1.0 The Body > 1.5 Limbs, Joints, and Body Measures > 1.5.1 Hand, Arm, Wing

#705 PTB *p-yak ARM

This allofam is represented principally by a single WT form with honorific meaning. The source of the labial prefix remains to be discovered. Jäschke (1881:347-8) gives ‘bow, compliment, reverence’ as an additional meaning. Whether this or ‘hand’ is the basic meaning is reminiscent of the phenomenon in the history of English whereby a verb meaning ‘to pray’ had its reference shifted by metonomy to ‘bead used in prayer’. (OE gebed ‘prayer’ > ME bede, bead ‘prayer, prayer bead, bead’)

There are also good-looking Lepcha, Limbu, and Karbi cognates, as well as a convincing Chinese comparandum.

The Karbi variant with pak seems basically to mean ‘leaf’, or more generally ‘flat object’. The Karbi morpheme ‑pak is glossed as ‘num. part., flat things’ (Walker 1925:119). See also #821 PTB *r‑pak LEAF / LEAFLIKE PART / FLAT OBJECT.

514677770,705,770,7051061ri-pak ⪤ ri-pekhand (distinct from arm)Mikir [Karbi]141.5Mikir [Karbi]1Walker 25 MikGDW-DML1480
514678770,7051061ri-pekpalmMikir [Karbi]141.5Mikir [Karbi]1Walker 25 MikGDW-DML3600
514583770,7051062ri◦pekpalm (of hand)Mikir [Karbi]141.5Mikir [Karbi]1Marrison 67 NagaGEM-CNL1870
5062277051567pʻyaghand (resp.)Tibetan (Written)äschke 1881HAJ-TEDp. 3470
115603705,m1568pʻyag-mdzubfinger, toe' (respectful)Tibetan (Written) 87 BPJAM-Ety0
115667705,3241568pʻyag-sorfingerTibetan (Written) 87 BPJAM-Ety0
514675p,742,705893(a-)kă pekforearmLepcha212.1.3Lepcha1Mainwaring 98GBM-Lepcha4910
514674705893pekforearmLepcha212.1.3Lepcha1Mainwaring 98GBM-Lepcha2200
514676m,7052010phuk-bekforearmLimbu312.3.1Eastern Kiranti1Chemjong 62ISC-LNED0
169576705481pi̯ĕg/pjie̯-armChinese (Old/Mid)539.0.1Old Chinese0Karlgren 57 GSRGSR853s0

Chinese comparandum

臂 OC *pi̯ĕg, GSR #853s ‘arm’; Li 1971: (*pjigh); Baxter 1992: (*pjeks); B & S 2011: *pek‑s; Schuessler 2007:164; Mand. .

ZJH: The front vowel in Old Chinese would normally preclude a correspondence to PTB *a. However, it can be noted that the bulk of the TB evidence points to *e; Tibetan occasionally has (dialectally-influenced?) ya*e where we would normally expect e. (Tibetan also has (y)a < PTB *e before dental codas, but that is not relevant here.) The comparison can stand, but only if the PTB form is reconstructed as *pek, which would have a number of ramifications for the TB etymology, viz.: (1) Unless reconstructed *pek ⪤ *pyak, the word-family connection to *yak ‘arm’ would be harder to maintain; (2) the Karbi form ri‑pak would have to be attributed entirely to a separate root *r‑pak ‘leaf’, with subsequent conflation within Karbi of *pak and *pek because of semantic and phonetic overlap. In short, the validity of this Chinese comparison is subject to the uncertainty of the PTB reconstruction stemming from the small number of identified reflexes.