Re: [very OT] Welsch

From: R.C. Bakhuizen van den Brink [Rein] (
Date: Fri Sep 22 2000 - 03:47:36 EDT

On Thu, 21 Sep 2000, <> wrote:

>It was in a book about Indo-European (I don't venture to mention the author,
>as I have at least two candidates on top of my mind). The discussion was
>about an alledged common PIE root (*wel-, *wol-, something like that)
>apparently used to name many unrelated peoples, that had the only common
>feature being "neighbors" of the people who called them by that name.
>It seems that Unicode is not very fashionable of this list, lately. :-)
>Return-Path: <>

also discussed elsewhere:

Date: Thu, 19 Aug 1999 03:11:02 EDT
Subject: Re: Chronology of the breakup of Common Romance [long]

Sender: Indo-European mailing list <>

In a message dated 8/18/99 7:36:25 PM, wrote:

<<"Wallach" is clearly a sort of Latinisation of East Slavic volox-
< Common Slavic *volx- (cf. Polish Wloch, Czech vlach, etc.).>>

But does this clarify things?

'Wallachia' seems to first appear in German texts. So why in the world would
German writers latinize an East Slavic version of a familiar German word that
presumably has already been accepted into Western and Southern Slavic?
(Doesn't Wallachia looks like it could also be just plain Latinized MHGerman?)

If you buy Hall, duNay, et al., then the point of first Slavic contact with
the eastern European "Vlachs" is among the Southern Slavs. And place names
and early records (according to duNay) suggest that the original form was
'vlahi' in Bulgarian and Serbian. The alternate form 'vlasi' is understood
to be a borrowing from Avar or Hungarian 'olasi' (originally borrowed from
Slavic), and 'vlasi-" is how 'vlach' occurs in modern Bulgarian and Rumanian.
 "Vlachi' would seem to be the way the word traveled back north and west.

A different issue is when and where the Germanic 'walh' meaning Celtic or
Romance speakers or perhaps even Franks, etc., first appeared in Slavic. It
would appear pretty unlikely that it would be in East Slavic. It would
likely have been as early as the first written appearances of the word, in
Anglo-Saxon. In the 700's, Frankish annals were already mentioning Western
Slavs as 'ancient allies', and Southern Slavs had already been serving in the
Byzantine army for 200 years. One would presume that the word - not
referring to Vlachs but to Celts or Romance-speakers - was already
established in Slavic by that time. And presumably it was from the form
found in AS (walh-) or in OHG (circa 800AD - /uualha/).

Under these circumstances, the difference between the early Western and
Southern forms (assumedly "valaki" or "volochi" versus "vlahi") may be
relevant. But the East Slavic form would seem historically to appear to be
later, borrowed from the south or west and somewhat irrelevant to those

As far as speaking of a "Common Slavic" form for a word borrowed from
Germanic that supposedly was inputed uniformly across 3/4's of a continent of
Slavic speakers - from the Elbe to the Ukraine - that seems terribly
unlikely, doesn't it?

It also seems 'Walh' is unattested in Gothic in the 4th century. Its
supposed point of origin is around the Alps and the preponderance of Germanic
occurences are in the west.

On the face of it, it would look like Western Slavic along the Elbe or in
Bohemia would have borrowed the word first and with an earlier meaning and
then did apply it to Franks as Romance speakers and perhaps inhabitants of

In Balkan Slavic, it apparently didn't apply to Latin-speaking Byzantines or
Franks, but to a rural Romance speaking population. On first impression,
this would suggest that it came there later - after clerical and
administrative Latin had pretty much left the Balkans. And that later the
specific form /vlah-/ or /vlas-/ bounced back to the west to become 'Vlachi'.

The original meaning of 'walh' has of course disappeared from Czech and
Polish (as it has for example from Swedish) with national names taking its
place, so that the Balkan form referring to "Vlachs" is all that remains.

Steve Long

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.2 : Tue Jul 10 2001 - 17:21:13 EDT