Sunday, October 15, 2006

Of men and ships

Since we seem to be talking about the Portuguese - this is the kind of ship in which Francis Alemida sailed into Bombay port, one morning in 1509. It was large enough to be stable in heavy seas, and roomy enough to carry provisions for long voyages.

Interestingly, the Portguese word for this kind of ship is nao, identical to the Hindi nao, which comes from the Sanskrit nauh, meaning boat. Not only in Portuguese and Hindi - the word for boat or ship is amazingly similar in Welsh (noe), Greek (naus), Armenian (nav), Old Irish (nau), and Old Norse (nor).

Linguists agree that the original source of such common words were the Proto-Indo-Europeans, a group of people who lived 5500 years ago (the time scale is much debated!). They were pastoral nomads, who had domesticated the horse (eqwos).

The cow (Proto-Indo-European 'gwous') played a central role, both in mythology and reglion. Aside: the Sanskrit word for cow is go or gow.

The origin and migration of the Proto-Indo-Europeans is a subject of much dispute - did they migrate from Europe to Asia, or from Asia to Europe? Scholars can't seem to agree. But the history of these words continues to fascinate.

- Deepa


Michael Andre said...

The history of language yields everyone personal meanings or fetishes. Before words there were pictures, and a "first" picture was the ox. The Assyrian glyph for ox became the Egyptian hieroglyph for ox, which went through Talmudic, Arabian, Greek and Hebrew to become our letter "A." There's a book called "A is for OX." I have a magazine called OX. I have a blog:
I recommend Mumbai Magic in Unmuzzled OX.

Anonymous said...

sounds like these proto-indo-europeans nomads were quite clued up,my theory about whether they came from europe or asia is not important.It is the coming together of east and west that is important,learning from eachother,i think that if we were all proto/indo/europeans we would have a common language by now.
In conclusion the word in Italian for boat is nave.Many regards and thankyou for such an enjoyable blog