Etymology squib: quəččə

A nice discovery: today I ran into a proposal in Róna-Tas’ “Turkic Influence on the Uralic Languages” (The Uralic Languages, 1988) that Mongolian qota(n) ‘fence, town’ might be an old loan from early Selkup through early Kyrghyz. Indeed, there is a Selkup word that Janhunen gives as qëtty ‘town’ and derives from Proto-Samoyedic *wåč → *wåč-əjə ‘fence’.

On the other hand, this qota(n) has been long also included in the whole ‘house, hut’ Wanderwort bundle (stretching from ocean to ocean: English hut to Ainu kotan), which includes also Uralic *kota. And there’s a consonant mismatch in Selkup that points rather in this direction! Alatalo gives (and does not connect with each other) the common Selkup forms *kuəču ‘tributary’ (#1903), [1] but *quəččə ‘town’ (#1912), with the velar / uvular contrast clearly attested also in the descendant dialects. Since Selkup *quə- is usually from Proto-Samoyedic *kå- rather than *wå- (e.g. *quət- ‘to kill’ < *kåə-tɜ-, but *kuətə- ‘to raise, grow’ < *wåtå-), we could trace the latter also back to a PSmy *kåt¹ɜ < PU *kota. The semantic development ‘fence’ > ‘town’ is maybe common enough, but could be here only an accidental similarity: no other Samoyedic languages seem to show this.

PU *t >> Selkup *čč [2] looks off, but not extraordinarily so: there are other examples of evidently secondary *č in Selkup too, most prominently PU *sënə > PSmy *t¹ën > Selkup *čën ‘sinew’. Maybe contamination from the ‘fence’ word is possible…? especially if Mongolic also shows this sense (though a quick look at Tower of Babel does not mention it).

In any case we seem to end up with the following results:

  • we have cleared out one of the exceptional cases where *w- supposedly > *q- in Selkup;
  • *kota ‘house’ does have a reflex even in Samoyedic;
  • the Turkic and Mongolic words can be also derived already directly from Proto-Samoyedic, or even outright Proto-Uralic, without needing to wait for *w- > *k- in Selkup.

[1] Per -u this is surely derived though. Apocopated forms like Tym kuədž ‘dam’ probably reflect more original *kuəčə < Proto-Samoyedic *wåčə.
[2] It seems to be not really dateable if an irregular *t > *č shift took place in Proto-Samoyedic, in Proto-Selkup, or even in just Southern–Central Selkup.

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Posted in Etymology
10 comments on “Etymology squib: quəččə
  1. “we could trace the latter also back to a PSmy *kåt¹ɜ ‘town’ is maybe common enough, but could be here only an accidental similarity: no other Samoyedic languages seem to show this.” Some portion of text seems to be lost here.

    • j. says:

      Fixed, thanks.

      • David Marjanović says:

        It’s unchanged. Is there a < involved?

        • j. says:

          …fixed again, hope it sticks this time.

          • David Marjanović says:

            It does, thanks!

            Town is an example of “fence” > “town”: German Zaun means “fence”.

            • David Marjanović says:

              …and Dutch tuin means “garden”.

            • j. says:

              Some of the other Uralic reflexes of *woča show this too, most clearly Mansi where the meaning ‘town’ coexists with the meaning ‘corral’; also at least Khanty. Mordvinic also has ⁽*⁾oš ‘town’, but nothing about this is regular from *woča.

              Actually I now wonder if unexpected -čč- in Selkup, if by contamination, would be better considered imported from Khanty. Wholesale loaning still doesn’t work due to *q- and not *k-, at least not without a few complex assumptions, say Khanty *w- having had a back allophone [ʁʷ-] (as attested for /w/ before /u/ in Surgut Khanty), that got ported over to Selkup as a loanword phoneme and then developed to *qʷ > *q parallel to *w > *kʷ > *k.

  2. There is a position in which PSmd *w- regularly yields PSelk *q-. This happens if PSelk *q (from PSmd *k) is present later in the word. Cf. the following cases:
    #2106 *quə̑q ‘Schulter’ < PS *wäjk ‘Hals’ (SW: 173)
    #2108 *quə̑qər / *quə̑qən ‘Stör’ < PS *wekånå ‘Stör’ (SW: 174)
    #2113 *qoqqa < PS *wåŋkə̑ ‘Höhle, Grube’ (SW: 171)
    #2281 *qorqə / *quə̑rqə ‘Bär’ < PS *wə̑rkə̑ ‘Bär’ (SW: 170).
    Apart from these cases and #1912 *quəččə, discussed by you above, we have only one example of PSelk *q- from PSmd *w-: #2191 qośə(-) ‘schlecht’ < PS *wə̑1j (~ *woj-) ‘schlecht’ (SW: 168). Helimski in "Marginalia ad SkWb" rejects this etymology and derives the Selkup word from PSmd *kånsV (his reasoning is rather complex, so I'll not try to reproduce it here).

    • j. says:

      Looks good. Is this your own work? I don’t think I’ve seen any detailed treatise on the sources of *q in Selkup so far.

      • Yes, it’s a part of my work in progress on clarifying some details of Selkup historical phonology. It is interesting that Sammallahti lists PSmd *w- > Selk q(w)- as a regular development, giving ‘bear’ as the only example (HPUL: 497).

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