Proto-Slavic borrowings

Numerous lexemes that are reconstructable for Proto-Slavic language were borrowed from various tribes that Proto-Slavic speakers came into contact with, either in prehistorical times or during their expansion when they first appeared in the 6th century (in Common Slavic period) on world's history stage. Among these, most come from Germanic languages, other prominent being Iranian, Celtic and Turkic. The topic of such loanwords in Slavic has sparked a lot of heated debates in the 20th century, and some remain controversial to this day, with experts taking sometimes almost diametrically opposite positions on the issue envolved.

lavic and Iranian

Proto-Slavs came into contact with various Iranian tribes, namely Scythians, Sarmatians and Alans, which were present in vast regions of eastern and southeastern Europe in first centuries C.E. Names of two large rivers in the centre of Slavic expansion, Dnieper and Dniester, are of Iranian orign, and Iranian toponyms are spread even at the territory of present-day Romania. [Matasović 2008:47]

Older linguistic manuals often emphasize the alleged significant influence Iranian languages have exerted on Proto-Slavic. Some contemporary Slavists, like Gołąb (1992), think that all Slavic words with unexplained initial *x- are in fact Iranianisms in Slavic. Matasović (2008) criticizes Gołąb's approach as "methodologically inacceptable" [Matasović 2008:47] , emphasizing that initial *x- in Slavic has several sources, some of which have been ascertained (like PIE *#ks- [By RUKI law: *#ks- > *#kš- > *#kx- > *#x-.] ), and some of which have not been completely determined [Sometimes PIE *#sk- metathesizes into *#ks- which then regularly yields Proto-Slavic initial *x-. This is not, however, regular sound change. There are several other sandhi conditions, some of which were analogically leveled out in Proto-Slavic, that also year initial *#x-.] , and emphasizes that all the cases of initial *x- in Slavic should first be explained by means of regular Slavic sound laws, and only then should one think of loanwords, and think of Iranian as the originator if and only if the etymon has been attested in Iranian, and there is additional phonetic evidence to presume an Iranian borrowing.

In the past, various Slavists have emphasized how certain Iranianisms in Slavic are in fact surprisingly few. Vaillant and Meillet [Vaillant & Meillet 1934:508] consider the only Iranian borrowings in Slavic word *taparu 'axe' (Russ. ', Pol. '. Cr. '), which came from Iranian *tapara- (cf. Persian '). [Curiously, Gołąb thinks that that word is in fact loanword from Slavic into Iranian, due to the etymological connection with Slavic *tepǫ 'I hit'.] This is how Meillet and Vaillant explain the lack of Iranianisms in Slavic:

That fact should not surprise us: the civilization of warrior and partially nomadic tribes, like Scythian and Sarmatian, could have exerted only a cursory influence on patriarchal civilization of Slavs. [Vaillant & Meillet 1934:508]

But event they do not deny that there are traces of "some" influence of Iranian onto Slavic, such as in the semasiological development of the word "god", which both in Slavic (Proto-Slavic *bagu > Common Slavic ) and Indo-Iranian (Old Persian ', Sanskrit ') denotes both "deity" and "wealth, share" [Compare OCS ' 'rich' as opposed to ' 'poor'.] .

Also one of the exclusive Iranian-Slavic lexical isogloss is one adposition: Old Persian ' - OCS '. [Matasović 2008:47]

Beside Gołąb (1992), Matasović (2008) says that the number of alleged Iranianisms compiled by Reczek (1885) and Bernštejn (1961-74) is "too high in number", and that out of the listings compiled by them one should separate words which are "likely" Iranian borrowings from words that are "possibly" Iranian borrowings, but have other possible explanations, by means of Proto-Indo-European, Proto-Balto-Slavic or Proto-Slavic derivation via regularly observed sound laws. Matasović states that "solving the problem of Iranian loanwords in Slavic, their distribution and relative chronology, is one of the most important tasks of modern Slavic studies" [Matasović 2008:48] .

Some of the likely Iranian borrowings are also Common Slavic, being attested in more than one branch. Such are:

* PSl. *gōnjā 'cloak, mantle' (Russ. "gúnja", Pol. "gunja", Cr. "gȗnj") < Iran. *gaunyā (Av. "gaona-", Osset. "γun")
* PSl. *rāji 'heaven' (OCS "rajь", Pol "raj", Russ. "raj") < Iranian *rāy- (Av. "rāy")

Others have been attested only in a part of Slavic territory. E.g.
* PSl. *gupānu 'master' (Old Czech "hpán", Pol. "pan") < Iranian *gu-pāna 'cattle supervisor'
* PSl. *pātrītej 'to observe' (Pol. "patrzyć") < Iranian *pātray- (Av. "pāθrāy" 'to protect')

Matasović (2008) also notes on surprising typological coincidences between Slavic and Ossetian, Iranian language whose ancestor was Alanic. Ossetian, just like Slavic, divides verbs onto perfective and imperfective, and derives perfective verbs from imperfective by means of prefixation. Also, pronominal clitics in Ossetian behave syntactically similar to Slavic, and similar is the usage of genitive to express direct object in some constructs. It remains open, however, whether those correspondences are a result of prehistorical contacts of Slavic and Alanic tribes, or just a case of accidental typological parallelism in development.

lavic and Germanic

It is not certain when Proto-Slavs first came into contact with Germanic tribes: among Common Balto-Slavic words that have Centum reflexes there is not a single one that would betray its Germanic origin by having typical Germanic sound features. [Matasović 2008:49] . All the prehistoric Germanic borrowings in Baltic languages have been either mediated with Slavic, or are borrowed from Old Norse or Proto-Norse in a period well after the 600 C.E. The conclusion is that the speakers of Germanic must have lived far from the area of the subsequent spread of Balto-Slavs.

Goths are the first Germanic people for which it can be proved to have intensive contacts with Proto-Slavs. Goths are believed to have reached the shores of the Black sea between Dniester and Danube about 230 C.E., so the contacts between Goths and Proto-Slavs might have started in the 2nd and the 3rd century C.E., and continue all the way to the early historical period.

It is belived that many terms of Greco-Roman cultural provenience have entered the Proto-Slavic by Gothic mediation. Such are the terms:
* PSl. *wīna 'vine' (OCS "vino") < Goth. "wein"
* PSl. *akitu 'vinegar' (OCS "ocьtъ") < Goth. "akit"
* PSl. *kajsārju ' [Roman] emperor' (OCS "cěsarь") < Goth. "kaisareis"etc.

Here is a list of words which are generally held to be Germanic loanwords into Proto-Slavic:
* PSl. *asilu 'donkey' (OCS "osьlъ") < Goth. "asil-" (< Lat. "asellus")
* PSl. *bergu 'hill' (OCS "brěgъ") < Germanic *bergaz (cf. German "Berg")
* PSl. *bjōda 'bowl' (OCS "bljudo") < Goth. "biuda"
* PSl. *bōkū 'letter' (OCS "buky") < Goth. "bōkō"
* PSl. *činda 'child, infant' (OCS "čędo") < Germanic *kinda (cf. German "Kind")
* PSl. *gardu 'enclosed space' (OCS "gradъ") < Goth. "gards" 'court'
* PSl. *gansi 'goose' (OCS "gǫsь") < Germanic *gansi (cf. German "Gans")
* PSl. *ganeznantej 'to grow healthy' (OCS "goneznǫti") < Goth. "ganisan"
* PSl. *kōpītej 'to buy' (OCS "kupiti") < Goth. "kaupjan"
* PSl. *kōsītej 'to mow' (OCS "kusiti") < Goth. "kausjan"
* PSl. *kuningu 'duke' (OCS "kъnędzь") < Proto-Germanic *kuningaz (cf. OE "cyning", OHG "chuning")
* PSl. *lēku 'cure' (OCS "lěkъ") < Germanic *lēka (cf. Gothic "lēkareis" 'doctor')
* PSl. *lōku 'bow' (OCS "lukъ") < Proto-Germanic *lauka- (cf. OHG "lauh", OIcel. "laukr")
* PSl. *mastu 'bridge' (OCS "mostъ") < Germanic *masta- (cf. OHG "mast", OE "mæst")
* PSl. *nōta 'cattle' (OCS "nuta) < Germanic *nauta
* PSl. *ōsiringu 'ear-ring' (OESl. "useręzъ") < Goth. "ausihriggs"
* PSl. *plākātej 'to cry' (OCS "plakati") < Goth. "flōkan" 'to mourn'
* PSl. *pulku 'folk' (OCS "plъkъ") < Germanic *fulkan (cf. OE, OHG "folc")
* PSl. *skilingu 'small money' (OCS "skъlędzь") < Goth. "skilling"
* PSl. *skatu 'cattle' (OCS "skotъ") < Germanic *skatta (cf. German "Schatz" 'treasure')
* PSl. *smakū 'fig' (OCS "smoky") < Goth. "smakka"
* PSl. *strēlā 'arrow' (OCS "strěla") < West Germanic *strēla (cf. OHG "strāla", OE "strǣl")
* PSl. *šelmu 'helmet' (OCS "šlěmъ") < Germanic *helma- (cf. OHG "helm")
* PSl. *tūnu 'fence' (OCS "tynъ") < Germanic *tūnaz < Celtic *dūno 'fortification' (cf. OIr "dún")
* PSl. *hlaiwu 'pigsty' (OCS "xlěvъ") < Proto-Germanic *hlaiwan
* PSl. *xulmu 'hummock' (OCS "xъlmъ") < Germanic *hulma-
* PSl. *xūzu, xūsu 'house' (OCS "xyzъ") < Germanic *hūsan, *hūzan
* PSl. *želdān 'to compensate damage' (OCS "žlěsti" [First-person present singular is "žlědǫ"; in the infinitive -dt- is dissimilated to -st-, this being a common Balto-Slavic process still operable in Proto-Slavic.] ) < Germanic *geldan 'to buy-out'

As one can see, Germanic borrowings in Proto-Slavic cover diverse semantic fields, but consist mostly of words that are commonly borrowed in languages; terms related to: building (*xūzu, *mastu, *tūnu), land configuration (*xulmu. *bergu), terms from social domain (*pulku, *želdān, *kōpītej, *činda), apellations for animals and cattle (*asilu, *gansi, *skatu).

Interpretion of Germanic material

Stender-Petersen (1927) assumes two layers of Germanic borrowings into Slavic: those who entered the Proto-Slavic from Proto-Germanic, and those that were borrowed from Gothic.

Gołąb (1992) suggests even more refined chronological layering, emphasizing that one should distinguish
# borrowings from Proto-Germanic, or Proto-East-Germanic
# borrowings from Gothic, which have spread to all Slavic languages
# borrowings from Balkan Gothic, which were confined only to the Slavic South
# borrowings from Old High German

Generally, all authors agree that Germanicisms have entered Proto-Slavic and Common Slavic during a very long period, and that numerous Slavic sound changes came be observed on them. For example, there are Germanic loanwords that have entered pre-Proto-Slavic, before the Slavic first palatalization (e.g. *činda, *želdān, *xelmu), or before the transition of PSl. *aw > PSl. */ō/ (e.g. *lōku, *kōsitej, *kōpitej).

Of special interests are certain Proto-Slavic accentual developments that can be observed on Germanic borrowings:
# Lots of Germanic loanwords have entered Proto-Slavic before the operation of Illič-Svityč's law, and thus concordantly most Germanic thematic neuters became masculine in Proto-Slavic. [Compare masculine Proto-Slavic *xūsu with neuter modern German "das Haus", masculine Proto-Slavic *pulku with neuter modern German "das Volk" etc. Late Proto-Germanic, as well as all attested ancient Germanic languages, had fixed accent on the first syllable of a word, and were Germanic loanwords thus susceptible to the operation of Illič-Svityč's law.]
# Most Germanic borrowings have entered Proto-Slavic before the operation of Dybo's law, and thus concordantly all Germanic borrowings with short initial syllable become Proto-Slavic and Common Slavic oxytones. This fact dates Dybo's law rather late, as almost all Germanic borrowings were affected by it except for those very late ones, which entered Common Slavic from Balkan Gothic or Old High German. [E.g. Russian "smókva" < Goth. "smakka").]

Germanic loanwords have entered Slavic languages well after the Proto-Slavic, i.e. in Common Slavic period. After the 600 C.E. most of them were borrowed from Old High German, and for some of them they can even be proved to be of OHG and not e.g. Gothic origin.

lavicisms in Germanic

Beside Germanic borrowings in Slavic, Slavic borrowings into Germanic also play an important role in understanding the history of the contacts of Slavic and Germanic tribes. The first to point to those words, often unjustly neglected in the literature, was Viktor Martynov [cf. Martynov 1963] .

Among Slavicisms in Germanic prominent are the words related to crafts and social sphere:
* OHG "chursinna" 'fur, pelt' < PSl. *kurzina (cf. ChSl."krъzьno")
* PGm. *malta- 'malt' (OE "mealt", ON "malt", OHG "malz") < PSl. *malta (cf. Ukr. "mólot", Cz. "mláto")
* PGm. *neþija 'cousin, relative' (Goth. "niþjis", OE "niþþas", Icel. "niðr") < PSl. *netiju (cf. OCS "netьjь")Possibly also:
* PGM *warga- 'villain, criminal' (OE "wearg", OHG "warg", ON "vargr") < PSl. *wargu (cf. OCS "vragъ")

These words don't tell much about phonological history of Proto-Slavic, but it's obvious that they were borrowed before liquid metathesis, but after the Proto-Slavic change *pt > *t.

It should be noted that some linguists consider the existence of Slavic borrowings into Germanic very doubtful.

lavic and Celtic

Matasović, an expert in Celtic languages, says that "there is very little evidence for the contacts of Slavic and Celtic tribes in historical times" [Matasović 2008:52] . By the time Slavs start to appear in historical records, Celtic languages were already confined to British isles, Brittany, and possibly some isolated enclaves in French where Gaulish could have been spoken.

However, since in pre-historical times Celts populated the regions in which Slavs have spread in the 6th and the 7th century, one cannot exclude the possibility that at the time of Slavic expansion there were some some Celtic speakers left. Matasović (2008) also emphasizes the very likely possibility of Celtic borrowings that might have entered Slavic but mediated by Vulgar Latin/early Romance dialects, since such marginally spoken Celtic was probably non-prestigious idiom spoken by lower class of society. Concordingly, Matasović argues, any possible Celtic borrowings into Slavic must come from earlier period, i.e. they had to be borrowed in pre-Proto-Slavic from Proto-Celtic.

Many Slavic words of obscure etymologies have been explained in literature as some alleged Celtic borrowings, but only for only a few of them can that claim be substantiated by linguistic evidence, one that agrees with attested etymons semantically and by regular sound laws. Matasović (2008) lists 2 examples as highly probable:

* PSl. *karwā 'cow' (OCS "krava", Russ. "koróva", Cr. "krȁva") < Proto-Celtic *kerawā, which would in turn be a regular Celtic Centum reflex of PIE PIE|*ḱerh₂weh₂ [PIE PIE|*ḱerh₂weh₂ is a derivation of root PIE PIE|*ḱerh₂- 'horn', cf. Sanskrit "śiras", Ancient Greek polytonic|κεραός, Latin "cervus" etc.] with regular Celtic *era > *ara assimilation. Morover, Lithuanian "kárvė", whose accentuation matches with that of Slavic etymons, points to prehistorical Balto-Slavic borrowing.
* PSl. *krawu 'roof' (OCS "krovъ") can be traced to Germanic etymons of the same meaning (OE "hrōf", ON "hróf" etc.) only if Celtic mediation is assumed, from dialectal PIE *kropo- > Proto-Celtic *krowo-

lavic and other languages

Abundant literature on Slavic languages often repeats theses of alleged contacts of Proto-Slavic speakers with other Indo-European languages, namely Italic, and also with Illyrian, Venetic and even Armenian.

Matasović (2008) argues however:

Non of these theses can be held as proved, until we can point to a stratum of words which reflect, judging from their phonetic/phonological traits, Italic, Venetic or Armenian mediation between Proto-Indo-European and Proto-Slavic. This means that, in order to accept the existence of Italic loanwords into Proto-Slavic, we must be able to prove the operation of Italic sound laws on the set of Proto-Slavic etymons. [Matasović 2008:54]

In practice, however, Slavic etymons with obscure etymologies have not so rarely been ascribed to such sources, with ad-hoc devised sound changes and far-fetched semantic correlation. Sometimes they often represent regular Proto-Indo-European reflexes, but have only been preserved in e.g. Slavic in Italic branch, which has falsely led to the conclusion that they represent a prehistorical borrowing.

Beside the contacts with other Indo-European languages, there is undoubtedly a layer of word that were borrowed from non-Indo-European languages. Most of these came from Turkic languages, chiefly Bulgar and Eurasian Avar [The language spoken by Avar has been, beside Turkic, assigned also to Mongolian and Iranian language families.] . For most of them, it's very hard to establish the exact source and reconstruct the proto-form. Among these, commonly cited are:

* OCS "kъniga" 'book' < Turkic "kūinig" < Old Chinese "küen" 'scroll' (cf. Mandarin "juǎn")
* OCS "bisьrъ" 'pearl' < Turkic < Arabic "busr"
* Common Slavic *xmelь 'Humulus lupulus' < Turkic
* OCS "kovъčegъ" 'box, casket' < Avar
* Common Slavic *tъlmačь 'interpreter' < Turkic


External liks

* [ List of possible borrowings in Slavic] , compiled by amateur linguist Grzegorz Jagodziński



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