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Valentyn Stetsyuk (Lviv, Ukraine)

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To the Question of Slavic-Iranian Language Connections

The vast majority of Iranian lexical borrowings do not cover the entire Slavic world, so the researchers tried to link the words of Iranian origin to one of the three Slavic groups – Western, Eastern and Southern, based on their own ideas about the place and time of possible contacts between the Slavs and the Iranians. The ancient Iranians and Slavs did not have direct contact with each other, so Iranian borrowings in the Slavic languages could have taken place from Kurdish and Ossetian, whose speakers remained in Europe after the migration of the bulk of the Iranians to Asia. Also, the Iranian substratum could have influenced the Slavic languages after the Slavs settled in the territory previously occupied by the Iranians in the space between the Dnieper and the Don.

For the most part, the Iranian-Slavic language correspondences are associated with the migrations of the Cimmerians-Kurds across Europe (see the section Cimmerians) during which they could have contact with both the Proto-Slavs (PSl) and individual groups of Slavs after the collapse of the Slavic community. Using the Kurdish language in a targeted search, one can find common Slavic words that may be of Iranian origin. For example, they can include those that go back to the Proto-SlavicUsing the Kurdish language in a targeted search, one can find common Slavic words that may be of Iranian origin. For example, they can include those that go back to the Proto-Slavic (PSl) ezero "lake", čepŭ "plug, bung", trěskŭ "thunder, lightning". PSl. čepŭ has been descended by Rus chop, Ukr. chip, Bulg. chep, Pol. czep, Cz., Slvk. čep. PSl. ezero has matches in the Baltic languages (Lith. ežeras "lake, pond" and Let. ezers the same), which are connected with Arm. ezr "border, edge" (FRAENKEL ERNST. 1962-1965, 125). However, the source of borrowing for both Slavic and Baltic words is Kurd. zirē "lake", which is connected with Av. zrayō "sea", OPers. draya "sea" (TSABOLOV R.L. 2010: 526). The original form is preserved in Rus. dial. naziri "on the lake", that is, "on the ziri" (see VASMER MAX. 1971. 125). The name of thunder was also borrowed into the Baltic and Slavic languages from Kurdish, which is preserved in South Kurdish as trîşke "thunderstorm", "thunder", and "lightning" and in Slavic and Baltic similar words also took on the meaning of "crack" in a broader sense. E. Fraenkel attributed Lit. trešketi "to crack", "click", "crunch", and many similar Slavic words with the same meaning to the Germanic ones in the meaning "thresh" (FRAENKEL ERNST. 1962-1965: 1120; MELNYCHUK O.S. (Ed.). 2006, 644-645). Perhaps all these words go back to an ancient Indo-European root of a broader meaning, but the identity of the Proto-Slavic and Kurdish words speaks of the borrowing of Lithuanian and widely spread Slavic words with the same meaning from Kurdish.

In the Baltic languages, there are still other borrowings from Kurdish associated with the stay of the Cimmerian Kurds in the Baltic States. Kurds came to the Baltics from Asia Minor through the North Caucasus and Eastern Ukraine. Place names of Kurdish origin indicate that in the east of Ukraine they lingered for a long time, so there should be some borrowings in Ukrainian with Kurdish. Even then, Kurdish had borrowings from the Akkadian language, one of the Semitic languages, which for a long time was the "lingua franca" in the Middle East. The similarity of some Kurdish words to Arabic can be explained by just such borrowings.

It is considered commonly that Slavic word meaning "God" is originated from Iranian (PSl bogъ, Bulg, Blr, Crv, Serb, Ukr bog, Polish bóg, Cz. bůh, etc.). In the etymological dictionary of Iranian languages, OIr is the root bag- "to endow, distribute, donate", from which comes Oir. baga- "share, fate, destiny" and personified "God", considered in great detail (RASTORGUYEVA V.S., EDELMAN D.I. 2003: 45-57). The assumption that the Church-Slav. bogъ "God" took shape "under the Iranian influence in the Scythian era" arose long ago (ibid, 48-49). However, A. Brückner rightly notes that there was no contact between the ancient Slavs and Persia, and no one knows whether the Scythians had such a word (BRÜCKNER Aleksander 1927: 34). V. Abaev suggested that it still existed in the "Scythian" language, which he himself arranged and attributed to Iranian (ABAYEV V.I. 1979: 283). His assumption is based on an erroneous idea of the Scythians as an Iranian-speaking people, whose descendants Abaev also erroneously considered the Ossetians, but there is no such word in the Ossetian language. The only Iranian people with whom the ancient Slavs could have had contact were the Cimmerian-Kurds on their way to Western Europe, where they became known as the Cimbri. In the Kurdish language, as in some other Iranian languages, there is a reflection of OIr root baga- in the form bahr- "part, share, destiny" (RASTORGUYEVA V.S., EDELMAN D.I. 2003: 55). At the time of the contact of the Kurds with the Slavs, they could still have the original form and precisely in the meaning of "God". This assumption is confirmed by the decoding of the word Bagaudae, which has no explanation, but it was called the participants in the resistance to Roman expansion in Gaul. Together with the Kurds ud “gauard, protection” the word can be translated as “defenders of fate, that is, of their own identity”. One can think that it was the Cimbri who led the struggle of the population of Galli with Rome

In general, Iranian loanwords are found only in a few Slavic languages, but they are not characteristic for only one of the groups. The artificial division of the Slavic languages in the mentioned groups was badly tied with neighborhood some Slavic tribes with Iranian ones. Attempts to give some Iranian etymology for common Slavic words with unclear etymology do not seem convincing (HERZENBERG L.G. 1976). A question about how the Iranian loan words occurred in the western branch of Slavic languages has a particular interest.

In view of the fact that the Ancient Kurds populated Podolia and a part of eastern Poland before the arrival of the Slavs here, the Kurdish substrate could affect Ukrainian and Polish, and contacts of the Kurds with the ancestors of the Czechs and Slovaks which dwelt in the territory adjacent to the Kurds have left their traces in the languages of these peoples. The Kurdish substrate could affect also the Eastern Slavic languages but of a more profound nature as the Left Bank Ukraine was settled by different peoples – the Balts, the Anglo-Saxons, Mordvins before the Slavs. This topic will be dealt with separately.

Studying Slavic-Iranian connections, O. Trubachev operated mainly with ancient languages such as Avesta, Iranian, and sometimes, Indian but modern languages were taken into account by him very seldom, the Kurdish language was ignored at all but he used imagined Scythian-Sarmatian (SS) language:

Pol. baczyć, Slvk. bačiti se, Ukr. bačyty “to see” – SS word *abiáxša (East Ir. abi-áxšaya "to observe"),

Pol. patrzyć, Cz. patřiti, Slvk. patrit’, Cr. (dial.). patriti “to look” – SS *pаtraya (Av. patar – "observer"),

Pol. szatrzyć, Cz. šetřiti, Slvk. šetrit’, Slvk. ošatriti, Cr. šatriti – SS *catrayaša (Ir. šatraya "domination"),

Pol. dbać, Cz. dbati, Slvk. dbat’, Ukr. dbaty “to care for” – SS *dbaya (Av. - dêbaêš "to be at enmity"),

Pol. trwać, Cz. trvati, Slvk. trvat’, Ukr. tryvaty, Sl.-Bulg. traja, Serb./Cr. trajati “to go on” *tarvaya (Old Ind. trayate "to protect"),

Pol. pitwać, Cz. pitvati “to dismember” – SS *paitva (Av. waθpoi "to make small"),

Pol. żwawy, Ukr. žwawyj “quick” – SS *j'uvaya (Afg. zhwand),

Pol. raróg, Cz. rarašek, Slvk. raroh, Ukr. rarih "a falcon" – Afg. varegan "a falcon".

Pol. poczwara, Ukr. počvara “a monster” did out SS *pacvara (Ir. pacvara),

Pol., Cz., Slvk., Ukr. pan “a master, sir” – *gupаna (gypana "the guard of cattle"),

Pol., Cz., Slvk., Ukr. kat “a hangman” – SS *kata (Av. kaya “to repent”) (TRUBACHEV O.N., 1965).

Some of these etymologies seem to be far-fetched, but the Trubachov’s conclusions were taken overall with attention, especially scientists tried to give some hypothetical explanations for Iranian loanwords in Polish:

With regard to the Polish-Iranian relations, they are obviously the result of the penetration of the Iranian population in the southern Baltic at the turn of our era (SEDOV V.V. 1979: 33).

As you can see, Sedov's assumption is not far from the truth, although he could not determine the exact ethnicity of the mentioned Iranian population. Found in our study some Kurdish-Slavic matches complement a previously received answer to this question, explaining the real origin of some Slavic words. For example, it is considered that the word gonchar "a potter, thrower" has the same origin as words garnets, gorshok "a pot", gorn "forge", but Kurd gunç "clay pot" is phonetically near. Etymologically dark Slav *čeljad' “servants, family, young people, women” can be derived from Kurd çelî 1. "a child", 2. "a clan" with the Slavic suffix of plural –d’. If Eng child also belongs to this root, then we can speak of its Thracian origin (Alb çilimi “a child”). Also the origin of the Slav *rak “a cancer” is unclear. Its origin can be linked to a Kurd req 1. "a cancer" 2. "hard, hard".

The similarity of the Slavic višna "cherry" to the Kurdish fišna "the same" is enigmatic. M. Vasmer believed that they come from M.H.G wîhsel "cherry", but later abandoned this idea, because this plant has Asian origin, therefore, its name must have an Asian appeal. This word is unknown in the Turkic languages, except for Turkish and Azerbaijani, in which the word vişne is considered to be a borrowing from modern Greek βιοσινια (MELNYCHUK O.S. (Ed/). 1982: 388). Since the Turkish word is more like Slavic, an assumption exists that it was directly borrowed from one of them, and the Kurdish word – from Turkish did (TSABOLOV R.L. 2001: 362). However, the Turks came into direct contact with the Slavs only 500 years ago, when the cherry had been familiar to them for a long time and they had no need to borrow its name from the Slavs. The Slavs could have borrowed it much earlier from the Kurds. Given the Asian origin of the plant, the source of borrowing in both Turkish and Kurdish must be some kind of dead language of Asia Minor.

In Transnistria, exactly where the ancient settlement of Kurds was located, local Ukrainian dialects have words that correspond to words in the Kurdish language:

Kurd berd "a stone" – Ukr. berdo "a rock, hill";

Kurd berx "a lamb" – Ukr. berk "a sheep";

Kurd. qaç "a shin" – Rus gachi "thighs, pants", Ukr. gachi "underpants", Bulg. gaschi "pants", Pol gacie "pants” a.o. Slavic.

Kurd gerden "neck" – Ukr. gerdan "female necklace";

Kurd. wab "promise" – Rus vabit’, Ukr. vabyty, Pol wabić a. o. Slav "to attract, draw".

Ukr khata “a hous” (this word is borrowed from Ukrainian in other Slavic languages) and Ukr iriy “a dreamy country where birds fly in autumn” are considered to have Iranian origin too. To say something definite about the first word is difficult but the second one has the Bulgarish origin and considered in its proper place (see Turkic-Slavic Language Connections). One can also assume Iranian origin of common Slavic word lono, having different meanings, including "bosom", "low part of belley", "(female) sex organs" (VASMER MAX, 1967, 517; MELNYCHUK O.S., 1989, 286 ). Words of similar meaning are usually absent in dictionaries, but Talishi has the word lonə "hole", Persian lane, Tajik lona, and Kurdish lаn "a nest". Slavic pizda "female sex organs" has the same nature as has Iranian piston "bosom", but Kurd. pizdan 1. "afterbirth", 2. "miscarriage". Thus such explanation of the origin of the word lono is much more plausible than the proposed etymology from the original form *loksno with a match in Greek λοξοσ "oblique". One can consider such pairs also:

Ukr. haluz’ "a branch" – Kurd. helez "brushwood";

Ukr. gedz’ "a botfly" – Kurd. gez "to bite";

Ukr. meshkaty "dwell" – Kurd. mesken "domicile", "dwelling" (cf. Ar. maskan "dwelling place");

Ukr, Rus kopyl "boot-tree", "pole, pier" – Kurd kopal "stick", obviously the primary meaning of the word was "branch, offset" (cf. Rom copil "a child", Bulg kopele, Serb. kopil "bastard";

Ukr. t'ahar “weight, burden” – Kurd. texar "weight";

Ukr. yaskravyj "bright" – Kurd. aşkere "obvious".

Many Slavic and Baltic languages have a whole group of words meaning gravel, rubble, a stone which substantially differ among themselves phonetically, but linguists consider these words as having common though also mysterious origin – Ukr. žvir, Rus. gversta, grestva, Pol. żwir, dziarstwo, Lit. žwiřzdas, Let. zvirgdzi, etc. The Kurd. gevir "boulder" phonetically and semantic is very similar to these words, so a source of borrowing can be just the Kurdish language. Kurd. words givir "strong", givrik "larg", obviously, are of the same root. The Ukrainian word hančirka and Polish hanczurka “cloth” could be borrowed out of NUG Handscheure “a cloth for wiping hands”. This explanation is questionable, as both the German and Polish words are not wide-spread, and the Ukrainian word is used more in Eastern Ukraine. Therefore, we can consider borrowing of the Ukrainian word from Kurdish, where phonetically closest equivalent ginçiri "rags" is present. Slavic loanword in Kurdish can be Kurd. selef "a source" which has no matches in other Iranian languages. Corresponding Slavic words can be those: Serb., Slvn. slap "a falls", Cz. slap “a cataract on the river ”, Slvk. slopat’ "to whip", Rus. Solpa “cataract on the river Msta”, Solopovka – the name of the river in the Perm region. It is unclear what relation has to these words Eng slop of unknown origin. Proto-Slavic form should be *solpa, hence, Kurdish loanword could take place already after development of the phenomenon of pleophony, i.e. approximately in the middle of the 1st thousand AD. Etymologically unclear Slav struk "a pod" can occur from the Kurd. strî "a prickle", and the Kurd. trîşke "thunder-storm" is somehow connected with Slav. tresk “crackling”. One can pay attention also to such correspondence: Ukr prysk “a spark” – a Kurd pirîsk "a spark." The root prs/prsk in words meaning "to splash, spray, sprinkle" is presented in the Indo-European and Finno-Ugric languages widely. The Ukrainian and Kurdish words have sense "a spark." Is thes a borrowing or an independent formation? M. Fasmer draws attention to the correspondence of Ukr khmara “a cloud” to Finnish word hämärä “dark”, but does not consider the possibility of a connection between these words "on geographical considerations." Meanwhile, the Kurdish language has the words xumar “dark”, xumari “darkness”, xumri "red" which the Ancient Kurds could borrow from the neighboring Veps on their Urheimat (Veps hämär “twilight"). Then the Ukrainians and Bulgars (Chuv hămăr "brown") has borrowed the word from the Kurd. With such a semantic field, the similarity of the Kurdish word to Ar. xumār "sickness after drinking" should be considered accidental.

The Slavic languages were formed partly in the same Ethno-Producing Areas, which in previously the Iranian languages did. Some Iranian words entered Slavic as a substrate. Some of the above examples can be explained by the influence of the substrate, but there are cases that allow us to speak about this more reliable. The area between the Desna, Sula, and Dnieper Rivers was first settled by the ancestors of Armenians, later these Iranians settled here, whose language has evolved in Pashto (Afghani), and even later there began to form the Slovenian. France Bezlaj (BEZLAJ FRANCE, 1976: 16) means as possible to connect Slvn bek (the old form bъkъ) “furnace” with Arm boc "fire" and bosor "red", proving that this word cannot be Slavic and cannot be loaned from vulgar Latin (Lat focus "stove" is related to the Armenian word) for the phonologic reasons though it is not clear him “in what way has come this word to the Southern Slavs”. The Armenian bosor can be connected to Afg busar “smouldering ashes” which stays isolated among the Iranian languages. Thus, the way of borrowing was from Proto-Armenian substratum through Proto-Afghani in language of the latest Slavic population of this area. F. Bezlaj connects also Slvn bed, the Serb. bêd "air" with Persian bаd "air", "wind". The word of this root in sense "wind" is present in many Iranian languages including Pashto therefore it is not excluded, that these Slavic words can be considered as the Iranian substratum too. The word lopta/lapta (Slvn, Serb lopta, Rus. lapta etc.) is present in many Slavic languages, haaving sense “ball”, “a game with a ball ”, or seldom „a stick for beating a ball” Vasmer deduced this word from lopata "shovel", and this explanation is repeated in the Etymological dictionary of the Ukrainian language (VASMER MAX, 1964-1974, MELINYCHUK O.S., The editor, 1982-2004). However two reasons let us doubt of such etymology. At first the sense „a stick for beating a ball” can be found only in Russian and Belarussian languages, while this word means "ball", "sphere", "lump" in other Slavic languages. At second, in the Macedonian form of the word is lopka. The word lap/lop/lob in sense "ball", "cheek", “something convex” is wide-spread among the Iranian languages. These facts give us the reason to conjecture that the word lopta had the primary form lop-ka (-ka – is the Slavic suffix) and that it is the Iranian substratum in Russian and South Slavic languages. Some other South Slavic words (Slvn. šiba, Serb. šiba “a twig” and Slvn. hrana, Serb. xrana “food”) can be considered as Iranian substratum too (TRUBACHEV O.N., 1965).

The area between the Desna and the Iput’ was populated in turn by ancient Phrigians, Sogdians (modern-day Yagnobians) and ancestors of the Serbs and Croatians. The Snov River distinctly divides this area on two halves, therefore the division of the primary Slavic tribe into Serbs and Croatians could take place on the ancient home-land. However, the substrate phenomena are difficult to be found as we almost do not have lexical material of the Phrigian language, and the available Yagnobian one is very scarce. Nevertheless, the substrate influences of the Proto-Sogdian language on Serbo-Croatian can be confirmed by such parallels: Serb budija "turkey" – Yagn búdina "quail", Serb. buva "fly" – Yagn buvva "flea", the Serb. kulaš “dun horse” – Yagn kulo "dun horse", Serb. kuћа "a hut" – Yagn kuč "family", Serb. čuka "sheep" – Yagn šok "a ram".

Serbian has also some words having matches in other Iranian languages: Serb badža "tot, cabby lad" – common Ir bača "boy", Serb. kurija “ room, a rent ” – Yagn kroî "to cost", Kurd kerin "to buy".

The extreme east area of the whole Indo-European territory on the extreme east area of the whole Indo-European territory on the watershed of the tributaries of the Dnepr and the Volga was the area of the Thracian language. Later Ancient Kurds were separated from the Iranian community here, then Balts came, and after them those Slavs, who became ancestors of modern Bulgarians. We don’t know much about the Thracian language, and possible lexical matches between it and Bulgarian can be related already to the Balkan substratum. Thus, only searching for possible Bulgarian-Kurdish lexical parallels can give us some results. Bulg. bagazáj "matchmaker" is marked as "not clear" in the etymological dictionary of the Bulgarian language (GEORGIEV V.L., GЪLЪBOV Iv.,1971). This word can be explained on the Kurdish basis: Kurd. bava "father" and zava "son-in-law", having zayin "to give birth" and zoy "son" in Pashto. The origin of the obscure name of a plant bozlan can be explained with the help of Kurd boz "grey" and lam "leaf". Bulgarian xubav "good" can be connected with Kurd. xob "good" though this word is the common Iranian.

Separately, by way of a hypothesis, one can say about the possible connection between Yagn. gajk "a daughter" isolated among all Iranian languages with Slavic words of type gajka “female screw, nut”. M. Vasmer noted it as “a difficult word. It has more wide sense in the Serbian language than in the Eastern Slavic languages, namely – 1) "a nut"; 2) “a ring of an aim framework ”; 3) “a mobile ring on bridle”, therefore the word can be the most ancient in this language and occur from the Iranian substratum if to take into account also such analogy: Germ Mutter 1) "mother"; 2) "a nut".

Of course, the number of correspondences between the Iranian and Slavic languages can be much larger. While it is possible to propose for the consideration the following cases:

Old Slavic maslo "butter"– Afg. maslə "coagulated milk, curd", Pers. māst "butter".

Old Slavic město – Afg. mēšta, mīšta "habitat".

Old Slavic pęta – Afg. pūnda "heel".

Old Slavic starъ – Afg. starai "tired".