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Query:   SUMMARY OF ETYMOLOGY OF GREEK WORD 'PALEO'
Author:  A.S. Sundar
Submitter Email:  click here to access email
Linguistic LingField(s):   Historical Linguistics

Summary:   Summary of Etymology of Greek word PALAIOS
Please refer Linguist List 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 connection?
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
TO SUM UP
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) .

GK 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 .
A.S.Sundar.
Etymologist

LL Issue: 14.1630
Date Posted: 08-Jun-2003
Original Query: Read original query


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