Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Quince IV-The Voyage Home

First things first--a bit of research has turned up some stuff I should have mentioned earlier, but so it goes. Greek Κυδωνι (kythoni) should hardly be a surprise. Catalan codony/er had me confused until I found Friulian Italian mêl codogn for the fruit and codognâr for the tree. Hopes of further Romance languages that kept the dental stop were dashed by Sardinian mela pirongia "pear apple." And I can't even find anything for Occitan to see if there's a continuum from northern Italy to Northern Spain. Rounding out this odd mix is Lithuanian paprastoji cidonija, "Cydonian...uh...pear something?"

On to Slavic. My first Slavic love, Czech, gives us kdoule. I'd be able to tell you more about that if I hadn't mailed my Czech etymological dictionary off to Oregon or Vermont or somewhere. And that's the only etymological dictionary I actually own. It's clear that you lose that first vowel, though. In a situation we only see elsewhere in Romanian, that /kd-/ is pronounced /gd-/, through regressive assimilation of voicing. Czech has a non-productive suffix -oň giving us names of trees, and this leaves us with kdouloň, which I find to be a particularly beautiful word, although I bet that n won't format properly.

Slovak preserves the initial vowel in kutina. That's about as easy as it gets with Slavic, unfortunately. I don't know what to make of Polish pigwa at all. Serbian/Bosnian/Croatian have (normalized to Roman script) dunja, which is possibly a continuation of cydonium with the first syllable dropped altogether. (That is, like Czech, but with the difficult cluster simplified). Or it could be something else altogether.

Russian and Ukranian, thanks to contact (read: subjugation) by the Turkic tribes to the south and east (incidentally the neighborhood where the quince originally came from) have айва (aiva)--cf. Turkish ayva, Azerbaijani heyva. Thanks, Nate!

These discontinuities all make a certain amount of sense--there was a proto-Romance (i.e., Vulgar Latin) word for quince, and most of the remaining languages show reflexes of this, with some room for phonetic and semantic variation. The Germanic languages were more closely neighboring the classical languages of antiquity and in some cases (Charlemagne discusses quinces in his treatises on gardening) assuming their role and borrowed the term more or less uniformly. Where the Slavs settled in areas associated with classical languages and quince production (Czech/Slovak, the Balkan languages) they picked up some variant of it (if my supposition for the Balkan languages); Polish is a wildcard and the East Slavic languages, in spreading to the South, got their term from the Turkish.

I'm finishing this batch of membrillo, or quince jelly, or quince paste, or quiddany, or cotignac, or what have you, today. Quince on crackers with cheese, as it should be. Enjoy. From Greek to Latin to Old French to English to me to you.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Quince III

Guess I got sick of the cutesy title. It’s amazing how quickly something sweet can become something cloying. Lest this happen to me, I'll try to keep things moving in this wild speculation into etymological hyperspace. Now with purty pictures.

So. Germanic languages: We’ve already seen English quyn/ce and quince. The other Germanic languages end up with /w/ or /v/ in there as well: German Quitte (/kv-), Dutch kwee(peer) (quince-pear, cf. the Walloon), Afrikaans kweper (assumedly a direct descendant of the Dutch) Norwegian kvede and Danish kvæde (note medial consonant voicing) Swedish kvitten. No Icelandic, Faroese, or Frisian data.

Not an Indo-European language is Finnish with kvitteni—a Germanic borrowing, assumedly from Swedish. Not altered by Finnish phonology other than the final vowel—got to keep those syllables open! Also non-Indo-European but merrily borrowed was Japanese marumero, but I should have mentioned that two posts ago.

Oddly, somehow when I started this I had the goal of attempting to get more people to eat quince. I'm not sure what I've just done is the best way, but I'm having fun. Even if it's also more word-comparison than actual lexical analysis. And I didn't even look into a discussion of grammatical gender (the classical languages were neuter, French masculine, German and Czech feminine, I believe) but that's beyond my scope for now.

Next time: Part IV: "Oh right I promised some Slavic data and am totally not going to segue into this great Czech suffix that denotes TREES how cool is that?" And then I'll be done with quinces for a little while. Promise.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Quiddany Quiddities - Part II

We'd gotten as far as Latin cotoneum/cydonium malum last time, and the development and spread of the Romance languages does some funky things.

With cotoneum (malum) we see the same phenomenon as the continuation of Latin (caseus) formaticus (cheese mold-made) where the adjectival element gets continued as the name itself (fromage, formaggio, etc.) There are exceptions, though: caseus remains in English "cheese", German "Käse", etc. The same sort of thing, in yet another aside (this one promised), is why our continuation of Greek melon "apple" now refers to fleshy Cucurbitae--originally melon.pepo(n) "apple-gourd" in Greek and Latin, with the original gourd element clipped off as unnecessary.

Anyway, cotoneum/cydonium is what we have to work with: respectively (1) and (2) from here on out.

Old French: cooin. From (1). The loss of final Latin -m is common to Romance languages, and contributed to the erosion of -VC case endings. The intervocalic deletion of /t/ is harder for me to account for, but seems to have happened anyway, resulting in two contacting vowels which became a diphthong. Later on in French the final nasal went velar, resulting in the current French coing. There is a place name Cotignac in France which alone seems to have kept the intervocal /t/, place names being hardier at this sort of thing, and the name also refers to a kind of quince preserve.

Before it turned into coing, Middle English borrowed the Old French word cooin, reshaping it as coyn or quyn, developing the initial labiovelar /kw/. Things start to look familiar. The Middle English plural of quyn was quynce, which was later re-evaluated as a singular, thus giving us the singular quince. Singular indeed, though not a singular occurrence in English. "children" and "brethren" are double plurals like "quinces," although alone much different lines. Both of these were originally r-plurals (cildra/cildru and brether) which got extra -en endings tacked on when they were no longer viewed as being plural. Etymology or no, "quinces" it's still the valid English plural, though it now strikes me as funny. English also has an archaic quiddany, (from (2)?), referring to something not quite a syrup and not quite a jelly, and cheerfully stole the French cotignac, leaving us with a bunch of Enlightenment-era cookery-book references to Cotiniack. Delightful.

We've gotten sidetracked from the Romance languages. Spanish has membrillo (epentetic b following metathesis!) and Portuguese has marmelo, but Catalan gives us codonyer. The vowels make it look like (1) with the intervocalic /t/ voiced to /d/. The ending is baffling, but fascinating all the same. Walloon has "poere de cwin," "quince pear," developed from the French. Italian has mela cotogna, keeping Latin malum. Romanian has gutui. The initial voicing there is something else. I have no knowledge of Romanian historical phonetics, so I'll leave it at that.

I'll wrap things up with Germanic and Slavic, and Greek tomorrow for completeness' sake (I at least want to get to that, if only to babble about Czech for a while) and a view outliers, like Finnish and Japanese. The title should at least make a bit more sense now!

Quiddany Quiddities - Part I

My story today begins with the Greeks. Humans had been eating delicious delicious quince for thousands of years before that, since it was first domesticated in the area north and east of the Fertile Crescent; that is what is now Iran and the Caucasus. You can find people who will tell you it was the tempting fruit in the Garden of Eden, that it is referenced in the Song of Solomon and not the apple, and that its cultivation may have in fact preceded that of that apple. And yet apples get all the glory and I still have to describe it as a cross between a tennis ball and a pear.

It is the Greeks who came up with two of the more tenacious names for the fruit, both interestingly descriptive. First up is μελίμηλον (meli.melon, Latin melimelum)) "honey-apple." Melimelum is the runt of the litter here, with a limited distribution in extant languages. (Portuguese=marmelo, whence marmelade--originally a quince jelly.). Membrillo, the Spanish term for quince paste also comes to us from "melimelon," though Spanish does not continue this particular item itself for the name of the fruit or tree.

There was a certain kind of quince identified with a Minoan settlement on Crete in Κυδωνία (Kydonia, near present-day Khania), the κυδώνιον μήλον (kydonion melon) which gets into Latin as malum (Latin for apple) cotoneum/cydonium. This adjectival demonym deploys itself into a variety of forms in various languages.

It is therefore ultimately Kydonia we will be chasing through the dropping of Latin case endings, the devoicing or elision of that intervocal d, nasal palatalization, or the adoption of the term into a language with its own pholonological axes to grind.

Next time: More quince, of course, but also: why does "melon" mean apple? What does that have to do with cheese? What does any of that have to do with quinces? And why does "quinces" seem so awkward anyway?