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Subject: Why did some PIE people start using different words for 'give'?
Question: In English and many other languages, we use the word ''to give''. However, many other European languages use a form of ''dar'' for ''give'', like Russian and the Romance languages. Latin: dō Italian: dare Portuguese: dar Romanian: da Spanish: dar French: donner Old Church Slavonic: ''dan''' Russian: ''dat''' I see that the origin of the Latinate ''dare'' (to give) is *deh₃- ''to give'' in PIE. I see the Proto-Indo-European etymology of ''give'' is gʰab(ʰ) (“to grab, to take). The Latinate/Romance descendant of gʰab(ʰ)is ''habere'' This seems to indicate that at some point the word ''to grab/take'' became ''to give''! How the heck did this happen to us Germanic PIE people? If the Slavic/Romance PIE tribes maintained ''*deh₃- to give'', why did Germanic PIE people lose *deh₃- and start using gʰab(ʰ) differently?
Reply: I think really the best answer that can be given to that kind of question is "Why not?", which is not intended as frivolous or condescending but just as an indication of the limits of human knowledge! It does quite often happen that what looks like a perfectly good word is replaced by another word of sharply different meaning – even a reciprocal meaning, as in this case. Probably this often begins as a slangy, perhaps joky usage, such as youngsters enjoy coming up with in our own time, and then in a society which has no written records laying down a standard, "proper" usage for words, a point comes when people forget the earlier word. Look at the way that, in many people's colloquial English today, the word "borrow" is used in place of standard "lend": "Could you borrow me that pencil?" It's hard to see what was "wrong" with the word "lend", it is actually shorter than "borrow" and quite distinctive in pronunciation, but for many English-speakers it has become a dead word. Perhaps, for the first people who used "borrow" this way, it was a signal of their up-to-date coolness, like textisms such as ROFL or IMHO today. But if that is how it came about, it isn't very likely that we would ever have reliable knowledge of the beginnings of the usage; cool young dudes are not great ones for dictionary-making! Geoffrey Sampson
Reply From: Geoffrey Richard Sampson      click here to access email
Date: 16-Jan-2013
Other Replies:
  1. Re: Why did some PIE people start using different words for 'give'?    Elizabeth J Pyatt     (15-Jan-2013)

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