Ishinan at The Egyptian Chronicles wrote to us as follows:
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This investigation attempts to reexamine aspects of the relationship between IE and Semitic, by considering in detail derivations of areas never touched upon such as words for common tree in both (IE) and Semitic. In Calvert Watkins' article "Indo-European and the Indo-Europeans, inferences were made about words for tree which were common to the homeland of the Indo-European-speaking people before the period of migrations took them to the different localities.
Below is what he had to say on this subject:
"Nature and the Physical Environment. A large number of terms relating to time, weather, seasons, and natural surroundings can be reconstructed from the daughter languages, some of which permit certain inferences about the homeland of the Indo-European-speaking people before the period of migrations took them to the different localities where they historically appear. .......
When none of these runs through the whole family, it would not be justifiable to infer anything from them regarding the terrain of a hypothetical original homeland of the Indo-Europeans."
According to him: The names for a number of different trees are widely enough attested to be viewed as Proto-Indo-European in date. Hence, general terms for “tree” and “wood” was deru. The names for a number of different trees are widely enough attested to be viewed as Proto-Indo-European in date. The general term for “tree” and “wood” was deru-. The original meaning of the root was doubtless “to be firm, solid,” and from it is derived not only the family of English TREE but also that of English TRUE. Note that the semantic evolution has here been from the general to the particular, from “solid” to “tree” (and even “oak” in some dialects), and not the other way around."
Further, the following etymological entries are usually offered on this subject:
DEFINITION: Also dreu-. To be firm, solid, steadfast; hence specialized senses “wood,” “tree,” and derivatives referring to objects made of wood.
1. Suffixed variant form *drew-o-. a. tree, from Old English trow, tree, from Germanic *trewam; O-grade form *doru-. deodar, from Sanskrit dru, wood, timber. (Pokorny deru- 214.)
TREE : O.E. treo,treow "tree" (also "wood"), from P.Gmc. *trewan (cf. O.Fris. tre, O.S. trio, O.N. tre, Goth. triu), from PIE *deru-/*doru- "oak" (cf. Skt. dru "tree, wood," daru "wood, log;" Gk. drys "oak," doru "spear;" O.C.S. drievo "tree, wood;" Serb. drvo "tree," drva "wood;" Rus. drevo "tree, wood;" Czech drva; Pol. drwa "wood;" Lith. derva "pine wood;" O.Ir. daur, Welsh derwen "oak," Albanian drusk "oak"). Importance of the oak in mythology is reflected in the recurring use of words for "oak" to mean "tree." Slovenian: drevo, Danish: træ , Norwegian: tre , Icelandic: tré , Icelandic: tjara.
2. Variant form *derw-. tar1, from Old English te(o)ru, resin, pitch (obtained from the pine tree), from Germanic *terw-. .
However, according to Classical Arabic sources, "drw" (d : an emphatic dad) is a species of trees of sweet odor growing mostly in Yemen. Some say it is the btm (1), from which the bitumen is extracted; others refer it to the terebinth-tree. Drw also stands for the great oak growing in the Yemeni mountains, and the cancamum tree growing in Arabia (Yemen).
Further, from the tree "drw" tar is extracted.
As for the word for oak tree, the Classical Arabic term is simply" 'iyk. The word occurs four times in the Qu'ran referring to the oak forest dwellers.
(Q.XV.78, Q.XXVI.176, Q.XXXVIII.12, and Q.L.13)
OAK O.E. ac "oak tree," from P.Gmc. *aiks (cf. O.N. eik, O.Fris., M.Du. ek, Du. eik, O.H.G. eih, Ger. Eiche), of uncertain origin with no certain cognates outside Gmc. The usual I.E. base for "oak" (*derwo-/*dreu-) has become Mod.Eng. tree. Used in Biblical translations to render Heb. elah (probably usually "terebinth tree") and four other words. The O.N. form was eik, but there were no oaks in Iceland so the word came to be used there for "tree" in general. Any of numerous monoecious deciduous or evergreen trees or shrubs of the genus Quercus, bearing acorns as fruit. The durable wood of any of these trees or shrubs. Something made of this wood. Any of various similar trees or shrubs, such as the poison oak. Any of various brown shades resembling the wood of an oak in color. Danish: egetræ, Dutch: eik, Norwegian: eik, Swedish: ek .
CONCLUSION: There is great merit in the comparative method which leads to the assumption of the previous existence of an antecedent common to IE languages. However, the existence of identical words for "tree" and its variant "tar," along with the word for oak outside IE languages, undermines the prevailing notion of being exclusively IE.
Therefore, it is safe to conclude that any inference of a hypothetical original homeland of the Indo-Europeans, based on situations like *deru, ought to be reconsidered.
Various JPEGs of dictionary entries on the subject matter can be viewed for scrutiny by the members by clicking on the following URL:
January 24th, 2008
(1) BITUMEN 1460, from L. bitumen "asphalt," probably, via Oscan or Umbrian, from a Celtic source (cf. Gaulish betulla "birch," used by Pliny for the tree supposedly the source of bitumen). Bituminous is from 1620 .Middle English bithumen, a mineral pitch from the Near East, from Latin bitumen, perhaps of Celtic origin.] . Du.: bitumen Est.: bituumen, Fin.: bitumi , Fr. : butume , Ger. Bitumen, Hung.:bitumen, It.: bitume, Latv: bitumens. Lith.bitumas, Port.: betume, Roum. : bitum, Slov. bitumen, Sp.: bitun, Swedish: bitumen.
ÉTYMOL. ET HIST. Ca. 1160 betumoi « substance combustible liquide » (Eneas, éd. Salverda de Grave, 6498 : Li betumoi a tel nature : Là ou il est un po sechiez Ja ne sera puis depeciez), forme attestée jusqu'au xiiie s. dans T.-L.; 1190 betume (Evrat, Genese, B.N., 12457, fo 16a dans Gdf. Compl.), forme attestée jusqu'au xiiie s., Ibid.; xve s. forme bitumme, bithume (Hist. s. et prof., Ars. 3515, t. 1, fo 101 ro, Ibid.); xvie s. bitumen (Hug.); 1575 bitume (Belleforest, Cosmographie universelle, Paris, II, 2135 dans Fr. mod., t. 25, p. 306 : une espece de Bitume); p. méton. 1841 « trottoir » (d'apr. Esn.). Empr. au lat. bitumen « id. » (Caton, Agr., 95, 1 dans TLL s.v., 2021, 75); [la date de 1549 donnée pour bitume par les dict. étymol. s'applique au texte lat. de Tagault cité dans Gdf. Compl., dont la trad. fr. est de 1618]; betumoi avec suff. d'a. fr. -oi (lat. -êtu) indiquant une étendue.(source: Centre National de Ressources Textuelles et Lexicales ")
However, one senses that etymologists, by using terms like probably or perhaps are rather tentative in their assumption. While factually, the Arabic word btm for bitumen appears to be a straightforward candidate, pointing to a definite Semitic source for the word.
Andis Kaulins replied:
Ishinan, it is not your fault, but you are relying on Indo-European
scholars such as Pokorny who had little clue about the actual origins
The idea that *deru- or *drue- is the correct root word in
Indo-European for words such as "tree" as alleged derived from some
concept for "hard" is clearly erroneous, as any study of Latvian
demonstrates. [Latvian ciets for "hard" may have to do with Latvian koks "tree", but that is an entirely different root]
The correct root for "tree" is not in the concept of "hard" but in the
concept of "branched", for which reason words for "branches" in
Latvian have the root word "zar-" which corresponds to the ancient
word for tree "tar" as tree, indicating an original fricative *dzar-
as the correct root word for "tree". Furthermore, a cognate word in
Latvian like darva is not e.g. the "hardwood" of a tree, but rather
means quite the contrary the "pitch" of the tree, whence "tar".
Once again, the Indo-European scholars have erred mightily.
Similarly, the root for tree, contrary to the absurd notion of the
mainstream Indo-Europan linguists, has nothing to do with the word
true and its cognates. The root for words like "true" in the sense of
"loyalty" is found in Latvian tur- "to hold, to hold to", and is
cognate with der- "to be useful" and dar- "to do", all of course
dissimilated over time from a single common root.
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