Connections with other languages


Oh that reminds me of ffenestr (Latin fenestra / French fenêtre / Italian finestra / German Fenster

(but Spanish goes with ventana. hmm…might be from the Latin I guess…oh, no it’s not, not fenestra, anyway):

Good article here:

Just as in English, the Spanish word for “window” is connected to the concept of letting in air. The Spanish word is ventana, derived from the Latin word ventus , which means wind. Therefore ventana has the same original meaning as “window” — an opening in a wall that allows the wind to enter. The Spanish word for “wind” has gradually changed over the centuries, evolving from the original ventus to the current word viento . Therefore the connection between ventana (window) and viento (wind) may be slightly less obvious in Spanish than it is in English.


Finestra in Catalan.


trwy’r ffenestri were the first words I ever identified in Welsh. I remember I laughed 'cause everything else was completely different than anything I had ever heard; until these appeared, totally sounding like Sicilia/Calabria accent! :rofl:


The door one in the article was a bit of a tease - I was left wondering where the old English duru or dor came from - what was the origin of ths Germanic root etc and how is it so similar to the Celtic. It feels strange having a possible common root for door in these language families that isn’t in Latin or Greek or maybe it is?

GPC has the Welsh drws coming from duorestu, with an old Irish word for door given as dorus.

The celtic and germanic words sound quite similar to each other and quite different to the latin. I think the article by mentioning door raised more questions than it answered.

It could also be that drws and door are totally unrelated and having words that feel like they should be related doesn’t mean that they are I suppose. I saw a paper once where someone showed how easy it was to pick words from completely unrelated languages like Basque and an isolated languag in say papua new guinea and be able to make long lists of similar words that couldn’t possibly be related or have been derived from a common source.


Is Sanskrit a modern European word used to describe the old or ancient language or script or is the word derived from a word used in Sanskrit itself to describe the language?


Sanskrit is the native term, from something like Samskrta (sorry, I’m on my phone so can’t do the proper accents/symbols): vowel -r- turns into -ri- in later Indian languages, so that’s usually how it’s pronounced. It means something like ‘put together’ in the sense of ‘perfectly assembled’, ‘perfect’. There was such a long tradition of using Sanskrit as a literary language that its literary heyday actually came when it was already a ‘dead’ language - as if mediaeval Latin was reckoned to be better than Virgil and Cicero - and there was an equally old tradition of native grammar. It’s very different from European traditions of grammar, but in some ways anticipates modern ‘generative grammar’.

I remember hearing on the radio that when William Jones wanted to learn Sanskrit it was so much associated with the Hindu Vedas that he had trouble finding a pandit to teach him. In the end he had his lessons in a room specially set aside for them that was washed down with water from the Ganges before each lesson.


You’re right to be guarded about the temptation to jump to conclusions - Latin diēs is related to dydd but not to ‘day’, and English ‘have’ is linked to Latin capiō and Welsh cael/caffael rather than habeō.

But in this case you’re spot on: the Germanic and Celtic words are related, and there are plenty of cognates in other languages, too, including Latin and Greek – it’s just that it’s not the usual Latin word for a door. (Sometimes the meaning shifts a bit sideways, like ‘farrow’ being the native English equivalent of ‘pork’.) Looking it up gives an IE root of something like dhwōr-, with links to Irish dorus, as you say, and Latin foris (door or gate; linked to forum ‘a space enclosed by a gate; a courtyard’; and also apparently forās ‘outdoors’, Italian fuori, Spanish fuera, Catalan fora, French dehors and the ‘foramen’ in a baby’s skull etc.); also Greek θυρα (Modern παράθυρο is a ‘window’ – a ‘para-door’); Sanskrit dvāras; Tocharian, Armenian, you name it – including even Hittite andurza ‘indoors’ :slight_smile:

The thing with comparing Welsh with Latin and English – if we’re talking about inherited words rather than borrowings from Latin – is that the Germanic languages went through their own set of weird sound-changes (the ‘First Sound Shift’) which mean that Welsh more often agrees with Latin than it does with English. In the currently standard reconstruction of Indo-European you had voiceless stops (p/t/k), which basically shift to f/th/h in English (like aspirate mutation), while Celtic lost p but kept the others – e.g. tri = ‘three’; and voiced stops b/d/g which become English p/t/k (like undoing a soft mutation) – e.g. dau = ‘two’. But the third series – conventionally bh, dh, gh or just bh etc. – basically become just b/d/g in both English and Welsh, while they do slightly weirder things in Latin and Greek etc. – hence the agreement between English and Welsh on things like brawd = ‘brother’, drws = ‘door’, gadael = ‘go’ versus frater, foris and so on.


Anyway, all this Tocharian and Hittite aside, here are a few new ones:

- From a conversation in the pub in which witchcraft came up, it turns out that dewiniaeth is derived from dewin (‘wizard’), borrowed from Latin divīnus ‘divine’. (So like English ‘divination’.)

- From the same conversation, brudiniaeth reminded me of Spanish brujeria (Catalan bruixeria) ‘witchcraft’ – and that is partly how I shall remember it, although it turns out to be completely wrong. According to the GPC it’s originally from brud, a ‘chronicle’, like the Middle English term ‘Brut’ – a history starting with the alleged founding of Britain by Brutus of Troy, a supposed great-grandson of Aeneas. Presumably it’s just because chronicles were learned works, leading to witchcraft like grammar leads to glamour: or maybe it’s just that if you write events down after they happen, it’s a chronicle, whereas if you get in first it’s a prophecy :slight_smile:

- And today’s gem, which I got from context but just had to check in the GPC: da-da. Da is good, right? So, bon in French, right? So yes, da-da are bonbons, sweets. The GPC doesn’t elucidate as to whether it’s a direct loan from French into Gog…


To me there has to me more to this than simple derivations from PIE - some elements of non PIE infusions, must be mixed up with the the common PIE thread - other European languages of non PIE origin must have left their mark.


Place names would be the obvious thing to look at there.

However, when cultures clash, it’s often that the weaker, the conquered, contributes little to the resulting fusion. Look at the minimal contribution of Welsh to English, Basque to Spanish and French, etc.


Good point. I mean, yes, anywhere where Indo-Europeans weren’t the first humans in after the ice melted, they must have conquered/fused/intermarried with speakers of other languages; and it stands to reason that that must have had some effect on the local flavour of Indo-European. However, given no records of pre-IE speech communities, substrate influence becomes a magic wand to be waved whenever one group does something a bit odd that isn’t recorded in another – like assuming any unexplained bit of archeology has religious significance. It might be right – it might even be right nine times out of ten – but it doesn’t really have any explanatory power.

But as @robbruce says, place names might help. TBH, the only example I can actually think of is Greek – there are enough non-Greek placenames in the Aegean/Asia Minor region ending in -attos/-assos (e.g. Halicarnassus) that we’re pretty sure it was part of some pre-Greek language of the region: so it’s plausible that the not-otherwise-attested-in-IE Greek word for ‘sea’ (θάλασσα/thalassa) is pre-Greek. Otherwise you really only tend to see it with a question mark or the word ‘possibly’ attached… I’ve seen it so invoked to explain the oddities of Germanic compared with, say, Italo-Celtic, and of Celtic compared with, say, Italic, but i fod yn onest, pwy a ŵyr?


I do have ideas on things related to parts of Welsh words/constructions including place names that to me that don’t conform to PIE origins, but I’d like to dig a bit more and see where these lead before spouting off totally mad ideas.
Most of what we know about the Welsh language does link to common PIE inheritances, but I strongly suspect there are other elements present.


Have probably said it before, but there are times when I really really wish time travel were a reality, so that we could try to find out who spoke exactly what, where, and when. Would have to be accompanied by suitably open-minded linguistic experts. (Perhaps David Crystal would be up for it; and of course, Gareth would always be welcome! :slight_smile: ).


don’t rule out the possibility that one day, well after I’m gone that some clever spark, might be able to think of a way of actually listening to sounds from the past. Every sound creates a trace in some form or another, but we don’t have the ability to detect it or make sense of it and all the chaos that goes with it.

It’s rediculously improbable, but not an impossibility and who knows what technology advancements will achieve in the next 1000 years?

Imagine a Cornish miner in a granite area, breathing in radon and expelling it into a room, while their speaking. Every atom of the gas expelled will leave a trace that if absorbed by a surface or a wall, could in principle be dated to the nano-second, with a pattern. It may seem impossible and it is improbable, but the signatures of historic speech are still there if we had the ability to detect and interpret them - which we certainly don’t at the moment or any time soon.


Steady on there; you’ll have Cliff Richard wanting to extend the copyrights on his records to eternity! :slight_smile:


Well if our fragile paper and electronic storage media are lost to historians in the distant future then it could be that a few warped vinyl records might still be readable (if anyone manages to figure out what they actually are that is) and I can imagine future linquists and historians trying to make sense of the deep meaning of “we’re all going on a summer holiday”, played at a logical 1 or 100 rpm. He might be imortalised as ancient bard singing praise songs to an old emperor on his way to his summer retreat?


That’s actually a serious issue, which occasionally keeps me awake at night. :slight_smile:

It might actually be easier for them to re-decode the Rosetta Stone that it will be to find out what we’ve been tweeting about, etc.

“No more working for a - week or two”.

Golly, he was an anarcho-syndicalist radical devoted to worker’s rights!


Future historians might struggle to explain the concept of work to people if AI and robtotics move on another few orders of magitude, maybe even the idea of thinking in itself might be thought of as hard work by then.


I recognized one more (from its sound) that i don’t remember being mentioned here yet:
cwmwl - cloud


And there’s another – nef is (distantly) related to ‘nebula’, ‘nebulous’, Latin nebula, Italian nebbia, Catalan neula, Proto-Slavic nebo, Greek νέφος and Hittite nēpiš (!) as well as Niflheim in Viking mythology :slight_smile: