Friday, January 20, 2017


Is Barbaros a Barbarian Word?

Edith Hall, Inventing the Barbarian (1989; rpt. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991), p. 4:
The Greek term barbaros, by the fifth century used both as a noun and an adjective, was ironically oriental in origin, and formed by reduplicative onomatopoeia. Originally it was simply an adjective representing the sound of incomprehensible speech.5

5 See Weidner 1913; Specht 1939, p. 11; Limet 1972, p. 124. There are similar words in several early oriental languages, especially the Babylonian-Sumerian barbaru, 'foreigner'. Pokorny 1959, pp. 91-2, connects the term with numerous Indo-European words designating the meaningless or inarticulate, including the Latin balbutio, and the English baby.
But cf. Pierre Chantraine, Dictionnaire étymologique de la langue grecque, Vol. I (Paris: Éditions Klincksieck, 1968), p. 165:
On a évoqué sumérien bar-bar «étranger», sém. babyl. barbaru, «étranger»: Weidner, Gl. 4, 1913, 303 sq., Specht, KZ 66, 1939, 11; hypothèse périmée, car. akkad. barbaru signifie toujours «loup» et rien d'autre.
I'm unqualified to judge.

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