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Note 6: Lord and Lady
by Larry Trask
|Larry Trask, a world expert on Basque linguistics and the history of the Basque language, passed away on March 28, 2004. Larry contributed extensively to several online communities, including Basque-L and the Indoeuropean list. This collection of his postings is dedicated in his memory.|
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The other day, I promised to say something about the Basque words
for 'lord' and 'lady'.
Now, the word for 'lady' is everywhere <andere>, which in some
varieties has been reduced to <andre>. In Bizkaian, the form
has shifted to <andra> (old Bizkaian <andera>), in typical Bizkaian
fashion, and the sense has shifted to 'woman', but these developments
are clearly secondary.
As it happens, ANDERE is attested as a female name in Aquitanian,
and so we may be confident that the word is old in Basque. Quite
a few people have seen this as a borrowing from Celtic, since Old
Irish has a word <ander> 'young woman'. But there is another idea.
A few years ago, Joaquín Gorrochategui pointed to the existence
in Aquitanian of a Latinized male name ANDOSSUS. He proposes to
interpret this as an Aquitanian name *<Andots>, which is perfectly
reasonable. Now comes the interesting part.
Gorrochategui points to the existence in Basque of an apparent
suffix <-dots> ~ <-ots>, found in several animal names, as in
<bildots> 'lamb', and at least occasionally having the apparent
sense of 'male'. He therefore proposes that Pre-Basque had a stem
*<and->, and that this stem could take female and male suffixes to
yield both *<andere> 'lady' and *<andots> 'lord'.
Of course, *<andots>, if it ever existed, has disappeared. But the
historical word for 'lord', <jaun>, is a very funny-looking word
for a noun: it looks for all the world like the participle of a
lost verb, possibly meaning something like 'exalted'. Gorrochategui's
hypothesis requires that the original *<andots> should simply have
been replaced by this <jaun>.
Now, I find this appealing, but I can't really tell if there's
anything in it. If Gorrochategui is right, then Pre-Basque, or
perhaps better Pre-Pre-Basque, must have been significantly different
from the historical language, in allowing stems like *<and-> and in
possessing explicit male and female suffixes.
Finally, though I don't recall that Gorrochategui mentions this,
it will not have escaped your attention that his proposed stem
*<and-> could provide a source for the adjective <handi> 'big'.
A sense along the lines of 'great' would not seem unreasonable
within Gorrochategui's proposal. But who knows?
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