Mmegi Blogs :: The various etymologies of the ancient term loka
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The various etymologies of the ancient term loka

In this column I continue to show off two main things: firstly, that there was once indeed a universal, now-lost mother language we once all spoke as alleged in Genesis 11 and, secondly, that Setswana is still very close to that ancient protolanguage.
By L M Leteane Fri 24 Jun 2016, 17:54 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Blogs :: The various etymologies of the ancient term loka








To show off both of these features at once, I typically trace the etymology of Indo-European words and then demonstrate their commonality with Setswana terms. This week, we look at the varied and interesting forms of the proto-term loka in light of this elucidation.

Loka itself, fundamentally, is made up of morphemes lo + oka. Lo is an article that points to a noun, as in lo-obo (a shelter) and lo-bota (a wall). In Setswana, le is used more often (as in lebota) and only, typically, in cases like lo-obo where the base term begins with an ‘o’ does le-obo converge, in enunciation, to lo-obo. Oka itself means ‘attract’, thus the Setswana equivalent of ‘hook’ is ho-oka (‘that which attracts/pulls’). Of course, that which attracts will, like a magnet, typically ‘hold onto’ the thing being attracted, hence the understandable semantic shift of lo-oka to suggest ‘hold’ – and this makes the next variation of loka more understandable. We can indeed discern that the English term ‘lock’ is made up of lo + oko (‘that which binds together’). As such, when we lock a door, we bind that door to a wall or other rigid structure such that it cannot be moved. Although we can reconstruct a Setswana equivalent of ‘lock’ from proto-term morphemes, it might seem like we do not have a direct equivalent. We do – except that the ‘binding’ in this case is entailed in a sound-shift to loga (‘weave together’). Thus far, we have seen that loka always alludes to a ‘bringing together’ to make something rigid or immovable. This sense of ‘fixedness’ is evidently what led to the Sanskrit term loka (‘a place’), the root of the term ‘location’. A location, needless to say, is something that does not move; that one can expect to always find exactly where it was the last time. This is neatly captured in the Zulu term loco (‘right here’), which we can now seamlessly relate to the Latin term loco, thus ‘locale’, ‘location’, etc. So, although the term ‘locus’ suggests a path of movement, it is in fact also premised on the Latin term loco, thus  suggesting ‘a fixed or restrained path’.

Another set of meanings that the ancient proto-term loka suggests relate to ‘membership’. Here, the Setswana term le-loko (‘member’) suggests that a ‘member’ of something is fixed or attached to something else. Since, as I have explained, the consonant k can easily transmute to g because of closeness in enunciation, this enables us to better understand the ancient term ‘log’ which suggests ‘a member of a [full] tree’. In Setswana this is logong and the suffix ong simply reiterates that it belongs to something, thus tshilong (a mill) literally means ‘a place where milling is done’; i.e. where the process of milling belongs. Similarly, a ‘log’ is a piece of information that is entered regularly in order to provide a full understanding of events. By

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its very definition, a log makes no complete sense on its own; it is a small part of a schedule or register. We have explored the term loka as suggesting ‘fixed’ – although this, we found, may be expressed in different ways. This same sense carries through in the Setswana term lokolla (‘release [from fixedness]’). The suffixes ola or olla or ologa all suggest ‘an undoing of something’, thus phuthela (wrap) phutholola (unwrap), budulala (close one’s eyes) and buduloga (open one’s eyes). The noun of lokolla is tokollo (liberation). This enables us to better understand the Latin-based term ‘tokology’ and locomotion, ‘Locomotion’ is thus ‘movement from [fixed] place to [fixed] place’, which is why the term ‘motion’ has is appended. A ‘locomotive’ (the engine that pulls a train) is thus ‘released to go from place to place’. ‘Tokology’ (alternatively spelt ‘tocology’) is basically ‘obstetrics’ (the science of delivering babies). Child-bearing, most of us understand, typically involves much pain and when the baby is born the mother has been ‘released’ (tokollo) from her labours. A similar term is ‘dislocation’ – when, for example, a bone has been released from its loca, its hitherto fixed position.

Yet another semantic shift of this versatile proto-term took place when the overall theme of ‘fixedness’ came to acquire a sense of ‘stability, reliability’ – which in turn came to suggests honesty, which in turn came to suggest ‘goodness’. This semantic path is now opaque to Indo-European, but using Setswana we can retrace its ancient roots. The term loka means ‘be good’ and it can also be used for when someone puts sugar into porridge or tea, i.e. makes it good to taste. The noun of loka in this sense is toka (goodness, righteousness). The ancient term ‘Melchizedek’ which we can break down to ‘Melchi-ze-dek’ is understandably ‘Mmereki-tsa-toka’ (“Righteous Worker” or “Worker for Righteousness”) in Setswana. Naturally, as we have explained time and again in this column, the l to r sound-shift, or vice-versa is as linguistically common as the b to p sound-shift – examples of which we have seen in this article. All this helps us to better understand author Zecharia Sitchin’s translation of it as “pure”. He translates the name ‘Marduk’ (the name of the principal Babylonian god) as “He of the Pure Mound’, but Ma-ru means not ‘mound’ but ‘Red Ones’ (we devoted a whole article toward explain how and why ru means ‘red’). Of course, ru-ru-ga means ‘swell’, and in light-skinned people such as swelling is typically red in colour due to the more visible accumulation of blood, and this may be how it was expressed in Sumerian cuneiform writing – but here it definitely alluded to the gods’ pale skin that turns red in the sun. Duk is as in toka (goodness), thus conveying ‘A member of the gods of righteousness’ – duk (good) also being a pun of toko (membership).

Comments to leteanelm@gmail.com

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