Does anyone know the Nostratic for “to ripen” or “to cook”?
In the last post I briefly mentioned the Persian verb “to cook”, and how it deserved a full entry. The word’s use in Persian is not so interesting as its etymological roots and the semantic implications:
For those who are curious, that’s from “Etymological Dictionary of the Iranian Verb” by Johnny Cheung, which I highly recommend (highly recommend stealing off the internet that is, because look at that price tag!). At any rate, what we have there is a verb which which refers to the idea of “to cook”, “to boil” or “to ripen” (as well as other meanings related to “finishing”…) starting with a bilabial stop and proceeding to an affricate (or in some daughter languages, a fricative). And from the Semitic languages we have another verb root which refers to refer to boiling, cooking and ripening which starts with a bilabial stop and moves into a fricative rather than an affricate:
From “A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the Hebrew Language for Readers of English” by Ernest Klein (also available online for the low, low price of “you can steal it”).
Now of course I’m not suggesting that these two terms are related. It is probably a coincidence (especially considering the PIE root is a stop rather than an affricate, whereas the Semitic term appears to have always been a fricative followed by a liquid), rather than evidence of the Nostratic theory. But an interesting coincidence and a useful mnenomic device.
And also, if we WERE out to prove the Nostratic theory, one wonders why Starostin didn’t see fit to connect these two terms to the Proto-Turkic *bış- (bilabial stop and then a fricative!), which is still widely used among Turks today for cooking, but historically had to do with ripening!
That’s the reference from “An Etymological Dictionary of Pre-Thirteenth Century Turkish” by Sir Gerard Clauson which Starostin uses in the link above. In this case it appears my advice for you to steal that book off the internet will be motivated less by how we both know you are on a student’s budget and more by the fact that this book seems difficult to obtain otherwise.
Away from controversial historical linguistics and back to the realm of semantics though, the link between ripening, developing and cooking seems quite widespread. If we were to travel further east on the Silk Road, we would find it again in Chinese: 熟 (Mandarin: shóu/shú, Cantonese/Hakka: suk6), meaning cooked, ripe, familiar or otherwise “complete”.