> first
one, together –> some
apart, away –> wide, with (note that “with” actually used to mean against–such as in “a fight with” someone)

heavy –> quern (handmill for grain)
great –> much
short –> merry
small –> minnow
flat –> field
sharp –> edge
sharp –> Elder (tree)

warm –> to burn, warm
warm –> LUKEwarm (Gm. “lau”)

As one can see–the meanings of these root words have all been translated into other meanings and words, but the quality or intensity of the divergence in meaning is not necessarily the same throughout.  Looking at the “Body” words–there are some obvious translations–such as naked –> bare or callow, wet –> water, eager –> lust.  However–there are also interesting changes in some roots.  The fact that the root for “fat” has become dapper (or Tapfer in German–which means “brave”) shows something of how these early humans thought and what being “fat” meant in a society without plentiful food… Other alterations–such as “quiet” becoming “while”–as in “let’s wait a while==a period of time–paint an interesting picture.

In this category, we also see how meanings can stray quite far from their original perceptions–in how “solid” has become our word “fast.”  Normally, one wouldn’t see these two meanings as being related.. but the path becomes more clear if one thinks of the word “fasten”–which means to close up and to make secure (or solid).  One also finds the original meaning of “fast” in “fast asleep”… and it is thought that the transferal to “quickness” came from usages like “to run fast”==”to run hard/solidly” wherein the word took on its more modern meaning.

From the other categories there are similar stories.. Many translations are obvious–I/E “flat” becoming field and I/E “sharp” becoming edge are pretty easy metaphorical applications.  Others–like I/E “front” becoming end are also more involved and entail the knowledge that “end” meant conclusion, boundary and that it is the same as Latin “ante”==in front of, opposite–and thus–what was “in front of you” or “opposite of you” was the boundary of you.. the end of you…

Obviously–you can try to understand the stories of all of these adjectives and a great place to do that is to go look in the OED (Oxford English Dictionary) or online here

Overall–I do find it interesting to look at what kinds of categories describe the words.  Now, I did choose to name these categories–but they do seem to fit the words (Body, color, location, size/shape, and temperature) and they are some of the most primal categories that people deal with.  They are modifiers not just for the world outside and around our bodies–but also generated from our body itself in many cases.  This will be similarly true in many cases for the nouns and verbs that will be covered in subsequent posts–although there, the variety of terms and categories becomes even greater..


About Prof. Woland

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One Response to Indo-European Root Words–Translation and Metaphor–pt. 2a-modifiers

  1. Pingback: Indo-European Root Words–Translation and Metaphor–pt. 2c-Verbs | The Philosophy of NOM

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