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Gk. ταπεινός ‘low, low-lying’ (Hdt., Pind.+) and IE *temp- ‘to stretch, extend’

Matilde Serangeli

University of Copenhagen

The hypothesis put forward by Bally (1903:329, 1942) that Gk. ταπεινός ‘low-lying’ (Hdt., Pind.+) is etymologically connected with τέμπεα/-η ‘defile, narrow-pass, valley’, and that it can be traced back to *tm̥pes-nó- (LIV2: 626 *temp- ‘to stretch, extend’, extended variant of *ten- ‘to stretch’) has encountered general skepticism. The term is nowadays still mentioned as obscure or Pre-Greek in etymological dictionaries (GEW 854, DELG 1093, EDG 1450).

García Ramón (2014) recently showed that Gk. τέμπεα/-η ‘defile, narrow-pass’ (Hsch. τὰ τέμπεα· … τὰ στενὰ τῶν ὀρῶν) → Class. Gk. ‘depression/valley’ (Dion.Perieg. 219 κοῖλα τῶν ὀρῶν) can be traced back to *témp-es- ‘narrow, long/fine' < '*stretched out’ (: Lat. tempus ‘temple’). Starting from this convincing hypothesis, I aim to reconsider Gk. ταπεινός as belonging to IE *temp- and to suggest for it an explanation within the framework of the Caland system.

Formally, Gk. ταπεινός could have been created beside τέμπος* (cf. τέμπεα < *temp-es) and *ταπύς (*tm̥p-ú-), cf. Gk. αἰπεινός ‘high, steep’ (Hom.+) :: αἶπος ‘height’ (Aesch.) :: αἰπύς ‘id.’ (Hom.+) (Caland system). The coexistence of neuters with zero-grade and full grade in one and the same lexeme is a well-known Greek phenomenon, see Class.Gk. βάθος ‘depth’ (: βαθύς ‘deep’), Hom. πάθος ‘sorrow’ : βένθος ‘id.’, πένθος ‘id.’, hence *τάπος (*tapes- < *tm̥p-es) beside τέμπος*, τέμπεα (*temp-es). In particular, the existence of a u-stem for this root may be supported by the Thracian place-name Τέμπυρα (Strab. fr. 7.48)/Tempyra (Liv. 38.41.4-7) (< *temp-u-ro-), and outside of Greek by Hitt. dampu- ‘blunt’ and most likely by dampupi- ‘rough, primitive, barbarian’, which also remain without a convincing etymology.

Furthermore, Greek ταπεινός and Hittite dampu-/dampupi- also share in my opinion the semantic shift (a) *[stretched out (in length)] → [low-lying, blunt] → (b) [unskilled, stupid, vile], which may semantically support the reconstruction put forward above. Russ. tupyj ‘not sharp, blunt’ (ORuss. tupъ < Comm.Slav. *tǫpъ ‘blunt’ < *tomp-ó-s) may be added to this scenario,

1.         Gk. ταπεινός:

            (a) ‘low-lying’: Pi. Nem. 3.80-82 ἔστι δ᾽ αἰετὸς ὠκὺς ἐν ποτανοῖς, ὃς ἔλαβεν αἶψα, τηλόθε μεταμαιόμενος, δαφοινὸν ἄγραν ποσίν: κραγέται δὲ κολοιοὶ ταπεινὰ νέμονται. ‘The eagle is swift among birds: he swoops down from afar, and suddenly seizes with his talons his blood-stained quarry; but chattering daws live in the low regions (scil. of the air)’.

            (b) ‘bad, mean, abject’: Pl.Leg.791d ταπεινός καὶ ἀνελεύθερος ‘mean and servile’; Plut. Thes. 6 ταπεινὰ πράττειν ‘to be miserable’;

                   ‘of low intelligence’: Gal. 19.220 αἱ τῶν ἀσυνέτων καὶ ταπεινῶν ἀνθρώπων ψυχαί ‘the souls of the stupid and low men’.

2.         Hitt. dampu-, dampupi-:

(a) KUB 29.11.7-8b ták-ku dEN.ZU-aš SIG7-u̯a-an-za nu SI GÙB al-pu SI ZAG-ma-aš-ši | dam-pu MU.2.KAM ḫa-me-eš-ḫa-an-za SIG5-at-ta  ‘if the moon is yellow and the left horn is sharp and the right horn is blunt: the spring will be good for the next two years’.

(b) OH, Hittite Laws §147/*36 ták-ku LÚ.U19.LU]-an dam-pu-pí-en ku-iš-ki uš-ne-eš-kat-ta “If someone is in the process of selling an unskilled person”; cf. also KBo 1.30 I 8-9 (Vocabulary): Hitt. dampupiš = Acc. nu-ʼ-ú ‘dumb, barbarian’ = Sum. LÚ AŠ.ḪAB ‘cad, villain’ (CAD I/J 189, AHw 799, 387)

3.         Russ. tupyj:

            (a) Mjakъko že i žestoko, plazivo i ostro i tupo, tjažьko že i lьgъko ‘Soft and hard, slippery and sharp and blunt, heavy and light’ (John the Exarch, Bog., 193).

            (b) ‘stupid’: Někto tvorecь tupъ svoe tvorenie ispěvaše (ἀφυοῦς ποιητοῦ) ‘Some stupid creator was singing about his creation (ἀφυοῦς ποιητοῦ)’ (Pčel. I. publ. b. l. 55).

To sum up: The place-name Τέμπυρα, the Anatolian as well the Slavic formal and semantic parallels complete the formal analysis on Gk. τέμπεα/-η offered by García Ramón (2014) and allow to add Greek ταπεινός ‘low’ to IE *temp- ‘to stretch, extend’. Moreover, both its formal and semantic analysis suggest the appurtenance of *temp- to the Caland System, cf. the synonymic root *ten(h2)- ‘to stretch’ Ved. tanóti, Gk. τανυο/ε- → ‘long, thin’ Gk. τανυ˚, Ved. tanú- < *tn̥h2-ú-

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Greek and Latin Linguistics

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