September 05, 2012

Words denoting pulse crops in European languages

From the paper:
The attested Proto-Indo-European root-words directly linked to pulse crops are further testimony that Proto-Indo-European society was well-acquainted with agriculture (47), and was not predominantly nomadic and pastoral, as initially thought by the proposers of the Kurgan hypothesis (48).

PLoS ONE 7(9): e44512. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0044512

Origin of the Words Denoting Some of the Most Ancient Old World Pulse Crops and Their Diversity in Modern European Languages

Aleksandar Mikic

This preliminary research was aimed at finding the roots in various Eurasian proto-languages directly related to pulses and giving the words denoting the same in modern European languages. Six Proto-Indo-European roots were indentified, namely arnk(')- (‘a leguminous plant’), *bhabh- (‘field bean’), * (‘a kernel of leguminous plant’, ‘pea’), ghArs- (‘a leguminous plant’), *kek- (‘pea’) and *lent- (‘lentil’). No Proto-Uralic root was attested save hypothetically *kaca (‘pea’), while there were two Proto-Altaic roots, *bukrV (‘pea’) and *(‘lentil’). The Proto-Caucasianx root * denoted pea, while another one, *howl(a)(‘bean’, ‘lentil’) and the Proto-Basque root *ilha-r (‘pea’, ‘bean’, ‘vetch’) could have a common Proto-Sino-Caucasian ancestor, *hVwlV (‘bean’) within the hypothetic Dene-Caucasian language superfamily. The Modern Maltese preserved the memory of two Proto-Semitic roots, *'adas- (‘lentil’) and *pul- (‘field bean’). The presented results prove that the most ancient Eurasian pulse crops were well-known and extensively cultivated by the ancestors of all modern European nations. The attested lexicological continuum witnesses the existence of a millennia-long links between the peoples of Eurasia to their mutual benefit. This research is meant to encourage interdisciplinary concerted actions between plant scientists dealing with crop evolution and biodiversity, archaeobotanists and language historians.

Link

13 comments:

Teo. said...

1) ALL those "PIE" roots adduced in the paper only have reflexes in European languages, particularly Western European ones. That can be easily checked against other sources. There is not a single reflex of them in Anatolian, Tocharian, Indo-Aryan, and only one isolated reflex for "pea" in Armenian. In fact, only Italic languages have attested reflexes for all of them.

In other, words, they CAN'T be reconstructed as being part of the older layer of PIE, and might as well have been dialectal Western PIE, probably from a common source in the Balkans. The conclusion that "PIE" as spoken at the time of the initial break-up had those words is not sound at all.


2) The author adheres to quite a few fringe theories (Sino-Caucasian? please...) that linguists generally reject, and bases his ensuing argumentation on that. I'm sure you wouldn't like if a linguistics blog tried to bring up, say, Out-of-America to argue for a particular linguistic hypothesis, so please careful here...

German Dziebel said...

@ Teo

It's another paralinguistic article published in a journal the title of which contains the word "science." http://anthropogenesis.kinshipstudies.org/2012/08/an-abuse-of-interdisciplinarity-modeling-the-indo-european-homeland-again/

The research is said to be contributing to Santa Fe Institute that promotes studies in long-range families such as Sino-Caucasian and employs such linguistic hobbyists as Gell-Mann. Notably, the author of this paper is not a linguist but an agronomist. I think next time around Sante Fe Institute should bring a gymnast to testify against Kurgan theory.

"Out-of-America"

Please refrain from likening fringe writings to a revolutionary scientific theory.

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

I would add to Teo's criticisms the very plausible possibility that some of these roots are loan words from whichever culture domesticated and then disseminated these crops (something similar is seen, for example, in the words for Asian tropical crops relocated in prehistory to Africa, in African crops relocated to India, and in the word for "tea" in many languages).

Nathan said...

The Rig Veda speaks of rural pastoral-nomadic lifestyle. It is not aware of large scale irrigation and of permanent complex cities comparable to Sumer, Egypt and Indus Valley Civ.

If PIE speakers were primarily an agricultural society, it should relflect so in the Rig Veda.

Ned said...

I endorse what Teo said. I checked against Mallory's tome (the oxford introduction to proto-indo-european and the proto-indo-european world' 2006). He has found some proto-indo-european cognates for grains and fields but not for pulses.
kehkom (? Mikic's kek) he gives as PIE but with the meaning 'edible greens'; he also has kiker 'chickpea' as a regional word.
eregw[h]- a european regional word for pea, seen by many as a near eastern loanword
bhabheh- a european regional word for bean, phonologically regular if PIE but usually taken as borrowing from non-indo-european language
There seems little evidence here for PIE knowledge of the husbandry of peas and beans; just evidence of knowledge of it in Europe at a time when there was still a western indo-european languages dialect area

eurologist said...

I think next time around Sante Fe Institute should bring a gymnast to testify against Kurgan theory.

I am fine with that as long as she is Ukrainian and raises my pulse.

In other news, yes, the differentiation between western (Balkan) and other PIE will turn out to be crucial.

Jim said...

"I am fine with that as long as she is Ukrainian and raises my pulse."

Which kind - chickpeas, fava beans or peas?

"1) ALL those "PIE" roots adduced in the paper only have reflexes in European languages, particularly Western European ones. That can be easily checked against other sources. There is not a single reflex of them in Anatolian, Tocharian, Indo-Aryan, and only one isolated reflex for "pea" in Armenian. In fact, only Italic languages have attested reflexes for all of them."

In other words, the population growing those crops, presumably Neolthic settlers, probably were not IE speakers.

eurologist said...

If PIE speakers were primarily an agricultural society, it should relflect so in the Rig Veda.

Nathan,

Not if Proto-Indo-Iranian is derivative. For example, nomadic pastoralists could have picked it up from the numerous Cucuteni people (perhaps via Vinča). They would have just lost words they didn't use - especially since liturgy was such an important aspect of Indo-Iranian.

Nathan said...

eurologist

I am not sure I follow; are you saying that certain PIE speakers were pastoralists who subsequently picked up agricultural terms from non PIE speakers but Indo-Iranians remained pastoral (for the most part) so didn't pick up agricultural terms?

Dienekes said...

FWIW Tocharians had agricultural vocabulary of IE origin too.

http://dienekes.blogspot.com/2011/05/before-silk-unsolved-mysteries-of-silk.html

eurologist said...

I am not sure I follow; are you saying that certain PIE speakers were pastoralists who subsequently picked up agricultural terms from non PIE speakers but Indo-Iranians remained pastoral (for the most part) so didn't pick up agricultural terms?

Nathan,

No - the other way around, clock-wise around the Black Sea from agriculturalists bordering pastoralists for a couple of millennia, and then forced to take on that method of subsistence due to a dryer climate, but still in command and still dominating the language (except that a subset of agriculturalist terms eventually vanished in the eastern vocabulary).

Jim said...

Eurologist,

There are two similar scenarios attested, with opposite outcomes.
One is the loss by Bantu-speakers moving through forests and giving up their cattle and cattl;e terminology, and emerging in the vicinity of Nlotic-speakers, and borrwoing thier cattle terminolgy.

The second is the spread of Uto-Aztecan speakers northward retaining their grain terminology even when they gave up agriculture. This last scenario is not exactly attested, sorry, it is still a litle controversial because of the political implications for some people.

eurologist said...

Thanks, Jim.

We can observe this phenomenon every day. In my father's and grandfather's generation, terms related to kindling fires still were known (e.g., by boy scouts) - albeit somewhat uncommon. Today, they are relegated to historic literature.