Parallel evolution of relative clauses in Indo-European

by Nikolas Gisborne & Robert Truswell (University of Edinburgh)

The Indo-European indefinite/interrogative pronouns *k wi-/k wo- are the source of relative pronouns in several daughter languages, including varieties of Romance, Slavic, and Germanic among others. These pronouns did not head relative clauses in PIE, and so their presence in the relative clauses of the daughter languages is a result of processes of historical evolution which have recurred in different subfamilies. However, this recurring parallel process is by and large confined to Indo-European. Comrie (1998) claims instead that the interrogative relative pronoun strategy is a European areal phenomenon, because it is also found in neighbouring languages such as Hungarian and Georgian. However, there is ample evidence that endogenous innovation gives rise to interrogative relativizers in English and several other Indo-European languages. This suggests that such endogenous processes may be wholly or partly responsible for the emergence of interrogative relativizers across Indo-European. However, these processes are not the same across daughter languages: there appear to be several meandering paths from the same start point to similar endpoints.

In this talk, we establish a framework for describing both the parallel diachronic pathways and the dimensions of variation around those pathways. The broad outline of the parallel developments can be established by combining a typological perspective on Indo-European indefinite/interrogatives with results from Haspelmath (1997) on the relationship between interrogative and indefinite pronouns, from Belyaev & Haug (2014) on the typology of correlatives and conditionals, and from Haudry (1973) on the relationship between correlatives and headed relatives. At the same time, the behaviour of individual lexical items within this typological space is less predictable, accounting for the variation around this broad pathway.

This paper will be read at the Annual General Meeting of the Philological Society in Oxford, Somerville College, on Saturday, 16 June, 4.15pm

Indo-Iranian Philology Day

by Robin Meyer (University of Oxford)


Wolfson College, Oxford, and the Faculty of Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics at the University of Oxford are pleased to host an Indo-Iranian Philology Day on Saturday, 28 April 2018, at Wolfson College.

This day celebrates the long-standing tradition of teaching Indic and Iranian languages as well as Indo-Iranian Comparative Philology at the University, and will showcase the breadth of the field as well as the fascinating connections with other areas of study.

The day begins with a lecture introducing Indo-Iranian Philology. Thereafter,  the morning consists of three sets of short introductory classes in Vedic and Avestan language and texts, as well as a brief survey of Indo-Iranian and Indo-European Comparative Philology and Old Persian Cuneiform.

After a buffet lunch, four lectures by international and local scholars on a number of religious, historical, and literary topics relating to the Indo-Iranian world will round off the day.

The Indo-Iranian Philology Day, sponsored by the Lorne Thyssen Research Fund for Ancient World Topics and by the Faculty of Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics at the University of Oxford, is open and free to all who are interested. For catering and room booking purposes, we ask that you register on our Eventbrite site, where you can also find a full programme of the day.

TPS 116(1) – Abstract 5

IE *peug′‐ /*peuk′‐ ‘to pierce’ in Celtic: Old Irish og ‘sharp point’, ogam, and uaigid ‘stitches’, Gallo‐Latin Mars Ugius, Old Welsh ‐ug and Middle Welsh ‐y ‘fist’, Middle Welsh vch ‘fox’, and ancient names like Uccius

by Patrick Sims-Williams (Aberystwyth University)

A systematic search for Celtic derivatives of IE *peug′‐ /*peuk′‐ ‘to pierce’ illustrates the extent to which Indo‐European etymological dictionaries have tended to overlook the existence of cognates in the Celtic languages.

DOI: 10.1111/1467-968X.12107

TPS 115(2) – Abstract 4

The ‘fiver’: Germanic ‘finger’, Balto-Slavic de-numeral adjectives in *-ero- and their Indo-European background

by Marek Majer (Harvard University)

Proto-Germanic *fingraz ‘finger’ – long connected to PIE *penkʷe ‘5’, but without a convincing derivational scenario – can be interpreted as *pēnkʷ‑ró‑, a genitival R(V̄)‑ó‑ vr̥ddhi derivative to *penkʷerom ‘set of 5’. This latter form is the substantivization of *penkʷero‑ ‘5‑fold, counting 5’ – a form belonging to a series of de-numeral adjectives which, it is argued, is the single type underlying the Baltic pluralia tantum numerals (Lith. penkerì ‘’) and the Slavic collectives and distributives (PSl. *pętero ‘group of 5’, *pęterъ ‘5‑fold’).
It is further hypothesized that (Post-)PIE forms like *penkʷero‑, *sweḱsero‑, *septm̥mero‑ need not rest upon false segmentation of a thematic derivative of ‘4’ (*kʷetwer‑o-), as is most commonly assumed; rather, they can be explained as simple thematic derivatives of an *‑er locative of the type *penkʷer ‘in/on/at 5’ = ‘in a group of 5’ (a close parallel of this semantic relationship is provided by Lith. trisè ‘3.loc’ = ‘in a group of 3’, or even by French à trois). The posited type *penkʷer also yields a back-formed substantive *penkʷōr ‘set of 5‑s’, a possible source of the Tocharian B distributive numerals in ‑ār (piśār ‘by 5‑s’ << *penkʷōr‑en, *penkʷōr‑i or similar), which – being athematic, cannot be explained via the standard theory starting from *kʷetwer‑o-.

DOI: 10.1111/1467-968X.12099