Friday, October 10, 2008

Origin of the Word "chick" (baby bird) - LexiLine Journal 503

William Glyn-Jones wrote:

Here's a question. When in English we use "chick" for a baby bird,
which of these two roots do you think more likely to be the source:

1) words for small, such as Aragonese: chicote
and Turan: kiçik, Turkish: küçük tr(tr),Turkmen: kiçi
2) Words related to birds such as in Greek and Latin, eg for swans and
storks, cycnus and cicones.

Or are these also connected?

Also, in connection with the "pu-" words I note that in languages such as Spanish use "piu, piu, piu" as the sounds of small birds, the equivalent of English "tweet, tweet, tweet."
The words sound like the quality, just as "gar" is a big sound, a gargantuan sound.

Andis Kaulins replied:

Take a look at the Bantu words for chicken or fowl at

ID Language Nominal Prefix Radical Gram. Genre Cognacy Annotation
01929. Asu G.22

kúkú N 9
01494. Basaa A.43a

kóp N 9, 10
01075. Bemba M.42 íŋ kókó N
00641. Bukusu E.31c

gòxò N 9, 10
00164. Kinyamwezi F22 ŋ/ŋ  gɔ̀kɔ́ N 9, 10
02373. Koyo C.24 tsótsó N 1a-2
03197. Lega D.25

kókó N 9, 10
02789. Rumanyo (Gciriku) K.38

kûkù N 9, 10
03590. Tswana S.30  kʊ́kʊ́ N 9
04017. Yao P.21 dì- wìíwì N 5

It is very clear, based on the Bantu evidence above, that the base word for chicken must belong to the very oldest of human terms, as it is virtually near to identical everywhere in the Bantu languages.

Compare the Bantu with the German Küken viz. Kücken for chicken viz. chick.
The Koyo tsotso might compare to our own tweet-tweet, and an onomopoetic sound origin for chick is not excluded in view of German put, put meaning "chuck, chuck" in English.

As for your second question about pu- words for the birds,
in Latvian, birds are putni, whence German Pute "turkey-hen" or Puter "turkey-cock".

The root here is I think the original root for "flight", as suggested by the Bantu words for "to fly (to)" (palido means "to fly about" in Latvian and par- means "up, above"), to which compare aero//*aelo in Ancient Greek meaning "to fly". Here are the Bantu terms for "to fly":

01923. Asu G.22 pàràrìkà V
01488. Basaa A.43a pùùɛ̀ V
01071. Bemba M.42 pàlààl V
00157. Kinyamwezi F22 làlá V
03191. Lega D.25 léŋgà V
02781. Rumanyo (Gciriku) K.38 tûkà V
03584. Tswana S.30 fʊ̀fà V
04012. Yao P.21 guluka V

Terms for flight in my opinion are related to the concept of "air" or "outside", in Latvian (g)aiss, gaisā and ārā, to which some of the Bantu terms below for "outside" are similar

02055. Asu G.22 n N 9
01595. Basaa A.43a tán
01182. Bemba M.42 ín N
00761. Bukusu E.31c é- ßù- làfù N 23, 14
00283. Kinyamwezi F22 hààn zɛ̀ɛ́ N 16+9
00284. Kinyamwezi F22 hììb ààlà N 16+5 lit. at the clearing
02468. Koyo C.24 nʤ̑éè N 9
03297. Lega D.25 gà mbʊ́gà
Loc open space : mbʊ́gà 9, 10
02903. Rumanyo (Gciriku) K.38 pàmbânʤ̑è Adv
02904. Rumanyo (Gciriku) K.38 pànʤ̑è Adv
03699. Tswana S.30 ǹtɬɛ́ N 9
04125. Yao P.21 pààsá Adv
04126. Yao P.21 kùùsá Adv

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