restricted access Chapter 17: Semantic Clusters: Society, Politics, Law and Abstraction

From: Black Athena

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[CH. 17] POLITICS, LAW, AND ABSTRACTION 405 CHAPTER 17 SEMANTIC CLUSTERS: SOCIETY, POLITICS, LAW AND ABSTRACTION INTRODUCTION This chapter is concerned with what in modern universities are considered the social sciences: Society, politics, law and abstraction. Greek civilization has generally been accepted, at least by Western cultures, as preeminent in these semantic areas. The number of aspects of these topics in which modern European languages draw upon Greek vocabulary is illustrative of this acceptance. Therefore, it is particularly interesting to see that many such terms that are familiar to non-Greek speakers ultimately have Afroasiatic origins. SOCIETY Introduction In some ways this section can be seen as a “grab bag,” that is to say, a list of etymologies that cannot be fitted into other sections. On the other hand, its broad range illustrates the number of aspects of Greek society that have been directly or indirectly affected by speakers of Afroasiatic languages. 406 BLACK ATHENA Egyptian vocabulary First in our Egyptian words is ˆp(Å)t, the name of the harem. The Greek ajpavth (H) is “trickery, ruse, artifice” and later attested as “pastime, pleasure .” The phonetics are excellent and the semantics interestingly attractive . For Chantraine, the etymology is “unknown.” The Egyptian ˆqr has a wide range of meanings, all of them positive: “excellent, splendid, wealthy, superior, trustworthy.” The word provides a good etymology for ajglaov" (H) “brilliant, glorious.” Chantraine is uncertain but he suggests a connection with gelavw, normally “laugh” but he introduces a special sense of eclat (de rire) “burst (of laughter).” This is clearly inadequate. In addition, ˆqr supplies a good etymon for the prefix ajga- “great, glorious.” Chantraine is “uncertain” about its origin. Aga- is best known for its attachment to names, most famously to Agamevnwn. The origin of the second portion of the name and its Egyptian and Ethiopian connections are discussed in Volume 2.1 Also, ˆqr “excellent” provides an explanation for ajgaio", an epithet of a sacrificial lamb in the regulations of the Labyad phratry at Delphi. Chantraine writes of this “sense and etymology unknown.” Similarly, with the liquid /i/ retained there is Ai[glh (H) “radiance.” Chantraine has no etymology for this either. On its own, ˆtˆ is a term with a wide range of meanings: “to seize, take, carry off, plunder, surpass.” Derivatives include ˆtw or ˆtÅ “thief.” The Coptic form is o\d. Vycichl sees this as coming from an active participle * ia\tiy. In the Iliad there are two obscure hapakes: ai[hton and a[hton.2 Both contexts would fit the sense of “fierce” or “violent.” The Egyptian compound ˆt ˆn means “disorderly or erratic movement.” The verb ajavw (H) is “to bring harm to, wander erratically.” The erratic movement is attributed to the goddess {Ath, who was the personification of ajavth or a—[th “blind folly, violent recklessness.” Using an Aeolic form ajuvta as his base, Chantraine proposes an original digamma. This proposal somewhat weakens the phonetics of the parallels with the Egyptian terms. The French lexicographer, however, states that the etymology is unknown. Thus, given the excellent semantic fit between ate@ and ˆtˆ and ˆt ˆn and the reasonable phonetic fit there seems no reason to deny an Egyptian etymology. CËerny reconstructed ŒÅbt “offering gift” as * ŒoÅbet.3 As an adjective ŒÅb meant “pleasing, pleasant” but also “selfish.” The Greek o[lbo" (H) [CH. 17] POLITICS, LAW, AND ABSTRACTION 407 is “material happiness, blest, prosperous.” Chantraine describes this etymology as “obscure.” Klein associates the Hebrew Œåre\b “pleasant, sweet” with the biblical Aramaic Œårab “mixed, meddled.” It can more plausibly be seen as a loan from the Egyptian ŒÅb. Wr ˆb, literally “great heart,” meant “insolent, arrogant.” With the acceptable metathesis liquid from second to third position this word makes an excellent etymon for u{bri" (H) “insolent.” Szemerényi proposed a borrowing from the hypothetical Hittite form * hu(wa)ppar “outrage,” based on the verb huwap “maltreat.”4 Chantraine is not convinced, nor am I. WÅwÅ meant “to take counsel, consider, think about,” while oi[omai (H) was “to believe, consider.” The negative ajnwvisto" was “without consideration .” Chantraine believes that the sigma in such forms is primary at the beginning of a long chain of reconstruction: * oj¸ivs-¥omai> * oj(¸)ivo-¥omai > * oj(¸)-¥omai > oi[omai. Chantraine admits the etymology is unknown. Although the Egyptian etymology cannot explain the /s/ in some composite forms, it is otherwise strong in both phonetics and semantics . The earliest meaning of pravttw/pravssw is “to pass through...


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