Compound words

Where do 'poetic' words come from? They may be archaisms repeated from older poets, words that were once in general use but are no longer. Or they may be poetic coinages that never were part of ordinary speech. Much the

11 aksaya-, MBh. 3. 42. 22, 77. 26; 8. 738*. 3; mahatim kirtim 3. 83. 106.

12 Y. 31. 22, cf. 34. 1, 47. 1, 48. 4; with a different form of the vac root, uxSais, syao8na, 44. 10, 51. 21.

13 Cf. Beowulf289, 1833; Christ III 918, 1237; Christ and Satan 48, 223; Guthlac 581.

most numerous class of these in the Indo-European traditions consists of compound adjectives and nouns.

Nominal composition was a characteristic feature of Indo-European, and the language provided its users with a set of templates according to which new compounds could be formed whenever required, just as in modern English we can freely improvise new compounds on the patterns of 'dishwasher', 'mind-bending', 'kitchen-cum-diner', 'pro-hunting', or 'ex-convict'. In the ancient languages many compounds came into being to serve commonplace needs. Early examples can be reconstructed from Sanskrit durmanas- = Avestan dusmanah- = Greek Sva^ev^s, all meaning 'ill-spirited' in one sense or another, or from Vedic sudina- = Greek evSia, evSieivos, 'good sky, fine day', with its antonym surviving in Old Church Slavonic duzdi, Russian go^gt 'rain'. There is nothing intrinsically poetic about these.

Poets, on the other hand, create and recycle compounds for decorative rather than pragmatic purposes. In Vedic, Greek, and Germanic verse we constantly encounter compounds which cannot have been current in normal speech and which serve to enrich the utterance with a condensation of associated ideas. In a limited number of cases parallel formations in different languages (with the same roots but sometimes a different stem) may point to common inheritance. The Homeric avSpoj>ovos 'man-slaying', an epithet of heroes and of the war-god, is composed of the same elements as Vedic nrhan-, which is applied to Rudra and to the Maruts' lightning-weapon. They appear in inverse order in the Avestan hapax jonora-.14 In Hesiod's wKvnerns ipni 'swift-flying hawk' the epithet corresponds to that in RV 4. 26. 4 syenah . .. asupatva 'swift-flying eagle (or falcon)'.15 Homeric beds are evarpwra, which corresponds to Avestan hustarota- (of the couches of the righteous, Yt. 17. 9). Birds of prey are w^narai 'raw-eaters' in Homer, amad- in the Vedas (RV 10. 87. 7, AV 11. 10. 8), both from *omo- + *ed.16 When Empedocles calls the gods SoXixaiwves (B 21. 12, 23. 8; P. Strasb. a(ii) 2), he may have known the word from older poetry, or put it together himself; in any case it is matched by Vedic dirghiyu- (of Indra, RV 4. 15. 9) and -ayus-, Avestan darogayu- (Y. 28. 6, 41. 4).17

There are several examples of a curious type of compound in which a modifying prefix is attached to a proper name. In the Atharvaveda (13. 4. 2, 17. 1. 18) we find Mahendra, that is, maha-Indra, 'Great Indra'. In the Iliad we

14 Schmitt (1967), 123-7; H. Schmeja in Mayrhofer et al. (1974), 385-8; Durante (1976), 97; Campanile (1977), 118 f.; (1990b), 60.

15 Hes. Op. 212; cf. Schmitt (1967), 236 f.; Campanile (1990b), 155; Gamkrelidze-Ivanov (1995), 455.

16 Gamkrelidze-Ivanov (1995), 603. 17 Schmitt (1967), 161 f.; Schlerath (1968), ii. 164.

have Avanapts 'Ill-Paris', in the Odyssey KaKoiXtos 'evil Troy', in Alcman Alvonapts, in Euripides (Or. 1387, Iph. Aul. 1316) AvaeXeva, and in Alexandrian poets AlveXevn 'Bane-Helen'. In west and north Germanic tradition the Goths were sometimes called Hreipgotar, 'the glorious Goths'.18 Thor appears in the Eddas with various prefixes: Ving^orr, Asa^orr 'Thor of the ^sir', Qku^orr 'driving Thor'. Instances are common in Irish poetry.19 The individual examples are clearly not of Indo-European antiquity, but the type may be, providing poets with a traditional means of enhancing a name.

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