Monday, 30 November 2009

Nother post on nor

A recent Language Log post discusses the use of nor in the sentence:
"The snow fell nor did it cease to fall."
Since this topic touches on disjunction and ultimately on wh-words (interrogative pronouns), central issues in my dissertation, I can (almost) justify taking the time to investigate some of the antecedents of McCarthy's use of nor. Nor in the above sentence, as Mark Liberman observes, conforms to the sense in the OED's[1] entry 5a. for nor:
5. And — not; neither. In later use normally with inversion of subject and verb.

a. Following an affirmative clause, or in continuing narration. Obs. (chiefly poet. in later use).
Liberman offers discussion of modern and (late) early modern English examples in the aforementioned Language Log post; I shall concentrate on earlier examples, such as:
[1423] Guildhall Let.-bk. in R. W. Chambers & M. Daunt Bk. London Eng. (1931) 114 He shalle wirke..without fraude..nor he shall nat entermete of sekenes, sore, or hurte..vnknowynge to hym in eny maner.

[1492-3] in T. Pape Medieval Newcastle-under-Lyme (1928) 180 The aforesaid William shall delyuer all evedence and writings that belonges to the lands in the Newcastle, nor hurt nor truble the aforesaid John Leighton.

[1523] LD. BERNERS tr. J. Froissart Cronycles I. cxxxv. 162, I greatly desyre to se the kynge my maister, nor I wyll lye but one nyght in a place, tyll I come there.
These are the three earliest examples the OED gives for sense 5a. It is interesting to note that the first two appear to come from legal documents.

The OED suggests that nor derives from earlier nother1 (a contracted form of Old English nōhwæðer "neither", on which more presently), for which its earliest example means "neither of two preceding things or persons":
[eOE] KING ÆLFRED tr. Gregory Pastoral Care (Hatton) li. 399 Ne fornime incer noðer oðer ofer will butan geðafunge.
"Let neither of you deprive the other without consent."
As Mitchell[2]:§§1847-51 observes, OE nohwæðer/noðer cannot always be interpreted as a pronoun, as in:
[Blickling Homilies[3]:45.14]...þæt hi þonne ne mihtan nawþer ne him sylfum ne þære heorde þe hi ær Gode healdan sceoldan, nænige gode beon.
"[For the good teacher has said that, when the priest or bishop was led into eternal perdition,] that they could not be any good, neither for himself nor for the flock which they previously should have kept for God.",
where it plays a similar role to modern English neither.

This nother1 is not to be confused with a nother [sic] development which led to a form nother: namely the reanalysis of another/an other as a nother2, for which we find early examples such as:
[c1390] MS Vernon Homilies in Archiv f. das Studium der Neueren Sprachen (1877) 57 280 He wolde him say his onswere on a noþer day.
And, of course, this nother2 is frequent in the collocation (that's) a whole nother story, but it may be found outside of this formula, as in:
[1977] C. MCFADDEN Serial (1978) xxviii. 62/2 I'm in a whole nother space.
[1993] Wired Dec. 18/3 A new direction and a new name seem inevitable. But ‘tekkies?’ It seems too much like ‘Trekkies’, which invokes a whole 'nother set of connotations.
Interestingly, there is also a dialectal English (apparently particularly in Southwest England, if the prominence of Zomerzet zs in the last two examples is any indication) development which the OED suggests represents convergence between nother1 and nother2:-- neither nother, originally "neither one nor another", and thence "no other":
[?a1425 (c1380)] CHAUCER tr. Boethius De Consol. Philos. V. met. iii. 52 Who so that sekith sothnesse, he nis in neyther nother habit, for he not nat al, ne he ne hath nat al foryeten.
[1533] T. MORE Apologye 180 There are fewe or none good in neyther nother parte.
[1640] R. BROME Sparagus Garden IV. v, No sir, we come with no zick intendment on neither nother zide.
[1888] F. T. ELWORTHY W. Somerset Word-Bk. 523 There idn nother-nother lemon vor to be had in the town, nit vor love nor money, zo Mr. Baker zess.
Neither nother is also prominent in West Indian English, with the sense "no other":
[1957] F. A. COLLYMORE Notes for Gloss. Barbadian Dial. (ed. 2) 59, I ain't got neither-nother sixpence.
[1975] T. CALLENDER It so Happen 99 He never going look at neithernother girl again.
Nother1 also appears with the OED's nor sense 5a., as far back as the Old English of Beowulf:
Swā wē þǣr inne andlangne dæg
nīode nāman oð ðæt niht becwōm
ōðer tō yldum; Þā wæs eft hraðe
gearo gyrnwræce Grendeles mōdor
sīðode sorhfull; sunu dēað fornam,
wīghete Wedra; wīf unhӯre
hyre bearn gewræc; beorn ācwealde
ellenlīce; þǣr wæs Æschere
frōdan fyrnwitan feorh ūðgenge.
Nōðer hӯ hine ne mōston syððan mergen cwōm
dēaðwērigne Denia lēode
bronde forbærnan nē on bǣl hladan
lēofne mannan; hīo þæt līc ætbær
fēondes fæðme under firgenstrēam;
þæt wæs Hrōðgāre hrēowa tornost
þāra þe lēodfruman lange begēate.
Beowulf ll.2115-30
"We were happy therein all day long,
and enjoyed ourselves, until another
night descended on man. Then suddenly
Grendel's mother, ready to revenge her sorrow,
journeyed, sorrowful--- death had taken her son,
the war-hate of the Wederas [=Beowulf]. The ghastly woman
avenged her child, slew a warrior
boldly. Thus from Ashhere,
the wise counsellor, life departed.
Nor could the Danish people, when morning came,
cremate the dead one in the fire,
could not lay on the funeral pyre
the body of the beloved man: she had carried off the corpse,
held in fiend's embrace, beneath the mountain-stream.
That was for Hrothgar the most bitter grief
which had long befallen the ruler of the people."
Thus this use of nother1/nor (in the OED sense 5a. for nor) appears to have a long history in English. [Additional note: Nōðer here does not seem to mean "neither", in the sense "neither...nor", despite the present of in the sentence (see this comment on Languagelog), since on bǣl hladan "lay/load (his body) on the pyre" is really just a variation of bronde forbærnan "cremate in the fire" --- these aren't two different funerary options that the Danes have. But see this post for what is perhaps a clearer example from The Fortunes of Men.]

Old English nōhwæðer, originally a pronoun meaning "neither of two persons or things", from which nother1 (OE nōðer) derives, is itself etymologically-interesting. Nōhwæðer is morphologically composed of ne "not" + ā/ō "always" + hwæðer "whether". Without ne we find āhwæðer (with contracted forms āwðer, ōwðer, āðer), with essentially the sense of modern English either:
[KING ALFRED, Trans. of Orosius, 290.21] Þa oferhogode he þæt he him aðer dyde, oþþe wyrnde, oþþe tigþade...
"Then he scorned to do either, forbid it or grant it..."
More interesting is the original sense of hwæðer (ancestor of modern English whether): "which of two", as illustrated by Beowulf's speech to his men before his fight with the dragon:
'Gebīde gē on beorge byrnum werede
secgas on searwum hwæðer sēl mæge
æfter wælrǣse wunde gedӯgan
uncer twēga; nis þæt ēower sīð
nē gemet mannes nefne mīn ānes.'
Beowulf, ll.2529-33
"'Wait you here in the barrow, wearing mailcoats,
warriors in armour, (and see) which of the two can better,
during the slaughter-race, survive wounds,
of the two of us; this is not your adventure,
nor in the power of any man, save mine alone.'"
The predominant modern use of whether for introducing indirect yes/no questions was originally only one of its many functions, which including introducing alternative questions (note that, like other wh-words, in matrix questions it triggers verb-raising to the second-position):
[c1000] Ags. Gosp. Matt. xxi. 25 Hwæðer wæs iohannes fulluht, þe of heofonum, þe of mannum?
"Was John's baptism from heaven or from man?"
[1595] SHAKES. John I. i. 134 Whether hadst thou rather be a Faulconbridge,..Or the reputed sonne of Cordelion?
[1713] BERKELEY Hylas & Phil. I. (1725) 5 Whether does Doubting consist in embracing the Affirmative or Negative Side of a Question?
[a1822] SHELLEY Ion Pr. Wks. 1888 II. 115 Whether do you demonstrate these things better in Homer or Hesiod?
As well introducing as indirect alternative questions:
[c1000] ÆLFRIC Hom. II. 120 Eft ða Gregorius befran, hwæðer þæs landes folc cristen wære ðe hæðen.
"Then Gregorius asked whether the people of the land were christian or heathen."
[1610] SHAKES. Temp. V. i. 123 Whether this be, Or be not, I'le not sweare.
[1849] MACAULAY Hist. Eng. iv. I. 464 His neighbours might well doubt whether it were more dangerous to be at war or at peace with him.
The modern function as introducing indirect yes/no questions is attested early as well:
[c1000] Ags. Gosp. Matt. xxvi. 25 Cwyst þu, lareow, hwæðer ic hyt si?
"Do you say, teacher, whether it is I?"
[1470-85] MALORY Arthur VII. xx. 244 He mette with a poure man..& asked hym whether he mette not with a knyghte.
All of these functions can be seen to derive from the original sense "which of two". The morphological formation of hwæðer is curious however: it derives from Proto-Germanic *χwaþaraz (with cognates in other Germanic languages, e.g. Old Frisian hwedder, Old Saxon hweðar, Old High German hwedar, Old Norse hvaðarr (> Swedish hvar), Gothic hwaþar), which itself can be traced to PIE *kwo- "what, who etc." + the comparative suffix *-tero-.

What is curious is the use of the comparative suffix: all of these forms would literally be something like "what-er" ("more what")! (Though of course, since hwæðer etc. are used to inquire about "which of two", the comparative suffix, which compare two things, does make a certain amount of sense.)

Proto-Germanic *χwaþaraz has cognates in other old Indo-European languages, e.g. Greek πότερος, and Sanskrit katará-, the latter is found for example in the Rgvedic hymn on "Heaven and Earth":
katarā́ pū́rvā katarā́parāyóḥ
RV 1.185,1a
"Which of the two is earlier, which of the two is later?"
In Sanskrit, the interrogative pronoun can also combine with the superlative suffix (PIE *-temo-), to mean "which amongst many", as in the following Rgvedic passage praising Varuṇa:
kásya nūnáṁ katamásyāmŕ̥tānām
RV 1.24,1a
"Who now is he? Which among the many immortals?" [Lit. "Whichest of the immortals?"]
We're now of course a long way from the snow fell nor did it cease to fall, but following nor back along the path to nother "neither of two", and then off on the side path of its component morpheme hwæðer (mod. Engl. whether) "which of two", originally "what-er"(!), seemed an interesting enough detour.

[1]The Oxford English Dictionary, September 2009 rev. ed.
[2]Mitchell, Bruce. 1985. Old English syntax. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon.
[3]Morris, Rev. R. 1880. The Blickling Homilies of the tenth century. London: Early English Text Society.
[4]Graßmann, Hermann. 1873. Wörterbuch zum Rig-Veda. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Condos, Buttocks, and Thorns: On the development of some vulgar Indo-Aryan words and some amusing English-Nepali homophony

The first Nepali word I recall learning in a natural language context (i.e. not from a grammar) is कण्डो (kaṇḍo), for which Turner[1]:70 gives the following definition: "(vulgar) s. Buttock, bottom, rump, anus".

What has provided me with many moments of childish amusement is that this word is essentially homophonous with English condo, the truncated form of condominium: "(N. Amer.) An apartment house in which the units are owned individually, not by a company or co-operative; an apartment in such a building", OED[2]. Thus overhearing people talking about selling their condos for $150,000 etc. always affords me a good (though usually silent) chortle.

Condominium is itself an interesting word, deriving ultimately from a modern Latin formation con+dominium, literally meaning "joint rulership" and appearing with that sense early on:
[a1714] BURNET Own Time (1823) IV. VI. 412 The duke of Holstein began to build some new forts..this, the Danes said, was the condominium, which that king and the duke have in that duchy.
The use of condominium (and its truncation condo) to refer to an "individually-owned apartment" appears to be mainly a (recent) North American development; the earliest citation from the OED dates to 1962; the abbreviated condo appears soon after in 1964 (attributed to Chicagoans):
[1962] Economist 31 Mar. 1255/1 The legal concept of buying a single flat, instead of a share in the whole building, is just making its way in the housing field in the United States where it is known as a ‘condominium’.
[1964] Financial Times 27 Nov. 3/6 The condominium or the ‘condo’ as Chicagoans have come to know it is essentially a development from the co-operative concept.
The semantic development from "jointly ruled" to "individually-owned" is rather interesting, indicating that in modern usage the word must be have been reanalysed as monomorphemic (as the sense of "joint, together" of the prefix con-/com- is obviously no longer present).

Returning to the heart (or perhaps 'rump') of the matter, let us consider the etymology of Nepali kaṇḍo "buttock(s)". Turner[1] notes that in Western dialects of Nepali it means "back, spine" and thus compares it to Sindhi kaṇḍo masc. "backbone", Lahndā kaṇḍ fem. "back", Hindi kā̃ṭā masc. "spine", Gujarati kā̃ṭo masc. "backbone", Marathi kā̃ṭā masc. "backbone". He notes if Nepali kaṇḍo is to be considered cognate with these words, it exhibits irregular phonetic development, for the expected form in Nepali would be *kā̃ṛo. He indicates this is not problematic given that "words denoting parts of the body often show irregular phonetic development, whether owing to deliberate deformation or borrowing from other dialects".

Turner[1] suggests that, given this caveat, all of the above words could derive from Sanskrit kaṇṭa-, kaṇṭakáḥ "thorn, fish-bone", with later semantic widening/reanalysis to "bone, back-bone, bottom" etc. These Sanskrit forms are probably also the source, he notes, also of Romani kanro masc. "penis", Bengali kā̃ṭ "clitoris", and (with a much less naughty sense) Oriya kaṇṭi "the wooden part of a plough".

Given the apparent irregularities in the development of Nepali kaṇḍo, Turner[1] also proposes a possible alternative etymology, from unattested Old Indo-Aryan *kāḍa-, citing modern forms: Romani kar m., Sindhi kāṛu masc., Gujarati kāḍ masc., all meaning "penis". This seems less likely to me, as the semantic development from "thorn, fish-bone" > "bone" > "backbone" (as in Western dialects of Nepali) and thence to "buttock(s)" in standard Nepali is much more natural than supposing that a word meaning "penis" developed to mean "backbone, spine" in Western Nepali. Plus, given the hypothetical ancestor *kāḍa, the nasal in Nepali kaṇḍo would be unexpected.

Development from "thorn" to "backbone" and thence to "buttocks" in standard Nepali is easily explicable. The tip of the backbone could be metaphorically conceptualised as a "thorn" (cf. the yogic concept of kuṇḍalinī "the corporeal energy residing in the base of the spine"). From "tip of the backbone" the sense could have been reinterpreted alternatively as "backbone, spine" in Western Nepali, and as "buttock(s)" in standard Nepali.

The other semantic developments in apparently cognate Romani kanro "penis" and Bengali kā̃ṭ "clitoris" represent alternate metaphorical extensions of the original sense "thorn". The naturalness of the metaphorical extension from "thorn" to "penis" is clear in the (nonce?) Hindi usage of कांटा (kāṇṭā) "thorn" in the song Kaanta Laga ("Pricked by a Thorn"):

Where the relevant line is बंगले के पीछे, तेरी बेरी के नीचे, हाय रे पिया, कांटा लगा ("behind the bungalow, beneath your jujube tree, oh darling, (I got) pricked by a thorn").

[1]Turner, Sir Ralph Lilley. 1931. A comparative and etymological dictionary of the Nepali language. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, Ltd. [Reprinted, Mumbai: Allied Publishers, Ltd., 1980.]
[2]The Oxford English Dictionary, September 2009 rev. ed.