28 Aug 2010

The saga of the sea-faring house

I can't help but notice that the word for 'house' has traveled far and wide around the Eastern Mediterranean in the earliest times:
  • Egyptian par 'house' (written pr)
  • Hattic wel 'house' (< Proto-Hattic *pel ?)
  • Hittite pir 'house'
  • Luwian parnas 'house'
My spidey senses tell me that it all stems from the Egyptian language. I suspect the word also entered Proto-Aegean as *par hence some attested nouns in Etruscan that I interpret as likely temple-related derivatives: parχ (TLE 169) and parniχ (TLE 131).

One may wonder why such a word would travel so far and wide or why it would emanate specifically from the Egyptians, but 'house' may often refer also to a politico-religious building or institution, eg. a 'temple-house', 'White House', 'House of Representatives', etc. The Egyptians often used 'house' to refer to temples, as was the association among the Luwians[1]. If I interpret the historicity of this word correctly, then it emphasizes the influence of Egypt on religious faith throughout the 2nd millennium BCE. Even the name Egypt, a Greek name, was adapted (probably via Minoan *Aikupita) from the name for a prominent temple in Memphis, the *Ḥáʔat-Kuʔ-Patáḥ. 'House of the spirit of Ptah'. Note in this latter etymon, we have yet another word for 'house' being used in Egyptian to convey 'temple': *áʔat (written ḥȝ.t).

[1] Huxley, Crete and the Luwians (1961), p.26 (see link).


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