LINGUIST List 14.1630

Mon Jun 9 2003

Sum: Etymology of Greek word PALAIOS

Editor for this issue: Karen Milligan <>




Date: Sun, 08 Jun 2003 05:08:01 +0000
From: A.S. Sundar <>

Summary of Etymology of Greek word PALAIOS

Please refer to Linguist 14.1554 for the original listing.At the
outset let me thank the linguists fraternity for the overwhelming
response..My special thanks are to Prof/Mr Rutger J.Allan(RAJ)Remy
Viredaz(RV),JosephF.Foster(JFF),Larry(LT),Leonid Polansky(LP)
RV wrote that palai originally meant 'a short time ago', so that it
can be derived from the same root as Greek pelazo 'to come near',
pelas 'near', plesion 'near'.

My Comments(MYC): Corroborates my contention, as the word palasu for
old is used in every day Tamil. Palai is 'desert' in Tamil , with the
literal meaning 'distant place'. The link is too strong to be
dismissed as 'chance resemblances'.

RV Greek has only very few if any loanwords from Dravidian
languages. I know of no example of a Greek word from South Asian origin
denoting something else than an imported object or commodity

MYC Atleast a dozen words found in Tamil can be spotted in Greek
readily.All these words carry the same or extended meanings in both
the languages.( For want of space ,I am not covering the other words
now).All the words found are are non-trade and are anthropologically
significant words,relating to everyday life and "nature". I may add
that research in this area with a focus on the possible links between
the two old languages is grossly inadequate,as of now.

JFF The problem with the Tamil loan etymology for paleo is that in
fact, that word has a doublet in Greek itself -- the Greek form tele-
is related to it. They both come from the same *ProtoIndoeuropean
source, a root *kwal 

MYC The Greek doublet tele-and its source word Kwal are very much
available in Tamil. The Tamil word 'thol' means far. Tholai is distant
which compares with tele-in Greek.It is more probable that the word
tholai can be derived from thol, than the word tele- having come from
Kwal which begins with a distinctly different sound Kwa. The Tamil
words, with 'tholai'are

 Tholaipesi- Telephone
 Tholaikatchi- Television
 Thol kappiam- Old book
 Thol porul-ancient object

Thol also means old in the same sense as in Greek ie.distant
far. Tholaintha means lost. 3.LT,RJA,RV,all have suggested "chance
resemblance" as a possible explanation.LT has provided a good number
of "chance resemblances". A conclusion of chance resemblance can be
arrived at, only after observing the unernoted precautions.

a) Trace the root in both languages.(X and Y) If root in X and Y are
clear and acceptable,check which root is more probable and more
acceptable .This is suggested as some linguists tend to relate the
words to a root they know, rather than admitting as not traceable. If
this exercise leads you to conclude that Y is accpetable, then next
step would be to find out any possible mobility of the word through
cultural contacts, political and economic influences etc. If the
result is negative, apply rule (b)

b) Are the words formed out of basic natural sounds made by infants or
animals/birds/moving things?
Example: English word 'mother' and Tamil word 'amma'. The words
basically are derived from the natural sound 'ma' made by
infants. Onomatopoeic words could create similar sounding words, in
different languages though not essentially exactly matching.

c) Genetic link has to be ruled out, Availabe data may prove
inadequate for the purpose.

d) If still the result is negative, as the meanings and phonology are
same, it is safe to conclude 'unexplained

e) A conclusion of 'chance resemblances' is an authoritative denial of
possible unexplained connection.Such a conclusion without a basis, is
inconsistent with the spirit of academic enquiry.

4)RJA,RV and LP have pointed out the occurrence of the word in texts
earlier to 4th Century B.C.

MYC Accepted.I had only talked about a probability. LP Greek adverb
palai 'long ago' has a perfectly good Indo-European etymology. It
comes from the zero grade of *kwel- 'far in space or time' + the
locative suffix -ai. The e-grade of the same root gives Greek tele-
'far'. The word pal-ai is one of several old locatives that became
adverbs when the locative was lost in Greek MYC Palai dealt already 

GK palaios means old 
TL palaia means old
GK palaios has a doublet tele
TL palaia has a doublet tholai
GK palaios derived from *kwal 
TL tholai derived from thol 
(Both GK,TL means old) 
GK pelazo means old
TL palasu means old (word in everyday usage) .
K has other words like 'geraios' and 'arkhios' for 'old' 

TL has 'kila' which compares with 'geraios' and is used in the same
sense as in GK ie referring to 'old people'
An objective analysis of the above findings clearly prove the link
between the words representing 'old' in GK and TL. The evidence is so
overwhelming there is no iota of scope for dismissing the findings as
chance resemblances.There is also no escape from the conclusion that
the words 'palaios' and 'palaia' are strongly linked.Since theGreek
word appears in texts dating back to as early as Mycenaean Period ,the
question of this being a loan word from TL is clearly ruled
out. Moreover such a basic lexis like 'old' could not have been absent
in a language as developed as GK. Considering our findings in its
totality it appears safe to conclude that GK and TL are genetically
related.This conclusion is definitely corroborated by the presence of
a large number of similar words with exactly similar meanings in both
the languages.I may add that all those words are non-trade and relate
directly to everyday life ,concepts and 'nature'! thus suggesting a
common community living between the peoples speaking these two old
languages.I intend submitting an academic paper on this subject
shortly .

Subject-Language: Greek; Code: GRK 
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