The word eaters  
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This work outlines the phonosemantic structure of Indo-European languages and explores the nature of spoken words.
The introduction contains a brief overview of the fundamental elements that made up a language, and summarizes the mechanisms responsible for the development of the vocabulary and grammar.
The later parts of this publication, present an extensive evidence together with descriptions of some typical associative processes underlying the emergence of language.


While examining the associative mechanisms and perceptual experiences recorded by language, I have noticed that Indo-European languages derive from a nucleus composed entirely of simple ideophones.
A major portion of this kernel consists of vocalized, self-imitative sequences of ingestive movements, while a second group is made of imitations of auditory experiences.
The border between the two groups is fluent, as eating and drinking are not soundless activities.
Capable of turning every dish into a truly multi-sensory experience, ingestion seems to have been the original source of several onomatopoeic words. Nevertheless, since all of the vocalized, ingestive sequences imitate the ingestive movements, while only some of them imitate the accompanying noises as well, I regard the ingestive vocalizations as a separate category of ideophones, distinct from onomatopoeia. In consequence, I use the term "onomatopoeic" only to denote words which aim to imitate the auditory sensations.
Apart from the two, abovementioned categories, the nucleus contains a third group which includes vocalized respiratory actions and a few other self-imitative vocalizations, unrelated to ingestion.

As the words inspired by ingestion are the prevailing ones, and seem to slightly predate the two other groups of ideophones, it gives an impression that Indo-European languages virtually evolved out of eating aloud. However, a closer look reveals that it was not just the bad table habits that made the miracle of language.
Though eating aloud was definitely inspiring and very likely provided an important transition from eating to speaking, in the last end, when the first genuine words were pronounced it was not necessarily the food, but rather the reminiscence of it that was "eaten aloud". Moreover, the onomatopoeia and the group of self-imitations unrelated to ingestion also participated in the formation of the core vocabulary, as the language was not literary created by ingestive or acoustic processes, but by mental ones.
In other words, it is important to point out that language clearly demonstrates to be a product of interplay between an intellectual process and a natural technique associated, adapted and further developed to serve the purpose of communication, but since the technique (as I am going to demonstrate) was constituted largely by vocalization of ingestive sequences, it made the Indo-European languages a delicious manifestation of human ability to interpret reality and make complex associations.

A simple scenario ?

As eating and speech are similar in many ways, the process of putting some sound into an empty mouth, in order to produce a word, should theoretically not have been a complex one, and a hungry mouth could have been very motivated to make this little step towards a new way of communication.
Since none of us are equally happy for just any food, the pronounced voice could have been modified by the reminiscence of the characteristic mouth and tongue movements associated with a particular dish.
If the fastidious attitude towards food was reworded, the trick would have been repeated frequently (as it depended on the appetite) and could have been sufficient to produce a menu-like vocabulary.
In principle, such a word-making scenario could have been performed by an initially speechless family, consisting of an observant parent and a couple of children.
Actually, at the first glance, the Indo-European version of the scenario looks even more dynamic and much more dramatic in the motivating part, as several indications suggest that a quite extensive vocabulary and some important grammatical rules were formed within a single generation by a single contributor recognizable by a distinctive feature - blindness.
Nevertheless, the diagnosis may very well be premature, as the observed homogeneity and an extremely non-visual character of the early Indo-European vocabulary can also be explained by other factors which are proposed and evaluated further in this publication.

The early words

The first ideophones can roughly be characterized as statements of facts. They are all non-visual (none of the earliest expressions seem to be inspired- or even slightly affected by visual stimuli) and they are all imitative in some way.
It is also noteworthy that those earliest words seem to have been almost exclusively verbs, but some models for pronouns and nouns were also present, as the initial understanding of the differences between some particular actions and the objects performing them has on occasions been vague, and sometimes both the object and the action have been perceived and defined as a single phenomenon - a peculiarity which only to some degree can be justified by the impossibility of collecting visual information.
Additionally, it is important to mention that the early words were actually single-word sentences, containing all that was necessary to express the meaning they were supposed to convey. Moreover, they typically consisted of just one syllable, and surprisingly, several of their prototypes probably did not contain any vowels at all, though sooner or later, vowels must have been inserted to make the pronunciation easier and to increase the range of communication (to allow shouting).
Inserting vowels to prevent consonant clusters became especially important in compounds, when the simple words were to be placed in front of other consonant groups, but the position of a vowel within a word was also used to mark and modify the lexical class of early derivations. Thus, several early nouns were produced by breaking up the ideophonic consonant cluster with a vowel, while in the early verbs, the vowel was usually placed after the consonants, leaving the original cluster unchanged.

For the sake of convenience I will call the words that were made from scratch "elementary words", to distinguish them from the rest of vocabulary which was developed by secondary associations, adaptations and combinations of the first imitative and self-imitative utterances.

The patterns of derivations

The transformation of the initial vocabulary into a complex system of verbal communication went smoothly, as the ideophones were simply assigned for a multitude of purposes.
The vocalized ingestive sequences, that entered their career as definitions of various eating techniques, were soon used to name the food itself, the amount of it, as well as the taste, consistence and state of mind connected with it. All those designations, initially related to nutrition, were subsequently generalized to apply to virtually anything that displayed similar characteristics.
Moreover, the words that originally defined movements of mouth, tongue and jaw, were reused to define corresponding movements of other body parts, as well as movements in general. Hence, they were adapted to name manual activities, body parts and tools used to achieve effects similar to the ones produced by mouth. Furthermore, they gave names to products of those activities, and to several abstract ideas.
Thus, the ideophones derived from crumbling of food were not only employed to define crumbled food, but also anything else that was crumbled, perceived as crumbled or just used for crumbling.
The pattern was repeated with every one of the ingestive techniques, which beside a variety of vocalized chewing, biting and crushing sequences, also included sequences inspired by drinking, spitting, sucking, licking and swallowing.
Virtually the same pattern was used to make derivations of ideophones from the two other groups.
The onomatopoeia became especially fertile sources for a variety of words echoing sounds of movements, while the non-ingestive self-imitations produced words related to the physical activities and experiences that provoked those vocalizations.
The ideophones were combined into larger entities and the effects of those combinations, the complex words, produced more derivations.
All the way the words reflected their meaning and followed it wherever it went. Whenever the meaning could be extended to refer to several phenomena, the word just followed that generalization and was used to name those phenomena.
As long as a word defining an action was reused to define another action, or when a word defining an object was reused to define another object, the original sound was initially unaffected by the new role. However, when words defining actions were assigned to define objects (and vice versa) they were modified quite early by the rules of emerging grammar.

The origins of grammar

The initial, "pre-grammatical" body of ideophones was actually not entirely pre-grammatical, as it contained naturally occurring similarities, which on occasions were regular enough to be regarded as rules and followed. Those regular similarities were not accidental but due to the fact that the origin defined both the function and the shape of a word, which in the long run caused that many words sharing the same function displayed similar phonic patterns.
The natural correspondences between the shapes of words and their functions required that whenever a word was reused to play a different function, it must have been reshaped, in order to make that new function understandable. To achieve that, the necessary processes of adaptation were carried out by simple means of composition, according to natural guidelines.
The similarities and hence the very first grammatical rules were simply made by nature, as they were just consequences of similar origins. Not all words of similar origin displayed similar sounds and not all sounds within those words were similar, but those that were, made the first, natural rules of grammar and established the directions for its further development.

The subject of observations

The observations mentioned above and described in detail further in this publication, were made on Polish, which remains the main subject of my investigation, as it convincingly displays the emergence of words and demonstrates a continuous development of the basic ideophones, into a vocabulary recognizable as Indo-European.
The initial choice of Polish as a language of extensive examination was absolutely subjective and due to the simple fact that it is my native tongue. A closer look and a comparison with other Indo-European languages exposed, that the nicely preserved, phonosemantic correspondences and continuous word-making patterns are significant features of Slavic languages, and that the outstanding results delivered by Polish are obviously due to its position within this group. This, however should not diminish the fact that the abovementioned principles, as well as the detailed observations I am about to share, regard all Indo-European languages, as every Indo-European vocabulary I have tested so far, has demonstrated to reflect the same patterns of initial development. The observed differences are largely made by later developments and by the quality of preservation of the original phonosemantic structure of language, not by its mere presence, which is common for the entire Indo-European group.
Because of the common character of the basic vocabulary, I hope that in most cases the phonosemantic correspondences and correlations with other Indo-European languages will became obvious and self-explaining. Nevertheless, I will occasionally point out some important similarities and comment on the less obvious ones, that otherwise may escape your attention. Some comments will also be used to explain the appearance of the early, single-verb sentences, which can only be understood thru the originally inflected nature of Indo-European language - a feature that originally affected the shape of words and influenced the formation of grammatical system, but is now unequally represented within the IE-group, as it seems to be heavily damaged and partially defunct in the languages that emerged in result of major interactions between distinct populations.
Furthermore, as this publication is written in English, I will frequently point out several corresponding patterns observed within this language and include a few comments on the semiotic similarities and peculiarities of Teutonic languages, however I believe that a truly comprehensive investigation of every single language should be carried out by its native speakers.

This publication is an attempt, to demonstrate and describe the basic principles of the processes that developed a language. I hope, that once those principles are drawn and published, they can by used to identify, explore and reconstruct similar structures within other languages.

The basics of word making

The basic ideophones were created by associating sensory experiences with sounds and mouth movements that accompanied those experiences.
If the experience was soundless, the associated mouth movements were vocalized, producing a self-imitative ideophone.
If neither the facial muscles nor the mouth, tongue or oral cavity was affected during the experience, the association was made between the experience and the accompanying sound. In this case, the product of the association was an onomatopoeia, as the sound of the experiance was imitated to name the experiance.
In a hypothetical situation, when the experience did not provoke any facial activity and was not accompanied with a sound, a basic ideophone was seemingly not developed, as the part of vocabulary which I believe to be the oldest, does not contain any elementary words reflecting events that neither emitted sounds, nor affected the mouth.
The last observation corresponds to a striking absence of visually inspired words and presence of common definitions covering a wide range of things, creatures, actions and phenomena of nature, that differ from one another in every possible respect, except for a similar sound they produce. When those various phenomena were eventually distinguished, it was done by the way they touched, sounded and felt - not by visual means.

Out of darkness

A simple explanation for the initial lack of differentiation, as well as an explanation for the non-visual perception of surroundings, would be the impossibility to collect visual information caused by blindness. Such explanation corresponds well with other peculiarities, suggesting that the initial vocabulary was developed by a single human being, and that this human being was, at least initially, completely insensitive to visual stimuli. Basically, the core of the Indo-European vocabulary looks, like it was created by a blind child, trying to communicate with the world.

On the other hand, a similar effect could be expected if the language was developed in a lightless environment. Living in a cave (which seems to be attested by some semantic peculiarities) would make a perfect match, since it both explains the invention of speech, and provides a practical reason for its rapid success and acceptance.
The usefulness of an invention is the best guarantee of its success, and a system of verbal communication would have been very useful for humans living in such an environment.
Hence, the "blindness" can be just an illusion caused by the lightless surroundings while the "blind child" could in reality represent a whole group of people, systematically developing their skills of speech - virtually, every time they were at home together, and by the way: English home is Danish hjem, but Polish jama is a cave.
The habit of vocalizing would have been valuable in itself, revealing the current position, activities and condition to other members of the group - information, that otherwise would have been difficult to obtain in darkness. The clicking mouths and smacking tongues over dinners without candlelight, could have provided a repetitive source of inspiration and eventually flourish into some kind of meaningful conversations. Even if the first chats would have been limited to exchanging opinions about the food and its quality, the technique had a great potential for expressing thoughts and ideas in a way that could be understood in darkness.
The creative process could have involved several related groups of humans, exchanging and improving their language skills while gradually developing similar verbal patterns.
Speech, as a non-visual alternative to gestures and face expressions, could have easily emerged independently in several places. The developments could have lasted for ages and proceeded with variable intensity depending on circumstances (e.g. faster during the winter), while the vocabulary could still reflect the dark environments in which the languages were created and used.
Since one completely dark environment looks exactly the same as any other completely dark environment, while the ingestive techniques are the same for all humans, several early vocabularies could have been very similar, without being related to each other.

Such a multi-treaded model of language development fits well with a few observations I have made on non-Indo-European tongues which also contain important words deriving from ingestive vocalizations, however I have not found any evidence suggesting that the emergence of the particular vocabulary and grammar, recognizable as Indo-European, is a result of a long-lasting, collective creativity, nor can I see any trace of early loan-words from non-Indo-European languages, or anything else that could support a heterogeneous origin. On contrary, the initial structure of Indo-European languages appears to be so homogenous, that it looks as if the early stages of development were conducted rapidly, by a single human being, and like it took some time before other humans actively contributed to the development of vocabulary.
Apart from the non-visual character, the early words share a misunderstanding or - more precisely - a peculiar understanding of the ongoing reality, which seems to reflect a childish mind. What is even more important, this "childish mind" seems to evolve and increase its understanding, while developing the principles of language. If it indeed represents a group of humans, then the members of the group must have shared exactly the same conditions of life. Moreover, they must have been undergoing the same stages of mental development, while sharing the same experiences, which I simply cannot imagine, unless the initial word-making group consisted just of a pair of twins, or a couple of children equal in age, growing up at the same place and time, which brings my early Indo-European story back to a single cave... or to a talkative, blind child.

The taste of sunshine

Presence of some surprisingly non-visual words, created outside the habitat rather then inside it, seemed to provide a major argument in favor of the idea of a "blind child". Trying to make sure whether this could be a conclusive proof of blindness, I have noticed that some of those words are quite complex and none of them are elementary words. Moreover, they seem to have occurred simultaneously with some visually inspired words, which all together means that they are of a later origin.
The simultaneous creations of visual and non-visual words may indicate that at this point several individuals already participated in the development of language, but it may also suggest that the first Indo-European was not blind after all. If the initial blindness has been a temporary effect of growing up in a lightless environment, the handicap - if any - might have been limited to a specific period of life - namely to the childhood.

A simple reason for the peculiar, continuous tendency to describe just about anything in terms of touch, taste and sound, becomes clear once you realize how difficult it is to derive a visual word out of a non-visual one, and when you notice that this method is still relatively easy when compared with the alternative of creating a meaningful, visual word out of nothing.
The language of the first Indo-Europeans was simply not designed to communicate visual concepts. The auditory-gustatory-tactile origin caused the initial vocabulary to be unfitted for defining and communicating visual observations, and simply doomed the language to remain non-visual for some time. While words referring to sounds, movements and gustatory sensations could have been easily created by simple combinations and derivations, it required a lot of imagination to create understandable words describing visual phenomena in terms of taste and sound - especially when those phenomena were soundless and not eatable. Nevertheless, the imagination, creativity and appetite had no limits as demonstrated by the Indo-European names of the Moon, which because of its ever-changing form (the "bite marks"), has been perceived and defined as continuously eaten.
Also the Sun was given an ingestive name, usually a salty one. The name referred to the impact the Sun had on the body, namely to the salty taste experienced due to dehydration and the salty skin caused by sweating.
Never mind the official etymologies. Slavic words for Sun, such as Polish słońce and Russian solnce can still be understood as "making salty", while the English sunshine has only been reinterpreted away from its original meaning which must have been: "salty skin" (more visible when compared with the Danish solskin). In much the same manner Latin sal (salt) gave name to sol (the Sun) and Greek halas to helios, as the original relationship between names of the Sun and its sensible impression on the tongue and skin, can be observed all over the Indo-European group and beyond it.
Though reffering to the Sun in terms of feel (as "the heat") rather then taste was also quite common, the word for the heat itself was just an adaptation of an earlier, gustatory definition conveying the meaning of a sharp taste ("sour", "bitter"), which again evolved out of simple, ingestive terms, through extending their initial meaning of "eating", "biting". All of the related visual words are late.
The basic way of making names for visual phenomena, including such ostentatiously visible ones as the Sun, Moon, light and fire, was by deriving them from previously named non-visual concepts. Only once the initial obstacle of non-visuality was overcome and some visual phenomena were understandably defined in terms of taste, feel or sound, they could be used as visual references and become sources for truly visual derivations.

Summarizing the above mentioned observations and considerations, I am convinced that the language of Indo-Europeans was born in darkness and was developed to compensate for the impossibility of visual communication.
While the particular circumstances that prevented the visual communication can theoretically extend from blindness or just a nightfall at one end of the spectrum, to some natural disaster (e.g. mount Toba eruption) at the other, it looks to me that the core of Indo-European language was formed at a single place, within a small group of humans, of whom at least one (the most creative one) spent much of the formative years in darkness.

Looking for family

The development of language was initiated by formation of several ideophones which may, or may not have been uniquely Indo-European.
Some of those elementary words seem to be shared by non Indo-European languages and a few phonosemantic constructions must have been more popular then others, as their derivations can be commonly found within several language groups. It is of particular interest that the similarities are obviously not accidental, as those non Indo-European words appear to mirror the same imitative patterns, and sometimes even their derivations seem to reflect the same associations.
The question arising from this is: Are those very early Indo-European and non-Indo-European words related ?
Could there have existed a universal proto-language that predated the emergence of the Indo-European, or were there just some universal mechanisms for creating words ?

Expecting at least some of the word-making mechanisms to be universal, I believe that their products may, but do not have to be related. Those similarities might indeed derive from a very early stage of a common linguistic development, but they may just as well represent parallel developments, similar to the Indo-European ones.
My believe in that the second option may be equally possible, relies mainly on the ostentatious homogeneity of initial development demonstrated by Polish, but also correlates with an observation that the universal part of vocabularies is usually limited to words deriving from ingestive vocalizations, which by way of nature should be the same, or at least very similar for all humans.
The common part do not seems to include early compound words, and usually do not even contain common words deriving from the same onomatopoeia, which should be present if several language families emerged as a result of a differentiation predated by a long lasting, common, linguistic development.
In principle, any remains of an inherited, common vocabulary, as well as possible traces of an early world wide word exchange, should as a minimum contain random words, not just the words belonging to one particular, self-imitative category - unless that particular category of ideophones, was the only one existing at the time of divergence.
Nevertheless, the last possibility cannot be dismissed, as the self-imitations that are related to ingestion seem to have been the first voices to became permanent vocabulary items, which in itself is enough to provide us with an early, "ingestive" stage of language development, that could have been the original common source of several distinct language groups. Moreover, beside the words deriving from the same ingestive vocalizations, some non-Indo-European tongues seem to contain onomatopoeic words deriving from imitations of friction noises, that were also a particularly old and fertile source of several Indo-European designations. However, though those words and languages might be discreetly related, once again the question of parallel developments arises, as not only similar ingestive vocalizations, but also similar onomatopoeia could have been invented and reinvented anywhere at anytime, if the necessary conditions that caused the original invention arose.

It is also reasonable to suppose that at the time, when the first languages emerged, several vocalizations have already been in use. There may have existed a vocabulary, consisting of short, ingestive self-imitations, which could have been shared by all humans, providing a fundament for several language families.
Such a model of implementation of very simple, previously used forms is not contradicted by the observed early stages of Indo-European development, and might show to be in concordance with early stages of other language families. However, though those voices would not have been meaningless, and though many of them must have sounded quite familiar, there is no trace that prior to the stage that can be observed in the development of Indo-European languages, they were deliberately modified or intentionally assembled into larger entities, with a possible exception of reduplicative ones, which makes me wonder to which extend such a limited repository of verbal expressions could have performed the role of a language ?
I suspect that those voices have followed the evolution of human species for ages, and still barely allowed vocal communication above the level achieved by animals (the sounds dogs make, are not meaningless either and they can be incredibly reduplicative from time to time).

In contrast, during the early stages of development that can be observed in Indo-European languages, the monosyllabic ideophones seem to have been loosely composed together and frequently recomposed to convey distinct meanings, in a way similar to the one in which we today rearrange and combine various words to produce different sentences. It looks like the most natural and hence most frequent combinations eventually turned into permanent entities, becoming several, new vocabulary items, while the elements that where most frequently reused, remained loosely connected, becoming the affixes that we still use to modify the meaning of words.
We can imagine that if a group of people departed before the time when the frequent combinations of monosyllabic elements became fossilized into complex words, the vocabulary independently composed by this group could have been very different from the Indo-European ones.
Actually, such independent word formations can be also observed in relations between Indo-European languages, where at several occasions, semantically similar but phonetically distinct ideophones have been chosen to produce complex words, conveying the same meaning. Those early lexical differences among Indo-European languages include several independently made compound words and derivations, which together suggest that the group of Indo-European speakers started to disintegrate very early, and that their language developed into dialects shortly after it was born, at a time when only a few compound words existed.
If any group departed even earlier, the obvious lexical similarities between its language and the Indo-European ones, would be limited to simple words deriving directly from ingestive vocalizations, such as some words related to nutrition and a few pronouns, perhaps accompanied with some of the oldest onomatopoeic imitations of friction noises.

Taking all into consideration, I believe that the origin of similarities between Indo-European and non-Indo-European languages is much older than usually assumed, as (apart from later loans) those similarities may reflect two, very early stages of a possible common development: the one, that can be observed in Indo-European languages and another, earlier one, that we can only speculate about. In the last case the lexical similarities will not be deriving from a common language, but would represent parallel developments deriving directly from the latest stage of human evolution, that predated the emergence of languages. Those oldest similarities will be due to the simple fact, that for the purpose of communication, we all adapted organs used for respiration and ingestion of food.

The origin

Though the ingestive origin of several early words, suggests that the transition from eating to speaking was made through eating aloud, I found no conclusive proof that the first consciously outspoken words were pronounced during ingestion. Nevertheless, it is obvious to me that the common experience of eating in general and eating loudly in particular, provided a reference, helping the vocalized self-imitations to be immediately understandable for non-speakers. Being exposed to ingestive noises on a regular basis, the listeners surely learned to recognize their various meanings which in the long run became self-evident.
What is equally important, the demonstrated technique was already everybody's possession. It only had to be used consciously, in an intelligent way to became a versatile mean of communication. Since the ingestive ideophones are just vocalized imitations of ingestive movements, the border between eating aloud and speaking was not formal but a mental one. Once a sequence of ingestive movements was consciously vocalized to express a thought, and that thought was understood, the development of language became just a matter of time, intelligence and motivating surroundings.

While the usual purpose of making words must have been to communicate, it sounds to me that the first consciously pronounced words were created in an attempt to revert the associative process and make the original sensory experience com back, by mimicking the mouth movements and sounds associated with that particular experience (magical, but very human). Judging from their present meaning they were most likely predated by reflexive behaviors related to nurture.
Since those actions must have been rewarded in order to be repeated and eventually developed into a language, there must have been someone observant and caring enough to react on the signals. Surprisingly, though a presence of some family is recorded, there is no trace that adult individuals contributed to the development of vocabulary, nor is there any actual evidence that some of them ever returned the conversation. Though it does not prove or disprove anything, it worries me a lot, as this family does not seem to display any other characteristics that could help identifying them as humans.
Contemplating the lifestyle reflected in the early vocabulary, together with the fact that the word makers perceived their family-members as being animals, I have even considered a possibility that the first Indo-European speakers could have been children raised among animals, but additional observations did not delivered enough substantial evidence for such a claim, which must remain hypothetical and less probable then a very early, Paleolithic origin of Indo-European language.

The self-imitative pattern

The most significant group of words produced by self-imitations are short, vocalized sequences of mouth movements, related to ingestion.
As I have mentioned before, using today's standards, those words can be roughly defined as statements of facts. I believe they were initially pronounced to recall the original experience, and we can guess that they were very soon employed to express much more than that, but at the beginning they were not deliberately formed to fit the various roles of nouns, verbs or adjectives.
Their form was shaped only by their origins, and it was similar only in the extent in which the origins were similar. That, however meant: quite a lot - and the fact that they were not formed deliberately did not mean that they were unfitted to play their roles. On contrary. Since their shape made their meaning almost self-explaining, they played their roles so well, that they made futures standards. In the case of the ingestive imitations, it was the role of verbs.
The verbs came into being thru actions and were shaped by those actions. This simple principle caused that the sound of a word deriving from an ingestive self-imitation, depended on the natural technique used to deal with the dish, which again depended greatly on the dish itself.
A few typical examples of such ingestive sequences are:

ml --> mlę (I am munching, I am grinding, I am milling, I am mincing)
mn --> mnę (I am crumpling, I am creasing)
ss --> ssę (I am sucking)
gn --> gnę (I am bending)

The words to the right of the arrows are actual Polish words (they are not some reconstructed words). To those of you, who are unfamiliar with the Slavic grammar, I explain that those short words are at the same time entire sentences, expressing complete thoughts, corresponding exactly to the English translations in parentheses. The sign ę is pronounced largely through the nose, while closing the mouth.
The letters to the left of every arrow, symbolize the individual ingestive movements. Linked together, they represent the original, ingestive sequences that formed the ideophones.
Let us take a look on the mechanics and derivations of those sequences and try to identify the techniques they reflect, as well as the food they were used to deal with.

The sequences ml and mn are used when dealing with a variety of foods that just need to be slightly and repetitively squeezed with lips and tongue, before swallowing.
My first, romantic impression was that both of those sequences were originally related to lactation, because of the several milky derivations they produced. This, however seemed to be contradicted by other derivations like e.g. English meal which is even better then milk, but perhaps originally referred to lactation as well.
The simple truth is that the m is just a vocalized mouth-closure, while the l and n are produced by slightly different tongue positions, making both sequences attributable to several semi-solid and semi-liquid refreshments. However, if they derive from lactation, then the m would represent the contraction of mouth around a nipple, while the difference between n and l could have been made by the side of tongue used to touch it. I can imagine that the slightly stronger tension of mn might also have been more suitable and more frequent during the initial phase of lactation and pre-lactation, while the ml would represent the proper lactation as judged by its derivations e.g.

ml --> mlę (I am mincing, I am munching)--> mleć (to mince, to munch)

ml --> mlę (I am mincing, I am munching)--> mleko (milk)

As the last part of mlę is pronounced through the nose, it seems to imitate a mouth closed on the food, or around the source of it - especially because the ending alternates in Polish with -em and -am endings, which also reflect oral closures, as they end with an m - a consonant pronounced entirely through the nose, e.g.

ml --> mlę (I am munching)


ss --> ssę (I am sucking)

but also:

ss --> sysam (I am sucking)

and less correct, but widely used:

ss --> ssam (I am sucking)

An ingestive origin of those word-endings is confirmed be the word jem (pronounced yem) which means "I am eating" and seems to be a direct derivation of a vocalized oral closure. Moreover, am is a word Polish mums keep saying to their babies, when encouraging them to eat (judging from the steady hand holding a spoon in front of the face of a hesitating child, I am sure it means "eat!")
The small difference between the and -em/-am is made by the way the mouth is being closed. While the -am/-em is quick and complete, the is relatively slower and incomplete. Though the difference might just be a product of a later development, it might also suggest that in the case of nasally pronounced the food was actually in the mouth, or was just pretended to be there, to make the meaning more explicit.
However, a more important observation is that the ingestive -am/-em/ endings obviously made a regular rule of Polish grammar - a rule which affected all Polish verbs to be made in the future as all of them acquired those inflexional endings for the 1st person singular in present tense.

While eating and drinking involve several sequences of mouth movements, some parts of those sequences are common, while other parts are food-specific variables, shaped by the character of the food (its size, state, consistence, structure etc).
I believe the food-specific variables to be responsible for the initial differentiation of the ingestive verbs, while the similarities shaped their common parts, providing models and grammatical rules for other verbs to come.
In other words, I believe that the effect of self-imitation was not limited to development of elementary words, but also inspired and influenced the creation of a grammatical system. In this particular case it provided the verbs with a distinct, phonosemantic structure which had to be followed by any word that was to be understood as a 1st person singular verb in present tense.
Furthermore, since ingestion required several sequences repeated in a particular order, it also provided a model for how to string the short imitations together, to produce more complex words (we have to grind the food before swallowing it).
Thus, the ingestive order is followed by all of the early verbs as well as by several nouns including e.g.: mleko (milk) and sok (juice), where the initial sucking and chewing sequences are followed by a k which reflects swallowing.

ml --> mlę (I am munching) + k --> mleko (milk)
ss --> ssę (I am sucking) + k --> sok (juice)

An interesting detail is that ssę (I am sucking) is pronounced with two s at the beginning, revealing that it was originally pronounced by inspiration of air, to produce a sucking noise, which makes the sok (juice) a simple suck and swallow composition.

I believe that, apart from all the obvious sucking words present in Indo-European languages, the ss sequence gave birth to some of the Slavic s-, z- and ze- prefixes (all meaning: of, off, from, out of, be-), but I assume that there was originally a phonosemantic distinction between a sucking s (pronounced by inspiration of air) and a biting z (pronounced by expiration), which were subsequently mixed up, because both, the delicate biting z and the sucking s were pronounced with teeth closed together.
If my assumption is true then:

ss --> s- (of / off / out of / from)
z --> z- (with / be-)
z --> ze- (with / be-)

The meaning of the last prefix also corresponds with the Old English "ge-".

The fourth of the above mentioned examples of ingestive sequences, the gn, reflects gnawing on a bone.
The g imitates a jaw closing on a bone, while the n is the effect of touching the bone with the tongue.
Note, that the gn is a result of just another self-observation, in this case made on the jaw, not an observation of the impact it had on the dish (a bone usually does not bend - at least not much - especially if it is a large one. The jaws do.)

gn --> gnę (I am bending)--> gnat (a large bone)
gn --> gnę (I am bending)--> giąć (to bend)
gn --> gnę (I am bending)--> -gnąć (to bend)

The usual polish form for "to bend" is giąć, which suggests a continuity of pressure as opposite to -gnąć, which is preserved in complex words, that usually refer to abrupt, fulfilled movements, which can be repeated rather then continued, such as mru-gnąć (to blink, to twinkle), mi-gnąć (to flash), dr-gnąć (to twitch, to tremble), dy-gnąć (to curtsey), się-gnąć (to reach), klę-knąć (to kneel), ję-knąć (to utter a groan). It is also present in nouns designating bending things like scię-gno (a tendon), ba-gno (a bog) and so forth.

As already mentioned, words shaped by the same actions displayed similar sounds and shared similar meanings. However, it should be added that meaning of those words was similar for their inventor, and that inventor obviously perceived the world very differently then we do. Hence e.g. the words containing mn and ml were produced while dealing with anything that had to be slightly squeezed and softened before swallowing, while the ss sequence could make words for anything that was related to sucking, regardless of its nature. e.g.

ss --> ssę (I am sucking)--> ssać (to suck)
ss --> ssę (I am sucking)--> sok (juice)
ss --> ssę (I am sucking)--> suka (a bitch)

ss --> sysam (I am sucking)--> sysać (to suck)
ss --> sysam (I am sucking)--> szyszka (a cone)

(I wonder whether this cone was a young and juicy one, or if it was the seed that was sucked out of it ?)

Besides naming food and ingestive activities, the self-imitative sequences obviously got associated with any thoughts that usually flow thru the inventors mind during those sequences. Hence, they made definitions of ideas and states of mind experienced during ingestion. e.g:

ml --> mlę (I am chewing)--> miłe (it is nice, pleasant)
ml --> mlę (I am chewing)--> mylę (I am mixing things together, I am mistaken)

Since those ideas and states of mind were not only occurring during ingestion, the meaning of words was extended to cover all other occurrences.
Thus, while the self-imitative words at first defined the very same activities that created them, they were subsequently associated with objects of those activities, as well as with the thoughts that has been thought during the activities.
The next step was made by generalization of concepts and words defining those concepts. One of the most significant effects of this mechanism was the adaptation of definitions deriving from ingestion to the manual activities that involved similar sequences of movements, had a corresponding function, or simply produced effects similar to the ones produced by mouth. This in turn lead to naming the tools and products of those activities.

To give an idea about the impact of the self-imitative pattern on the development of vocabulary, I present below a few important ingestive sequences, together with a handful of their derivations.
The derivations are drawn within the rows of the tables, while the columns are supposed to represent a few stages of language development. The exact positions of words within the structures are by no means conclusive, but I am sudden that all of them derive from those particular ingestive sequences.


Sequence Words       English meaning
mn mnę mnę mnę mnę

(I am crumpling)
(I am creasing)

mn mnę miąć miąć miąć (to crumple, to crease)
mn mnę miąć miąższ miąższ (flesh, pulp)
mn mnę miąć mięso mięso (meat)
mn mnę miąć mięso mięsień (a muscle)
mn mnę miąć miesiąc miesiąc (a month, a moon)
mn mnę miąć mąż mąż (a husband, a man)
mn mnę miąć mąż mężczyzna (a man)
mn mnę miąć miód miód (honey)
mn mnę miąć miedź miedź (copper)
mn mnę miąć miazga miazga (pulp, squash)
mn mnę miąć miazga mózg (a brain)
mn mnę miąć między między (between, among)
mn mnę miąć mieścić mieścić (to contain, to hold)
(to comprise)
mn mnę miąć mieścić miejsce (a place)
mn mnę miąć mieścić miasto (a town)
mn mnę miąć mościć mościć (to pad, to cushion)
mn mnę miąć mościć most (a bridge)
mn mnę miąć miętosić miętosić (to crumple)
mn mnę miąć mięta mięta (mint)
mn mnę miąć męczyć męczyć (to torment, to tire)
mn mnę miąć miot miot (litter)
mn mnę miąć miąć miednica (pelvis)
mn mnę miąć męka męka (torment)
mn mnę miąć miękka miękka (soft)
mn mnę miąć miękka miękczyć (to soften)
mn mnę miąć mąka mąka (flour)
mn mnę miąć mak mak (poppy seed)
mn mnę miąć mieszać mieszać (to mix)
mn mnę miąć mąćić mąćić (to muddy)
mn mnę miąć zmiąć zmiąć (to crumple up)
mn mnę miąć śmiać śmiać (to lough, to smile)
mn mnę miąć pamięć pamięć (a memory)
mn mnę mnie mnie mnie (is crumpling, creasing)
(me, to me)
mn mnę mnie miano miano (a name)
mn mnę mnie mienie mienie (possessions, property)
mn mnę mnie -mienia -mienia (is changing)
( is exchanging)
mn mnę mnie mieni mieni (is glittering)
mn mnę mnie -mienia -mienić (to change, to glitter)
mn mnę mnie -mienia -mieniać (to change)
(to exchange)
mn mnę mniej mniej mniej (less)
mn mnę mniej mniej -mniejsza (is diminishing)
mn mnę mniej mniej mniejsza (smaller, minor)

Note, that if this list included words from other Indo-European languages it will also contain English words like e.g. to munch, a man, a moon, to mean, many, much and smith - just to mention a few important ones.

Since Polish miąć means "to crumple", while zmiąć means "to crumple up", it makes the Teutonic smith/ schmidt/ smed someone "crumpling up" - a designation undoubtedly referring to the plasticity and treatment of metal. The word metal itself refers to its plasticity as well, just like the Polish word for copper: miedź.

As for the Polish mąż (a husband, a man) and English man - it is hard to tell whether the word originally referred to his manual abilities, or to the sensations perceived and expressed tactilely. Either way it derives from miąć (to crumple, to rumple), but In the second case, the word would not have been a self-designation, but a designation created by a woman.

The Polish miś (a bear) refers to the animals exceptional ability of using its "hands". The same semantic value is reflected in Russian medved (a bear), which can be split to med-ved, and translated as "knowing how to crumple". This meaning is also preserved in English bear (polish -biera means "it takes").
I reject the traditional etymology, which derives Russian medved (a bear) from med (honey) and believe it to be, a very late reinterpretation.
In contrast, I think that there may have been a direct connection between miód/ med (honey) and miedź (copper), as those substances could have been associated because of their plasticity, color and changes of consistency.


Sequence Words       English meaning
ml mlę mlę mlę mlę

(I am mincing, grinding)
(I am munching)

ml mlę mleć mleć mleć (to mince)
(to munch)
ml mlę mleć mleko mleko (milk)
ml mlę miłe miłe miłe (nice)
ml mlę miłe miło miłość (love)
ml mlę mleć mleć milczę (I am silent)
ml mlę mleć mleć młody (young)
ml mlę małe małe małe (little)
ml mlę małe małe malec (a little boy)
ml mlę małe mało mało (a shortage)
ml mlę małe mało małość (littleness)
ml mlę miał miał miał (dust)
ml mlę mleć młot młot (a hammer)
ml mlę mleć młot młócę (I thresh)
ml mlę mylę mylę mylę (I am mistaken)

In addition to the above examples, it is worth to mention, that Polish words denoting speech, such as mówić (to speak) and mowa (speech) also derive from the ml-sequence, and refer to vocalized munching, as attested by the well-preserved Czech mluvit (to speak).

Note, that młot (a hammer) is here understood simply as a tool used for crumbling. The designation says nothing about its shape, but refers to its function instead.
In contrast the malec (a little boy) may refer to his size and to his eating habits (perhaps a multiple association).
English small derives from the same sequence. It is just preceded by a prefix s-, to convey a meaning of something "grinded off" or "grinded up". Although the prefix s- (of / off / be-; Old English ge-) is not valid in English or in many of the presently spoken Teutonic languages, it is present in German (zu-). Besides, the meaning of this word can be understood through Slavic, and the same is the case of English smile, smith, straw, stench, spring, spin, span and hundreds of other Teutonic words, containing this and other common Slavic prefixes, which together show, that Teutonic languages must have been much closer to Slavic than they are at present (otherwise Mr. Smith would have been Mr. Gemith or Mr. Gecrumpler).


Sequence Words       English meaning
ss ssę ssę ssę ssę

(I am sucking)

ss ssę ssać ssać ssać (to suck)
ss ssę ssać sok sok (juice)
ss ssę ssać suty suty (copious, lavish)
(voluminous, ample)
ss ssę ssać suty sutek (a nipple)
ss ssę ssać syty syty (satiated)
ss ssę ssać sycić sycić (to sate)
ss ssę ssać sysać sączyć (to drip, to sip)
ss ssę ssać sysać sysać (to suck)
ss ssę ssać sysać cycek (a breast)
ss ssę ssać sysać cedzić (to strain, to sip)
ss ssać ssać suka suka (a bitch)


The gn is a part of a larger group containing two other, closely related sequences: ng, gng (though I am not sure whether I should regard them as separate sequences. They seem to be nothing more then just various fragments of reduplicative "gngngn...").

Sequence Words       English meaning
gn gnę gnę gnę gnę

(I am bending)

gn gnę giąć giąć giąć (to bend)
gn gnę -gnąć -gnąć -gnąć (to bend)
gn gnę gnat gnat gnat (a large bone)
gn gnę gnat gnat nać (a stem, a stalk)
gn gnę gnat -gniatać -gniatać (to squeeze)
(to press, to knead)
gn gnę gnat gnieść gnieść (to squeeze)
(to press)
gn gnę gnat gnieść gniazdo (a nest)
gn gnę gnat gnieść nieść (to carry)
(to lay eggs)
gn gnę gnat gnieść niecka (a syncline, a trough)
gn gnę gnat gnieść nieco (a little)
gn gnę gnat gnieść nić (a thread)
gn gnę gnat gnieść niecić (to light a fire)
gn gnę gnat gnieść ognisko (a fireplace)
gn gnę gnat -gniata -gniata (is squeezing)
(is kneading)
gn gnę gnat gniecie gniecie (is pressing)
(is squeezing)
gn gnę gnat gniecie nieci (is making fire)
gn gnę gnat gniotę gniotę (I am squeezing)
(I am pressing)
gn gnę gnat gniotę kończę (I am finishing)
gn gnę gnat -gniatam -gniatam (I am squeezing)
(I am kneading )
gn gnę gnat -gniatam -kańczam (I am finishing)
gn gnę gnat koniec koniec (an end)
gn gnę gnat koniec -konać (to finish, to die)
gn gnę gnat koniec nic (nothing)
gn gnę gnat gont gont (shingle)
gn gnę gnat gont kontyna (a temple)
gn gnę gnat gnić gnić (to rot)
gn gnę gnat gnić gnoj (dung)
gn gnę gnie gnie gnie (is bending)
gn gnę gnie gniew gniew (anger)
gn gnę gnie ginie ginie (is perishing)
(is vanishing)
gn gnę gnie -gina -gina (is bending)
gn gnę gnie gna gna (is running)
(is speeding)
gn gnę gnie goni goni (is chasinig)
(is running)
gn gnę gnie goni -goń (chase)
gn gnę gnie goni koń (a horse)
gn gnę gonię gonię gonię (I am chasing)
(I am running)
gn gnę gnam gnam gnam (I am running)
(I am speeding)
gn gnę -ginam -ginam -ginam (I am bending)
gn gnę -gnąć -gnąć -gnąć (to bend)
gn gnę gnać gnać gnać (to chase, to run)
(to speed, to drive)
gn gnę gnać gonić gonić (to chase, to run)
gn gnę gnać gonić goniec (a runner)

The English derivations of those sequences are all the gnashes, knacks, knocks, nests, kings and queens including their necks and knees, as the enormous part of Indo-European vocabulary consisting of the gn/ kn/ zn, the ng/ nk/ nz and the gng/ gnz/ knz/ knk/ znk sequences, originated as vocalized gnawing.
However, while some of the first derivations referred directly to the bending movements of a jaw, others referred to the gnawn object: the gnat (a bone) and to the impact of jaws on the object: gniecenie (pressure, squeezing, kneading, crumpling).
When their meanings were extended, the few early words gave similar names to a multitude of different phenomena associated with bending and squeezing including... a woman.
Yes, I am aware of how crazy it sounds, but nevertheless, the meaning of Polish żona (a wife), English Queen, Greek gyne(a woman), Danish kone (a wife) are tactile terms.
Actually, several Indo-European words for "man", "woman", "wife" and "husband" seem to refer to caressing and to emotions and sensations experienced and expressed tactilely, but the original definitions seem to have been sensible or simply sensory rather than sexual, and at several occasions the meanings of words for "wife" and "woman" refer to the sensations experienced during the act of giving birth, rather than to actions that preceded this act. Thus, the association between the gn sequence and a woman seem to have been created by the experience of parturition, perhaps visually reinforced by the changes of body shape during pre-gnancy, but the prototype -gina (is bending) provided plenty of room for diverse interpretations, and adding a t or d after the gn, could easily modify the meaning to refer to "something squeezed" or "squeezed out" instead of "something bending".
Whether sexual or not, the initial meaning of those gn derivations obviously referred to the elasticity of the most intimate part of the female body, that was known in everyday English as a cunny and a cunt, long before those words were stamped as "slang terms".
By the way, adding a d or t to a gn- sequence did not have to result in an offensive word. For example, a German child does not mind being called "ein Kind" - a word that seemingly denoted "something squeezed out".

A fascinating thing about the etymology of gyne, kone, Queen etc, is that it is quite biblical. Those words derive from a vocalization made when dealing with a gnat (a large bone) and the large bone may very well has been a rib, providing an additional reason for a strong association between the gn sequence and bending.

Judging from the Teutonic and Slavic phonosemantics, the king/ kniaź/ książe was a term referring to physical strength. Judging from Slavic languages alone, the word derives directly from gnieść (to suppress, to squeeze, to knead), which makes the king look much more like an alpha-male and simply a sexual counterpart of a Queen.
In contrast, the Slavic designations of a book (Russian kniga, Polish ksiega) refer clearly to its "breakable" nature. (- so maybe the king was a librarian or a writer? Probably not.)

Another mysterious word is the Slavic kontyna (a temple). The usual assumption is that this term derives from a roof covered with shingle, that is supposed to have distinguished the temple from other buildings which were covered with straw. However, it seems to me that this word was made at a time when the word gont referred to bones, and hence the term kontyna (a temple) probably referred to some construction made of bones, or simply to a bone deposit (in the last case, I wonder if the bone deposit was a dining room, a common grave or a weaponry, or whether it could have been all of those things ?)

The fire and the fireplace are obviously defined as effects of pressure (Polish: gniecenie) and the meaning must have originally referred to the act of making a fire, rather then to the fire itself. However, in contrast to the ognisko (a fireplace), the word ogień (a fire) is shaped in a way suggesting that it was also perceived as a tool. The Polish word for "a tail": ogon is shaped in similar way to convey the meaning of oganiać (to drive away, to fend off).
After over a year on this project, it no longer surprises me that the words for "fire" and the "fireplace" originally did not refer to visual sensations, but I still wonder why the gn-sequence has been chosen to name this element, as there are other sequences that could convey similar meanings. It seems as if there was an additional connection among ogień (a fire) kontyna (a temple) and gnaty (bones). Can rotten bones burst into fire ?

The gn and ng sequences were frequently composed with a z, producing zgn zng and gnz. On other occasions they were simply alternated with zn and nz. The final composition depended on whether the meal allowed the teeth to be closed together (zn, nz), or if the size of it required the use of cheek teeth (gn, ng).
When the size and consistency of food encouraged the use of front teeth and the cheek teeth together, the zgn, zng, gnz combinations were employed. Hence, e.g. Polish znak (a sign) and English/ Latin sign suggests that the original signature was made with both, the front teeth and the cheek teeth. However, before deciding whether the first result was a significant bite mark or a broken branch, perhaps it is worth considering that this word may have been created later, when the meaning of ingestive sequences has already been generalized to refer to movements of other body parts. Thus, a sign may have been given by just nodding one's head: skinąć (to nod, to make sign) - unless the nodding head is a self-imitation of a bite.
An interesting example of a transformation of the ingestive zng composition to a word referring to speech is provided by Danish snakke (to talk).

A funny thing I noticed is that Polish śniadanie (a breakfast) seems to be just an altered form of zgniatanie (crushing, crumpling) and that both words derive from gnawing on bones.

Another interesting derivation of the zgn composition is the Teutonic/English skin. Judging from Polish zgina (is bending) and zginać (to bend), the term skin refers to its elasticity.

By the way, the Latin word centum is presumed to have originated from a common, Indo-European numeral for one hundred, reconstructed as "*kmtom". According to my observations the term centum did not came into being, as a numeral, but as a statement of fact: "I am finishing", that only much later was employed to express the quantity "one hundred".
The process and effect of its development can be seen on the table above, and is present in Teutonic languages as well. The Latin centum is a cognate of Polish kończę (I am finishing), -kanczam (I am finishing), and koniec (the end), as well as the Teutonic end, ende. The -kańczam (I am finishing) itself is a cognate of -gniatam (I am squeezing, pressing, kneading) and the meaning of all those words, refers to an observation of approaching the end of a meal. The observation was made with a jaw gnawing on a gnat (a large bone), which thereby become a symbol of all ends.
In Greek, the jaw itself was associated with the activity (Greek gnathos means a jaw).

In contrast to all the words related directly to gnawing, the Polish koń (a horse) was defined as "something chasing, running, racing", with goni (is running, is racing, is chasing), goniec (a runner) and goń (chase! pursue!) being its closest cognates. However, even those words were produced through extending the original meaning of the sequence defining the strong, rhythmic jaw movements. Thus, in the same way as other self-imitative sequences, the gnę (I am bending) and gnie (is bending) were used to define goni (is chasing, is running) as well as several other actions and phenomena that displayed repetitive bending movements. The English "to go" has the same origin.


Another vocalization of ingestive technique is the pn.
The sequence was most likely produced by sucking juices of a hard part of food. The original requisite was probably a stalk of a plant or a small bone (hence, perhaps, the English bone), and the liquid might have been sucked through the object as well.
Since a straw may be used for sucking liquid in and for blowing some air back through it, it may easily become a toy for making a lot of bubbles:

pnę --> bania (a bulge)
pnę --> piana (a foam)

If a wand is not available, a little bubble can still be made, by blowing some air through wet lips:

pnę --> bańka (a bubble)

But the essential feature of this sequence is the simultaneous, tension of mouth and cheek muscles around an object (any object) - an effect that was subsequently associated with several phenomena displaying tension in general and simultaneous tension in particular.

pnę (I am tensing, I am stringing, I am tightening, I am climbing)

Sequence Words           English meaning
pn pnę pnę pnę pnę pnę pnę (I am tensing)
(I am climbing)
pn pnę pnie pnie pnie pnie pnie (is tensing)
(is climbing)
pn pnę pnie bania bania bania bania (a bulge)
(a bubble)
pn pnę pnie pieni pieni pieni pieni (is foaming)
pn pnę pnie pieni pienić pienić pienić (to foam)
pn pnę pnie pieni piana piana piana (a foam)
pn pnę pnie -pina -pina -pina -pina (is tensing)
(is fastening)
pn pnę pnie -pina wpina wpina wpina (is sticking)
pn pnę pnie -pina wypina wypina wypina (is throwing out)
pn pnę pnie -pina spina spina spina (is fastening together)
pn pnę pnie -pina spina wspina wspina (is ascending)
(is mounting, climbing)
pn pnę pnie -pina spina wspina wyspa (an island)
pn pnę pnie -pina spina wspina wspaniała (magnificent)
pn pnę pnie pnie pnące pnące pnące (creeping, rambling)
pn pnę pnie pnie pnące pnące pnącze (creeper, climber)
pn pnę pień pień pień pień pień (a stem)
pn pnę pień pień pion pion pion (the vertical)
pn pnę pnę wapień wapień wapień wapień (limestone)
pn pnę pnie wapień wapień wapień wapno (lime)
pn pnę piąć piąć piąć piąć piąć (to tense)
(to climb, to rise)
pn pnę piąć piąć pić pić pić (to drink)
(to tighten)
pn pnę piąć pąk pąk pąk pąk (a bud)
pn pnę piąć pąk pęknie pęknie pęknie (will burst)
pn pnę piąć pąk pęknie pęcznieć pęcznieć (to swell)
(to bulge)
pn pnę piąć pąk pęknąć pęknąć pęknąć (to split, to burst)
pn pnę piąć pąk pęknąć piękno piękno (beauty)
pn pnę piąć pąk pęknąć pękać pękać (to split, to burst)
pn pnę piąć pąk pęknąć pękać pękaty (bulging, rotund)
pn pnę piąć pęk pęk pęk pęk (a tuft, a bunch)
pn pnę piąć pięść pięść pięść pięść (a fist)
pn pnę piąć pięść pięć pięć pięć (five)
pn pnę piąć piąć pieścić pieścić pieścić (to fondle, to pet)
(to caress)
pn pnę piąć pięta pięta pięta pięta (a heel)
pn pnę piąć pęd pęd pęd pęd (speed)
pn pnę piąć pęd pędzić pędzić pędzić (to run, to rush)
pn pnę piąć pęcina pęcina pęcina pęcina (a fetlock, a pastern)
pn pnę piąć pęta pęta pęta pęta (is fettering, fetters)
pn pnę piąć pęta pętać pętać pętać (to fetter)
pn pnę piąć pająk pająk pająk pająk (a spider)
pn pnę piąć pajęczyna pajęczyna pajęczyna pajęczyna (a cobweb)
pn pnę piąć piąć piętrzyć piętrzyć piętrzyć (to rise, to tower)
pn pnę piąć piąć piętrzyć piętrzyć piętro (a floor)
pn pnę piąć piać piać piać piać (to crow)
pn pnę piąć piec piec piec piec (to bake)
(a stove, an oven)

Note that the associations between the tension of cheeks and bubbles were multi-sensory and that piana (foam) is a visual derivation.

Off course, the English cognates of those words are "to bend", "to pinch", "to pick", "a bone", "a pod", "a paunch", "a pane", "a pin", "a band", "speed", etc.
The above group seemingly also contains the prototype of Teutonic weapons: wapień (a limestone), but in principle this v + pn construction may have originally referred to any object, firmly held in hand. It may also have referred to a projectile, or a tool used to throw out projectiles. Polish wpinać means "to stick", but wypinać means "to throw out". Both words convey tension, but while the wpinać refers to inwards tension, the wypinać refers to outwards tension, or simply to a release of tension.

The names of Apennines mountains as well as the Pieniny mountains are very clearly deriving from the pn sequence and the associations with other words produced by this sequence must have been multiple e.g. piąć (to tense, to climb, to rise), pion (vertical), pienić (to foam) piętrzyć (to rise, to tower) and wapień (a limestone).
I guess, the association that produced the English bone were multiple too (a bone can be used as a pin) and so were the ones that created the words penis and pine, but the thing that puzzles me the most is that several Indo-European designations of hands and feet seem to derive from a common definition. Unable to grasp anything with feet, I wonder, how long is it since we have lost this ability ?


The rv reflects tearing.
Both the r and the v were in this case produced during a continuous bite, but the v was shaped by bringing the lips together.

rv --> rwę (I am tearing)
rv --> rów (a ditch)

The Polish rów (a ditch) is defined as an effect of tearing, so I expect the English row, rift and river to fit in the same group.

The rv was frequently combined with onomatopoeic sequences imitating friction noises. On other occasions it was preceded by a g or a k which looks ambivalent, as it can reflect swallowing or a bite. According to the natural guidelines (bite before tearing, chewing and swallowing) there should be a firm bite at the beginning so the initial g / k should represent the biting g.
Some simple combinations of g (biting )+ rv (tearing) are:

g + rv --> grv --> krew (blod)
g + rv --> grv -->-krawam (I am cutting)
g + rv --> grv --> krowa (a cow)
g + rv --> grv --> grzywa (a mane )
g + rv --> grv --> krzew (a bush)

A very similar composition is made with a z to produce z + rv sequences, reflecting biting + tearing off smaller portions of food and skin with the fore teeth (in contrast to the g + rv combination that imitated the use of the cheek teeth).

z + rv --> zrv --> zryw (a sudden effort)
z + rv --> zrv --> zrywam (I am tearing off)

There is a significant group of words that seem to had undergone a change from rv to rp / rb. I suspect that the change was a consequence of frequent, but somehow unnatural combinations of the rv with the pn sequence, that together were supposed to convey a meaning of "tearing of and keeping". I suppose, the formation of rv + pn caused that the v had to be omitted or replaced by a vowel, producing rab, rep, rob, rip etc, instead of the expected but unspeakable rvp.
The concept of extending previously used rv and grv sequences with a pn at the end, seems to have been related to the adaptation of the ingestive definitions to manual activities, where the pn (simultaneous tension) became a very important element referring to a hand close, starting with the piąć (to tens)--> pięść (a fist).

A list of some simple words that were seemingly affected by the rv to rp change may be arranged as a schedule of a working day, containing anything that had to be picked, including a few things that probably tried to run away.

rv + pn--> rpn

rpn --> robię (I do)
rpn --> robić (to do) -->robota (work)
rpn --> robak (a worm, a grub, a maggot)
rpn --> ryba (a fish)
rpn --> rzepa (a turnip)
rpn --> żaba (a frog)

A similar list refers to "raking together". The meaning is conveyed by adding the pn at the end of the grv. Many of those words refer to various earthworks, starting with grób (a grave).

grv + pn --> grpn

grpn --> grzebę (I am digging, I am burying)
grpn --> grzyb (a mushroom)
grpn --> grabię (I rake, I plunder)
grpn --> grabie (a rake)
grpn --> grzebień (a comb)
grpn --> grób (a grave, a tomb)
grpl --> grobla (a dam)
grpn --> garb (a hump)
grpn --> garbaty (hump-backed)
grpn --> grzbiet (a back, a ridge)
grpn --> gruby (thick, large)

Note that those words refer to convexity, not concavity, and hence the term grób (a grave) must have originally referred to a mound (well, at least in the Slavic version). This group of words obviously contain the etymologies of Carpathian Mountains and of the Riphean Mountains reported by ancient sources:

garb (a hump) --> grzbiet (a ridge) grzbiety (ridges)

Which means that the original "Vicious Gryphons digging for gold in the Riphean Mountains ", were probably just the mountaineers mining there.

I hope that the connection with all the Indo-European words referring to tearing and "raking together" is obvious (English: to gripe, to grip, to grab, to grub, grapes, a group, garbage and so forth), but it is also important to notice that the composition of zrv and grv sequences follows the original ingestive order (bite first, and then tear), which means that they may have easily emerged as ready-made, complex entities, that could have been subsequently disassembled into smaller, meaningful sequences and reassembled together with other elements, to convey distinct meanings.

The effects of the rp compositions (to rape, a rapine, a rope) are very similar to those of grp, (e.g. to grip, to grab) and the words produced by those combinations have similar meanings, but the semantic difference deriving from the rapid outwards direction of tearing (riving) versus the firm, inwards direction of a grip is usually preserved.
Nevertheless, it is also possible that all those words represent more or less successful attempts to produce a g + rv + pn composition which, due to the rvp cluster, resulted in various simplifications. In that case, all those words would have initially conveyed the meaning of "catching + tearing + holding together ", which makes sense as well. But, though there are several examples of three or more elements composed together, every new composition seems to has been made between two items at a time, so the scenarios of composing grv+pn and rv+pn seem more plausible to me.

Self-imitations unrelated to ingestion

Another category of self-imitative words are those to do with physical activities, conditions and emotional states that affect the muscles in the oral cavity and the facial muscles around it. Some of those words were involuntary exclamations such as "Oh", while others are very similar to the ingestive ideophones.
Below are some typical examples from this interesting group, together with a handful of their derivations:


The th derives from breathing aloud. It seems that the sequence was formed by a difficult inspiration of air through the mouth, rather then by normal respiration, but the meaning was extended to cover breathing in general.

Sequence Words       English meaning
tch dech dech dech dech (a breath,
tch dech duch duch duch (spirit, a soul)
(a ghost)
tch dech duch dusza dusza (soul, psyche)
tch dech duch dusza duszno (sultrily, stiflingly)
tch dech duch dusić dusić (to stifle, to throttle)
(to strangle)
tch dech duch duchota duchota (difficult breathing)
tch dech duch otucha otucha (a stout heart)
tch dech -dycha -dycha -dycha (is breathing)
tch dech -dycha dyszy dyszy (is breathing hard)
tch dech -dychać -dychać -dychać (to breathe)
tch dech tchnąć tchnąć tchnąć (to breathe)
tch dech tęchnąć tęchnąć tęchnąć (to stench)


Similar to the above one, but initially imitating a heavy expiration of air through the mouth; associated with the activity that usually caused it: pushing.

Sequence Words     English meaning
pch pcha pcha pcha (is pushing)
pch pcha pcham pcham (I am pushing)
pch pcha pchać pchać (to push)
pch pcha -pycha -pycha (is pushing)
pch pcha -pycha pycha (conceit, pride)
pch pcha pchnąć pchnąć (to push)
pch pcha pchnąć pachnąć (to smell)
pch puch puch puch (down, powder snow)
pch puch puszyć puszyć (to ruffle up, to strut)
(to swagger)
pch puch puchnąć puchnąć (to swell)
pch buch buch buch (bang!, smack!)
pch buch buchać buchać (to burst forth, to blaze)
(to come out in clouds)

Note that the words employing this sequence are very similar to the derivations of pn. The difference is made by the use of a h e.g.:

pn --> pęknąć (to split, to snap, to burst)
ph --> puchnąć (to swell)

pn --> pąk (a bud)
ph --> puch (down, powder snow)


There are two other, closely related sequences, referring to pushing: psh and pr. They alternate the ph, producing words with similar meanings e.g.: prę (I am pushing) pcham (I am pushing) prze (is pushing) pcha (is pushing) parcie (pressure).
I belive, the psh and pr variations to be onomatopoeic modifications of the ph-sequence, and suspect that the original pronunciation has been changed according to the sound of a fart. Thus, again, the idea of pressure would have been conveyed simply by imitating a commonly known effect of a commonly known pressure.
When put together, the Indo-European derivations of the pushing pr / ph / psh / pr-sequances are innumerable, and include several interesting examples like Polish para (vapor, steam, cloud) and its English cognate: fire.

Now, let us take a look on an interesting vocalization of a creepy feeling.


Sequence Words       English meaning
mr mrę mrę mrę mrę (I am dying)
mr mrę mrze mrze mrze (is dying)
mr mrę -miera -miera -miera (is dying)
(becomes motionless)
mr mrę -miera -mierać -mierać (to die)
(to become motionless)
mr mrę -miera -mierać śmierć (death)
mr mór mór mór mór (death, a plague)
mr mór smród smród smród (a stink)
mr mór smród śmierdzi śmierdzi (it stinks)
mr mór smród śmierdzi śmierdzieć (to stink)
mr mór mierzi mierzi mierzi (is disgusting)
(is sickening)
mr mór mierzi mierzić mierzić (to disgust)
mr mór zmora zmora zmora (a ghost, a nightmare)
mr mór morzyć morzyć morzyć (to starve)
(to put to sleep)
mr mór martwy martwy martwy (dead)
mr mór martwy martwy martwić (to worry)
mr mróz mróz mróz mróz (the cold, frost)
mr mróz marznę marznę marznę (I am freezing)
mr mróz mrozi mrozi mrozi (is freezing, is chilling)
mr mróz mrozi mży mży (it drizzles)
mr mróz mrozi -marza -marza (is freezing)
mr mróz mrozi -marza morze (a sea)
mr mrok mrok mrok mrok (a dusk, darkness)
mr mrok zmrok zmrok zmrok (a nightfall)
mr mrok zmrok zamroczyć zamroczyć (to numb)
mr mruk mruk mruk mruk (a murmur)
mr mruk mruczę mruczę mruczę (I am murmuring)
mr mruk mruczę mamroczę mamroczę (I am mumbling, muttering)
mr smyra smyra smyra smyra (it tickles)

While the sea is both cold and murmuring, and while the cold and the murmuring can be side effects of not feeling well, the one thing that seems to connect all those words, is a shiver.
The compound words are also interesting e.g.

mr + rwać (to tear)--> mrówka (an ant)
mr + rwać (to tear)--> mrowie (a swarm, goose-flesh, creeps)
mr + rwać (to tear)--> mrowienie (pins and needles, formication)
mr + gnąć (to bend)--> mrugnąć (to wink, to twinkle)

The last one may be more explicit:

mrok (darkness) + gnąć (to bend ) = mrugnąć (to wink, to twinkle)

- as the sensation of twinkling eyes is a visual-tactile one.

I have doubts about the exact placement of the morze (a sea). Instead of referring to something freezing, this word may be a product of more complex, visual-kinesthetic associations, similar to those that produced the double meaning of Russian mir (the peace, the world).
The first meaning of mir, "peace" is closely connected to -miera (is dying, becomes motionless) and defines peace as a state of calmness.
The second meaning of mir, "the world", seems to derive from the first one, but it is unclear whether it referred to an observation of something coming to a standstill (e.g freezing down), or to a self-observation of a state of mind and / or body caused by an impressive visual experience.
In the first case the Russian mir (the world) would have been perceived as cold or repetitively dying (the seasons), while in the second case it would be a term deriving from a bodily experience, which have been extended to cover the thing that caused it (e.g. a breathtaking view), finally to convey the meaning of "everything within sight".
The product of the last development will be akin to the Polish -miar in e.g. bez-miar (immensity), u-miar (restraint) and wy-miar (dimension). Hence, it will be related to another group of mr-derivations, which extended the idea of -miera (is dying, becomes motionless) to produce -mierza /mierzy (is aiming, measuring, heading for).
I believe this peculiar semantic evolution to be a result of hunting, where the calmness and suspended motion became synonymous with aiming and sizing.
Here is the transition:

Sequence Words       English meaning
mr mrę mrę mrę mrę (I am dying)
mr mrę mrze mrze mrze (is dying)
mr mrę -miera -miera -miera (is dying)
(becomes motionless)
mr mrę -miera zamiera zamiera (stops mooving, freezes)
mr mrę -miera zamiera zamiar (an intention, a plan)
mr mrę -miera -mierza -mierza (intends, aims)
(is heading for)
mr mrę -miera -mierza zamierza (intends, aims)
mr mrę -miera -mierza zmierza (is heading for)
mr mrę -miera -mierza mierzy (aims, measures)

A byproduct of this development is a multitude of Slavic names containing -mierz and mir. Judging from the context outlined above the meaning of those names evolved from -mierza /mierzy (is heading for/ aims/ intends). Hence e.g the name Wlodzimierz must mean "aiming for power" or "a powerful aimer" instead of the usually proposed "peaceful ruler" or "ruler of the world".


I have been wondering whether the r derives from an imitation of a crrushing noise or if it was originally a grrrowling.
Theoretically, it may represent both, as the hostile rrr-voice may have been an onomatopoeia, imitating the noise of torn skin, to convey the idea of tearing it. But then a set of questions arises: Do dogs use imitative noises that convey meanings?
The barking is seemingly a self-imitative vocalization of biting, while the growling seems to be a vocalized snarl, but does it convey anything else then just a bad attitude?
Do primates growl? (I cannot recall a growling chimp, or a fellow homo sapiens making this kind of noises).
Since this publication is about phonosemantics of Indo-European languages, I have promised myself to leave the doggy part out, but before I do I have a question to anyone that may contribute to the subject: How sure are we really that it was the man that domesticated the dog? (and not the other way around?)
The reason I ask is not just because the term jama (a cave, a den) in Polish usually refers to an earthen hole beneath a tree, rather than to a Lascaux-type cave, but because dogs are quite "talkative" animals and some of the sounds they make are similar to those of Indo-Europeans e.g. the words containing the vr sequence:

wrę (I am seething, boiling, raging )
wre (is seething, boiling, raging)
wrze (is boiling, raging)
war (boiling water)
wir (a whirl)
wara (hands off !)
wróg (an enemy)
wrogi (hostile)
warczę (I am growling)
warga (a lip)

How about adding a war and some warnings to this list, or just some words referring to awareness?
Some of the words on the list, are actually compound words and several of them refer to the sound of whirling water, but since there are at least a few ways to imitate that noise, I wonder what was the initial reason for employing this particular sequence to create the imitations?
I suspect that the vr-sequence was chosen, because it was already used and understood as an expression of danger and hostility. But how can that be possible? People do not whirr to express hostility, so where did the initial "vr=hostility" association came from?
It sounds to me like there was an inspiring doggie out there... somewhere, at the beginning.

Here are a few vr-derivations:

Words       English meaning
vr wrę wrę wrę wrę (I am seething, boiling)
(I am raging)
vr wre wre wre wre (is seething, throbing)
(is raging)
vr wre wrze wrze wrze (is boiling, seething)
(is raging)
vr wre wrze wrzenie wrzenie (ebullition, turmoil)
vr wre wrze wrzawa wrzawa (uproar, din, turmoil)
vr wre wrze wrzask wrzask (shriek, yell)
vr wre war war war (boiling liquid, heat)
vr wre war wywar wywar (decoction, brew)
vr wre war odwar odwar (decoction)
vr wre war warzy warzy (is boiling)
vr wre war warzy warzywa (vegetables)
vr wre wir wir wir (a whirl)
vr wre wir wiruje wiruje (is rotating)
vr wre wir wierci wierci (it drills, wriggles)
vr wre wir -wraca -wraca (it turns)
vr wre wir -wraca wraca (returns)
vr wre wir -wraca zawraca (turns back)
vr wre wir -wraca nawraca (returns, turns back)
vr wre wir -wraca wywraca (overturns, reverses)
vr wara wara wara wara (hands off !)
vr wróg wróg wróg wróg (an enemy)
vr wróg wrogi wrogi wrogi (hostile)
vr warczę warczę warczę warczę (I am growling, snarling)
vr warga warga warga warga (a lip)

The non-ingestive verbs did not originally looked like the ingestive ones and their meaning may have been ambivalent to the listeners, as several early derivations are not verbs, but rather nouns referring to actions.
However, when a word was supposed to be understood as a verb, the best way to guarantee it was to make it sound like a verb, and since the major group of verbs referred to ingestion, the rest was shaped according to this model.

Putting 1 + 1 together

If a word defining an object was to be understood as an action, it was modified in a way that preserved the original meaning and at the same time made it sound like an action. Since a solution was already demonstrated by the vocalized eating techniques, which consisted of the natural "stems" (the food-specific variables) and equally natural, regular "suffixes", the principle was imitated by adding a suffix (e.g. a vocalized oral closure) to the original word, which thereby became a stem of a new word - a deliberately made verb.
As the adaptation was made with a single word at a time, against several previously stored ones, the choice of what to fit to what was obvious, and the question of doing the opposite was hardly taken into consideration.
I believe the process to have been performed intuitively, rather then by a long-lasting contemplation. Once proven to be successful, the solution opened new possibilities and encouraged to be used again whenever necessary, as from now on, every noun could be made into a verb.
Moreover, the simple principle of combining two ideophones to produce a more explicit definition was immediately employed to create complex nouns, including nouns made of elements with distinct origins.
In fact, several early Indo-European compound words contain onomatopoeic ideophones, combined with the self-imitative ones, to distinct among previously generalized concepts.
Producing an explicative noun by adding an ingestive sequence in front of a rustling noise, or creating a verb by adding a self-imitative mouth-closure to a word that was not related to nourishment, may seem hilarious, but it was definitely the right thing to do, since only the good ideas that contributed to communication survived, while the bad ideas did not, and the idea of creating a new word by modifying an old one was simply ingenious.
To understand why, one has to remember that the natural, phonic similarities and dissimilarities corresponded to semantic similarities and dissimilarities. The fact that words belonging to one group differed from words belonging to another group, provided the initial vocabulary with a natural structure which not only required that a change of a word's function had to be accompanied with a corresponding modification of its sound, but also made it possible to create a new word by simply changing the function of a pre-existing one, making the newly created word immediately understandable, as long as the modification of its sound fitted a convention of another group.
I believe that once this possibility was discovered, the production of new words accelerated dramatically with a simultaneous development of grammar, as both the processes were interdependent and derived from analyzing and exploiting the same, natural similarities and dissimilarities.

Mummy and Me

From time to time it has been proposed that the nursery words such as mama could have been the first words spoken. At first, I was skeptical about this idea, as I could not see a reason why the first words pronounced by a baby should have been the first words of humanity, nor did I seriously expected the vocabularies of modern languages to have preserved the very initial stages of linguistic development. However, considering the phonosemantic structure of language, I think that nursery words may indeed have been the oldest vocabulary items.
I believe it to be possible, because at least some of those utterances clearly fall into the category of ingestive self-imitations.
The nursery words consist of a monosyllabic consonant-vowel combinations, such as ma, am and mam, increasing to reduplicative ma-ma strings. They are usually perceived as initially meaningless expressions, marking the early stage of a child's development towards speech. However, those voices actually do have a meaning. Besides the popular mama (mum) and the encouraging am (eat !) , also the ma and mam have semantic values in Polish. The ma means "it has / she has / he has / mine", while the mam means "I have". Judging from their present meanings, the phonosemantc formation of those words went like this:

ma... --> ma
"she has / it has / he has / "- with "has" being the most important part. --> -am
a mouth close around a nipple - the source of food and the original target of ma.

ma... ma... --> mama
unsuccessful, repetitive attempts to recall the source of food.

ma... am --> mam
a successful attempt to recall the source of food, forming the word mam (I have got). An effect of uttering ""

There is a fascinating resemblance between the construction of nursery words and other ingestive imitations, as well as an interesting connection with the ingestive mn-group, visible in the infinitive forms of "to have": mieć, and "to crumple": miąć, which suggests a common origin of words related to "having" and "crumpling". However, it should also be noted that the ma differs from other ingestive sequences in that it is a consonant-vowel combination.
A simple explanation for this peculiarity is that ma is pronounced without any effort from the tongue, which makes it the easiest and hence probably the first ingestive self-imitation ever made, as it consists of nothing more then just a vocalized opening and closing of mouth.
I suppose the a-opening expressed readiness for food intake, while the m-close checked whether or not the source of food was available. When put together and vocalized, the repetitive was just a self-imitative expression of a wish to close the mouth around a nipple. Since announcing the wish showed to be an effective way to make it come true, the sequence was repeated every time the need arose, giving birth to the words ma (has) and mama (mum).
In much the same way the discontinued got associated with the fulfillment of the wish, becoming mam (I have got).
Since the effect of pronouncing mama not only appeased hunger, but at the same time satisfied other basic needs (such as the need of bodily contact or simply the need of presence of caring person) the word was employed to name and to call into existence the particular phenomenon that fulfilled all those needs - a mother, while the meanings of ma and mam were generalized to apply to all possession.

The act of nursing seem to have been the original source of some important words related to having, squeezing, eating and being, as well as the source of a few pronouns. Tough those words seemingly differ in their functions and meanings, they present striking phonic similarities and they all seem to refer to the same, very early stage of language development.
To demonstrate the similarities, I have disregarded their meanings, stringing the words together into phonic groups.

ma (~ has) ma (mine) mi (me/ to me) my (we) mój (mine) moja (mine) moje (mine)

ma (~ has) mama (mum) mam (I have) mamy (we have)

ma (~ has) mać (a mother) mieć (to have) miąć (to crumple)

mnie (~ is crumpling) mnie (me/ to me) mnę (I am crumpling)

(I) je (~ is eating) (her)

jem (I eat) jemy (we eat) jemu (him / to him)

je (is eating) jest (is) jeść (to eat) jestem (I am)

Note that the phonic similarities among those various words are much closer then e.g. between two pronouns such as ja (I) and mi (me), or between jestem (I am) and być (to be) - which I have deliberately disclosed from the list.
The reason I have omitted the być (to be) is because it obviously derives from an entirely different sequence of sounds. The flexed forms of "to be" such as będę (I will be) bądź (be!) and będzie (will be) contain nasals ą and ę that increase to dialectal on and en forming e.g. bende instead of będę and revealing the origin of "to be" from another ingestive sequence, namely the pn-sequence.
In contrast, the jest (is) and jestem (I am) seem to be closely related to jeść (to eat) and jem (I eat), which most likely derives from the nursery am.The resemblance is even more visible when jem (I eat) is compared to jam - an old-fashioned, alternative version of "I am".
Thus, while both "to be" and "I am" seemingly derive from ingestive sequences, they derive from two, different sequences, and it is their distinct origin that forms the well known irregularity of "to be" (I guess, the original question must have been "To eat, or not to be ?").
Besides, it is noteworthy that in both cases a pronoun was derived from a verb. A similar example is the word ma (has), which regularly should have produced an infinitive mać. However mać does not mean "to have". It means "a mother", which thereby demonstrates to derive directly from ma (~ has).

Note, that from a grammarian point of view this is a chaos.
All those words express thoughts associated with sequences of vocalized mouth positions that were previously associated with similar thoughts. Nevertheless, the way in which pronouns and nouns are made from verbs, seems to be quite logical e.g. the words mać (mother) and mieć (to have) derive from ma (~ has) in a way similar to the one in which the gnat (a bone) and giąć (to bend) derive from gnę (I am bending), with a noun and an infinitive verb deriving from a present tense singular verb.
Both examples seem to illustrate the formation of language starting from its pre-grammatical stage.
Though the interrelations of nursery-words are not at all clear to me, here is an idea of how those voices may have evolved into vocabulary items :

A vocalized mouth opening expressing readiness for food intake.

a --> ja (I) ?
Possibly expressed the same as a; perhaps more enthusiastic, but I am very suspicious about the shape of this word. Since the mi (me, to me) is related to the munching mn-sequence, while the być (to be) derive from the bending bn-sequence, I suspect the words: ja (I), jest (is), jeść (to eat) and jem (I am eating) to be related to the other bending (gnawing) sequence: the gn. Especially because several Slavic and Teutonic personal pronouns, as well as many words related to being and eating, sounds to me like they were vocalizations of toothless attempts to gnaw and perhaps toothless prototypes of what was to became the gn and gng sequences.

am --> jem (I am eating)
The word looks to me as a slightly modified am, but could just as well have been produced by a combination of ja (I)+ am, or je (is eating) + am.

ma --> ma (~has)

ma + ma --> mama (a mum)

ma + am --> mam (I have, I have got )

mam --> imam (I am clutching)

ma --> mi (me, to me)
I guess, the higher sound of a mi..mi.. (instead of the could have been more effective when competing for attention (especially if pronounced as "miii.. mii"), which leads my thoughts to a siostra (a sister), because the first part of this word consists of the sucking ss-sequence.
On the other hand, mi (me, to me) may be just a short form of mnie (me, to me /~ is crumpling).

I may be dreaming, but when put together all those different words seem to tell a story that revolved around a nipple.
Since the already mentioned jama (a cave) fits in here, together with the jem (I am eating) and jemy (we are eating), it makes me wonder if the jama might have originally meant "a place where we eat" ? - or perhaps "a place where we eat loudly" as dziamać means "to chew loudly".

The imitative pattern

If the mimics was not affected by the sensory experience, the association was made with the accompanying sound, which was imitated to name the experience.
The words created in this way fall into the category of onomatopoeia.

It sounds like the onomatopoeia initially defined actions as well as the objects performing those actions. Perceiving a sound and its source as a single phenomenon may seem strange from our point of view, but it makes sense if there is no visual stimulation. If a source of a sound is invisible, it vanishes from our surroundings the moment it stops making noises, unless it can be tested, touched or smelled. Thus, whenever a noise was the most remarkable or simply the only feature informing about someone's or something's presence, it became naturally associated with that something and used to name it.
Considering the diversity of sounds around us, we could expect the onomatopoeic part of a vocabulary to be very rich, but the world in which the Indo-European language emerged, sounds to have been rather limited and relatively quiet. I believe that the greatest part of initial vocabulary was created in sheltered surroundings as the predominant group of onomatopoeic words imitates friction noises. It is those noises that are reflected in the rustling consonant clusters so typical for Slavic languages.

In contrast to self-imitative words, which origins can be felt, tested and observed in front of a mirror, the signified of an onomatopoeia is reflected in the sound it imitates. Since similar sounds can be produced by several different sources, while a single source can produce several distinct sounds, an identification of the original source of a sound is not easy, but nevertheless can be done by comparing the meaning of the derivations and compound words that contain the same onomatopoeic elements, which is just as fun as identifying the origins of self-imitative utterances.

Have you ever wondered what the "~ther" in "mother" "brother" and "sister" stands for ?

"Czary w czerni" (Magic in the blackness)

Rustling imitations of friction noises were employed to name anything that was indistinguishable in darkness, including the darkness itself. Trying to understand why, we have to put aside our usual way of distinguishing an defining the environment around us, and imagine being a child in some dark hole (a cave, if you prefer).
The important things to have in mind are: there is no light at all, and hence there is no way to distinguish things by visual means. Secondly, no one can explain anything to you as there is no language (you are the one that is making it up). The few things that you already know are the ones you gnaw, while everything else that happens around you is an ungnawn mystery. But the mystery is not soundless.

tsh --> trze (is rubbing)
tsh --> ~ciera (is rubbing)
dsh --> drze (is tearing)
dsh --> ~dziera (is tearing)
tsh-sh-tsh --> trzeszczy (is creaking, is cracking)

Some of the noises come and go. Some of them feel warm, dry or wet. All of them represent the magical creatures around you.
Though those phenomena have no shape or color, and though their true nature is uncertain or unknown to you, they all make a noise as they move - a rustling sound, that becomes their common name.

tsh --> czar (magic, sorcery, charm)
tsh --> czar --> czary (magic ,sorcery)
tsh --> czar --> czerń (blackness)

Trying to interpret the ongoing reality, you learn to distinguish the magical creatures from each other. You distinguish the one that is caring for you, from those that are not, the one that feels wet, from the ones that feel dry and cold, and you reflect those differences in your vocabulary by combining the common name of those creatures (a sound of friction) with some distinctive elements, that tell something particular about their nature:

ma-ciora (a sow)
sios-tra (a sister)
jasz-czur (a salamander)
wia-tr (the wind)
wie-czór (an evening)
wil-czur (a wolf)

The complex words produced in this way, as well as several derivations and diverse compositions incorporating imitations of rustling noises are widespread in all Indo-European languages including English (e.g. trees).
Since those imitations originally applied to both the noisy activities and the noisy objects, they were employed to name virtually anything that moved, including artifacts (e.g. tires), phenomena of nature (e.g. water, weather, winter), family members (mother, brother, father, sister) and a large part of the Indo-European ZOO, starting with German Tiere (animals).
Suprisingly the polish maciora means "a sow", but polish words containing macierz refer to a mother, which should have been the original meaning.
Her is a slightly extended, Polish version of the story of friction noises:


Sequence Words           English meaning
tsh trze trze trze trze trze trze (is rubing)
(is grating)
tsh trze -ciera -ciera -ciera -ciera -ciera (is rubing)
(is grating)
tsh trze -ciera ciarki ciarki ciarki ciarki (creeps)
tsh trze -ciera cierń cierń cierń cierń (a thorn)
tsh trze -ciera czar czar czar czar (magic, sorcery)
tsh trze -ciera czar czary czary czary (magic, sorcery)
tsh trze -ciera czar czart czart czart (a devil)
tsh trze -ciera czerń czerń czerń czerń (blackness)
tsh trze -ciera czerń czarny czarny czarny (black)
tsh trze trzeć trzeć trzeć trzeć trzeć (to rub, to grate)
tsh trze trzeć tarzać tarzać tarzać tarzać (to welter, to roll)
tsh trze tarza tarza tarza tarza tarza (is weltering)
( is rolling)
tsh trze tarza tacza tacza tacza tacza (is rolling, wheeling)
(is turning, shaping)
tsh trze tarza tacza toczy toczy toczy (is rolling, shaping)
(is boring, drawing)
tsh trze tarza tacza toczy tok tok (a course, a progress)
tsh trze tarza tacza toczy tok potok (a stream)
tsh trze tarza tacza toczy toczny toczny (rolling)
tsh trze tarza tacza toczy toczny potoczny (current, common)
tsh trze tarza tacza stacza stacza stacza (is rolling down)
tsh trze tarza tacza toczy stocze stocze (a slope)
tsh trze tarza tacza toczy stocze stok (a slope)
tsh trze tarza tacza toczy stocze stocznia (a shipyard)
(a dockyard)
tsh trze tarza tacza zatacza zatacza zatacza (is circling)
tsh trze tarza tacza zatacza zatoczyć zatoczyć (to circle)
tsh trze tarza tacza zatacza zatoczyć zatoka (a bay)
tsh trze tarza tacza tacza tacza taczka (a wheel-barrow)
tsh trze trze trzon trzon trzon trzon (a trunk, a stem)
tsh trze trze trze strzał strzał strzał (a shot)
tsh trze trze trze strzał strzała strzała (an arrow)

SAMPA transcription :

Sequence Words           English meaning
tS tSe tSe tSe tSe tSe tSe (is rubing)
(is grating)
tS tSe -tS'era -tS'era -tS'era -tS'era -tS'era (is rubing)
(is grating)
tS tSe -tS'era tS'arki -tS'arki -tS'arki -tS'arki (creeps)
tS tSe -tS'era -tS'ern' -tS'ern' -tS'ern' -tS'ern' (a thorn)
tS tSe -tS'era tSar tSar tSar tSar (magic, sorcery)
tS tSe -tS'era tSar tSary tSary tSary (magic, sorcery)
tS tSe -tS'era tSar tSart tSart tSart (a devil)
tS tSe -tS'era tSern' tSern' tSern' tSern' (blackness)
tS tSe -tS'era tSern' tSarny tSarny tSarny (black)
tS tSe tSets' tSets' tSets' tSets' tSets' (to rub, to grate)
tS tSe tSets' taZats' taZats' taZats' taZats' (to welter, to roll)
tS tSe taZa taZa taZa taZa taZa (is weltering)
( is rolling)
tS tSe taZa tatSa tatSa tatSa tatSa (is rolling, wheeling)
(is turning, shaping)
tS tSe taZa tatSa totSI totSI totSI (is rolling, shaping)
(is boring, drawing)
tS tSe taZa tatSa totSI tok tok (a course, a progress)
tS tSe taZa tatSa totSI tok potok (a stream)
tS tSe taZa tatSa totSI totSnI totSnI (rolling)
tS tSe taZa tatSa totSI totSnI pototSnI (current, common)
tS tSe taZa tatSa statSa statSa statSa (is rolling down)
tS tSe taZa tatSa totSI stotSe stotSe (a slope)
tS tSe taZa tatSa totSI stotSe stok (a slope)
tS tSe taZa tatSa totSI stotSe stotSn'a (a shipyard)
(a dockyard)
tS tSe taZa tatSa zatatSa zatatSa zatatSa (is circling)
tS tSe taZa tatSa zatatSa zatotSIts' zatotSIts' (to circle)
tS tSe taZa tatSa zatatSa zatotSIts' zatoka (a bay)
tS tSe taZa tatSa tatSa tatSa tatSka (a wheelbarrow)
tS tSe tSe tSon tSon tSon tSon (a trunk, a stem)
tS tSe tSe tSe stSaw stSaw stSaw (a shot)
tS tSe tSe tSe stSaw stSawa stSawa (an arrow)


Sequence Words           English meaning
tr trę trę trę trę trę trę (I am rubing)
(I am grating)
tr trę tarcie tarcie tarcie tarcie tarcie (friction)
tr trę tarcie tarta tarta tarta tarta (grated)
tr trę tarcie tarcie tarcie tarcie tartak (a sawmill)
tr trę tarcie tarcie tarcica tarcica tarcica (a plank, a board)
tr trę tarcie tarcie tarcie tarcie tarcza (shield)
tr trę tarcie tarcie starcie starcie starcie (an encounter)
(a clash)
tr trę tarcie tarcie starty starty starty (abraded, grated)
(worn away)
tr trę tarcie tarcie starty stary stary (old)
tr trę tarcie tarcie starty stary starszy (older, elder)
tr trę tarcie tarcie starty stary starzec (an old man)
tr trę tarcie tarcie starty stary starzeć (to grow old)
(to age)
tr trę tarcie tarcie starty stary starość (an old age)

SAMPA transcription :

Sequence Words           English meaning
tr tre~ tre~ tre~ tre~ tre~ tre~ (I am rubing)
(I am grating)
tr tre~ tarts'e tarts'e tarts'e tarts'e tarts'e (friction)
tr tre~ tarts'e tarta tarta tarta tarta (grated)
tr tre~ tarts'e tarts'e tarts'e tarts'e tartak (a sawmill)
tr tre~ tarts'e tarts'e tarts'itsa tarts'itsa tarts'itsa (a plank, a board)
tr tre~ tarts'e tarts'e tarts'e tarts'e tartSa (shield)
tr tre~ tarts'e tarts'e starts'e starts'e starts'e (an encounter)
(a clash)
tr tre~ tarts'e tarts'e startI startI startI (abraded, grated)
(worn away)
tr tre~ tarts'e tarts'e startI starI starI (old)
tr tre~ tarts'e tarts'e startI starI starSI (older, elder)
tr tre~ tarts'e tarts'e startI starI staZets (an old man)
tr tre~ tarts'e tarts'e startI starI staZets' (to grow old)
(to age)
tr tre~ tarts'e tarts'e startI starI staros'ts' (an old age)


Sequence Words           English meaning
dsh drze drze drze drze drze drze (is tearing)
dsh drze drzeć drzeć drzeć drzeć drzeć (to tear)
dsh drze -dziera -dziera -dziera -dziera -dziera (is tearing)
dsh drze -dziera dziura dziura dziura dziura (a tear, a hole)
dsh drze -dziera darń darń darń darń (turf)
dsh drze drze drzewo drzewo drzewo drzewo (a tree)
(wood, timber)
dsh dżdży dżdży dżdży dżdży dżdży dżdży (is raining)
dsh dżdży dżdży dżdży dżdżysty dżdżysty dżdżysty (rainy)
dsh dżdży dżdży dżdży deszcz deszcz deszcz (rain)

SAMPA transcription :

Sequence Words           English meaning
dZ dZe dZe dZe dZe dZe dZe (is tearing)
dZ dZe dZets' dZets' dZets' dZets' dZets' (to tear)
dZ dZe -dz'era -dz'era -dziera -dz'era -dz'era (is tearing)
dZ dZe -dz'era dz'ura dz'ura dz'ura dz'ura (a tear, a hole)
dZ dZe -dz'era darn' darn' darn' darn' (turf)
dZ dZe dZe dZevo dZevo dZevo dZevo (a tree)
(wood, timber)
dZ dZdZI dZdZI dZdZI dZdZI dZdZI dZdZI (is raining)
dZ dZdZI dZdZI dZdZI dZdZIstI dZdZIstI dZdZIstI (rainy)
dZ dZdZI dZdZI dZdZI deStS deStS deStS (rain)

Note that during the initial stages there is no trace of visual stimulation. The adjective czarny (black) derives from the noun czerń (blackness) which again derives from ciera (is rubbing, is grating) - a term referring to feelings and noises, associated with the abrasive surroundings as well as with the obscure phenomena and the vague actions that emitted those crackling noises. Thus the initial meaning of the word czerń (blackness) originally referred to auditory-tactile sensations, not to visual ones.
In older literature the term czerń was on occasions used when referring to an anonymous crowd. A similar meaning is preserved in ciżba (a crowd, throng, squeeze) and in Ukrainian czereda (a crowd), also present in Polish, so the czerń (blackness) might have been crowded as well.
Another obsolete meaning of czerń is "earth". The same meaning is preserved in darń (turf) as well as in Latin terra (earth), demonstrating a semantic transition from an auditory-tactile to a tactile-visual definition. The English dirt also belongs in this group.

Although I have divided the rustling words into sections deriving from tsh, tr and dsh, I believe that in reality all those sequences derived from a single prototype that was subsequently modified, to produce a diversity of useful variations, including several extremely imitative ones, e.g:

trzcina [tSts'ina] (reed, cane)
szczać [StSats'] (to piss)

Some of the modifications probably emerged in result of accidental sound changes, e.g:

trzaska [tSaska] (a splinter)
drzazga [dZazga] (a splinter)

- but others were obviously intended to convey semantic distinctions and to make the meanings more explicit by emphasizing and exaggerating the differences between the similar sounds. e.g:

trzeć [tSets'] (to rub, to grate, to grind)
drzeć [dZets'] (to tear)

Though this early, tongue-twisting solution was gradually abandoned in favor of explicative compound words, and though many of the phonic differences are faded out by now, there seems to be preserved at least one, early, phonosemantic distinction between those noises, dividing the produced words into two different categories.
In the first group the initial consonant cluster forms the tre, tra, try, tsh, etc, while in the second group the consonans are divided by a vowel, forming tar, ter, tyr, dyr, and so on.
Just as in the case of the self-imitative words, the positions of vowels in the earliest onomatopoeia indicated the differences between verbs and nouns, but the later onomatopoeic derivations do not seem to follow this idea. Instead, it looks like the distinction was used once again, in an attempt to separate the things that were torn (e.g. the trees) from the things and creatures that were tearing them.
Unfortunately, many older words may have undergone semantic reinterpretations followed by phonic changes, so it is hard to tell whether e.g. the Latin terra was initially perceived as "something torn" or as "something tearing" or both. The form suggests that it conveyed the meaning of "something tearing", but judging from present meanings the term terra (as well as terrain and territory) referred to "something torn" (perhaps tattered, ploughed, divided - activities which may be easily related to pasture and agriculture). A similar example is the Polish dziura (a hole, a tear), which strangely enough, is shaped as "something tearing" not as an effect of tearing. Perhaps the original dziura (a hole, a tear) was a poky entrance to the jama (a cave)... or maybe it was just another name for a cave.

It is funny to observe how the onomatopoeic elements deriving from auditory-tactile sensations were employed to produce compounds. e.g. młodzież (the youth) is made of the tearing "-dzież" and the milky ml-sequence, referring to the childlike eating technique, while the trzymam (I am holding, I have a hold) is composed of the tsh-friction and mam (I have). The same, amusing observations can be made on all Indo-European languages (I am not referring just to the few, obvious ones, like Greek pan-ther and try-panon or Latin mix-tura, but e.g. all the Greek and Latin words containing the affixes trach-, trans-, -tracio etc. and all the Indo-European compounds incorporating imitations of tearing noises to define animals, tools and activities).

The importance of multi-sensory experiences

Imitations of friction noises were frequently composed with self-imitative vocalizations to produce simple, but very explicative compounds.
On many occasions, a seamless integration of elements and an ingestive order of their composition suggest that the skills to imitate friction noises derived from vocalized tearing actions performed by mouth.
Since similar observations can be made about other onomatopoeic expressions, it looks to me that both the inspiration and the essential skills to produce onomatopoeic words were acquired through vocalizing ingestive actions, and that the early onomatopoeia have been produced by modifications and compositions of previously existing, self-imitative vocalizations, usually related to ingestion. Thus, I suspect, that even the ostentatiously onomatopoeic "trsh, tsh, tr, dr"-sounds, derive from noises produced while tearing the food with teeth.
The initial choices of particular ingestive vocalizations, to create onomatopoeic words, seemingly depended on a harmony of sound, meaning and feeling. The early onomatopoeia did not just imitate the sounds, but attempted to convey the tactile sensations as well. Hence, the word trawa (grass) is produced by a combination of the tr with the ingestive rv sequence, to convey the meaning of "grass", and the final product sounds as it should feel to the animal eating it.
The same harmony is evident in English grass, Polish gryźć (to chew, to bite), English crush, Polish kruszyć (to crush) and several other Indo-European words that feel exactly as they sound.
Those recordings of actions are at the same time self-imitative and onomatopoeic, as eating, drinking, grabbing, and tearing the food into small pieces are not soundless activities. Voluntary or not, all of those actions produce noises which can be perceived and interpreted by others, and since those "others" make the same noises during the same activities, they recognize the meanings from their own experiences. Thus the sound becomes a vehicle for information, while ones own experiences become the means to understand it, which in itself is enough to provide an excellent opportunity and a potential starting point for the development of language.


The list can go on and on, as there are many other imitations of ingestive and non-ingestive sequences, and there is a myriad derivations and combinations, that fills all of the Indo-European dictionaries.
I will be writing about some of them in the near future, however the purpose of this publication was just to introduce the principles of the initial language-formation process and to demonstrate that the self-imitative and imitative expressions are not some isolated phenomena, but are instead the very fundament of Indo-European vocabulary, which, in contrast to what has until now been believed, forms an unbroken, phonosemantic continuum, deriving from simple vocalizations.
I hope, I have made it clear, that the statements of Aristotle and Ferdinand de Saussure about the "arbitrary nature of linguistic signs" were wrong.
Only when the natural relationship between the sound of a word and its meaning is terminated, the word starts a new, uncertain, "arbitrary" existence. But that is an entirely different story, which deserves a separate investigation, and has nothing to do with the true gnature of words.

  This work is licensed under a [ Creative Commons License ]. Some rights reserved. Copyright © Jaroslaw Jozefowicz