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Wordy Weekly XXIX - Wordy Linkies

A slightly different approach to the Wordy Weekly this week. Wordy Links. In Latin fero and in Greek φέρω mean ‘I bring, I bear, I carry’. I remember hearing in a linguistics lecture at University that ‘bear’, fero, and φέρω are etymologically (i.e., closely related as part of a big happy wordy family) the same word. Although I did not take linguistics as a paper (opted for something Cicero-related in the end and the rest is history, as they say), I attended the lectures because they were so interesting (given by the wonderful Prof. Philomen Probert). But what links these words? The Greek and Latin are essentially the same, both annoyingly irregular, but visibly related. How do fero and φέρω become bear? This is where wonderful Proto-Indo-European Linguistics has proved so illuminating. It is likely that there was once a (not lost) parent language from which Latin, Greek, and English developed. In Sanskrit, bearing is bhAru, hence the link with bear. But one can also see a similarity with fero and φέρω. ‘F’ and ‘B’ are also connected. This is grossly oversimplified (sorry to my hardcore linguistic chums), but it works roughly as follows:

B is a hard sound, P is an aspirated B (i.e., an HB sound), and F is an aspirated P.

The name Philip, for example, was in Macedonian Greek, might well have been pronounced ‘Bilippos’. There is also a link between B and V, but I will save that for another week. Back to BEAR, fero, φέρω, and bhAru. Another, Indo-European (the name coined for the putative lost language) descendant is the German BRINGEN. Obviously, our English ‘bring’ comes from this (despite its wealth of Latin and Greek derivatives, at its roots English is a Germanic language). But how does this relate to the others? The simple past of the German is BRACHTE, so one can see the link with bhAru.

How cool is that? Language links that bind so many different languages together.

If you would like to read more about Proto-Indo-European Linguistics, please see have a look at:

Beekes, R. S. P., (1995) Comparative Indo-European Linguistics: An Introduction (Amsterdam)

Clackson, J., (2007) Indo-European Linguistics: An Introduction (Cambridge)

Mallory, J. P., (2006) The Oxford Introduction to Proto-Indo-European and the Proto-Indo-European

World (Oxford)

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