Paired Horse and PIE breakup

Paul Kekai Manansala kekai at JPS.NET
Fri Nov 6 09:36:25 UTC 1998

Miguel Carrasquer Vidal wrote:
> Paul Kekai Manansala <kekai at JPS.NET> wrote:
> >We don't know for sure what the original Scythians spoke.  Some of the
> >Scythian vocabulary given by Herodotus has been analyzed as Altaic.
> Herodotus isn't very explicit about the Scythian vocabulary, and some
> of the things he claims are almost certainly bogus, like his
> explanation of the name "Arimaspians" as from Scythian <arima> "one"
> and <spou> "eye", which can be neither Ossetian ("one" = <yu>, "eye"
> = <ca"st>) nor Turkic ("one" = <bir>, "eye" = <go"r> ~ <go"z>), nor
> any other known Eurasian language at all (I've checked Mark
> Rosenfelder's numbers pages and was unable to find any language with
> a word for "one" similar to *<arima>).

You have to be careful. There may be other words that signify "one"
such as "single" in English.

I'd say the word
> "Arimaspians" sounds very much as if it contains Iranian <aspa>
> "horse".
> We know that before the first documented Turkic presence in Central
> Asia (8th. century Orkhon inscriptions, and before that a 6th century
> Turkic document in Sogdian script found in Mongolia), most of the
> languages spoken in Central Asia ("Russian" and "Chinese" Turkestan)
> were Iranian.  There is a large number of Sogdian, Saka-Khotanese and
> Old Khwarezmian documents that testify to this.

No, you can't tell what people spoke by a few recovered documents.
For example, there are many old tombstones in insular Southeast Asia
with Arabic inscriptions.  Yet these do not indicate the language spoken
by the people.  Likewise you can find plenty of evidence of Arabic
right after the Arab invasion of Central Asia. The Sakas who invaded
India quickly adopted Indic languages; the Parthians adopted Persian;
the Mongols of Samarkand adopted Turkish, etc., etc.

What is more important to me is that Iranians that we know of with
certainty were far from the Scythians in cultural milieu.  But the
Mongols, Huns, Hsiung-nu, Avars, Kipchaks and the like possessed nearly
identical cultures.

> Interpretations of this as Turkic have been attempted, but one can
> equally turn it into Akkadian (as Doerfer has done) or into
> Indo-European (my non-serious shot at it was: *siu:ntete leudhskom,
> po:ng(w)ete ju:s duktom).  Given the inadequacy of the Chinese
> writing system for rendering foreign words, anything's possible.

I'm afraid the same thing can be said regarding most of the Iranian
etymologies you have given.  Practically all the words you cited, if
given time and energy, could be linked to Uralic, Altaic or any other
non-IE language.

According to recent archaeological finds, the Scythians had extended all
the way to Mongolia and Siberia.  Do we find Indo-Iranian substratum
influence here?  I think there is plenty of evidence of Uralic and
Altaic (or proto-, pre-) in the region of the Urals and Caucasus.

Paul Kekai Manansala

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