Mmegi Blogs :: The ancient etymology of quantity and extent
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The ancient etymology of quantity and extent

Yet-unpublished work I have carried out has proven to me, beyond all reasonable doubt, that Setswana is a true protolanguage that is the closest ‘living’ language to the now-extinct language of Sumerian.
By L M Leteane Fri 11 Mar 2016, 13:39 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Blogs :: The ancient etymology of quantity and extent

Sumer in Mesopotamia (now mostly Iraq) was the home of the earliest known civilisation. Indeed, I have studied several different Sumerian epics, including a section of the famous Enuma Elish, and came to the conclusion that the grammar and syntax therein is essentially Bantu-like, but the diction and idioms are definitely Sotho-Tswana–like. In my books, both published and upcoming, I have sketched out the fascinating but cohesive history—unearthed by ancient ‘myths’—of how this amazing association came about.

Of course, all this makes nonsense of the conventional linguistic view that Indo-European languages bear no resemblance to any other language family…and certainly not the Bantu language family. In our exercise today, we will demonstrate the falsity of this assumption through the common etymology of words relating specifically to quantity and extent. Let us begin with the term ‘quantity’ itself. What we must bear in mind is that whenever we see the letter ‘q’ in any language, we must know that it is likely to be pronounced in very different ways in different languages. But broadly speaking, the original sound, it seems, was pronounced somewhat like the Setswana ‘g’—which is akin to that of Afrikaans and also the Spanish ‘j’. ‘Quantity’ is based on the Latin term quant(us), dictionary etymologies tell us, and the translation of this is “how much”. Quo qui, and qua, indeed, are used almost exactly like ko, ke, and ke wa in Setswana. ‘Quanta’’ asks the question “ke wa ante?’ (literally: ‘to what counter-side (i.e. extent) does it belong?’). I have seen the word ante (now kante in Setswana: ka (by means of) + ante) used in Sumerian and it basically means ‘on the contrary’ or ‘on the countering side’. Example:  A re ke nnete, kante ke maaka (‘He says it is the truth, [but] on the contrary it is lies’). Thus, ‘ante-clockwise’ means ‘counter of clockwise’.

I took time to break quanta (quo/qua + ante) down to its basics so that the reader can keep up with me. Ante, here, serves to basically ask “what is the other (the counter) to this?” i.e. “to where does it extend?” Used in conjunction with enquiry qua (‘ke wa’) it is a measure of extent. Now, let me take this opportunity to further explain the term qua and relate it to Setswana. ‘Qualify’ is ostensibly based on the Latin term quali(s) and ificare. In Setswana it is basically the interrogation ‘ke wa lefe, ka hare?’ which loosely translates as ‘what has he/it got inside? Quasi basically affirms ‘ke wa se’ (literally: He/it is of something like’. ‘Se’ indeed means ‘something like’. Example: “e se-nonyane” means “it is bird-like”. Thus, ‘quasi-official’ means ‘resembling something official’.

With these basics in place, let us explore more terms denoting quantity. A word we touched on frequently in this article is ‘extent’ and it is also one of our key words, so, let us home in on


it. It consists of ex (away from) + tenta (held), thus ‘that which is held away from’. What this basically means is that which reaches from here and holds even at a distance away. Let us relate both terms to Setswana. The Latin term ‘ex’ is based on the proto-term eka or eke which means ‘away from’. The Setswana term moeka is used when addressing yourself in the third person, thus stepping away from yourself (o i ekesa). Now, the term ekesa from which ‘ex’ is derived (and now eketsa in Sesotho) means ‘enlarge’ or ‘take away further from’. Of course, linguistically, Setswana strayed a little away from this proto-term (a natural thing in the evolution of languages) and it is now oketsa…but we can see what the true original term was.

As for tenta, the primordial etymology of the term is ‘hold [tightly]’: tanata in Setswana. Thus we have ‘tentacles’: what an octopus uses to hold on to prey such that it cannot escape. The term tantabane (‘pension’ – now commonly ‘old-age pension’)  is what the employer pays the loyal, qualifying ex-worker as a sign of gratitude and thus, as it were, still holds on to that ex-employee.  A ‘tent’ (tanta) is a temporary housing made to hold onto something sturdy or rigid for support. Of course, since the hand is the primal metaphor for ‘something that holds’, an understandable semantic shift took place in which tanta also meant ‘something that feels for’, thus ‘tentative’ is ‘that which is held not so firmly – just for the feel of it and this in turn acquired a sense of ‘nervously feeling out something’.  Let us now quickly rattle off a series of words that signify quantity and extent in ‘unrelated’ languages. The proto-term kota, in the sense of kotela (limit something to a quantity), gave rise to ‘quota’ in Latin and English. Kompa means ‘a clustering of’ and relates to ‘compact’ in English, as well as ‘company’ (a gathering or clustering). As such, kopana (meet, cluster) in Setswana, was actually kompana before a  linguistically well-understood sound-change took place whereby certain consonants are sacrificed to facilitate rapid speech in words that are used very often.

In contrast, we have monosi (alone), and this relates to the Greek term monos. Mo-nosi is a well-known term in Setswana and Sesotho, but the current grammatically-correct term is just nosi. ‘Both’ relates to bothe in Setswana (I have explained in other articles how, and why, tlha/hla – thus now botlhe/bohle – is a more recent Sotho-Tswana expression). ‘Empty’ was initially a-mette in Old English (the ‘p ‘is denoted as ‘intrusive’ i.e. it merely facilitated rapid speech. ‘A’, I explained last week means ‘toward’ or ‘away from’ depending on the context and in this case amette is ‘away from mmete (a choking, a fullness)’. A ‘lea’ (empty field) is, quite naturally, lo-lea.

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