Vocabulary And Phraseology

The first intimation of Indo-European poetry as a possible object of study came from Adalbert Kuhn's discovery in 1853 of a phrase common to Vedic and Homeric poetry: aksiti srâvah or srâvas . .. aksitam, KAéos a^dtrov. The constituent words were cognate, and the concept they expressed, 'unfading glory', was clearly not so much at home in everyday speech as in poetry, or at any rate in elevated discourse. It seemed a reasonable hypothesis that this collocation of words was traditional both in Indic and in Greek poetry, and that the tradition went back to the time of a common language.

This particular formula, and others relating to glory, will be considered more closely in Chapter 10. Here we shall undertake a general survey of poetic vocabulary, phraseology, and verbal idioms that may plausibly be inferred for Indo-European from comparisons between the different traditions.

First it is important to make the point that while etymological correspondence, as in srâvas .. . âksitam = KAéos a^dtrov, is a satisfying and telling element in such comparisons, it is not a sine qua non. We have to allow for a phenomenon universal in the history of languages, namely lexical renewal.10 An old word fades away and is replaced by a more modern synonym. This can happen even to the most basic and common vocables. One would not have thought that such essential everyday words in Latin as caput and equus could ever fall out of use; and yet in the Romance languages the words for 'head' and 'horse' derive from testa and caballus, slang words that came to prevail in vulgar Latin. In an ancient poetic formula one or more of the words might come to be replaced by younger equivalents, without the phrase losing its historical identity.

Sometimes we can see the process happening before our eyes. For instance, an early Indic formula *uru srâvas 'wide glory', corresponding to Homeric KAéos evpv, is reflected in the personal name Urusravas, which occurs in the

9 Petr. Sat. 90. 3; V. N. Toporov, Poetica 13 (1981), 209; Watkins (1994), 467. On the her-meticism of the Indo-European poet cf. Watkins's whole paper, 456-72; id. (1995), 179-93.

10 Cf. Campanile (1977), 21-3; id., Diachronica 10 (1993), 1-12; Meid (1978), 13; Watkins (1995), 10, 15.

Puranas, and in the expanded phrase urugayam sravah 'wide-going glory' (RV 6. 65. 6); but the old word uru- was giving way already in the Veda to the near-synonym prthu- (= Greek nXarvs), and hence we find in RV 1. 9. 7 prthu sravo .. . aksitam, and in 1. 116. 21 the name Prthusravas. Later sravas- itself yielded ground to kirti- (which appears only once in the Rigveda) and yasas-, so that in the Mahabhurata we find people's kirti- or yasas- declared to be aksaya- (= the Vedic aksiti- or aksita-) or mahat- (as Vedic mahi sravah, Greek /¿ya KAeos).11

Here is another example that involves more languages. There was evidently in MIE an expression 'both in word and in deed' or 'neither in word nor in deed', based on the alliterating instrumentals *wekweshi .. . *wergohi. Both words survive in the archaic Greek poetic version of the idiom, rf enei rf epywi (Il. 1. 504, cf. 395); ovr enei . . . ovre ti epywi (5. 879); -q/iev enei ySe Kai epywi (Hymn. Dem. 117). In classical prose enos has been replaced by Aoyos, and so for example Lysias (9. 14) writes ovTe Aoywi ovTe epywi. Gathic Avestan preserves the original root for 'word', but has a different one for 'deed': vacagha syaodanaca.12 Contrariwise, Old English and Norse have a different root for 'word' but the primary one for 'deed': in Norse, or5 ok verk 'word and deed' (Grugas i. 162, ii. 336); or5 mer af or5i or5z leita5i, verc mer af verki vercs leita5i, 'word found me word from word, deed found me deed from deed' (Havamal 141); in Old English, wordum ne worcum 'by words nor deeds' (Beowulf 1100).13 In modern English 'work' has come to have a more restricted sense, and instead of 'in word and work' we now say 'in word and deed'. Both of the original lexical terms have thus been replaced, but the five-thousand-year-old phrase retains its identity.

In looking for Indo-European idioms, therefore, it is not necessary to limit ourselves to comparisons where all the terms stand in etymological relationship. It is legitimate to adduce expressions that are semantically parallel, even if the vocabulary diverges, provided that they are distinctive enough to suggest a common origin.

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