On the Edge of a New Era. Lexical Comparison in the Ancient Anatolia and Levantine Area



An excursus of ancient Europe from an historical linguistics viewpoint reveals the legacy between Ægean and the nearby Anatolia till Northern Caucasus. This hypothesis is related to the early farming culture, whom people spoken a non-Indo-European language. Main source of information is Beekes Etymological dictionary of Greek. On this occasion, word lists of various items are scrutinized. The discovery of bronze and its use it was of great importance, as it will be illustrated at the beginning of this article. Then, the article contains for the first time, a very interesting fact, very deep in time, as it involves a Linear B word for ‘barley’. From ‘barley’ word, it progresses towards some others kind of foods, such as ‘chick-peas’ and ‘soup’; in this way, all three elements are part of a single theme: food. However, ‘food’ is not the only element taken in consideration, also ‘food’ preparation required tools in order to process it. For this reason, a ‘vessel’ name is also included. Nevertheless, the ‘stone [for special purpose]’ use was never abandoned, conversely, its usage was confined to other purpose.

General Information

Keywords: Ancient Anatolia, Levantine Area, Lexical Comparison, a Linear B word, Beekes Etymological dictionary, synchronicity

Journal rubric: General and Comparative Historical Linguistics

Article type: scientific article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17759/langt.2020070301

For citation: Tardivo G., Kitselis P. On the Edge of a New Era. Lexical Comparison in the Ancient Anatolia and Levantine Area [Elektronnyi resurs]. Âzyk i tekst = Language and Text, 2020. Vol. 7, no. 3, pp. 4–27. DOI: 10.17759/langt.2020070301.

Full text




An excursus of ancient Europe from an historical linguistics viewpoint reveals the legacy between .Ægean and the nearby Anatolia till Northern Caucasus. This hypothesis is related to the early farming culture, whom people spoken a non-Indo-European language.

Main source of information is Beekes Etymological dictionary of Greek.

On this occasion, a word list of various items are scrutinized. The discovery of bronze and its use it was of great importance, as it will be illustrated at the beginning of this article. Then, the article contains for the first time, a very interesting fact, very deep in time, as it involves a Linear B word for ‘barley’. From ‘barley’ word, it progresses towards some others kind of foods, such as ‘chickpeas’ and ‘soup’; in this way, all three elements are part of a single theme: food. However, ‘food’ is not the only element taken in consideration, also ‘food’ preparation required tools in order to process it. For this reason, a ‘vessel’ name is also included. Nevertheless, the ‘stone [for special purpose]’ use was never abandoned, conversely, its usage was confined to other purpose.

Throughout the article, there is the intention to forge and to assess the Rules between those words, and how it is possible that Greek substrata words shows common roots with North Caucasian languages.

Furthermore, in the Hesiodic tradition and its links to the Upper Mesopotamian (Hurrian) beliefs, has been discussed a lot in the past; see Guterbock (1948), Versnel (1987) and Campbell (2013), just to quote some of them. The origin of the pre-Olympian gods, the Titans, it draws a lot of attention, as Nilsson (1951) argued that Kronos is an agricultural god, an archaic god of harvest. Other deities, such as the Kabeiroi, have also been brought into context because their Anatolian, pre-IE origin[1]. The list of examples could be extended to others, but it is not the case here.

Recent research in linguistics shows how important human contacts throughout time and place were. The idea of «restriction» or tribal way to live beared from scholars for centuries, after careful consideration, it is constantly surpassed by linguistic perspective. After the discoveries of sites in Eastern Mediterranean area, and related decipherments of Hittite and Mycenaean Greek languages, a new chapter of unsolved questions is still open. Our knowledge of the past is very far from to be complete, and Linguistics can advocate those contacts. The result gained until now by linguistic families, subdivided by groups, it is by no means insignificant or wrongly proved. Actually, it is the most accurate system to classify words, hence, to sieve and purify the lexicon from external sources. The core argument here is - in all respect - to search and reconstruct original lexemes; at the same time, dealing with better understanding how, when and where it happened. Digging in the past, especially when literary sources are very scanty, it is linguistically ground for misinterpret its original meaning. However, oral traditions and comparanda of them, it might be helpful.

Weaponry is Metal

Two metals are used as time denomination: Bronze and Iron. After stone-age, metals appear to mark a boundary between emerging powers and the rest of the world. It is well known that the technology of metal-working was the key factor, or at least, one of the main contributors to permanent settlement of people in certain area. Craftsmen kept their knowledge secret from others; their crafts created a special position within society and a high demand in production of various objects, especially weapons.

At this point, it is possible to redefine this concept. In order to understand how metal-working took part in humankind development, a journey to Anatolia and surrounding area is necessary. Metal products related to Anatolia are recorded from antiquity, actually, recent excavations enlightened and enriched this perspective.

The discovery of Bronze it was a great step, its use ranged from weapons to kitchen tools and beyond that. The first element to take in consideration is a word with specific meaning, Svapa ‘the weapons of a fallen opponent’. As Beekes stated, there is no etyma for this word; even previous attempt to related to Sanskrit it failed. However, looking at very rich area of metals production, such as Maykop and Kura-Araxes, some hypotheses are also possible.

The article of Ruslan Seferbekov “Боги-патроны ремсел у народов Дагестана” deserve a lot of consideration; because it offers the right step for further research; one of them is the Abkhazian theonym Айнар / Ajnar ~ Ainar ‘(божество) кузнецы / smith’s god’, hence Аинаржьи / Ajnarʒi ‘мастер золотых дел.; кузнец Нартов / goldsmith, Narts’ blacksmith’1.

Assembling these two elements, a West Caucasian theonym, such as Ajnar, and ἔναρα ‘the weapons’, they could be seen as chance similarity; however, the monophthongization of ai / ai > ἔ-­is a well-known phonologic Rule.

Even the association of «blacksmith» with «weapon» is quite possible, as “producer → product”. This semantic aspect is a parallel to ᾿Ακακαλλίς, a theonym, originally a phytonym.

Barley, a Source of Happiness?

In 2017 Rachele Pierini wrote an article about MA-KA in Linear B, whose title is “An alphabetic parallel for Mycenaean ma-ka” is attractive. Its meaning, due to the position within inscriptions, it appears controversial. The article deserve our attention because it is a good source from attested forms. A general overview and a summary description is exposed as introduction to the theme. Several interpretations are proposed, among them “kneading”, “olives”, “wine”; which, at the end, are discarded.

Contextualise the position within tablets, Pierini’s first step was to classify the relevance of MA- KA and its use. The author makes it clear what kind of word is, and, frankly, the method is quite orthodox. Pinpointing the relevant part, by number:

1.     [First], it is related to the religious sphere, because of the content of the tablets where it appears.

2.     [Second] the syntactical analysis has highlighted the following data:

a.     MA-KA is strongly linked to HORD(EUM).

b.     MA-KA HORD(EUM) is the first entry, occasionally preceded by temporal clauses.

MA-KA is not a recipient but rather a common Noun, and recipients are listed from line .2 onwards.

c.     allocation after MA-KA HORD(EUM) are much larger than those on recipients in following entries.

d.     MA-KA is synthactically similar to KA-PA.

All those parts will constitute the core of the discourse, especially when it progress in diachronic system.

It is not less relevant the fact that “From a semantic point of view, it had been highlighted that

MA-KA refers to a grain, that such a grain was for communal use, and it was possibly processed

in some manner or stored. [...] Given the meaning Sstnvov of DE-QO-NO, such a parallel

between MA-KA and DE-QO-NO indicates that MA-KA belongs to the semantic area of food, and that one can specify this as ritual food because of the religious content of tablets where MA- KA appears. Finally, the Linear B spelling points to MA-KA being related to a root like *mak- or *mag-”. Furthermore, Pierini goes ahead with late sources, such as Hesychius of Alexandria; a very useful lexicographer. However, modern Scholars tend to ignored him. From Hesychius (p 103 L.) we know that:

μακαρία · βρῶμα ἐκ ζωμοῦ καὶὶ ἀλφίτων, basically ‘a soup (or sauce) with flour’.

Other sources (see Pierini’s article) are not different from Hesykhius description. So, to summarize all three Greek writers, briefly Pierini wrote:

“....that alphabetic Greek μακαρία refers to a ritual food made of cereal flour and distributed to people involved in a ritual.”

At this point, the author sharpening - in order to avoid confusion between - those two words; thus, a morphological analysis and establishing suffixal form with:

“These strong similarities allow for a semantic comparison between ritual food MA-KA and μακαρία, making it highly likely to consider μακαρ as the alphabetic interpretation of MA-KA and, in turn, μακαρία as a derivative of it.”.

According to LSJ, μακαρ ‘blessed, happy (as epithet of the gods)’; in this way, it looks disconnected from MA-KA.

Despite the attempt to make a secure etyma, those words are classified as part of the sub-strata lexicon; simply because within Indo-European languages, there is no data available; once again, an isolated word in the .Egean area. There are two strong factors in favour of sub-strata origin:

1.        It is a cereal, where’s Indo-European languages - in some cases - lack of a proper terminology.

2.        Its phonological structure.

Further, even μακαρ is a lexeme alien to IndoEuropean linguistic family.

Besides Pierini’s explanation, as already stated for Indo-European, the word MA-KA has anything to do with Russian (a Slavic language) ‘мука / flour’. Nevertheless, Pierini’s questions lead to С. М. Хайдаков/ S. M. Khaidakov’s[2] article “Полеводческие и животноводческие термины в Дагестанских и Нахских языках, восходящих к эпохе энеолита / Field and livestock terminology in Nakh-Daghestanian languages from Neolitic Era”. Such article shows what kind of words are safely backdating to early historical time; among them: ‘ячмень / barley’, as Khaidakov wrote:

“Название древнейщей селькохозяйствнной културы ‘ячмень’ бесспорно восходит к общенахско-дагестанскому хронологическому уровню./ The word for «barley» can be safely backdated to the ancient time of the common Nakh-Daghestanian lexicon.”.

In his list, Khaidakov includes 13 languages; much more the same number of Johanna Nichols’ list; except for some languages. Both them are below of Nikolaev & Starostin’s list (with 16). There is no general agreement about their relationship; simply because similar words, also in
meaning, appears crosswise in the area. For this reason, Nikolaev & Starostin split up ‘barley’ in two separate roots: *muːqV ‘barley’ proper, and *wVlq’Vː ‘a kind of cereal; flour made of it’. However, there is no general consensus for Proto North-Caucasian reconstruction carried out by Nikolaev & Starostin. In any form, the core is Linear B MA-KA et sim., in order to reconstruct a possible common origin, various perspective will be illustrated.

Table 1

The following scheme is far away from to be assertive; it actually is an attempt to conciliate various forms:


External to the scheme, the Andi compound form muqχːga ‘смешанное зерно / mixed grain’. The first things which apparently contradict the intention, is the vowel variation -a- (-e-) /-ɨ- /-u-; such feature is pretty common within Nakh-Daghestanian languages, especially between dialects of the same language. Also, the presence of a uvular is unproblematic, as “The difference between velar and uvular consonants is that with velar consonants the tongue body is raised, whereas with uvular consonants it is not”1. Such picture could be Regular; although it is not the same as Khaidakov’s exposure; which include Hunzib oh, Bezhta og ‘barley’, Avar hoqʰː, oqʰː ‘ib.’, Lak qa ‘ib.’, on top of Lezgi (proper), Tabasaran, Agul, Budukh, Archi, Kryz, Dargin and Chechen (as above).
Even more audacious is Nichols’2 configuration, with a Nakh-Daghestanian protoform in *(m)uq-, *(m)aq- [‘barley’]; and the languages included are: Chechen-Ingush, Avar, Tsez, Khwarshi, Lak, Dargi, Lezgi, Tabasaran, Agul, Kryz, Archi, Khinalug (as above), plus Udi with mu ‘barley’; last one deserve a bit of attention, as W. Schulze3 wrote “Nikolaev & Starostin relate the term to (see *wVlq’Vː ‘a kind of cereal; flour made of it’). Rather doubtful. Both stem and oblique inflection.”.
Last one is Nikolaev&Starostin edition, freely available on-line (website: starling.rinet.ru). Furthermore, G. A Klimov4 in his dictionary of Kartvelian linguistic family, he presented a form in *maxa - ‘sort of wheat’: Georgian მახა [maxa] ‘sort of wheat’; Lazi moxa.
The agricultural term represented in Georgian dialects (Lečx., Rač’a). There are no traces of it in Megrelian. The Laz correspondence was noted in Marr (1910: 168). A possibility of reconstructing form *maqa- cannot be ruled out, especially if we take into account material parallelism in Nax-Daghestanian languages (cf. Chechen and Ingush muq, Tsezi maqa, Darg. muqa alongside Archi maxa). The word seems to reflect an old cultural property.
At this point, there is a clear-cut about Nakh-Daghestanian languages, their well-preserved lexical item could be strong enough to be compared with MA-KA. Second part to taken into consideration is the suffixal form in -αρ, and in all respect, there are few other words with this ending, such as δάμαρ, εἶθαρ, ἴκταρ, καλαμίνδαρ, νῶκαρ, παλλὶχίαρ, σκίναρ, σῦφαρ and ὔφεαρ. Even in this case, Nakh-Daghestanian languages offers a possible solution. In the present paper, a general overview allows to conceptualize a derivative form. As С. М. Темирбулатова / S. M. Temirbulatova5 wrote for Dargin:

От сущетвинтельных множественного числа именительного падежа, при помощи суффикса -ар образуются канкретные прилагательные. При этом конечный гласный -и сущетвительного замещается гласным -а суффикса -ар:

1.   илби - илб-ар «глаза - глазастый»

2.    цилби - цилб-ар «зубы - зубастый»

3.    к^ппри - к^ппр-ар «листья - лиственный»

4.    кьялуппи - кьялупп-ар «ветви - ветвистый»

5.     унцГби - унцК-ар «клинья - с клиньями».

[Eng.: The suffix -ar is used as plural formative; also, the adjective manner of a Noun. So, the final vowel will be truncated and replaced by -ar:

  1. ilbi ~ ilb-ar «eye ~ with big eyes»
    2. tq silbi ~ tq silb-ar «tooth ~ toothy»
    3. k’ipri ~ k’ipr-ar «leaf ~ full of leaves»
    4. q’æluppi ~ q’ælupp-ar «branch ~ branch-like»
    5. untq s’bi ~ untq sb-ar «wedges ~ in wedges»]

This aspect is not a prerogative of a single language, it actually is quite widespread, including its functionality, like in Tabasaran (Lezg. group), as Сулейманов, Н. Д. / N. D. Sulejmanov[8] wrote:

хураг «кушанье» / hurag «dish»,

хураг-ар «кушанья» / hurag-ar «dishes» [PLUR.],

хураг-ар «кухня» / hurag-ar «kitchen»

Within Pre-Greek, the suffix -ap waiting for an explanation; and this is an attempt to make akin both parts, .-Lgean with Greek (actually Pre-Greek) and Daghestani.

After this excursus with Daghestanian language, Linear MA-KA HORDEUM relationship to ракар will be strengthen by suffixal use of -ар / -ap [-ar] in diachronic way; as seen in the description, it is multifunctional. One question may arise, why «barley» was so relevant in ancient time? What reason pushed those people specifically to this cereal? Explanation is quite plain, like wheat and rye, barley was one of the most consumed cereal in the Middle East, as “Domesticated barley is abundant at Near Eastern archaeological sites from 9500 C years ago and the crop spread to Europe, Egypt, and south Asia from about 8000 C years ago, with the other Neolithic crops of the Fertile Crescent”[9]. Throughout time, barley crop slowly declined for human consumption; meanwhile it increased as fodder.

To figure out its relevance, another Pre-Greek (or Greek substrata) word might be helpful: οὐλαί. According to Beekes, ‘(underground) barley corns, roasted and sprinkled between the horns of the sacrificial animal’ (Ionic since γ 441); Latin mola salsa. Nevertheless, its variation with ὀλαί (Attic), ὀλοαί (Arcadian IIa). Cf. ὄλπα · χόνδρου τὶς ἕψησὶς. ἔδεμά τὶ ‘cooking of groats, a dish’. ἤ ὄλβος ‘wealth, blessed state’ (Hesychius).
To go further, for ὄλβος ‘wealth, blessed state, prosperity, happiness’, Beekes’ comment is:
¶ If the gloss is cognate [to ὄλπα], it must be Pre-Greek, which is certainly a good possibility.

Such definition, open a question on Urartian[10] ma-ku-ri ‘милостивый, милостиво / gracious(ly)’; which it could be related to ракар, paKapta. However, based on Urartian inscriptions, there is not enough data to demonstrate a secure connection with Linear B MA-KA. Once again, ‘barley’ was at the centre of religious performance, and the description “it is related to the religious sphere” should be taken faithful and correct.

To resume the process as a whole, Pierini’s article opened a new path in historical linguistics, thus, good agreement with Khaidakov’s previous observation of ‘barley’, a very old lexical item in Nakh-Daghestanian languages; in spite of Kartvelian scanty record.

Furthermore, the suffixal form is diachronically elaborate, and, as result, it reinforces main concept of «barley → religious sphere» granted in οὐλαί. The comparison between two sides of Anatolia (Ægean in the west, and Caucasus in the north-east), starting with ancient inscriptions, it will be an opportunity to safely reconstruct linguistic family-tree.

Why Chick-Peas Are Salty?

It is well known that plant denominations are quite colourful. It may vary from one place to another, not only between languages, also among dialects of the same language. In many cases, the same name might be referred to different or similar plants. For this reason, in order to avoid confusion between plants varieties, the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) decided to use Latin or a Latinized form for plants (and animals) description and classification.

This is also the case of γάλὶνθοὶ ‘chick-peas, Cicer arietinum’1. Its Latin name is quite clear, Cicer as generic phytonym, and arietinum < aries ‘ram’, simply because they resembling ‘ram’s head’.

However, the Pre-Greek form contain a more specific detail, and it is utterly different from fanciful Latin denomination. The first element to taken into consideration is vegetable characteristics, as Theophrastus (HistoriaPlantarum, VIII, 6, 13) pointed up:

“More abundant rain is beneficial to all crops when they come into leaf and formed the flower; however it is harmful to wheats and barleys and other cereals when they are actually in flower; for it destroys the flower. But to pulses it is harmless, except to chick-peas; for these, if the salt is washed off them, perish from rot or from being eaten by caterpillars. However, the black and the red chickpea are stronger than the white, and it is beneficial, they say, to sow this crop late in moist soil.”

This peculiar description is observed by Costas A. Thanos in his article (Aristotle and Theophrastus on plant-animal interactions; at p. 6.):

“In the case of chick pea, Theophrastus argues that it is a particular saltiness in the seed coat that prevents infestation (Causis Plantarum - VI, 10.6)[11] [12]”.

There are no doubts that ‘salt’ play an important role for chick-pea seeds; and the description made by Theophrastus is very helpful. Other element to analyze is its phonological variation: γέλὶνθοὶ, γάλὶθοὶ on top of the more standard form in γάλὶνθοὶ. At this point, to quote Beekes is the right path:

¶ Pre-Greek (note the suffix -ὶνθος with a variant without prenasalization, as well the interchange α / ε).
Hence, based on description, a synchronical reconstruction in *γάλ(ὶ)- / *γέλ(ὶ)- is more likely. Briefly, three main elements corroborated this view:

1.             Latin name is different from Greek name.

2.             The ‘saltiness’ is a relevant detail.

3.             Phonologic variations within Pre-Greek.

The name itself shown a very strong legacy with Nakh-Daghestanian languages, particularly with Lezghian group; as their word for ‘salt’, once compared to Ægean word, it shows a common origin.

Table 2

As usual, a scheme is illustrated here:


Regarding some phonological aspects, the comparison shows some minor problems to fix. All Lezghian languages shows a glottalized voiceless Uvular plosive, whilst Pre-Greek has a simple γ- (gamma) [+ voiced + velar + plosive]; which it seems inappropriate for the case. However, all authors whom investigate and describe Pre-Greek lexemes, they came at the same conclusions: poor graphic system [Greek alphabet] for a rich phoneme inventory [Pre-Greek]. From this descriptive analysis, it is remarkable that Lezghian languages are more conservative with q’-; thus, a passage in q’ > *ɢ is plausible. Based on this reconstructive phonologic attempt, it is possible now to restore Pre-Greek original pronunciation in γάλὶ- < *ɢál(i)- < * q’ál(i)-.

The German ethnographer Roderic von Erckert, despite his effort on the subject, in his book about Caucasian languages, the part dealing with lexical record, at n. 291 (Salz / Salt / Sel), it is proven totally wrong, on the following ground: first, the Greek word for ‘salt’ is ἄλς, which is fully Indo-European, and part of word-list with σ- > h- > Ø- Rule. Then, it is impossible to demonstrate a passage h > q’. The same aspect is repeated between Khinalug q’ä and Armenian աղ [ał] ‘salt’.

The dissertation on chick-pea unveil its name; and it is supported from Theophrastus’ description. The fact that γάλὶνθοὶ bear its name from ‘salt’, it put together Lezghian original and conservative meaning with Pre-Greek derivative form. Even the phonologic feature is not an obstacle to reconstruction. Furthermore, it corrects the previous assumption made by German ethnographer v. Erckert.

From Field to Table

To continue on the same field, more words appears to be on both sides of the Anatolian plateau; that’s include special food preparation, such as μυττωτός ‘dish, kind of paste’, whom ingredients are ‘cheese, honey, garlic, etc...’ (Hipponax, Ananius., comedy, Theophrastus). Then, a slight sound variation in -σσ- (Hippocrates, περὶὶ τόπων τῶν καταἄνθρωπον 47), -σ- (Callimachus, fragmenta 282). According to Beekes:
For the realia, cf. on μῦμα. A formation in -ωτός, probably denominal (cf. Chantraine 1933; 305f., Schwyzer: 503). In view of the variation -ττ- / -σσ- / -σ-, the word is Pre-Greek.

A very explicative statement come from Ramazanov’s Agul-Russian dictionary, the description of mut’úla, mut’úlaj ‘растопленный внутренний жир, замерзший налет на жирном мясном супе / melted inner fat, coagulate fat on meat soup’ is self-evident. Besides, the Pre-Greek alternation with -σσ- / -σ-, it leads to another Agul lexeme, as Ramazanov describe: musːuaʃ ‘(толокняная каша) традиционное горское блюдо на основе жидко сваренной мучной болтушки, далее замешиваемой с толокном, подваемой, с маслом, урбечем1 и медом / (porridge) traditional dish of mountaineer, made out of cooked flour mixed with butter, nut-butter and honey’; basically < musːú (Burshagh), musú (Richag, Fitigh), musːí (Burkihan) ‘толокно, у Агулов традиционно мололи толокно из жареного в [хьаре] ячменя / traditional porridge of roasted wheat and barley’, especially in the case of musːú t’iʃí [‘knead the dough’] ‘одно из традиционных блюд горцев Дагестана, ели вместо хлеба / typical food of Daghestanian highlander, ate instead bread’. Yet, it is not completely clear if this is the case of sound variation (-ττ- / -σσ- / -σ-), or two different kinds of food; as the Pre-Greek description is a bit vague. In light of this comparison, the second option is more likely.

Remnants of an Era

Even when metals begun to be part of civilization progress, stones were in use anyway. The “stone” lexicon was never forgot throughout the time. This is the case of γυλλός [meaning unclear] ‘block of stone’ (Milete VI-Va), carried in a procession for Apollo (Nisson, Greek Religion 1,189); κύβος, ἤ τετράγωνος λίθος ‘cube or cubic stone (Hesychius); γυλλοί · στολομοί ‘equipment, apparel’ (Hesychius; Latte corrupt). According to Beekes:

¶ No etymology. Lewy KZ 55 (1928): 72f. connects the word with Hebrew gōlēl “Rollstein”.

Such assumption is - obviously - rejected by Beekes, by phonology and semantic grounds.

For the connection between the deity and the ‘stone’, there is a story that “....Though purified of his guilt, he was haunted by Procris ’s ghost and, fearing to bring misfortune on his companions, went one day to Cape Leucas, where he had built a temple to Apollo of the White Rock, and plunged into the sea from the cliff top. As he fell he called aloud on the name of Pterelas; for it was under this name that Procris had been most dear to him.”.

Table 3

Then, a comparison with Lezghian group reveal its nature and relationship.




обрыв, круча / precipice, steep




обрыв, пропасть / cliff, abyss


q’ul, q’ala


скала, доска / rock, board



4th class

скала, скалистый склон / rock, rocky slope



3rd class

скала, утес / rock, cliff



4th class

выступ на склоне горы / jut (on the hill)




Partly relevant, from Starostin’s edition is:

- OBL. base *qʷ’ila- (cf. Lezghian qʷ’ala-, Tabasaran qʷ’áli-, Rutul q’ulá-, Tsakhur q’ule.


Two phonologic elements show agreement with other lexemes. The presence of -wV- > Labial vowel(s), as already seen in “Labialization in Ægean and Nakh-Daghestanian languages” (Tardivo, 2020/1); and then, the same phonologic process of γάλὶνθοὶ.

Table 4



The assumption of “...q’-; thus, a passage in q’ > *g ...” exposed in this article should be seen as a principle for phonologic Rule, also known as regular sound change. Such feature is not restricted to a single group of languages in comparison to Pre-Greek; it also include others, like Nakh group. A good example is γαυλός ‘milk-pail, water-bucket, beehive’ (Odyssey), with different accent γαῦλος. Its etyma is doubtful, with some reference to Semitic languages, as Beekes stated:

A connection with γωλεός and γύαλον and, outside Greek, Old High German kíol, Old Norse kjóll ‘ship’ has been considered. Alternatively, γαυλός could be borrowed from Semitic, cf. Hebrew gullā ‘vase for oil’. Specifically Phoenician origin cannot be proven with the gloss γαυλοί · καὶὶ ταὶ Φοὶνὶκὶκαὶ πλοῖα γαῦλοὶ καλοῦντοὶ ‘also Phoenician ships are called γαῦλοὶ’ (Hesychius); see E. Masson 1967: 39ff. Latin gaulus is borrowed from Greek.

Briefly, neither IndoEuropean nor Semitic are conclusively convincing. The Nakh group offers a more strinking solution with Chechen q’ylg (Cheberloi q’ʊlig, q’ʊːlgeʃ; Itumen q’ʊj), and Ingush q’ulg (Kistian q’ʊjg) ‘маслобойка / churn’. Several phonologic elements appears, the persistent relationship between consonants, where Pre-Greek shows γ- directly related to north Caucasian q- /q’-; then, the diphthong -αῦ- fits -ʊː- lengths of the Cheberloi dialect (of the Chechen language). The -g ending appears quite regularly in Nakh words, as Starostin wrote, it is a diminutive. Even from a Semantic perspective, it appears more reliable, as ‘milk-pail → churn’. Once again, the Greek graphic system is close enough to those languages located in the bridge between Asia and Europe.

The forefather of this kind of studies was Paul Kretschmer. His first step was “to sieve” Greek words of IndoEuropean origin from Greek as a whole. Since then, this kind of studies still are quite debated. The key-point is centered in Rule violation, for this reasons, there is strong disagreement between Scholars. The Neo-grammarian motto is based on “Regular sound change, exceptionless”.

Even in this occasion, unetymologyzed Greek words are potentially related to North Caucasian languages. What it emerge from this research, despite the opposition of sound classification (voiced ~ voiceless ~ aspirated vs. plain ~ palatalized ~ labialized), it is a complying system in accordance to Neo-grammarian method; which is universally accepted. It is possible now to trace it back the phonologic Rule of a voiceless uvular plosive, with further development as voiced uvular plosive (q / q’ > *g).

This Rule will be added to others. Such Rules are fully applicable to dypparog ‘stone used to polish women’s shoes’ (Galenus), according to Beekes:

A connection with the word for ‘age’ does not seem appropriate. Szemerdnyi Gnomon 43 (1971): 641-75 proposes dypparog ‘very lovely’, which is not much better.

Conversely, the Nakh group show good agreement with, starting with Chechen qe:r, qe:ra (6th class) ‘камень / stone’, hence, Ingush and Bats with qera (6th class) ‘камень для метания / throwing stone’. Analyzing the last word, the process fulfill the Neo-grammarian expectations:

1.        The aphaeresis of ἀ- > Ø-.

2.        The consonant /-γ-/ is linear to other words shown here

3.        The middle vowel length is also reflected in Chechen. At this point, a resume of all cases is due:

Table 5

Analyzing the last word, the process fulfill the Neo-grammarian expectations:




γάλὶνθοὶ, γάλ(ὶ)-, γέλ(ὶ)-

q / q’ > *ɢ



q / q’ > *ɢ




q > *ɢ



q > *ɢ



 One more dish made of cereals: κόλλυβα.

In the rich lexicon of Greek language, an etymologized word appears: κόλλυβα. It is a ceremonial cake that is being eaten in Greece, Romania and others Eastern Orthodox countries, in commemoration of the dead. Its preparation consists of boiled wheat, with pomegranate, coriander, raisins, nuts and icing sugar bounded together. Its origin goes back to the pre-Christian era, and it was called πανσπερμία ‘mixture of all seeds’ in antiquity. On the final day of the Anthesteria, this mixture, was offered to Hermes Chthonios. The rite was said to have been established following the great flood[15], a story adopted by Turkish folks[16]; when a few survivors gathered together and ate whatever food was available. Theopompos[17] tells us it was intended propitiate Hermes on behalf of the dead. According to Johnston (1999), the idea behind it was to win Hermes favour and thereby guarantee his solicitude for the dead, for whom he acted as a guide back and forth between the worlds of the living and the dead.

Greek etymological dictionaries associate this word to κόλλυβος ’coin of little value’ or κόλλυβος ’small wheaten cakes’[18] [19] or ‘desert made of nuts and fruits/seeds’5. The etymology appears uncertain, although, there is a proposal to connect to Hebrew halp ‘exchange’. Such a proposal has been rejected by Beekes (2010), who classified it as a Pre-Greek lexeme. Based on the fact that κόλλυβα is a wheat, product; its meaning could be:

1.        A word for ‘wheat’ or similar cereal, or

2.        A root for cereal-based product (such as bread, porridge).

The fact that κόλλυβο means both ’wheat’ and ’coin’ may raise some questions. Coinage was first introduced in Lydia the 1st millennium BCE. Earlier than that, agricultural societies used barter payments involving cereals and their products, e.g.: beer, which leads to a regular semantic cprocess: cereal → payment → coin

Рис. 1. Cuneiform tablet dated around 2350 BCE, stating that adult workers should be paid 30 or 40 pints of barley per month.

In the surrounding area, words with *κολλ- used for wheat, barley, oats etc, are also manifest in some others languages. The main semantic concept is ‘cereal’. Starting from ‘wheat’, the same word might be in use for some others cereals. The rich varieties of languages in the Caucasus mountains are very useful in the context. The Lezgic subgroup of languages is part of the North­East Caucasian linguistic family.

Table 6


The word for ‘wheat’ is listed in the table below.




пшеница / wheat (Triticum vulgare)



3rd class

Kryz and Budukh


4th class



3rd class

According to Starostin: “The Archi form is reduplicated.”. In any form, it is doubtful.


The Anatolian languages are divided into two groups: Indo-European and non-Indo-European.

Among non-IE there’s Hattic, and then, Hurrian language. None of them have a specific word for ‘wheat’[20]. The most interesting word related to ‘grain’, comes from Lycian language, and it’s qele. Hence, Qele was also the ‘grain god’ of the Lycians, and it seems to be of pre-IE origin. The Hittite ḫal-ki-iš ‘barley, grain’, and the Luwian ḫu-ul-li-ti-iš ‘kind of bread’, derive from the Proto­Anatolian *Holgg i ‘barley, grain’, which is a loan from a non-IE language. A Phrygianattested form from inscriptions is ακκαλος[21] ‘a kind of bread’. According to Petrantoni (2019), it could be of Semitic origin[22].

Within Pre-Greek, κόλλυβα is not the only word having this root; the list includes κόλλαβος ’a type of cake or roll’, also κόλλὶξ ‘a roll or loaf of coarse bread’, and κολλύρα ‘round bread’. The word ἄκολος ’small bread, morsel’[23] can be added with caution to the list and get paired with Phrygian ακκαλος/ακαλα. All these lemmas have been discussed in detail by Tardivo (2020/1).

Table 7

To briefly resume all those parts, a second scheme is shown here:



зерно / grain



хлеб / a kind of bread



barley, grain



пшеница / wheat (Triticum vulgare)



хлеб / a kind of bread or cereal product


κόλλὶξ / κόλλὶκας




The material from each region, it allows the reconstruction of the protoform in *kwVl-. As shown in article “Labialization in .-Tgean and Nakh-Daghestanian languages” (Tardivo 2020/1), the following Rule is observed:

Labialized consonant + vowel > Consonant + labial vowel.

Рис. 2. Geographic distribution of the root *kwVl-

 However, in the search for common roots it progresses with another word.

Table 8

While the root *kwVl- seems to be straightforward, other groups are also fruitful, such Avar-Andic group, another branch of the North-East Caucasian language family.


qq χːir

4th class

пшеница / wheat


qq χːíru

3rd class

яровая      пшеница     /

spring wheat



3rd class



3rd class



3rd class


q’erʷ, q’éruɬ

3rd class



3rd class

- In Chamalal (Gigatl) also q’erú ‘ib.’.
- In Karata (Tokita) also q’eri ‘ib.’.

The Armenian word gari ‘barley’ is often regarded of lE-origin, and it is connected to Greek κρὶθή ‘barley corns, barley’; with a reconstructed root in ghriV-/*ghrīdh-. However, this form shows some problematic features. The Armenian word has many dialectal variations[25] and from this standpoint, an IE origin will be challenging. Conversely, the root *kʷVr- is more common

within Avar-Andic group, and less likely close to IE *ghrr iom. This is the reason why Martirosyan (2019) considers a Mediterranean (substrate) origin, while JJ ahukyan (1987) suggests an Aegean origin.

A less known word found in modern Greek is κουρκούτὶ[26] ‘crushed or milled wheat’ < medieval
Greek коркотоу, already attested in the Scholia of Plutus[27] by Aristophanes. It could be the result of reduplication of *kwVr-. Such word is manifest in Armenian with կորկոտ (korkot) ‘groats of wheat or barley’, and then, in Eastern Georgian კორკოტი (korkoti), which is another name for წანდილი (Tsandili) or კოლიო (kolio), the ritual dish prepared to commemorate the deceased

Рис 2. Geographic distribution of the root *kwVr-

Overall, the final solution for *kʷVr- (et sim.) still is problematic. The existence of Iranic words such as Avestan xvarəθa- ‘food’, Middle Persian xwar- ‘to drink, eat, enjoy (food), consume’, Khotanese Śaka hvar- ‘to consume’, Middle Sogddian xwr- ‘to eat, consume’ < PIIr. *huar ‘to consume, eat’ and even Azeri xörək ‘food, dish’, pose a challenge for a safe reconstruction. While the Armenian lexeme cannot be of Iranic origin, everything else is very risky. Despite *huar lacks of reliable Indo-European cognates, it will be very wise for *kʷVr- to search for more supportive evidence; in other words, to leave the door open.


The article is a further attempt to trace it back Greek words of substrata origin. The search affect different items, mainly Cereals and food in general. The mountains of Caucasus, also known as ‘mountain of tongues’ seems a fertile linguistic ground for comparison. Besides, the relevance goes beyond the chance similarity, as Regular sound change (or Rules) appears to be linear between those languages; and this list could be a trialblaze for further research.

However, some doubts are also expressed; in any form, it does not dimnish the linguistic opportunity that two sides of the Anatolian plateau offering in term of comparison. The Anatolian plateau - whatever attested forms are available - also took part to the investigation.

Overall, the perspective is also supported from ancient literary sources, from Hesiod to Theophrastus; which are a relief for search in Linguistics.

Nevertheless, the definition of «Mediterranean languages» after two centuries of endless refrains, it should be abandoned, as language contacts are more likely. Based on the fact that Bronze (later on replaced by Iron) was a key-factor in ancient time, a new Era led human being to reach great distances.

This opportunity created more cross-linguistic interactions; far beyond our level of knowledge.

[1]   See Beekes (2004) who compares Кабщ/.ос/Касщ/.ос with the Hattian hasammil.

Касландзия, see Bibliography

[2]  Khaidakov, p. 109.

[3]  Odden, p. 143.

[4]  Nichols, p. 256-257.

[5]   Schulze, p. 300.

[6]  Klimov, pp. 117-118.

[7]   Темирбулатова, p. 77.

[8]   Сулейманов, Н. Д.; p. 82

[9]  Prance&Nesbitt 2005, p. 49

[10] Мещанинов / Mescaninov, pp. 192-193

турецкий горох.


Aristotle and Theophrastus on plant-animal interactions; p. 6.

Schulze, p. 274.

[14] “a thick liquid mass obtained from roasted toasted or simply dried seeds of flax, hemp, sunflower, pumpkin, apricot kernels or nuts. In the traditional cuisine of the peoples of Daghestan, it is used to make a sweet dish of the same name (with honey and butter), as a nutriment for maintaining strength, in the treatment of diseases”.

Robert Graves, n 89.

[15]  Scholia Aristoph. Acharnians 1076: Xorpoi, eoprpi пар AOpvoioic yivopevp тф Aiovoora- ayerai 5ei napai raikpv rpi v airiav, pv кал ©eOnopnoc eKriOerui ypaprav oiiror «AiaaoOevrag ow roui c avOpranoug, pnep cOapppaav qpepa, тф raorpc ovOpari npoaoyopefiaai кап rpi v eoprpi v anaaav- eneira Ooeiv ai’iroic cOoc г/ouai row peiv OXupniov Oeow oi’iSevii roi napanav, Eppp Sei XOovira- кап rpc xorpag, pv c^ouai navrec oi кото! rpi v nOXiv, oi’iSeiic yeoerai rrnv iepeov- rofiro Sei noiofiai rp ppepa, кап roui g rOre napayevopevouc nneip row anoOavOvrow iXaaaaOai roi v Epppv.» "Hyovro Sei ayrnvec anrOOi oi Xorpivoi RaXonpevoi, icaOa (ppai EiXO/opoc ev rp гктр rOv ArOiSov.

[16]  There’s a Turkish desert called Asure, known also as Noah’s pudding. The story and the product are the same, but adjusted to the Abrahamic tradition.

[17] Hist. FGrH 115 F 347a, 347b

[18] See the scholia on xOXXaPoc; in Aristoph. Frogs 507 and Peace 1196

[19] Hesch. ^OXXuPaA- rpoiyaXia

[20] They have other words like grain e.g. kait, kade.

[21] MAMA VII: 313, 454, 495

[22] Neo-Assyrian akalu ’bread, food, small measure’, akalu ‘to eat’

[23] Eust. p. 1817.46-9 = ii.141.37-42 акоЛод, р!кро! д цощо1д рркгт! коЛопесОа! оигацегод кай eig р!кра! тгрэзОО.

[24] In modern Greek, копЛопр!/копЛопра can mean except from round/roll bread, anything round, even zero. This is rather a fossilized derivation, since коЛЛпра et sim are round breads or pastry rolls

[25] Few examples are: g'ori, kcti ri, kyo ore

[26] Also Pontic-Greek коркото

[27] See scholion 673: Sei rpi v oepiSaLiv . . аОарок; : ’'Нуои\' коирконтрд . aOapa Leyerai p ioimriKwc Xsyopevp коирконтр : pyaye Sei aurpi v

[28] Practically it is the Georgian копира, also made with wheat


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Information About the Authors

Giampaolo Tardivo, Professor of linguistics, Padua State University, Italy, ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9398-762X, e-mail: gtardivo@googlemail.com

Philippos Kitselis, Professor of Linguistics, Padua State University, Italy, e-mail: bboyflipper@googlemail.com



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