Da jætten Koljo rejste rundt i verden

Nedenstående artikel blev bragt 13. februar 2015 i Finlands – og Nordens – største avis, Helsingin Sanomat. Den er her oversat til dansk af artiklens forfatter, Lauri Dammert. Oversættelsen, der er let bearbejdet af Adam Hyllested, bringes med tilladelse fra avisen.

Tegning af Aiju Salminen

Tegning af Aiju Salminen. ©Helsingin Sanomat og Aiju Salminen

Urfinsk lånte ord til germansk og keltisk
De nyankomne indoeuropæere lærte ord af de uralske skovfolk, bl.a. en mængde betegnelser for svin

af Lauri Dammert

Jætten Koljo, som ofte forbindes med døden og med det underjordiske, rejste for flere tusinde år siden fra Ural-bjergene ud i verden for at blive forvandlet til germanernes dødsgud Hel. Koljo kom hjem til Finland igen som ordet Helvetti ’helvede’.

Koljo var ikke alene. Den danske sprogvidenskabsmand Adam Hyllested påviser i sin ph.d.-afhandling, at de indoeuropæiske folkeslag lånte flere ord fra urfinsk og dets slægtsprog.

Sammenlignende sprogvidenskab har en politisk dimension. Den er tit blevet brugt, når man ville vise sit eget folkeslags overlegenhed over et andet. Et kendt eksempel er den påstand, at de uralske folkeslag var teknologisk og politisk betydeligt mindre udviklede end de tilrejsende indoeuropæiske. Derfor lånte de et utal af ord fra de nyankomne, som ikke var særligt interesserede i skovbeboernes måde at tale på.

“Det er imidlertid sådan, at de allerfleste sprog, som har haft kontakt med et andet, har udvekslet ord både frem og tilbage,” siger Adam Hyllested. “Jeg var sikker på, at ord måtte være lånt i begge retninger også i dette tilfælde.”

Han fandt i de indoeuropæiske sprog et større antal uralske ord. En overraskelse var, at mange af disse ord havde med værktøj, dyr, religion og handel at gøre. De kunne eksempelvis være hamara ‘bagsiden af en økse’, som blev til germanernes ord for ’hammer’; pung; flere ord som betyder ‘gris’; det hellige træ pihlaja ’røn’, som blev til  skandinavernes pil, og det allerede nævnte helvede. Hyllested sporer til og med det germanske ord halv tilbage den urfinske handelsterm halpa ’af ringe værdi’, ‘halvennettu ’forklejne’; og han fører søpapegøjens navn lundi/lunne tilbage til det ursamiske ord for ‘fugl’. “Samerne måtte jo betale skatter til de norske konger bl.a. i form af fjer. Dette viser, at ordudveksling har forekommet langt ind i middelalderen,” påpeger Hyllested.

Ord med uralske aner fandtes til og med i så fjerne sprog som keltisk, der kom til Irland og Wales.

Den hellige gris
Lad os vende tilbage til grisene. Hyllested siger, at de uralske folk nok holdt svin som husdyr. De havde også en mytologisk betydning. Indoeuropæerne, som vandrede hertil over stepperne annammede en hel mængde af betegnelser for svin: Ordene *mokku- og *sukko- i urkeltisk samt det danske ord so har eksempelvis deres rødder i det urfinske ord, der er blevet til finsk sika, karelsk čugu og nordsamisk sokki. Bagved førstnævnte term står ifølge Hyllested en ældre form af det finske ord emakko ’so’, som tillige forekommer i mange af vores slægtsprog. Da de nye europæere tog ordet til sig, inkorporerede de også grisens religiøse dimension.

“Ligesom ordet halv har også flere af de ord, som betegner svin, ellers en ukendt oprindelse,” påpeger Hyllested. “Det viser sig nu, at man kan forklare dem via urfinsk. Og det er mere overbevisende at finde en hel gruppe af ord end nogle løsrevne. Forekomsten af urfinske ord i urgermansk og urkeltisk beviser, at ordudvekslingen var mere livlig end hidtil antaget.”

Hyllested betoner, at ordudvekslingen fandt sted i løbet af flere kulturperioder og i løbet af 4000-5000 år. Det, at ordene forekommer både i de keltiske og de germanske sprog, beviser, at disse to folkeslag, som engang talte forskellige dialekter af samme ursprog, holdt sig tæt forbundne også efter invandringen til Europa. Og at de var i kontakt med de uralske sprog.

Jætten Koljo holder udkig i det finske skovlandskab.

Jætten Koljo holder udkig i det finske skovlandskab.

Ordenes udtale forandres over tid, men efter visse faste mønstre og lovmæssigheder. På den måde kan man spore ordenes oprindelse. I de germanske sprog forvandles k regelmæssigt til h og o til a, så *kolja blev til germansk *haljō og med tiden lige så regelmæssigt til nordisk Hel, som indgår i Helvede.

En lægmand kan dog ikke nemt finde disse sammenhænge i moderne sprog. ”De fremtræder klarere og hyppigere, når vi studerer og sammenligner ældre sprogformer og dialekter i både långiver- og modtagersprogene”, forklarer Hyllested.

Hyllested giver altså vore formødre en æresoprejsning – for ord lånes kun, når man har behov for dem. Urfinnerne har altså alligevel haft et og andet interessant at give til de folk, der kom fra steppelandet.

Ti ord, der rejste ud i verden
1. Finsk hamara ‘bagsiden af en økse’ ~ de germanske sprogs ord for ‘hammer’, svensk hammare
2. Finsk punka ‘lille tyk person’, oprindelig ‘udbulning, rund ting’, estisk pung ‘knop; pung’ ~ de germanske sprogs ord for ‘pung’
3. Finsk pihlaja ‘røn’ ~ de skandinaviske sprogs ord for ‘pil(etræ)’
4. Finsk harava ‘en rive’ ~ de germanske sprogs ord for ‘harve’
5. Finsk sika ‘svin’, emakko ‘so’ ~ de keltiske sprogs ord for ‘svin, gris’
6. Finsk halpa ‘af ringe værdi, billig’, opr. ‘reduceretF’, halvennettu ‘forklejne’ ~ de germanske sprogs ord for ‘halv’
7. Finsk minkki ‘mink’ er til gengæld lånt ind i finsk, men dette og de germanske sprogs ord for ‘amerikansk mink’, tidl. den europæiske ‘nertz, flodilder’ kommer af et østligere uralsk ord
8. Finsk haamu ‘spøgelse, genfærd, ånd’, hahmo ‘skikkelse, form, gestalt’ ~ de germanske sprogs ord for ‘en ham’ (dyrehud), tidligere også ‘skytsånd’ og ‘legeme’
9. Samisk baggi ‘opsvulmet ting; lille, tykt og kompakt dyr (især rensdyr)’ ~ nordisk bagge i diverse dyrenavne, fx nordbagge ‘en lille tyk hest’, svensk skalbagge ‘bille’
10. Nordsamisk loddi ‘fugl’, i Vikingetiden *londe (~ finsk lintu) ~ nordisk lundi ‘søpapegøje’

©
Adam Hyllested
Word Exchange at the Gates of Europe – Five Millennia of Language Contact
Københavns Universitet 2014

Health and illness in Prehistoric Europe: Linguistic evidence of beliefs in preventive care, causes and treatments

Alongside its use for perfumes and incenses, lavender is one of the most profitable medicinal herbs. This species from the Canaries, Lavandula canariensis, has been used as a laxative, to bring down fevers, as an anti-inflammatory drug, and against parasitic worms. Photo by Adam Hyllested.

 To stay sound and healthy is obviously one of man’s timeless concerns. Most early societies seem to have believed that diseases could have both natural and supernatural causes. Blame was often heaped upon evil spirits that had entered into the body of the diseased, while plants and plant-derived ingredients constituted the most common drug, also as tranquilizers, to heal wounds and bites, and for preventive purposes, e.g. as laxatives
or for skin care or prenatal care. Other methods, not all equally widespread, involved ceremonies with magic formulae, spells and amulets; the use
of animals, e.g. leeches for bloodletting or larva debridement; honey as a general antiseptic; geophagy (eating soil or clay); enema by clysters (made by e.g. animal bladders); and (primitive) surgical procedures.

 

By definition, prehistoric practices are not described directly  in any written sources. Indeed information might be gathered from the earliest attestations to the extent that they reflect an older state of affairs. In the ancient Iranian Vendidad, it is claimed that “divine words” are a better cure than knives or herbs, and numerous chapters are devoted to charms against evil spirits. Extensive catalogues are known from ancient India, notably the Sushruta Samhita (3rd or 4th c. AD), and from Greece and Rome such as the Hippocratic Corpus, Dioscorides’ De Materia Medica (77 AD) and Marcellus Empiricus’ De medicamentis (4thc.) with information on the popular use of plants for medico-magical treatment, some of which may continue much earlier traditions. However, in many cases ancient sources give no clear botanical meaning of a plant name, and even when the species can be defined, the status of the name may be unclear – we do not always know whether a given name represents a popular designation, a translation  or simply an innovation by the author.

De Materia Medica by Dioscorides, originally written in Greek in the 1st century AD as Περὶ ὕλης ἰατρικῆς ("regarding medical materials"), has been preserved in several medieval editions. This richly illustrated version is the Vienna Dioscurides from 512-513 AD.

Archaeology can provide clues by human remains as may typological studies of aboriginal societies living under supposedly similar conditions, or even ethnobotanic studies of cultures believed to have retained ancient customs (such as the 3rd Danish Pamir Expedition 2010). However, since plants are subject to quick decay and spirits notoriously intangible, the archaeological evidence remains scarce and, as a result, conclusions suffer from a comparatively large degree of uncertainty (with the recent DNA-based identification of 15 plant species in ointments and herbal pills from a Greek shipwreck from 130 B.C. as one notable exception).

This is where etymology enters into the picture. As argued by J.D. Langslow (in Indo-European Perspectives, Oxford 2004), medical language is probably one of the most promising fields for semantic and etymological investigation. A way of linking information gained from archaeology and linguistics is the palaeolinguistic method: if the word for a certain creature, object or phenomenon is attested with regular sound correspondences in two or more languages, we must conclude that it existed in the homeland at the time before the dispersal of the protolanguage. Systematic studies of the European core vocabulary would have to include a stratification of the linguistic data, distinguishing between

In Germany and Austria, holly (ilex) is placed in stables to protect horses from evil spirits. This may be due to the near-homonymy of 'mare' and 'female incubus' in most Germanic languages (cf. e.g. the ambiguous Danish name maretorn).

1) substrata from indigenous non-Indo-European peoples
2) words of common Indo-European heritage
3) words belonging to a more restricted area
4) later cultural loans from known or unknown sources

From such an investigation, we would be able to draw conclusions as to which parts of the health domain, as it is known from the earliest attestations of Indo-European cultures, actually represent a Proto-Indo-European tradition, and which parts have arisen at a later stage, whether from creative innovation, contacts between the Indo-European branches or contacts with other language families. This may in turn tell us something more general about patterns of cultural evolution throughout history. Theoretically, it is not impossible that clues about forgotten types of plant medicine may be provided by new etymologies that will appear.

Searching for common anomalies often proves valuable. The almost identical Baltic words for two otherwise dissimilar plants ‘henbane’ (drignė) and ‘fool’s parsley’ (drignelė) make up a strong semantic parallel to those found in other Indo-European languages; thus, the Greek names for the two plants are apollon, apollinaris and aithousa respectively – Aithousa was the name of one of Apollon’s mistresses and meant ‘gleaming, burning’, and the traditional Latin name of the latter was exactly Apollon (borrowed from Greek). According to our cooperation partner Bernd Gliwa, these common names probably refer to dilation of the pupil of the human eye which is a well-known effect of both plants.

Celtic and Germanic languages share a lot of terminology from specifically this field (among them ‘fever’, ‘leprous’, ‘sorcery’, ‘demon’, several generic words for ‘illness’, medicinal herbs such as ‘Angelica’ and ‘holly’, and as many as 10 terms for ‘wound’ or ‘injury’). These items all look too old to be mutual loans, and since it can be showed by other means that Celtic and Germanic are not more closely related than each of them are with several of the other Indo-European branches, this indicates that at a certain point in their early history they shared a common vocabulary of both archaisms and innovations, reflecting post-Indo-European common beliefs in causes of illnesses and their treatments. Some of them may have been taken over from the same third source.

"Dancing elves" by the Swedish painter August Malmström (1866). In Germanic and Slavic folklore, it was believed that "fairy rings" (naturally occurring rings of mushrooms) were the result of elves dancing in a ring during the night or in the morning mist. Peeing into a fairy ring could cause diseases. The notion of sprites as the source of illness seems to be a near-universal.

It is remarkable that, while the Germanic word *lubja- meant ‘strong plant-juice’ as well as ‘magic remedy; poison; magic’, its Celtic relative *lubī meant simply ‘wort’. Finnish luppo means ‘lichen’ and is known to be an inherited word in the Uralic language family to which Finnish belongs. Lichen is used in traditional folk medicine as a laxative and against various kinds of pains, infections and inflammation. This points to a Uralic origin of the Germanic and Celtic words (there are no better candidates).

When dealing with plant-names one must be aware of the phenomenon of folk taxonomy whereby traditional ethnobotanical taxa may disagree with those of modern science (e.g. Lithuanian jonažolė ‘Hypericum’ but also ‘certain plants flowering at St. John’s, June 24th’). Our forefathers had other criteria for the classification of plants and animals. Sometimes these were given the same name because of a purely physical similarity, in other cases rather according to similarities in societal utility value or even mythological conceptions. Besides, some species have only a new scientific term and no separate folk name, either because they have lost it or because it was never relevant and the species was designated by a more generic term. Dialect material is extremely important because plant names and animal names often vary within small areas.

Some of the many surgical devices found in The House of the Surgeon at Pompeii.

Relevant semantic fields may furthermore include words referring to symptoms; poison; nutrition and diet; fungi; salt, minerals and stones; exercise; hygiene and sanitation; body parts and bodily fluids; virginity, fertility and reproduction; maternal health, pregnancy and birth; puberty; congenital defects; body modifications; mood and sleep; mental disorders; ageing; cleansing of the dead; veterinary issues; folk legends; health deities; medical professions; and medical equipment.

Call for Papers: Etymology and the European Lexicon

kuastud1maj08

Photo by Anne Trap-Lind.


Etymology and the European Lexicon

14th Congress of the Indogermanische Gesellschaft
University of Copenhagen, 17-22 September 2012

 

 

 
Dear Colleagues,

We are pleased to announce that the 14th Congress (Fachtagung) of the Indogermanische Gesellschaft / Society for Indo-European Studies / Société des Études Indo-Européennes will be held in Copenhagen from Monday 17 to Saturday 22 September 2012, and will be hosted by Roots of Europe at the University of Copenhagen.

The 14th Congress is dedicated to the theme of Etymology and the European Lexicon. Priority will be given to submissions which raise issues of general relevance to Indo-European studies, rather than dealing with isolated problems within individual branches; however, all submissions relating to this general theme are welcome.

Possible subjects or subthemes could include the subgrouping of the Indo-European languages (e.g. NW Indo-European, Balkan Indo-European, the Centum-Satem division, Italo-Celtic, Balto-Slavic), the European lexicon as evidence for when and how Europe became Indo-Europeanized (e.g. semantic “packages”, Wörter und Sachen, culture-words), issues relating to pre-IE substratum languages, or to conditions in other European language families (Vasconic, Tyrrhenian, Uralic, Altaic, Semitic etc.) that may shed new light on IE or on the relations between IE and these languages.

There will be no keynote speakers or parallel sessions; all submissions will be given equal consideration, but slots are limited.

Authors wishing to have a paper considered for the congress should submit an abstract of no more than 1,000 words (not including references) to rootsofeurope@hum.ku.dk. The closing date for submission of abstracts is the 20 February 2012. Accepted papers must not be published before the time of the conference.

Further information, including registration forms and information regarding travel and accommodation, will be posted on the website of Roots of Europe (rootsofeurope.ku.dk) in due time.

Inquiries should be directed to the secretaries at Roots of Europe: Janus Bahs Jacquet (jacquet@hum.ku.dk) and Tobias Mosbæk Søborg (tms@hum.ku.dk).

Best regards from
Jens Elmegård Rasmussen
on behalf of the organizing committee, the Roots of Europe team in Copenhagen