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Some of our basic verbs: “drink”

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Last week (see the post for December 11, 2019), I discussed the origin of the verb eat, which probably has the same root as the ancient Indo-European name of the tooth. Time will tell whether my idea to devote a few posts to such basic verbs will arouse any interest, but I decided to try again. So today the story will be devoted to the verb drink. The Germanic cognates of drink are surprisingly uniform: in Frisian, Dutch, German, Scandinavian, and even Gothic, the verb is the same (disregarding minimal and fully predictable phonetic differences), but in the other Indo-European languages similar forms are either non-existent or hard to detect. Potion (and I am sorry to say, its etymological doublet poison, which did not always designate a deadly substance) came to English from Latin via Old French. It contains the root pō-, which alternated with pī-, not by ablaut (for the regular alternation ō ~ ī does not exist) but by some inexplicable whim. Was pō- ~ pī- an onomatopoetic, echoic word, like piss and gurgle, imitating the sound a stream of water makes? If so, vowels could alternate freely in it: for example, a measurable quantity of liquid might be called “pō,” while a small measure would be a mere “pī.” Compare Engl. sip, sop, sup.  Latin fell victim to a language game (typical of such words?) and turned pibere into bibere (recognizable from Engl. imbibe). Italian bere, French boire, and others are its descendants. Quenching his thirst. Image by Olya Adamovich from Pixabay. Those two forms of the same verb survived in many languages: some generalized pō– (for example, Latin and Baltic), while others chose pī– (notably so, Slavic: for example, the Russian for “drink” is pi-t’). We observe two roots: ed– “eat” and pō- ~ pī- “drink.” As follows from some facts of grammar, the first of them referred to the process, while the second stressed the result of the action. Some dictionaries say that Germanic replaced the Indo-European root pō– with. . .

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News source: Linguistics – OUPblog

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