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The Values of Etymological Studies of Prof. D. Luka about Albanological Sciences

Prof. dr. David Luka is one the most well- known researchers in the field of history of Albanian language. The name of this famous, Albanian scholar entered in the linguistics history as a multidimensional linguist one of the greatest linguists of this century. He has worked in many fields: Historical Phonology of Albanian, History of Albanian Language, Historical Grammar, historical onomastics, lexicology, etymology, standard language etc. 

The main feature of all scientific activity of D. Luke is his tendency to deal primarily with historical linguistics and what to put in the service of the interests of his homeland, trying to present the facts of the Albanian language seniority, his language, as well as in rural Albanian autochthony that anciently inhabited. Luka has developed, under Çabej's guidance, an intense interest in the historical development of Albanian language. His complete works is published in 19 volumes as Studime gjuhësore [Linguistic Studies], in Albania.

The object of this study is its contribution in the field of etymology. In opus "Etymological Studies", through a finely critical review of the work done to date by other scholars with convincing arguments Luke has rejected a series of erroneous conclusions that are drawn because it lacked objective spirit in their studies, or they have not sufficiently recognized their own language. Recognition of linguistic terrain, the support in a rich language and previously untapped, the deep knowledge of linguistic facts, strict scientific method followed systematically by the author, acting primarily with internal comparisons and passing in external comparisons at the Balkans and Indo-European, after explanations of words within Albanian language, have enabled the author to reach significant results in innovative solutions in more accurate etymology. 

Linguists that have dealt with genuine etymological studies in Albanian language  during the nineteenth century and the twentieth century have been very few, besides Mayer, Pedersen the Jokel who have dedicated special attention to Albanian etymological problems, the other foreign linguists studied Albanian language from other angles.

Among Albanian linguists who have worked with the etymology of the Albanian word  are Konstandin Kristoforidhi, Aleksandër Xhuvani, Martin Camaj, Idriz Ajeti, Tahir Dizdari, Bardhyl Demiraj, Kolec Topalli, Vladimir Orel and in particular Eqrem Çabej. But, in this area where is worked more than a century of research, there are still untold words and empty seats waiting to be filled. In this regard the etymological studies of Luka have contributed, in an area where, before writing a line, you should be thinking several times and you should browse some books and articles.

He has dedicated the Etymology of the Albanian language the first four volumes of his work Linguistic Studies (1-4) approximately 2000 pages. In "Contribution to the etymology of the Albanian language” are lined up around three thousand etymology about 4000 word titles.

What should be noted is the work that "Contribution to the etymology of the Albanian language” is not an etymological dictionary and does not follow the principles of a vocabulary of this nature. The author's purpose was multiple but essential, as he states in the preface to the work: “to provide a contribution to the etymology of the Albanian language and for etymological dictionary of the future.” (Luka SGJ I: 51).

Starting from the target to say something new in this field, in the first volume are made the subject of study  mainly words that do not arise in the published dictionaries, many dialectal words, but which are property of Albanian and have  interest to their publication. In this regard etymological study is combined with research.

Luke tries to give something new in the explanations of the words, particularly in the area of ​​the Albanian historical phonetics, mainly in the mode of reflex to the group sk, of the Indo-European  (-e-) in Albanian language (the case e : ja), of the group  ct : jt,   tj : s, s :gj,  rn; rr, b- : m- opposite m- : b-, o- : vo- (va -) ect. khs. ashër, bokolle, mort, netull, pëllas, etc. In the field of historical phonetics Luke has dealt mainly with those problems that remain controversial even today widely scientifically or undisbursed. He does not describe in the historical phonetics and does not address the relevant phenomenon in those aspects where knowledge today is accepted as scientific fact.

   The problems that are treated are the most difficult, among which we note the presence of the apophony in Albanian, the guttural inherited reflexes, the larynx, etc.  Besides these issues, that are related to the coverage of phonetics of the Indo – European language in Albanian, he has also discussed some problems of internal development, belonging to an early period of development of Albanian. Such problems are: The vocal fields, the history of the Albanian accent; the quantity of a stressed vowel, the evolution of the vowel /o/ in line – on in the end of the word, the evolution of the same sound on its structure, that has given phonemic  groups vo-/va- ; nasal vowels and their non – nasal and the cases of the presence of apophony and metaphony in the nominal and verbal system, where the problems of the historical phonetics that are interwoven with those of morphology and being mutual contribute for both of the disciplines of the history of the language.

Luke gives a modest contribution for selection of words to the etymology of Albanian language. The author attempts are the most varied that could escalate approximately so.

  • Albanian ancient words coming from the Indo-European languages as : bat, blê, çart, deh, dorë, dredh, gam, germ, gjej, herdhe, kërcej, krua, mëll, mëngë etc.
  • words in which the old Indo-European base, appears not as a primary but is only in its consequences: bole, bulçi, buç, dëgjoj, kanece, sharan, shartoj, shpie etc. Luke thinks that the most of these words should be treated as words of domestic fund. From the words above, but also from the other words listed in the Contribution, are distinguished old local basis that are formed by prefixes and their suffixes, posing words quite old formations within Albanian as bobël, gavër, lavër, makth, gëzoj etc. In some cases formations look so old that difficult to do analysis of speech, prefixes and suffixes are compressed so much to the root of the word, as it seems that they are part of it.

In this work Luka efforts on the one hand to explain ambiguous words with controversial etymology as: bole, derdh, hirrë, kokole, shkulm, varr etc., but on the other side left in the shadow of suspicion etymology that are described by Çabej  as:  jermi, Këmishtaj  etc.        

  • local old words where intermediaries of the words are also distinguished from  Illyrian as: barrë, bli-ni (Acipenser), desharë-t, germ, shpejt, shpurë,  etc.
  • basic formations words based on an onomatope: cecas /me/ cijatë  çaçarrisem, çuçulloj, rrak-u, takëlloj, taketuke etc.
  • grafted words (“new elements of the vocabulary”): batërdi (bati+kërdi), bëlnyrem (lëbyrem+lëmehem), dërrmish (dërrmoj+mish) garmill (gam+kërmill), kërthigël (kërthi+bigël), koçudum (koçol+hadum), kapërthej (kap+mbërthej), sokodol (sokol+koçodol), shtajagë (shtagë+tojagë), vërtundem  (vërtis+tundem) etc.
  • borrowing words. In in his work Luke also highlighted a number of (relatively small) Albanian borrowings received from other languages. The main place is here for borrowings from Ancient Greek and from Latin.

It is known that  presence in Albanian of borrowings from Ancient Greek is one of the compelling arguments which proves the autochthony of Albanians in today's residence (Çabej 1965:102-106) and that the Latin element of Albanian language  contribute to the clarification of the issue of country of formation of Albanian language. (Çabej, Kuvendi 1974:26).

Luke analyzes some words from Ancient Greek as: krënd, lëmsh, , shkul, shurrëpelë, trumë etc.; from Latin (classical or vulgar) as /i/  brushmë, këterrë, makalush, rashqel, shordhe, tllar etc.; Slavic languages: gollube, gomile, izhmeri, pogaçë, rad-i, stejë etc.; Italian agresor, kacarole, kakareç, konoshti etc.; Turkish gjever, joll, kurum, somune etc.; Romaic anames, limontos, mindil, paramune, pllagë, stromë etc.; French kupon, masazh, reciprok, revansh etc.; German: mishmash etc.

Luka is not avoiding for one moment rigorous scientific requirements to give a more accurate etymology by studying the word in all ways to be analyzed, looking at it in all the links which it represents, trying to implement as analysis of specific issues as well their synthesis. For him, the word appears a knot with some fiber connectors, three of which form the basis of its: it relates to the thing that names, represents one or several meanings and it is the part of the sentence. If these three connections can be separated from each other, their resolution would undermine the knot.

The task of Etymology is to identify the origin of the word. But this task is carried out fully only after studying all featuring that it shows. The origin of a word is not the beginning of an etymological study but its end.

E. Çabej said: “etymology is history of words, partially documented, partially reconstructed, watching further … and tracked by the end” (Çabej SE I 1982:53).

Luke has taken this thought further ahead presenting not only the history of words, but dialectics of its development, circumstances in which it was formed, conditions that determined possible changes incurred during times in form and meaning, the connection with object that represents, weight and ability that  it has in a sentence etc.

Obviously the word is not a social or philosophical category that affect on the classical laws of dialectics. It has a particular specific. Word is created in certain circumstances, for certain reasons and of certain causes, but extinguished in certain circumstances, it loses and it is no longer used, its place is occupied by another that essentially denies its predecessor.

It happens not infrequently that a very important fact becomes a cause to create a new word. As an example can serve feshfësheja “thin raincoat of synthetic material that is dressed to protect from rain and wind” which is named so from making  fesh-fesh, sound  from  cloth it is built. This word is generated internally within Albanian quite accidentally, came and spread across the country, became common as far as being involved in the whole country, and in the way it came, in that way is forgotten, because this type of garment is not used anymore.

The word according to Luka “... should be studied in its history, in its irresistible development, in time and in space.” (Luka SGJ I: 62).

Often the exact meaning and forms of a word is explained convincingly through folk verse, this job sometimes cannot be done through dictionaries. We can bring here some examples that support the above opinion.

The word balmuç in the Dictionary of 1980 is not recorded at all, as provincial words. In the Dictionary of 1954 is given the explanation “ushuj i thiut ...i pashkrirë e i mbledhur “shuk”( Dictionary 1954:25). In this word it is necessary to determine precisely which is its original meaning, because on this basis will begin the history of the word. We can ask is “the substance” (respectively pig fat) or forms that defines the name of this word. Within Albanian balmuç is related or approaching with lëmuq e palmuq as general language words and with provincial forms kalamuq “bender”, lmuç “small batch” (Gazulli 1941: 237), galmuç” “Truc on the ground” (Gazulli 1941: 141) e lamuç-i “fat pile” (Gazulli 1941: 228). Also muq-i “pile” and the verb me muque “to collect muq”(Gazulli 1941: 271).

Luke now thinks that the origin of balmuq  is the word  palmuq  with the  extension of meaning on the basis of similarity.   In this conclusion he arrives beginning from the regional use of balmuç “grumbull” in Kastrat speaking, balmuç “topth”  in Barbullush  of Shkodra (khs, popular verses Tun - tun tunalini  /o sa mirë po tunka  tpini /Sa gjethë që ka blini / Aq balmuca  po qet tlyeni); balmuç “snow ball” in Hot of Malësi e Madhe. With this logic he notes that “Connecting with the Turkish word bulamaç does not combine, nor with form, nor with the meaning of the word. The connection balmuq with Serbo Croatian belmuž, bulgarian: balmuš, Romanian: balmoş etj (Çabej: SE II 1976 pg.14) for Luka appears doubtful.

The word buçil-i “small fountain that comes out of the ground” is used only in Tropoja. This word is not registered in the Albanian dictionaries. We find it in many forms, in different parts of the country, that suggests that this is not a dialectal word (compare. buçilë -a “small fountain”, buxhillë -a, boçillë-a, buqillë -a, buçinë ect.). Luke finds the exact meaning of the word in the lyrics of a popular song in Tropoja. Kërkon Lena argati / me kositë lugin e zi / në marrt etja kan me pi / Ka buçilin midis ti. (Luka SGJ I 1999:209).

The exact meaning of the verb  gjegj according to Luka is listen and reflect for what i hear thus “ hear and obey”. He sees this in the lyrics of a popular song at the North of the country (Curraj i Epër, Tropojë) Kur të dalsh na’t Fushn’ e Zallit /Ruej se gjegj mrenë me hi/ se ‘i harap atij ka qillue. (Luka SGJ II 2001:148).

A special place in his work have even household names. (Luka SGJ X 2007). The origin of family names, family circle of relatives in the Albanian language were not made the subject of a separate study. Generally these names are analyzed in etymological dictionaries but have never been studied in the system in relation to one another, to distinguish reflected the different layers from the Indo-European antiquity to the late borrowings.

Usually these names are analyzed in view of linguistic, semantic rare it's almost too little as ethnographic names. Analysis of family names, family circle of relatives firstly requires complete submission of material, which will become the object of study. The author's goal in this book has been to give researchers full lexicographic material for these types of names, also making efforts to analyze their history.

Luke in the volume X analyzes about 600 words titles, of which about a third are roots, while others composites etc. studied entirely in the system in relation to each - other, to distinguish  the different layers from the Indo-European antiquity till in  the late borrowings.

In this book, which is given in the form of a dictionary, are lined not only proper names of family members, but also others related to them, but also even those that are necessary for semantic and linguistic analysis of the relevant words, as: Grandpa, mother, father, Husband-wife, man - women, son - daughter, brother-sister, mother in law, etc. There are also are listed separate words, some of them related to human activity and that shed light on the evolution of the meanings of the words.

It would be worthless to analyze for example words bride and groom if there are not taken into consideration the words that apply to them as: engagement, wedding.

An example of this can make the word am/ ë-a “mother”. Dictionary of 1980 is not recorded at all, possibly named as provincial words, with limited use, and replaces the form of toskërishte ëmë-a (Dictionary 1980:433). Meanwhile we find the words: e amë-a, amësor, amësi, anësor (Dictionary 1980:28). As a word of this dictionary we find amë–a meaning “fountain, bed of a stream”, giving  the word seven wrong  meanings, which etymologically go with amë “mother” leaving no trail to the inaccuracy of the above discussion. A part of these meanings Çabej treats words as titles, giving the etymological explanation through word  amë ( See: Çabej SE IV 1996).

With the same inaccuracy explains even the Dictionary of the year 1954. Kristoforidhi separates amë – a (geg ) from ëmë-a (tosk)  and gives them as two lexical units. (Kristoforidh 1961: 39-97).

Luke proves this process with concrete examples. Compare ethnographic names that are formed with the meaning of the word djalë “valiant  in the service of someone”, djalë mas krenësh “boy who accompanies leaders in social activity”, djalë mbas vedi “personal guard” djalë zabiti (Dukagjin) persons accompanying of Bylykbashi in Mountain, djalë i pajtuem  “Payable guard” etc.

It is important to note that Luka in his work puts the spotlight, the analysis of the meanings of words that represent concepts of Albanian traditional family and relatives by applying here the basic principles of Ethnolinguistics. Luka in this work draws some important conclusions which are.

Firstly, in the system, the names of kinship, institution of family has been formed very early along with all the other Indo-European peoples. Specificity of this process is that the names of closer Albanians, those that mark the essence of family (father - mother, son - daughter, brother - sister, boy - girl) are with Indo-European origin.

Secondly, Latin borrowings in this nomenclature system belonging to a later age, they do not replace, but in most cases enrich it, reflecting new relationships created during the Roman occupation. After this time everything looks consolidated and subsequent borrowings or is not reflected in that (Slavic borrowings), or touch the side areas of this nomenclature (Turkish borrowings).

Thirdly, Albanians continue their family life in an active way even now creating new relationships, which undoubtedly reflect in the new ethnographic designations, formed within the Albanian language system with its own means, reflecting the terminology of the family, the family circle and of relatives. (Luka SGJ X 2007:5).         

The wide content that the author has given the etymology as a discipline that deals not only tracing the source of words, but that follows the life of words, their history, environment where they were formed, their geographical spread inside and outside land of Albania, the ability to form new words and to relate to different other words, gives his Opus a great importance for various studies about the Albanian language, not only in the diachronic level but also at the synchronic.

For the illumination of the etymology of many words, D. Luke has used the data of material and spiritual culture of our people, onomastics data, the names of tribes, families and individuals who are important to the history of the language and the people. So, linguistic phenomena are observed and studied in their combination of comprehensive, information about the history, culture and ethnography. This has led not only to achieve the most convincing arguments of linguistic phenomena, but also provide valuable assistance for other albanological sciences related to the history of language.

The great curiosity of Luke for the enrichment of the vocabulary is reflected in a number of studies and articles, recently with the publication of the work Magic of the word at the creation “Lahuta e Malcis” of Priest Gjergj Fishta,(Luka SGJ, XIV 2012) where the author has listed about 2,450 words, many of them Albanian authentic, that are not registered in the Albanian Dictionaries (1980, 2006). Luke is constantly concerned by the Albanian problems of today.  The author considers such material that can become part of the standard language today showing measured in its conclusions.

All these achievements have made David Luke to be included as a separated voice in the Albanian Encyclopedic Dictionary 2008 – 2009.



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Kolec Topalli. 2000. Kontribut në fushën e etimologjisë së shqipes (Rreth vëllimit të parë  Studime   gjuhësore të David Lukës)Phoenix, Shkodër, nr 1-2.

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