23 Feb 2008

Drinking in more of the drunk-joy connection

I thought I would extract some important points from the dungeon that is the commentbox of my previous entry Enticed by a Drunken Thought and add new stuff that seems to strengthen my conjecture that PIE *mad- 'to be drunk' was a loanword during the Neolithic from Semitic *mu-ḫáddiwu (a form based on Semitic triliteral *[ḫdw] 'to rejoice' that I deduce based on Akkadian muḫaddū 'gladdening' until such time as I'm kindly corrected by a knowledgeable Semiticist or I find the contradictory evidence on my own) .

Before I begin, it needs to be stressed that while some of my commenters have mistaken me for being "illogical" for exploring these admittedly unproven ideas, what is truly illogical is proposing ideas that have already been proven to be conclusively wrong despite being aware of this or when experts overlook such simple details within their own field that you really have to start wondering what the scope of their supposed expertise really is. An example of what I would call illogical are Creationists who continue to dismiss evolution as nothing more than a cheap card trick despite all the evidence including nature right outside their window and the several wildly different breeds of man's best friend that show otherwise. That's wacko.

In this case however, there is no secure etymology for *mad- (unless a kindly IEist can show me to some contrary evidence) and therefore it's not illogical to ponder on these things. To the reverse, it's our moral prerogative as scholars to indeed explore educated hunches just as long as all relevant facts are heeded at all times. Perhaps by exploring this issue, we can discover new facts that either affirm or deny my above conjecture. However, one need not fear that I'm somehow unaware of the fact that if I want to really insist on this idea, the onus is squarely on me to justify it. Believe me I'm all too aware of my personal philosophical obligation to Truth at the expense of ego.

Let's begin. Upon consideration I want to optimalize my initial idea. I suggest that it may be better to begin with the value of 'to be rejoiceful' for my construction of Mid IE *maxéd̰a-. In this way, we don't have to deal with both the transfer of a loanword from Semitic and a semantic shift at the same time.

It's important to note however that the close semantic association between 'joy' and 'drunkiness' is pervasive cross-linguistically, as Sanskrit मद्- (mad-) 'to be glad; to be drunk' and the English phrase 'drunk with joy' show us. The association even pops up in the Hebrew word šimah 'made to rejoice', a potential circumlocution for wine and drunkiness, which appears to have been adopted into Greek as the name Semachos associated with the cult of Dionysos, god of wine. Plus, as David Clines informs us in his book On the Way to the Postmodern: Old Testament Essays, 1967-1998, the Old Testament is riddled with the same association as the surrounding 'pagan' religions where "wine is referred to as gladdening the heart". However, trying to prove the association between bliss and inebriation requires nothing as pedantic as that. Just pick up a glass of rum, say a prayer and let it slide down your throat. Feel the loving warmth? Doesn't alcohol make you want to rejoice? No? Then have another glass, my friend, until you see the stars in the daytime sky... Skål!

So from a form like Mid IE *maxéd̰a- 'to rejoice', we can simply proceed as I had explained in my previous post which relies on a certain phonotactic-based rule I'm now hypothesizing during the Pre-IE event of Syncope that changes initial sequences of expected **CHe- (C = continuant, H = laryngeal) to *Cä- instead (MIE *maxéd̰a- 'to be rejoiceful' > eLIE *mäd̰- > PIE *mad- 'to be drunk'). So now I propose that somewhere along the way, a semantic shift happened, starting from the more direct semantics of 'to be rejoiceful' to the more metaphorical and implicit 'to be rejoiceful (on alcohol); be drunk'. This change in semantics is no different than when we say in English that someone is 'high on life' while rolling our eyes, the latter being the visual cue that tells us that 'high' implies more than just sober elation.

But I'm going to have to lay off all this booze talk though cuz, boy, am I gonna pay somethin' fierce come mornin', hehe.

(Feb 23 2008)
Right after posting this, I realized that if PIE *sal- "salt" is to also be explained by the same phonotactic rule I propose then I had better change the statement "that changes initial sequences of expected **RHe- (R = resonant, H = laryngeal) to *Rä- instead" to the revised "that changes initial sequences of expected **CHe- (C = continuant, H = laryngeal) to *Cä- instead". That's better. Mea culpa.

(Mar 03 2008) Due to the cognate in Ugaritic, ḫdw 'rejoice', I've changed what I wrote as *mu-ḫáddiʔu to *mu-ḫáddiwu. Apologies. This doesn't affect the validity of my claim here however since the post-stress syllables in such a loan would not have been salient to Mid IE speakers anyways given the apparent reflex (i.e. Semitic *-iCu following the stress accent is being reduced here to MIE *-a, a schwa sound, no matter what the weak consonant *C happens to be). I also corrected a missing macron in Akkadian muḫaddū which is important because the length is a sign of a reduction of a weak consonant.


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