September 6, 2013

Another wacko linguistic speculation: Ibero-Uralic

Just got notice via Jatorriberri[eu/es] of this informal paper on the alleged relationship between Basque (or rather Iberian) with Uralic, via Turkish, it seems.

Eduard Selleslagh-Suykens, Iberian and Uralic Supected Finno-Ugric-like elements in the Iberian language (and maybe even Altaic ones). Revised version of August 25, 2013. Self-publication at → LINK (doc format)

Before I forget about it, let's see what this guy really has. Or rather what he does not have.

First of all I must mention that Mr. Selleslagh-Suykens does not have a curriculum on the matter. I have made a throughout search and he looks an aficionado without any linguistic degree. Nothing wrong with that except that he would need to be even more convincing in order to overcome that handicap, something he fails to.

Twisting ibar (river bank) until it becomes unrecognizable

Mr. Selleslagh, avoids the issue of having to learn at least some Basque by dismissing this language's similitudes with Iberian as mere loanwords from Iberian. That way he can ignore Basque meanings and etymologies altogether.

That way the known toponym "ibar" (Iber-Ebro river in Iberia, Ibar river in Kosovo, etc.), which he chooses to write "ybar" for some odd reason, does not need to have any relationship with Basque ibar (river bank), ibai (river), ibon (creek) or even very possibly ibili (to walk) but can be imagined to be whatever, in his case:
Conclusions: 1. Basque ‘ume’ is probably an Iberian loanword, and 2. Iberian ‘Ybar’ probably means ‘father’. And ‘Ybar-Yi’ (like in the Sinarcas stele) would mean ‘my father’, a very plausible meaning in its context.

I do not know what the Sinarcas stele means, for those with interest and knowledge of Spanish I suggest reading the dedicated study by renowned Valencian linguist Luis Silgo Gauche.

In the original transcriptions by Fletcher (1985) and Untermann (1990) there is simply no "-yi-" but "-wi-" or "-ḿi-". This is one of the problems of Iberian script: major differences in transcription. Therefore Selleslagh's Ybar-Yi can well be Wibaŕ-Wi or Ḿibaŕ-Ḿi... or whatever.

Whatever the case the logic of relating ibar with Basque senar (husband) and therefore with seme/sembe (son) looks very much far-fetched, especially when he's totally ignoring Basque itself, that can easily explain the root ib- as referring to rivers (ibai, ibar, ibon) or maybe to the act of flowing or moving, if we dare to include the verb ibili (to walk), which can well be related to bide (path, way) by loss of the initial i- (common in Basque verbs of that type, where the root is -bil-: nabil: I walk, gabiltza: we walk, etc.) Another possible cognate in the same way could be bizi (life, alive).

Turkish, ergo Altaic, ergo Uralic, ergo Sumerian... whatever!

This is the "best" of the paper...

At first sight, they have nothing in common, Bq. ‘buru’ having ‘head’, and Trk. ‘burun’ ‘nose’ as primary meanings. However, both are used in many other meanings that have one thing in common: they all refer to some form of ‘extremity’ or ‘protuberance’, sometimes even for the same concept, e.g. cape (in geography). However, as far as I know, ‘buru’ is not attested in Iberian, which does not necessarily mean it didn’t exist.

Buru does not have the meaning of extremity, although it may have the meaning of notorious ending, such as a hill, cape or the round ends of the lauburu (Basque curved swastika). More importantly it has the meaning of self and about:
Hitz egiten nuen nire buruari: lit. I was talking to my head; actual meaning: I was talking to myself.
Hau hizkuntari buruz da: this is about language.

But nose and head are close enough may say someone... let's see what else he has:

Both mean ‘day’. The Turkish word for ‘sun’, ‘güneş’, is derived from ‘gün’. According to L. Trask “Barandiarán (1972) suggests an original sense of ‘sun’, ‘light’, which is possible but beyond checking for Bq. ‘egun’ “. That would mean that the Basque word for ‘sun’, ‘eguzki’, is derived fom ‘egun’ (in its meaning of ‘day’) by means of a compound suffix: ‘egu(n)-(e)z-ki’.

Some say that it is egu(n)-uzki: asshole of the day, especially because in some dialects sun is indeed said uzki (in others eki, which is also the word for east)

A plausible etymology anyhow, I believe already suggested by J. Paskual, for egun can well be egi-une: the zone or period of truth. Similarly eki (sun, east) might be a variant of egi: truth, limit, in the same emphatic way that ekin (to take action) is related to egin (to do).
Ezina ekinez egina: the impossible [gets] done through action.

Naturally the verbs egin and ekin themselves seem derived from that egi root, as is probably egon (a non-essential variant of to be, as in to stay at a location or to be temporarily affected by a condition, similar to Spanish estar).

But, even if you believe that these two coincidences with Turkish mean something (who knows?), in order to make them imply Ibero-Uralic of some sort, we'd have not just to believe in Ibero-Basque (something that Selleslagh does not quite apparently) but also in Macro-Altaic, a very much contested hypothesis.

More "evidence" for Basque-Turkish (not Ibero-Uralic yet) relations:
Adi(n)-Aydın :

Both a have strong relationship with intellectual capacity and the like: the Basque word has several acceptances like ‘age’ (probably through a link with ‘wise’), ‘understanding’, ‘judgement’; the Turkish word means intellectual, literate, etc.’. The Basque word frequently occurs in Aquitanian names, so an Iberian origin cannot be excluded since Aquitanian names often mimic or copy Iberian names.

Adin (age) seems related to adi (to listen, to pay attention) and there is indeed the "wise" connection: aditu(-a) (someone who understand, expert). But I haven't found any Turkish meaning other than personal name. It does not seem proto-Turkic anyhow (unlike what happens with burun and gün).
Both mean ‘name’. Another pure coincidence? I begin to think there are too many of them.

Isim is clearly derived from proto-Semitic *šim- (documented in many languages ), so if anything it'd be a relationship of Basque with Semitic or with some other West Asian substrate. 

Whatever the case we have again a clear internal etymology in Basque: izan (to be, essential, similar to Spanish ser, to exist). 
Izena duen guztia izan omen da: all that has name may be (exist).
Izena izana: the name, the being.



This time I’m venturing into perilous territory, but it might contribute something. The Basque suffix means ‘offspring, young animal’ and is obviously related to ‘ume’

As perilous as he just rejected the existence of the word ume in pre-proto-Basque when arguing for ibar meaning father.
Of course ume (kid) and kume (cub, whelp, foal) are related or at least everybody thinks so (it's so obvious!) On a side note, I think English cub is derived from Basque (or other Vasconic) kume, something that happens with other non-IE words like ill and kill (surely related to Basque hil: to die, to kill).
But the Turkish alleged cognate is the main problem:
The Turkish word has a basic meaning of ‘conglomeration, group …’, including ‘family’.

Hmmm, this one does look very perilous indeed. 

He also has some other speculations relating Basque (normally not Iberian) suffixes with Hungarian (one case), a variety of European/West Asian languages (another case) or Centum Indoeuropean (another more complex case).

What can be concluded? In my opinion nothing. They can indeed be coincidences. Coincidences of sound and meaning do happen and only a systematic corpus such as mass-lexical comparisons can be of any use... and that only to begin with, because then the comparative method should be used to refine that first approach.

There is just one striking coincidence with proto-Turkish: egun-gün and another one, quite more dubious, with proto-Semitic: izen-*sim-. Some speculations on a common pan-European substrate of some declensions/suffixes. And then those clearly wrong rantings about the word ibar.

There is nothing of substance here, move along.

Note: a very simple (highly incomplete but a good preliminary exercise) way of comparing languages for possible similitudes is to compare the numeral series, especially 1-5, or maybe up to 10. There is a veteran online database for that. For our purposes (1-5 only):
  • PIE: *oynos/*sem *duwo: *treyes *kwetwores *penkwe
  • Basque: bat bi hiru lau bost 
    • Proto-Basque (??): *bade *biga *(h)ilur *laur *bortz(e)
  • Proto-Finno-Ugric: *ykte *kakte *kolm- *neljä- *vit(t)e
  • Old Turkic: bir iki üch tört besh
  • Akkadian (example of old Semitic): ishte:n shena shalash erbe h.amish
  • Proto-North-Caucasian (??): *cHê *qHwä: *s'wimHV *hêmqi *fh`ä^
  • Sumerian: desh min pesh lim i
  • Georgian: erti ori sami otxi xuti
I can hardly find anything comparable, maybe Sumerian min with Basque bi (ignoring the PB speculation), PIE *treyes with Basque hiru (??), Turkic tört and besh with PIE *kwetwores and *penkwe. But that's about it stretching my imagination all I can. The only half-solid hint is the PIE-Turkic connection, which may be just loanwords of IE substrate to Central Asian early Turkic in the Iron Age.


  1. "İsim" and "küme" are Islamic-era loanwords to Turkish from Arabic. "Aydın" acquired its intellectual capacity-related meaning only during the 20th century as a translation of the modern European use of being enlightened to denote increased intellectual capacity.

    The only half-solid hint is the PIE-Turkic connection, which may be just loanwords of IE substrate to Central Asian early Turkic in the Iron Age.

    The Turkic peoples migrated to Central Asia first during the early 1st millennium CE with the Huns, but the Turkic migration to Central Asia geared up only with the Turkic Qaghanate (the 6th-8th centuries CE) thus well after the Iron Age.

  2. As for "gün", it is a relatively late variant of "kün" (both of them have the same meaning).

  3. But, even if you believe that these two coincidences with Turkish mean something (who knows?), in order to make them imply Ibero-Uralic of some sort, we'd have not just to believe in Ibero-Basque (something that Selleslagh does not quite apparently) but also in Macro-Altaic, a very much contested hypothesis.

    actually worse than that: Ural-Altaic, which is much more contested than Macro-Altaic.

  4. Onur: I'm willing to give you another chance but, please, promise me that you will make your best to avoid stepping on racially-sensible toes, including mine, with your vocabulary. Deal?

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. Deal. But first I want you to make a change on the thread about the banned commentators of this blog and stop accusing me of being racist, which I have never been in my life.

  7. I will edit the entry. But you were still banned for stubbornly insisting on using racist-like language and not attending to warnings on the matter. So I truly hope we do have that problem again.

  8. Luis, I do not wish to enter into the same debate with you. Just know that I do not accept your accusation that my language was racist-like.


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