Non-Indo-European Cognates of Slavic Words: Contact Origin and Traces of Remote Genetic Relationship

Kirill Reshetnikov, Institute of Linguistics, Russian Academy of Sciences

In my presentation, I expound some results of recent investigation in Slavic etymology, concentrating on Slavic words, which seem to have non-Indo-European cognates crucial for their historical interpretation. More precisely, I analyze words that have non-Indo-European cognates only.

First of all, I discuss a number of Slavic lexical stems that should be looked upon as Turkic or Uralic loans. In every case all relevant etymological sources are considered. A small, but very interesting group is formed by words borrowed into Slavic in a quite early period, apparently before the split of Proto-Slavic (correspondingly from early Turkic and Uralic idioms). Exploring this material presupposes examination of units pertaining to proto-language chronological level, i.e. forms obtained by method of historical reconstruction. While doing this part of the research, some modern achievements in historical phonology of Turkic and Uralic were considered, inter alia my own suggestions made in the course of working on an etymological database of Uralic languages. In many cases, contact etymologies imply rejection of other interpretations of the same material (mostly traditional ones). Thus, substantiating claims in question involves criticism of respective conceptions and hypotheses that I consider less persuasive, as for example in the case of Rus. kobel′ which is likely to be a result of a converse derivation from kobelek < Turkic kopelek “dog” (with a secondary interpretation of  –ek as a diminutive suffix in Rus.) and is hardly related to Rus. kobyla, despite one of old assumptions. On the other hand, there are some Slavic etymons that are not loans but still can be compared only (or first of all) with non-Indo-European material, e. g. Slavic *(s)k″l′(-)z ‘to slip, slippery’, for which I suggest Turkic, Mongolian, Tungus and Uralic parallels (the comparison with Sanskrit skhalati ‘to stagger, totter’ is not quite reliable semantically). Considering cases of that kind, I suppose that respective protoforms did exist in Indo-European as elements inherited from Pre-Indo-European period, but were lost in all branches except Slavic. In this part of the presentation I proceed from the hypothesis of remote genetic relationship, which was lately corroborated by a number of new etymological facts and systematical research in comparative phonology.

As a whole, my paper illustrates different origins of Slavic vocabulary isolated from the viewpoint of Indo-European comparison.