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 Post subject: lakštingala - nightingale
PostPosted: 2007 12 07, 14:49 

Joined: 2007 02 26, 13:25
Posts: 49
Location: Dublin, Ireland
This little bird has a beautiful name in both English and Lithuanian, and moreover there are obvious similarities between the two names.

The English name has its origins in Germanic roots "nakht" (night) and "galan" (to sing). This galan is from the PIE root *ghel- meaning "to cry out", with the English cognate "yell".

The "n" appears to have arisen in the development of the English version only, and is not present in the other Germanic forms. Compare:
German: Nachtigall
Swedish: Näktergal
Norwegian: Nattergal
Dutch: Naachtegaal

Now compare also
Lithuanian: Lakštingala
Latvian: Lakstīgala
(here we see an example of two very typical sound changes between the two Baltic languages: 1) Latvian has merged [s] and [š], whereas Lithuanian maintains them distinct; 2) Latvian "ī" = Lithuanian "in". Otherwise the two words are identical.)

We may note that the name of the bird in Romance (Luscinia, Usignolo, Rossignol...), Slavic (slavei, salavei, rdzawy, obyčajný...), and other Indo-European languages, are unrelated.

Looking at the Lithuanian word, the „lakšt-” part on its own seems to have the meaning “nightingale”. See the poetic word „lakštutė” (nightingale) and the verb „lakštuoti” (to warble like a nightingale).

It seems as though the Baltic root and part of the Germanic name got glommed together, and the resulting agglomeration gave rise to the modern Lithuanian and Latvian words.

Remarkably, the „-ingala” part is near-identical in form to the English. In preserving the “-in-” it is closer to the English than to the other modern Germanic forms, where no “n” intervenes between the “night” element and the “gal” element. We must presume that this is either a coincidence, or a parallel development, rather than direct influence from English to Baltic.


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