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Iron Man


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"It’s all still with me."

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Whoa. [x]

Don’t tell them that it’s found all across indo-european ;)

Ooh, I was trying to find this so I could tell y’all all about it.

It gets better, tho.

In most Proto-Indo-European reconstructions, we have a four-way distinction between interrogative pronouns (“what?”, “where?”), relative pronouns (“what” in “that’s what I’m doing”, “where” in “that’s where I’m going”), proximal demonstratives (“this”, “here”) and distal demonstratives (“that”, “there”).  In most cases, the difference between these was a single sound.

Take a reconstructed root *kwo - meaning “what?” (interrogative).  In masculine nominative, this would have been *kwos.  The relative form of this (“what” - not a question) would have been *yos.  The proximal demonstrative pronoun (“this”) is often reconstructed as *sos, and the distal form (“that”) is usually thought to have been *tos.

You can see relics of this system in “where” and “there.”  <wh> comes directly from Indo-European /kw/ and <th> (pronounced /ð/ as in there) comes from IE /t/.  In fact the words “what” and “that” are direct reflexes of the neuter forms of the IE “what” words given above: *kwod and *tod.  Changing the sound at the beginning of the question word has been answering the question for about 5000 years.

But wait, there’s more.  Most of this system has collapsed over the years in many IE languages, but in a few, nearly all of it is still around.  In Hindi and Urdu, this is the case (though the system gets messy for “who” and “what” and a little bit for “how”), and there are probably others.

तुम हां जा रहा हो? (Tum kahā̃ jā rahā ho?) - Where are you going?

हां जगह मैं जा रहा हूँ वही है। (Jahā̃ jagah maĩ jā rahā hū̃ vahī hai.) - That is the place where I am going.

हर दिन, मैं हां आता हूँ। (Har din, myahā̃ ātā hū̃.) - Every day, I come here.

हर दिन, मैं हां जाता हूँ। (Har din, mvahā̃ jātā hū̃.) - Every day, I go there.

Interrogative = <k>, relative = <j>, proximal = <y>, distal = <v>.  The precise sound values have changed from the IE state, but the regularity is still there.  This is like, if in English we said:

"Where are you going?"
"I’m going there."
"No, there.  Over there is yere I’m going.”


"What do you have in your hand?"
"Oh, sat thing?  Nothing.”
"I want that."
"Tough shit, you don’t get to have yat I have.”

Yay! I was trying to explain this to someone a while back and I didn’t have enough linguistic vocabulary to explain it. :D

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