Language Learners' Library

556

(Actually I should just go up to 62, otherwise we would have gotten things over 630… I’m a rubbish mathematician)

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I was thinking today: "what are the oldest words for which we have recorded history?"

I’ve decided on a cut-off point of 1000 BCE.

Akkadian 𒁲 𒊑 => 𒅆𒂍𒉪 => ziggurat

Akkadian 𒂵𒈬𒉡 =~> Ancient Greek κύμινον => Latin cuminum => Old English cymen => Middle English comin => cumin

Aramaic נצב to מצב to מצטבתא => Arabic مِصْطَبَة => mastaba

Aramaic שולטנא => Arabic سُلْطَان => Turkish سلطان => French sultan => sultan

Egyptian bḫn => Ancient Greek βάσανος => Latin basanites => Latin Latin basaltes => basalt

Egyptian hbnj => Ancient Greek ἔβενος => Latin hebenus => Ecclesiastical Latin ebenius => Middle English hebenyf => ebony

Egyptian ꜣbw =?> Ancient Greek ἐλέφᾱς => Latin elephantus => Old French elefant => elephant

Egyptian ꜣbw => Demotic yb => Latin ebur => eboreus => Anglo-Norman ivurie => Middle English ivorie => ivory

Egyptian wḥꜣt => Demotic wḥj => Ancient Greek Ὄᾰσῐς => Latin Latin Oasis => oasis

Egyptian pr ꜥꜣ => Hebrew פַּרְעֹה => Ancient Greek Φαραώ => Late Latin Pharao => Old / Middle English pharao => pharoah

Hebrew פלשת to פלשתים to Ancient Greek Φυλιστῖνοι => Late Latin Philistinus => philistine

Hebrew סְדֹם => Ancient Greek σοδομίτης => Latin sodomita => sodomite

Hebrew אשקלון => Latin ascalonia => Medieval Latin escalonia => Middle French eschalote => French échalote => shallot

Phoenician 𐤀 => Ancient Greek ἄλφα => alpha

Phoenician 𐤂𐤁 to 𐤂𐤁𐤋 => Ancient Greek Βῠ́βλος => βύβλος => βυβλίον => βῐβλῐ́ον => βιβλιογράφος => _ βιβλιογραφία_ => bibliography

Sanskrit उपरि => उपल => Byzantine Greek ὀπάλλιος => Latin opalus => French opale => opal

Sanskrit रोटिका => Hindi रोटी => roti

Sanskrit लाक्षा => Hindi लाख => Persian لاک => Portuguese laca => French lacque => lacquer

Sanskrit पिप्पली => Persian پلپل possibly to Arabic فلفل to فَلَافِل => falafel

Sanskrit शृङ्गवेर => Sauraseni Prakrit सिङ्गबेर => Ancient Greek ζιγγίβερις => Latin zingiberi => Medieval Latin gingiber => Middle English gingifer => gingivere => gingere => Modern English ginger

Sanskrit पर्पट => Tamil பப்படம் => papadam

Sumerian 𒄀𒈾 => Akkadian 𒄀 => Ancient Greek κάννα => Latin canna => canalis => Old / Middle French canal => canal

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The Coptic word is ⲡⲣ̄ⲣⲟ p-ᵊrro, by the way, ⲡ- being the definite article.
I can imagine that ebony and oasis being other egyptian loanwords are similarly old.

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Being a Germanic language, English is relatively poor in recorded ancient etymologies, if you want to go before Latin and Ancient Greek. I think the most fertile soil to find them in is probably:

  • Chinese
  • Indian languages
  • Iranian
  • Arabic
  • Hebrew
  • Coptic

It’s quite easy, just select the whole table below and copy it, you’ll see how it works

A B
C D
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@Sanonius, about demonstrative pronouns: I wasn’t aware (or forgot) that Latin distinguishes distance between second person and third person. It’s like Japanese in that regard.

Japanese has it both for demonstrative pronouns and other demonstrative adverbs:

First person Second person Third person Interrogative
これ
this one (near me)
それ
that one (near you)
あれ
that one (distant)
どれ
which
この
this (near me)
その
that (near you)
あの
that (distant)
どの
what
ここ
here (near me)
そこ
there (near you)
あそこ
there (distant)
どこ
where
こちら
over here (near me)
そちら
over there (near you)
あちら
over there (distant)
どちら
which way
こう
(in) this way / with my method
そう
(in) that way / with your method
ああ
(in) that way (distant)
どう
how
こんな
this kind of (near me)
そんな
that kind of (near you)
あんな
that kind of (distant)
どんな
what kind of

It existed in English as well, for example: here (proximity to speaker), there (proximity to listener), yonder (distant from both). In modern English there has largely absorbed the meaning of yonder.

Yonder was also used for the pronouns, see this Wiki page.

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That looks really neat, thank you. It’s interesting how that system is extended not only to directions but also manners. It Latin there’s ita ‘this way’, and circumscriptions that literally mean ‘this way’, and ‘that way’ (hoc/isto/illo modo). I quite like the Japanese ああ〜…

German’s got three distances, too: hier, da, dort, but “da” is rather in general proximity than precisely around the listener. I wonder if there are languages with four or more. Maybe one for objects one can’t see.

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Well, in English you can say “right here” or “to hand”.

“right here”
“here”
“there”
“over there” / “yonder”

It sorta works :stuck_out_tongue:

PS. yes, ofc no-one has said yonder this century

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The Doctor used ‘yonder’ once when he explained stuff to Mr. Chesterfield.

That particular reference is lost on me, I’m afraid. Are you talking about Ian Chesterton?

Right, it’s technically a new day. That means I’ve gotta:

  1. Roll for a script of the day
  2. Read Sanonius’s post about demonstrative pronouns
  3. Make a grammar and vocabulary challenge
  4. Tidy the thread
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Hi! To find out what I can do, say @discobot display help.

@discobot roll 1d60

:game_die: 22

@discobot roll 1d99

:game_die: 33

Wait, that doesn’t work :stuck_out_tongue:

@discobot roll 1d9

:game_die: 6

The Script of the Day is Elbasan! (Seems like they don’t render on Firefox, though :expressionless: )

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