Unearthing the ancient roots of �el� and �en�

Setswana, I have determined, drills down to the primordial roots of language. Many of its basic words cut across many languages, the definitive marker of a protolanguage.

Two such proto-terms are the noun-pointers ‘ele’ and ‘ena’ (‘that’ and ‘this’). Ele thus pointed to an outsider – anyone/anything removed from us, while ena pointed to that which we live with. In terms of Greek mythology it would equate to something like the difference between Titans (tii ta an: ‘giants/substantive ones from the sky’) and the Olympians. The Titans’ great height, I showed in other articles, resulted from prolonged periods in the weightlessness of space, while the Olympians were of somewhat normal height.

As time wore on, the term ele came not to mean ‘alien’ (note the phonetic similarity between the ele/alien which suggests that they emanate from the same proto-term). It meant a particular alien (as in the Ugaritic term El, who was the leader of the gods). Meanwhile, ena (as in the Sumerian term ‘En’, meaning ‘lord’) came to mean others: the other gods that lived with people and were served by them.

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