WNW: P Became F
Way back before I got the idea of doing Word Nerd Wednesday (although in hindsight, I think this post sparked the idea . . . so you can totally blame MelanieJ for the series), I mentioned Grimm's Law in this post.
Guess what, friends? Today you get an itty bitty taste of it. I promise, it's not freaky. In fact, Grimm is our friend. He's one of the brothers who wrote down all those fairy tales. Remember him? Yep. Same guy.
He was also a student of language and figured out some pretty cool stuff. One big thing was how many languages (here's the one scary term we'll use today: proto-Indo-European language . . . eep!) changed over time.
The three groups of sound shifts he came up with are known as Grimm's Law. Today I'm scraping the tip of one of those shifts.
Back story: I had the misfortune of taking the History of the English Language class from a literature teacher. While the woman meant well, she didn't know what the heck she was talking about. "Just memorize the chart," was the best she could come up with.
I wanted to know WHY the sound shifts happened. It didn't make sense that language would up and change for no apparent reason, and I couldn't memorize the chart without understanding it.
Good thing the Linguistics Chair lived under the same roof I did.
I promptly went to Dad and whined. He explained it so the whole thing made perfect sense. I won't go into details, because it would 1) bore all but the real die-hard Word Nerds and 2) make for a really long post, but really, Grimm's Law makes total sense in context.
(This experience was why, for my next language course, I made sure to sign up for Dr. Oaks again. They shouldn't have assigned a literature professor for a language course. Duh.)
The one thing I wanted to bring up about Grimm's Law today was the shift in sound from P to F.
Here's a list of proto-Indo-European (the language that preceded most of the current European ones), followed by the current English word:
pisk --- fish
peter/pater --- father
pur --- fire
portu --- ford (like a passage)
pulo --- fowl
ped/pod --- foot
And so on. Isn't that cool? It works in other languages too.
And it goes further. We kept a lot of the roots and used them in other words.
The Indo-European "pur" which became our "fire" is awfully close to "pyre."
The Indo-European "portu" is really close to our "portal," which had a similar meaning of
"entryway" or "passage."
"entryway" or "passage."
When you see anything that has to do with "father" in English, it has a "pat" beginning (think "paternal" and "patriarchal" or "patronymic").
Same thing goes with the original roots for "foot," which were "ped" and "pod" (pedicure, pedestrian, podiatrist, pedal).
A lot of European languages kept the P to F shift in some words but not in others, so pater may still mean father somewhere. (I believe the term "father," as in a priest, is "pater" in German, but the familial term is different. And French for "father" is "pere," with an accent I can't make in Blogger.)
Ahhhhh . . . I love being a nerd.