If an animal had the word “death” in its scientific name, what would it be?

The Latin nominative of death is mors. Google tells me a fungus (does that count?) contains it: one species of Powdery mildew is Gooseberry mildew, Linnean name: Sphaerotheca mors-uvae. “Spherical container, death of grapes.” 

How did names like Anatoly and Arcady become names in Russia?

Partial answer: from St Anatolius: Anatolius of Laodicea and Anatolius of Constantinople. Saints’ names are the default source of given names in Orthodoxy.

The question then becomes, why this saint’s cult was so much stronger in Russia than in Greece—I’ve never heard of a Greek called Anatolios, and the Prosopographisches Lexikon der Palaiologenzeit has only 5 known people of that name in Byzantine texts from the 13th through 15th centuries.

Historical Linguistics: In simple terms, what are the laryngeal consonants h₁, h₂, h₃? What do they have to do with the word “name” in various languages? What do they have to do with Proto-Indo-European?

This is self-indulgent of me, but this is how I presented the laryngeal theory to my poor Historical Linguistics students in 2002.

Saussure (1879): let’s look at Ablaut in proto–Indo-European:

  • e:o:Ø 
    Greek patra, eupátora, patrós
    [father.ACC, of.good.father, father.GEN]
  • eR:oR:R̩  where R is a resonant (jwrlmn):
    •   R=w:
      Greek eleusomai, eiléːloutʰa, éːlutʰon
      [I.will.come, I.have.come, I.came]
    •   R=l:
      Greek stlloː, stlos, éstalmai
      [I.send, sending, I.have.been.sent]
      [a: epenthesis and reflex of *ə]
  • ē:ō:ə 
    Greek tí€tʰmi, tʰmós, Latin facio
    [I.put, heap, I.make]
  • ā:ō:ə 
    Greek mí, pʰnéː, pʰsis
    [I.say, voice, utterance]
  • ō:ō:ə 
    Greek dí€dmi, dôːron, Latin datus
    [I.give, gift, given]

Now hang on:

e  o  Ø
eR oR R̩ (j> i, w > u, l> l̩ > (a)l)
ē  ō  ə
ā  ō  ə
ō  ō  ə

Yuck. eR:oR:R̩ is just e:o:Ø put in front of R.

Why can’t ē:ō:ə be as nice? Why can’t it be… eə:oə:ə > ē:ō:ə ?

That way, we still have e:o:Ø + something, and a simple monophthongisation to wrap it up.

If we’re lucky, we might be able to account for ā:ō:ə and ō:ō:ə the same way.

Furthermore, Proto-IE phonotactics is typically (s)C(R)e(R)C:

  • bʰer-‘carry’, k̂ei-‘lie’, kers-‘run’, pel-‘thrust’,
    spen-‘stretch’, sreu-‘flow’, lewk-‘light, bright’, melg– ‘milk’,
    plek-‘plait’, dʰwer-‘door’

But some roots are CV or VC—often with the same suspicious long vowels:

  • aĝ-‘lead’, aug-‘increase’, dō-‘give’, ed-‘eat’,
    gʰrē-‘grow, green’, gnō– ‘know’, od-‘smell’, stā– ‘stand’

So in Ablaut, ē, ā, ō are kind of behaving like eə, oə (former diphthongs.)

In phonotactics, ē, ā, ō are kind of behaving like eC or Ce (where C can include j, w—so eC, Ce can still be a diphthong)

Saussure’s solution: there is something there: a ‘sonorant coefficient’, *X

With X, we can say:

e  o  Ø
eR oR R
eX oX X  >  ē  ō  ə
aX oX X  >  ā  ō  ə
oX oX X  >  ō  ō  ə

(cf. eR:oR:R̩, e.g. ew:ow:w̩ [= u])

We can also say:

  • dō– ‘give’ <**doX= CVC
  • gʰrē-‘grow, green’ < **gʰreX= CRVC
  • stā– ‘stand’< **staX= sCVC

Only one more catch: where do a and o come from in the left column in the first place? (eX; aX;oX). Why can’t we just make do with e:o:Ø for all rows?

Hey! Let’s posit two sonorant coefficients:

eA  oA  AaA  oA  A  >   ā  ō  ə
eO̬  oO̬  O̬
oO̬  oO̬  O̬  >  ō  ō  ə

(to which others later added E:
eE  oE  E  >  eE  oE  E  >  ē  ō  ə)

A is ‘something’ to which e assimilates, giving a

is ‘something’ to which e assimilates, giving o

E is ‘something’ that leaves e alone

When A, E, O̬ drop out, compensatory lengthening or something for a, e, o; schwa for Ø.

If we have assimilation going both directions, we can now say:

aĝ– ‘lead’ <**Aeg = CeC
ed-‘eat’ < *Eed = CeC
od-‘smell’ < O̬ed = CeC

What’s this buying us?

  • Consistent phonotactics: all stems are CVC (plus or minus R and #s).
  • Makes sense of all kinds of Ablaut: it all boils down to e:o:Ø + something.
  • Ablaut like ā:ō:ə now makes sense: it’s actually originally eA:oA:A.

Saussure tells the world…

… and noone cares. Who’d buy this bunch of abstract algebra? Who cares what the phonotactics of proto-Indo-European are? What’s wrong with just saying  ā  ō  ə? What’s the evidence that these phonemes ever even existed?

Saussure dies 1916. Around that time Hittite is deciphered: turns out to be Indo-European, though distantly related to other IE languages.

‘water’: Greek hýdoːr, Gothic watō, Old Church Slavonic voda, Gaelic u(i)sce, Albanian ujë ,proto-IE *wedōr

… Hittite watar.

1927: Jerzy Kurylowicz notices something:

Latin/Greek   Saussure  Hittite

mālum ‘apple’ < *meAl-      maḫl-

plānus ‘flat’   <*pleA-            palḫiiiš

ōs ‘bone’  < *Oes-                  ḫastai

anti ‘against’  < *Aent-         ḫanti

argēs ‘white’  < *Aerg-       ḫarkis

esti ‘he is’  < *Ees-               es-

A and O correspond to Hittite .

(E is no more attested in Hittite than in the rest of Indo-European)

Semiticists had noticed that the sonant coefficients, assimilating e to a or o, were behaving like Arabic laryngeals

is a laryngeal.

So EAO must have been laryngeals: h1 h2 h3

Saussure was so right, even he would have been surprised.

Answered 2016-03-26 · Upvoted by

Steve Rapaport, Linguistics PhD candidate at Edinburgh. Has lived in USA, Sweden, Italy, UK.

How do you say ‘Let bygones, be bygones’ in different languages?

More boring in Greek: περασμένα ξεχασμένα, “passed, forgotten”.

Edit: And because it’s ear-worming me, the song with that title by Katy Garbi. If it sounds Arabic, that’s correct: it’s a cover of an Egyptian original. Ελληνοαραβικός «πόλεμος» για τραγούδι της Καίτης Γαρμπή

Has emergence of case system ever been observed?

Though it doesn’t look like Indo-European case,  serial verb constructions have ended up turning into case markers. An instance is Chinese ba, which is primarily the verb “take”, but which has started to act like an accusative marker: “I take spear look” > “I ACC spear look”, I pick up the spear to look at it > I look at the spear.

Why was bronze chosen as a third place signifier?

The ranking Gold > Silver > Bronze > Iron (> Lead) dates from Hesiod: see Ages of Man. Bronze for toolmaking in common use is older than Iron; Hesiod was aware of that, which is why his Bronze Age is earlier than his Iron Age. Gold and Silver would have outranked Bronze and Iron, because they were precious metals (better suited to describe an ideal past), and Bronze and Iron weren’t.

Per Wikipedia: Bronze, the ranking in Olympic medals derives from Hesiod’s ranking, but was only put in place in the 1904 Olympics; before that, it was 1st place Silver, 2nd place Bronze.

What is the best biography of Richard Nixon?

For time depth and sobriety, the first biography I read is still the best: Nixon by Stephen E. Ambrose. The in-depth coverage of his vice-presidency (from an historian who was an Eisenhower fan) explains a lot.

Of the others, I wanted to like Fawn M. Brodie‘s Richard Nixon: The Shaping of His Character, but it was disappointingly farfetched.

Using UML, can we model life itself with everything in it?

UML Class Diagrams can express hierarchical ontologies, and associations.

Upper Ontologies are intended to model all entities that can be hierarchically related. So if you’re ambitious enough (see: Douglas Lenat), upper ontologies can model life itself with everything in it; and associations can model (at least at first approximation) all relations between with everything within life.

So yeah, sure.

That’d be an awfully big wallpaper diagram though…

Where did the word Nemesis originate?

Online Etymology Dictionary

Nemesis, “Greek goddess of vengeance, personification of divine wrath,” from Greek nemesis “just indignation, righteous anger,” literally “distribution” (of what is due), related to nemein “distribute, allot, apportion one’s due”.

Goes on to note that the word is cognate to German nehmen “take”.

Conceptually, Nemesis is the same notion as one’s “lot” (allotment)—which also underlies the Greek name for the Fates, Moirai (literally: “shares”).