"Skeptical scrutiny is the means in both science and religion,

by which deep insights can be winnowed from deep nonsense"

Carl Sagan, Time Magazine, 20 Oct. 1980, p. 62

"Tout le monde ne sait pas douter:

On a besoin de lumière pour y parvenir

et de force pour s'en tenir là"


Many an inquisitive individual has found that the only way to answer the numerous questions he has is to construct the answer himself. This is how many scholarly books have been conceived, out of the primary need to satisfy the curiosity of their own authors. This is also how the present book was conceived. Finding that dictionaries failed to provide a satisfactory explanation of the meaning of bird names, I found it necessary to do my own research. It is said that the French hirondelle (swallow) comes from the Latin hirundo. But did the Romans invent the name ? Shall we allow Varron the last word when he affirms that the name is an onomatopoeia ? Can't we get out of this rut ? "Eagle" comes from the Latin aquila. But is this enough ? For some, perhaps, but certainly not for the inquisitive. In the case of the Romance languages in particular, dictionaries stop when they reach the Latin predecessor. If we push back beyond the barrier of Latin, however, we discover that it is almost impossible to single out a "Latin" root within any given group of words, for almost all the roots we have called "Latin" or "Germanic", etc., are in fact common to all the major groups of European languages and often even extra-European ones. Of course, numerous linguists have said this before, from Pictet (1859) to Carnoy (1955) to Pokorny (1959), among others. Why then should we take up once more what has already been said so competently ? What I offer here to scholars and to the inquisitive amateur is a way towards the origin of the European lexis by another path. It is a simple method, if that is possible, within the difficult and vigorously debated discipline of linguistics.

I began by making a repertory of bird names and their variants in over 30 languages. This collection now includes more than 100,000 appellations, excluding about 8000 names in the dialects of Spanish, Portuguese, Creole and Amerind from Latin American. In addition to European languages, I have also included Iranian, Caucasian and Hamito-Semitic languages. The reason for doing so is that the area covered by these languages includes the Palaearctic region, a zoogeographical entity within which can be found most of the European bird species, or about 450 species.

Why bird names

As an ornithologist I found my curiosity was naturally whetted by the meaning of birds' names. In order to study the semantics of bird names, one needs to be knowledgeable about birds in nature, sensitive to the languages and dialects of the people who have named the birds. I was privileged enough to have spent my youth in close contact with nature and was able to acquire an intimate knowledge of birds and their habits. Later, I was a professional ornithologist for 11 years. My interest in linguistics has been constant. As a child I spoke the local dialect of the people around me.

Most bird species are identical within the area common to all the languages concerned and their characteristics have remained unchanged ever since they have been known to man. Their characteristics can thus be taken as common references which can be related to the words designating the same birds. In addition, the characteristics are easier to determine than those of plant species, for example. The reasons for my choice also have a biological and ethical foundation. Birds can be distinguished from other animals by their calls and songs and by the great interest people have in them. Names of acoustic origin thus constitute a large number of appellations.

How birds have been named

It is not always easy to establish a relationship between a word and a characteristic of a bird. A rigorous study can be made only by matching up samples taken from a vast geographic area and a large number of languages.

It is often the case that the word has remained in use while the meaning of the epithet has been forgotten: plomb (lead), palombe (woodpigeon), colombe (dove) have been named for their colour, while the the name of the colour has only remained residual in regional speech, see appendix ð3.1.39.1. The magpie is commonly known in France by its name pie but the term for the colour pie (pied) is hardly used anymore, whereas pied has remained part of the living language in English, in the forms pied and piebald. In the Slavic netopyr "bat" we can still recognize the Albanese natë "night", just as in Slavic nemec "German" we can see the Italian nimico "enemy"; similarly, gluxar is a Slavic name for several birds that cluck (French glousser), and in the Slavic slonka "woodcock, curlew" we find the sense of "elongated" (Cf. the English lanky, Norwegian slank), an allusion to the long beak typical of these species.

The names of animals and objects have thus persisted at the same time as the same words have been replaced as qualifiers, for the latter are indispensable for communicating with the people whose language has become dominant (superstratum). To recall what Auguste Briton has said: "The difference between languages and dialects is not one of their nature but of their fate. A language is a dialect that has met with success."

This is certainly no reason for neglecting regional dialects. On the contrary. Personally, I make no distinction between languages and dialects. This is why I have used the term "regional" in preference to "patois", which is derogatory, or "dialectal", which connotes inferiority. In this study, all languages are considered as being on the same level, except as concerns one important difference: borrowings are much rarer in dialects, which means that dialects are more reliable. I should add here that most words gathered from local speech are as old as, and probably much older than, words attested in the so-called ancient languages. We do not have written proof of this, but studying them makes it seem obvious.

It has been necessary in this study to distinguish between imitative names or strict onomatopoeia, which are relatively rare, and expressive names of an acoustic origin. Thus cuckoo is a perfect onomatopoeia, whereas English gowk or Slavic geguza no longer are, even though their origin is acoustical. Thrush, buzzard, loon, quail are expressive words of acoustical origin without being onomatopoeia or imitations. We should also distinguish mimologisms, names whose spelling or pronunciation has been changed to make it resemble a name having a meaning, such as: philippe, jack, jacob, markolf, louis, bernard, maria, margot, margarita, ivan, charlot, gérardine, bertrand, claude, aubin, patrick, isaac. The result is a link between the voice or other characteristic of the bird and a similar aspect of articulation in a given language.

Thus we have mimologisms. This phenomenon also appears in other areas when names have been written in a way that gives them a meaning in accordance with popular etymology: tue-tête, base t-t ð5.29.1., saint-guy, base s-g ð6.3.10.1, pot-pourri ð6.2.23., bout-de-z'en, base p-dz ð9.2.2. All the explanations that have been given for these names have met with failure because their authors have simply assumed them to be metaphors or definitions based on spelling, instead of trying to establish the radical of the spoken word in order to discover the category it belongs to (acoustic, etc.). Metonomy, that is, naming an object, a fruit, etc. for a place (such as Damas ð3.3.14.11.) or a person is almost inexistent among bird names (exceptions: turkey, dinde, an imported species) and rare elsewhere. It is also a relatively recent phenomenon.

It is not my intention to discuss the multitude of etymologies that are fantastical or still-born, as they have been called. It would have lengthened beyond possibility the volume of this book to refute them all. In order to justify their reasoning, certain authors find in a name characteristics that the bird does not have or deny characteristics the bird does have. So that the reader can understand my attitude on this subject, I would like to give a few examples from the most recent publications. (It would hardly be flattering to their authors to give their names):

The Catalan gruneta (swallow) would be composed of grua crane + oroneta swallow, and agroneta composed of agro + oroneta. The Spanish garza was attributed to the heron "because it has blue eyes" (which is untrue); there exists an archaic Spanish word garzo which means blue. The Catalan xeret (teal) would come from cerco because this bird has "ein blauer Ring um die Augen" (which is untrue). The duck would be called patka in Slavic because he makes the sound pat pat, and the turkey would be called puta because it says put put! The courlieu (whimbrel) was given its name because it runs around the place ("il court les lieux"). The martin-pêcheur (kingfisher) would have received this name in French because it flies like the martinet (swift) (untrue), or it would have been named for the god Mars because of the bravery and audacity with which it dives upon crows, falcons and eagles (!). The wagtail would be called aguanieve in Spanish because it lives in the water and its belly is white as snow, and aguzanieve (according to the same author) "avecilla que en días de nieve, busca debajo de esta con su pico aguzado los gusanos y semilla de que se alimenta". A few more gems: Picus would be the masculine of pica, grolle would be the female of the crow, and chouette (owl) the female of the hibou (also owl) (clever the one who could tell the difference). And to finish this list, Gaiera manages to derive the Basque txori (bird) from a hypothetical Latin avicella!

There have been too frequent attempts to find a link between two bird names - the names of any two birds - as long as these names meet "the demands of phonetics". But two bird names are not necessarily related simply because they meet these "demands".

The present study is not a collection of etymological oddities (which the dictionaries have already preserved for posterity). I myself will do without wild imaginings here and reply by an argumentum ex silencio, confining myself to proposing semantic explanations that are reasonable and logical. This implies that I am cognizant of these other "etymologies" and that they are tacitly refuted by the paradigms.

Bird names have not only acoustic, chromatic and kinetic origins. Birds have also been named for external characteristics such as the following: The places they are found in, their habitat - field, bush, shore, etc. Their habits - do they swim ? Their food - do they live on seeds, fish, fowl ? Their nesting sites - in cavities, on the ground, under the eaves ? The kind of nest they build - globular, plastered, woven ? Other characteristics - do they transit, do they arrive at a certain season, do they come from a certain region ?

Who collected these bird names ?

In the first stage They were collected by ornithologists who were still interested as non-specialists in various aspects of ornithology; they benefited from their contacts with local people attached to the soil. They were the best source, for they were able to apply the names they collected to the correct species, with a reservation made for sources of error that will be mentioned below. In the next stage dialectologists made use of their gift for detecting very ancient names, rare names known only to isolated populations. However, the attribution of a name to the correct species is often very difficult in such cases. This is particularly noticeable in linguistic atlases.

In order to gather names in such a way as to eliminate errors of attribution as far as possible, it is necessary to be personally familiar with the bird, its song, its calls, its colours and their pattern, its shape, its habitat, and its nesting habits. Yet errors will always subsist and it is worthwhile here to examine certain attributions.

Errors of name attribution and their causes

Throughout this compilation, each language ends with a few examples, placed in square brackets, a few names which have been attributed erroneously. One cause of error, which has become the most frequent one, stems from the method of collecting the name and then finding in a bird guide the species the name should be attributed to. It is in this way that the name Roitelet (Wren) (scientific name Troglodytes troglodytes) has been attributed to Regulus (Goldcrest), whose name Cuvier had given to another bird; Calandra has been attributed to the Calandra Lark (scientific name Calandra), and Calandrella to the Short-toed Lark, whereas these names and their variants all apply to the Sky Lark (scientific name Alauda arvensis).

It should be remembered that the first naturalists, including Linné who received his bird skins in Sweden, could not always attribute names with any precision because several intermediaries had already been involved. Their conception of genus was also different from today's. Thus, Linné gave the name Motacilla to several species that we classify today under the genera Anthus, Oenanthe, Saxicola and Phoenicurus. This explains why the names of the Wagtail (which today is the only bird to have the generic name Motacilla) were attributed to various species by those who used Linné's nomenclature. The following names of bird genera or species have also been incorrectly attributed:

Regulus, Goldcrest, is the equivalent of the French Roitelet, the scientific name of which is Troglodytes.

Puffinus, attributed to the Shearwaters, is the latinized name of the Engl. Puffin, a quite different bird.

Picus martius, Black woodpecker; martius is a name describing the Great Spotted Woodpecker, Picoides major.

Passer montanus was probably a name of the Brambling rather than of the Tree Sparrow which is never found in the mountains.

Porzana, Crake, is an Italian name for the Water Rail, Rallus aquaticus.

Turdus musicus is a name for the Song Thrush, Turdus philomelos, but has been applied to the Redwing.

Sylvia hortensis, Orphean Warbler; hortensis describes the Garden Warbler, Sylvia borin.

Saxicola "inhabiting stones" should be a name of the Wheatear, today called Oenanthe.

Sylvia curruca should be a name for the Whitethroat, Sylvia communis.

The most frequently confused names are specific names of species that are rather similar and belong to the same genus : Engl. gadwall is a name of the Pintail (duck) but has been erroneously assigned to Anas strepera. This error has been perpetuated in the ornithological literature, showing that the real meaning is no longer understood. The Italian balestruccio is a name for the swift, but in ornithology it is attributed to the Sand Martin; the German buchfink is a name for the Brambling, a characteristic bird of the beech woods (Germ. Buche); in England stonechat is a widespread folk name for the stone-inhabiting Oenanthe but has been misapplied to the species known among the people as bushchat etc. The confusion is especially great as concerns birds of prey, particularly since the age of falconry when so many scribes gave accounts of the activity. But there are also considerable mistakes regarding owls (birds that are heard but not seen), wading birds (curlews, woodcock, snipes, sandpipers, stints, rails, plovers), ducks and gulls. The French hobereau and the English hobby are names popularly given to the Buzzard, but in falconry they were attributed to a falcon; the French émerillon and the English merlin are folknames of the Sparrowhawk; falcon and hawk are collective names given to all the small birds of prey; eagle, aquila, are collective names for birds of prey, generally the larger ones; in Germany geier is a collective name for several birds of prey, in particular for the Goshawk, and should not be translated as "vulture", a species that does not occur in German speaking countries.

Difficulties encountered in assigning folk names to the correct species have been described by Jared M. Diamond (Avifauna of the Eastern Highlands of New Guinea. Nuttall Club Publ. No. 12, Cambridge, Massachusetts, p. 92): "It should also be realized that linguistic difficulties, misunderstandings, and inadequate interviewing techniques can easily result in wrong information when one is quizzing natives. Information elicited from primitive peoples is systematically discounted by some ornithologists who have found such information unreliable in their experience, as a result of working with poorly informed groups or poorly informed individuals, or employing inadequate interviewing techniques. However, an undifferentiated rejection or acceptance of all information supplied by natives is no more justifiable than would be the undifferentiated rejection or acceptance of all information supplied by professional ornithologists". Whether in New Guinea or in our area, whether they concern primitive people or not, Diamond's observations are universally valid.

Numerous typographical and interpretive errors have been corrected whenever I have been able to detect them. It is probable, however, that the present work contains yet other errors of interpretation. I would like to take the magnitude of the task as an excuse.

Apologia for the man with his roots in the soil

Ornithologists and bird watchers too often consider birds' popular names to be unwieldy, superfluous or confusing, not realizing that the "official" name imposed on them is only one among a rich and picturesque repertory accumulated over the centuries and even millenia by peoples who have been in closer contact with nature than most urban ornithologists today. The Wryneck has been given many names linked to its habit of feeding on ants. Yet, how many people today - linguists, dialectologists and, I am not afraid to add, ornithologists - have observed a Wryneck in the act of eating ants ?

In ornithological circles it has been too often said that people who live on the land are not curious, that they are ignorant, etc. Aren't the 100,000 names collected here an unattackable refutation of these assertions and a glorious testimony to these people's knowledge of nature ?


This study is based primarily on dialectical vocabulary. Peoples close to the soil and to the sea are the ones who have named the things of nature and created the languages we speak. It is in their vocabulary that we have to look for the meaning of these names. Their sense has to be sought in the language of the people who have created the words. Naturally, literature, that is, the written language, also has to be scrutinized, its poems, songs, archives, histories, etc. examined. This method is useful but also has a considerable drawback. Poets and scribes have often borrowed their vocabulary from foreign languages, chiefly Greek and Latin. Their practice gives a deceptive idea of the geographical distribution of the terms they used. This is all the more true in that the exact origin of the words cited is only rarely and rather vaguely indicated, and the object they designate is not always identifiable.

If the Old French aronde is cited for the first time in la Chanson de Roland, it does not mean that at the same period the name was known throughout France. It means only that the author used the name he knew in his own regional language, in this case Berry or Champagne where the name is still in use today.

The correct attribution of a name is most uncertain in old or ancient literature because of the age of the texts. The spelling is often doubtful. Writers were concerned with providing an account of historical facts and not with giving the correct spelling of words that did not appear in any dictionary. Among the ancient Greeks, the Latin poets and, especially, the medieval scribes, it is common to encounter the most fanciful spelling that can easily lead the etymologist astray or down the wrong track.

My very first research consisted of pouring over the existing ornithological works, being careful to leave aside the "official" names that are often artificial creations "fabricate din birou", (created in the office) as my eminent colleague Mihai Bâcescu has said. Are the names in ornithological texts recent borrowings, or do they exist in the dialects ? In the latter case, which is the one that interests us, the geographic distribution of the name in regional speech had to be determined. The range of ornithological works from which I have collected names has been nearly exhaustive. Only a few rare local publications have escaped my prospecting.

Studies in dialectology have provided a large number of names and their variants. Often, unfortunately, either there are mistakes in attribution, or the names are defined only in the manner of "a small grey bird resembling a sparrow" or "a bird that lives in bushes and feeds on insects", etc. (Appendix 2.2.0 cites some examples). Some of the publications on dialectology are very local, often dating from some time ago and unavailable today, especially those on the Slavic languages. A few personal surveys were conducted in the Valais (Switzerland), the Val d'Aoste (Italy), the Basque country, Kosove (Albanian), Greece and Iran (Baluchi).

One advantage this project offers to linguists and ornithologists is that it makes accessible the names of birds, things, colours, etc. from languages with non-Latin script such as Georgian, Arabic, Armenian, Greek, Persian and Russian.

The inventory will also shed a new light on the pre- or proto-historical movements of European peoples. For example, a resemblance between bird names in Western francophone Switzerland and Gascony indicates that there has been a movement of peoples between these two regions. These similarities are sometimes supported by archeological or historical fact.

This work is not the stopping point for research but a solid basis that will provide a valuable instrument for future linguists and dialectologists.

Finally, and not least importantly, this glossary collects thousands of names that were buried away in obscure publications or gathered from the mouths of a generation that is on the point of vanishing, and saves them from certain oblivion. Terms that humanity has been fashioning for thousands of years will thus be preserved in the European linguistic heritage.

Paradigms as an aid to semantic research

The phylogeny of animal and plant species has always interested me because of its complexity and its ability to fascinate. It thus seems natural that I have wanted to work back up the evolution of words to their origin, like working back to the origin of living organisms. The study of the evolution of words is indeed a phylogenetic study. Family trees or cladograms can be constructed for words as they can for living beings. Cf. in particular J.B. Kruskal, I. Dyen & P. Black, The vocabulary method of reconstructing languages trees: innovations and large-scale applications, p. 361-380 in Mathematics in the archaeological and historical sciences. Proc. Anglo-Romanian Conference, Bucarest, 1970. University Press, Edinburg, and D. Penny, E.E. Watson & M.A. Steel, 1993. Trees from languages and genes are very similar. Systematic Biology 42: 382-384.

After pursuing my research for over a quarter of a century, I have learned with satisfaction that the method I was led to adopt has also been used independently by other authors. A. Rey, in his preface to Structures étymologiques du lexique français by Pierre Guiraud (1986) has formulated it more aptly. I must admit that it is comforting to be able to note that after a whole life of research concentrated on a single track, I am not the only one to have chosen this same path. Guiraud has stated better than I can the principles of the structural method. What is important above all else is that the problems are broached without espousing any sense of system, holding any preconceived notions or making any concessions to received opinion.

The second part of this work consists of appendices which list paradigms, that is, groups of terms that can appear at a point in a spoken sequence. From them we can sort out genetic structures and within them we can discover the semantic content of almost all the names of European birds as well as thousands of other terms, such as the names of colours, objects and animals defined in morpho-semantic categories.

Birds, like everything that surrounds us, have characteristics according to their shape (morphological), movements (kinetic), the sounds they make (acoustic or phonic) or various functions. Each of these characteristics can be represented by bases, that is, matrices or elementary structures that then constitute a typology of the European lexis. This procedure frees us from creating hypothetical Indo-European or "proto-Indo-European" roots. "Recourse to quantity saves us from abstraction" (A. Rey).

The existence of common semantic features is guaranteed statistically. The word is a form in association with a meaning. The relation between the signifier and the signified belongs to what we shall call a paradigm consisting of a series of all the words built on the same model. This signifying relationship is defined by a certain number of conditions and characteristics which are precise and constant in that they are repeated; that is, they are defined by laws. Etymology ceases to be the study of isolated words and becomes the study of models or structures (Guiraud). Up to now etymology has been the study of words; it can now become the study of the idea.

This method of semantic analysis is based on our perception of precisely defined characteristics which served as the ground for attributing a name to a bird or objects or animals having similar characteristics. Each of the bases serving as the foundation of my method is the expression of one of our senses. The chief bases we are concerned with are:

Sense Sense


Base Base


Hearing: Acoustic impression Hearing: Acoustic impression


: Acoustic impression
Acoustic Acoustic


  Chromatic Chromatic


Sight: Optical impression Sight: Optical impression


: Optical impression
Kinetic Kinetic


  Morphological Morphological


Touch: Tactile impression Touch: Tactile impression


: Tactile impression
Morphological Morphological


  (Rare among bird names) (Rare among bird names)

(Rare among bird names)

Smell: Olfactive impression Smell: Olfactive impression


: Olfactive impression
Ex: English musk; German most; Ex: English musk; German most;

Ex: English musk; German most;

  French moût, moutarde, and émoustiller French moût, moutarde, and émoustiller

French moût, moutarde, and émoustiller

Taste: Gustatory impression Taste: Gustatory impression


: Gustatory impression
(Non-existent among bird names; existent for plants.) (Non-existent among bird names; existent for plants.)

(Non-existent among bird names; existent for plants.)

The group on the left can be associated with colour. (The toad is not vociferous, and one of the common species is characterized by its mottled yellow and black belly). The group on the right can be associated with the voice of these species. (The petrel and the warbler in question are not brightly coloured, but both are very vocal in their own territory). A kinetic origin can be eliminated immediately. (None of these animals has any characteristic movement that is common to the entire group.)

Similarly, on pp. 171-172, Guiraud's following terms could be classified more rationally:

1. Root having a chromatic origin:

Germ. schick and Fr. chic "stylish", also the root of the regionalFrench deschaquetey "made of multicoloured cloth", but not Fr. déchiqueté "jagged" (and having no possible relation to the shah of Persia).

2. Root having a morphological origin: small rounded things or pointed things:

chiquet "tree-top"; Fr. chique "little piece of something" etc. (hence, déchiqueter "to tear into small peices"); chiquer "to chew on a quid ('chique')" is simply a verbalized form.

3. Root having an acoustic origin:

Fr. chicaner "to quarrel, scold", Prov. chica "to prattle".

4. Root having a kinetic origin:

sikè "to be flung with force" chic, chiquenaude "a tap, a snap" chicoter "to sob" tsekula Engl. tickle

This distinction allows us to establish four bases having no semantic links among them and producing terms that resemble each other because of their phonetic convergence. Terms belonging to the four roots mentioned above can be found in almost all the European languages. See appendices 4.1.10/ 5.13.1/ 6.3.10.

In most cases it is possible to classify words in one category or another, but it is necessary to be thoroughly familiar with the subject in question. In the case of caillotin above, one might hesitate: the chaffinch is brightly coloured and is also very vocal. Sometimes the geographical location can be helpful: the chromatic sense of caille is more southern, the acoustic sense more northern. Analysing the other names for the same species usually makes it clear which group phonetically convergent terms belong to. It is indeed their phonetic convergence that led Guiraud to group these two terms together. The problem, if there is one, is to connect the terms with the shared quality they refer to. This is what has never been done methodically by any lexicologist, with the exception of Sadnik & Aitzetmüller (1975), whose work unfortunately remains unfinished.

Our method has the additional advantage of eliminating all the long conjectures in which many etymologists become involved while trying to prove that two homophones are cognates. In these cases metaphor is usually invoked. But up until very recent times metaphor was rarely made use of in building up the vocabulary. It is rather in the written language that metaphor has been more frequently used, and often abused. Metaphor can therefore be invoked as contributing to the formation of words that have entered the vocabulary recently, but not to the creation of the most ancient appellations of things or animals. Things get their names from their aspect or function. "Une vache pie" (a piebald cow) is qualified as "pie" (black and white) because it is this colour, and not because it is the same colour as the bird "pie" (magpie).

The method I have adopted entails starting from several very simple bases which are not hypothetical but existent. These same bases are at the very origin of language and have given us, through the processes of mutation, prosthesis, suffixation and change of grammatical category, all the morphemes existing or having ever existed.

Under each base the words are arranged according to their resemblance, without consideration of locality or language. This makes it possible to follow their phonetic evolution. We shall see that this method, far from being chaotic, brings out a geographic pattern which repeats itself almost invariably for each radical.

The semantic meaning attributed to the base is neither invented nor hypothetical. It derives from the synthesis of the paradigm taken as a whole. It is clearly apparent in the appendix 6.3.1 (kinetic base tr-p) why to trump in neither "to triumph" nor "to play a trumpet", two definitions that are incompatible with the meaning of the verb.

Each category is made up of the series of words representing shared morphological and semantic traits. The morpho-semantic category constitutes the paradigm. Each paradigm constitutes a group within which words are interconnected.

This study grounds any and all theory directly on facts that have been attested in languages and dialects, and it details the resemblances among these languages and dialects without recourse to the reconstruction of prototypes that have disappeared.

The most widespread theory today, but which is by no means accepted by all linguists, starts with a highly complex hypothetical language which, by means of corruption, loss and mutation, is supposed to have given birth to our modern languages. Thus it has been proposed in all seriousness that mille (a thousand) comes from a hypothetical root(s)mghzl(y)o or, more recently *(smiH2)- gheslo- ! (For the origin of mille · 4.7.11).

These prototypes have been attributed with meanings which can only be hypothetical. For can a real meaning be given to a fictive reconstruction ? The prototypes, moreover, have very often been used to link terms that have no semantic relation. The following are a few examples, taken only from among bird names:

Russian utja "duck" has been linked to A.Gr. nêssa id.

A.Gr. kauax "a sea bird" (to which the precise meaning of "gull" has been given) linked with Latin cavannus "owl".

Vha. huon "hen" linked with Latin ciconia "stork".

Skr. pikas "Indian cuckoo" linked with OHG. speh "woodpecker".

Cymry hwyad "duck" linked with Skr. vis "bird".

Another example among many is the linking of flower to blossom via an hypothetical root*bhlos-. The two names derive from different roots, for flower, refer to ð3.1.32.4.; for blossom ð3.1.19.*

It is certainly erroneous to believe that our vocabulary comes from a complex "proto-Indo-European" language as it is represented by the hypothetical reconstructions. On the contrary, each word has evolved from a simple base by the addition of affixes and by permutations, with the base remaining remarkably constant over the millenia.

The hypothetical reconstruction of a Latin or proto-Indo-European word is the most expeditious way - seemingly scholarly but in reality superficial - and also the most effortless way, of establishing an "etymology" which because of the procedure followed is devoid of all logic. To cite just one example among many, oie (goose) "comes from" a hypothetical Latin word avica which is supposed to mean "little bird" - a meaning exactly contrary to reality.

By pursuing rigid reconstruction of proto-Indo-European roots and an obsession with being scientific, linguistics has been led to dress itself in a faulty rigour for which there is no model. What method is it, moreover, that allows, for example, the Albanian sorrë (raven) to derive from kwèrnà ? We can agree with Wagner (1969: 361) that "non è possibile analizzare quali nomi (codisaitta etc.) con le sole resorse della fonetica".

Etymologists have too often sacrificed everything to the "requirements of phonetics", even logic, common sense and the most obvious evidence. They have juggled with hypothetical words and speculated with a no less hypothetical semantic evolution. But when the word exists, the structure, or even the inner framework, exists. It has only to be revealed. Roots should not be created but discovered in place.

So let us leave facile solutions aside. The lexicology reproduced in the present study is the result of an extensive search. It is fruitful and helpful if one takes the time and trouble to implement it.

This study aims to describe a certain number of models and paradigms (matrixes, elementary structures) in order to build up a typology of the European lexis.

Although the bases detailed here represent a large part of the European bases (others will be found in the Germanic languages, which I have studied very little), the paradigms themselves are far from complete. It will take several generations to complete them and in the end it will be on this model that a real analytico-semantic dictionary of European languages will be established. "The problem of inventaries and the handling of them is fundamental. As soon as this problem is resolved, etymology will outgrow its infancy and free itself from its myths. It is not absurd to think that an electronic machine will be the greatest lexicologist of our generation, for in the first analysis the critical value of simple a listings is in itself so great that the conclusions will become obvious by themselves" (Guiraud, p. 44). The present work is a first step in that direction.

I have listed here only the terms needed to show 1) the continuity of the idea and 2) the evolution of the radical. In each case a term from late vulgar Latin is given for a single Romance language and generally without any derivative, unless the latter sheds some light on the semantic or phonetic evolution.

Because the Romance languages are the ones that have been examined the most thoroughly in this study, it is natural that Basque, Celtic, Germanic, Slavic and other words play a marginal role in the filiations. A detailed study of the Germanic languages would have slightly modified the construction of the paradigms, without, however, changing the principle. Primarily it would have improved them. It was nonetheless a physical and material impossibility for a lone researcher to broaden the field of the research.

In order to construct a paradigm, the word must first be linked to the base whose semantic content is known. The direction of the borrowing, if borrowing is involved, or the substratic origin will emerge subsequently.

In order to be inserted in a paradigm, a word must clearly and strictly fit the semantic content of the base. Hence, the place of the word in the filiation reduces doubtful and illogical etymologies to zero. To paraphrase A. Rey, it is not a question of denying that grive (thrush) comes from graecus [or oie (goose) from avica, but of showing that this origin explains nothing. Here a collection of internal causalities should replace the single external cause, the cause behind the symbol. The sense of etymology is to find a causal connection between sound sequence and meaning.

Objects or animals bearing the same name (or a variant of it) must have a shared characteristic, with the exception of cases of phonetic convergence. This characteristic produces their common denomination and its meaning can be confirmed by the residual meaning of adjectives in the dialects.

Within each paradigm the continuity of its phonetic evolution (second column) and of its idea (third column) become perceptible. In the first column, the languages are not listed chaotically but in a sequence that is also utilized in the other paradigms.

Certain specialists will note with surprise that the filiations I have developed contain a certain number of extra-European terms. This study does not aim at demonstrating the common origin or unicity of all languages. So in order to justify these inclusions and guide those readers who might be incredulous or caught up in preconceived notions, I will cite a few of the more serious studies published on the question of kinship among the languages:

Brunner, L., 1969. Die gemeinsamen Wurzeln des semitischen und des indogermanischen Wortschatzes. Bern.

Cavalli-Sforza, Luca, 1994. The history and geography of human genes. Princeton Univ. Press.

Cavalli-Sforza, L.-L. 1996. Gènes, peuples et langues. Odile Jacob, Paris.

Cavalli-Sforza, Luca & A. Piazza, 1993. Human genomic diversity in Europe: A summary of recent research and prospect for the future. Euro. J. Hum. Genet. 1: 3-18.

Déczy, G., 1983. Global linguistic connections. Bibliotheca Nostratica, vol 5. Eurolingua, Bloomington, Indiana.

Eckardt, André, 1966. Koreanisch und Indogermanisch.

Illich-Svitych, V.M. 1871. Opyt sravenija nostraticheskix jazykov. Moscow: Nauka.

Lahovary, N. 1963. Dravidian origins and the West. Bombay.

Mukharovsky, Hans G., 1925. Euro-saharanisch, eine alte Spracheinheit Europas und Afrikas. Mitt. anthr. Ges. Wien 95: 66-76.

Rahder, Johannes, 1963. Etymological vocabulary of Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Ainu. Orbis 12: 45-116.

Rivet, Paul, 1925a. Les Australiens en Amérique. Bull. Soc. Ling. Paris 26: 23-63.

Rivet, Paul, 1925b. Sumériens et Polynésiens.

Ruhlen, Merritt, 1987. A guide to the world's languages. Standord Univ. Press, Stanford, Calif.

Ruhlen, Merrit, 1994. The origin of language. John Wiley & Sons, New York, Chichester. (See in particular his bibliography).

Shafer, Robert, 1963. Eurasial. Orbis 12: 19-44.

Stopa, R. 1966. Afrikanisch und Indogermanisch. Phonetica 14: 181-189.

Swadesh, Morris, 1960. On interhemispheric linguistic connections. P. 895-924 in: Culture in History, Essay in honor of P. Radin Diamond, S., editor.

Swadesh, Morris, 1971. The origin and diversification of language. Chicago, New York.

Trombetti, Alfredo, 1962. L'unità d'origine dei linguaggie. Bologna.

Ulenbrook, Jan, 1967. Einige Ueberstimmungen zwischen dem chinesischen und dem Indogermanischen. Anthropos 62.

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