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Monosyllabic Prefixes, Cases & Conjugation

in Indo-European Languages

The prefixes “A” and “An” as also the prefix “Nir” denote the opposite of the word they attach to. Anyaya is the absence of nyaya or justice, Anjaana is not jaana or known (unknown). In English we say amoral or without morals. In Greek athanatos is without thanatos or death. In English the prefix an is used in anhidrosis or without hidrosis (sweating), also in anarchy, anhydride, anaerobic or it sometimes changes to in or im as in independent (not dependent) or immortal (not mortal). At other times the prefix “Nir” as in Sanskrit “nirmal” or without dirt (pure). In English and in Latin it changes from nir to nor as in “Neither he nor I, want to go there. It is also used to denote chemicals without a methyl group as in differentiating adrenaline and nor-adrenaline. 

The Sanskrit prefix “Apa” means, away, off or back but can also imply opposite as in “apakama or opposite of love or abhorrence. In such cases apa becomes ab in English as in abnormal, abreact. It also means away or off as in derived of and the example is apomorphine a derivative of morphine or apoplexy which comes from plessein or plexy, to strike. In apostasy punishable by death in Islam, it is moving away from stasy, status or religion. When the moon is farthest from the earth (gaia) it is at its apo-gee. In Sanskrit using Apabhasha or apabhransha is using a deteriorated, degenerated or bad language farthest from Sanskrit or the refined language.
Apagata or dead or gone away, apagama or going away as in apostrophe from apo meaning away and strephein meaning turning.

In Sanskrit the prefix “Abhi” means towards or excessive as in Abhiman and Abhivriddhi but it also means around or on both sides to denote excess. In Latin it becomes ambi and in Greek amphi to denote all encompassing or on both sides as in ambidextrous or both (right) handed or amphibious meaning capable of living on land and in water.

Upa” in Sanskrit is a prefix meaning towards, near, by the side of, together with, under or down. Its Greek equivalent is epi and Latin equivalent sub. Upanishada is sitting by the side of and subterranean is below the terra or earth. Thus in English epidermis is near or under the skin. Epinephrine is secreted near the kidney (nephros in Greek) by the (Latin) adrenal gland.

The Sanskrit prefixes “ava” meaning off, away, down as in avatara (descent of a deity from heaven to earth), avarohanna (descent from higher tone to lower tone in singing: and “anu” meaning after, alongside, next to, under, subordinate to as in anumati (consent), anuja (born after or later), anukrama (serial order) don’t have clear Greek, Latin or other language equivalents.
The Sanskrit prefix “aa” means near, towards, until as in aagaman meaning coming instead of gamana meaning going, aarohana meaning ascending, aamaranam meaning until death. The nearest Greek prefix is “ana” meaning up, again, throughout, back as in the anabasis of Xenophon, analogue, anagram.

The Sanskrit prefix “su” meaning good becomes “eu” in Greek. Sujata becomes Eugenia. Sanskrit prefix “sum” meaning together becomes “sym or syn” in Greek, Latin and English as in symphony, symposium, synthesis, syndactyly, synergy. The Sanskrit prefix “Nava” meaning new as in Navajyot (Navjodh) becomes “neo” in Greek and English as in neon, neo-cons, neophytes.

An interesting one is the Sanskrit prefix “pra” meaning before, forward, in front of. “Kasha is to be visible but prakasha is to illumine. Gna and gnaan in Sankrit are to know and knowledge (gnosis in Greek) but pragna is intelligence. Jana, janma are similar to gene, generate but prajaa is procreation, also family race, people. From Greek, Latin and English prologue, provision, propulsion, pro-Mubarak.

Etymology, syntax and grammar to some extent help in tracing the common origin of languages.

Table 1 from “The Loom Of Language”.

English        Sanskrit          Greek         Latin        Old High      Old Slavonic
                                         Doric                         German

I bear          Bharami          Phero         Fero         Biru              Bera
Thou           Bharasi           Phereis       Fers         Biris             Beresi
He bears      Bharati           Pherei         Fert          Birit             Beretu
We bear      Bharamas       Pheromes    Ferimus    Berames      Beremu
You bear     Bharata          Pherete        Fertis        Beret           Berete
They Bear    Bharanti        Pheronti       Ferunt       Berant         Beratu

The similarities in etymology and declination of verbs becomes obvious. The ancient languages required every noun and its adjective to show matching cases (nominative for subject, accusative for object, instrumental for action by, dative for action to, ablative for action from, genitive for action by, locative for action in or on and vocative for the exclamatory form).  These eliminated the need for prepositions and required no specific word order. English has a subject, verb, object word order and since nouns have lost cases, we need to use prepositions. Japanese and Hindi have a subject, object, verb order, so they require the use of post-positions like “ney and ko” in Hindi. Sanskrit, Latin and German do not require a specific word order as every noun, pronoun and adjective shows the appropriate case.

Table 2 from The Loom Of Language

Sanskrit        Old Persian     Greek         Old Slav     Latin         Biblical English

Dadami         Dadami           Didomi       Dami          Do            I give
Dadasi          Dadahi            Didos         Dasi           Das           Thou givest
Dadati           Dadaiti            Didoti         Dasti          Dat           He giveth
Dadmas        Dademahi        Didomes     Damu        Damus      We give
Datta            Dasta               Didote        Daste         Datis         Ye give
Dadati          Dadenti            Didonti       Dadanti      Dant          They give

Italian           French            Icelandic     Dutch        AmerEng    Danish

Io do           Je donne          Eg gef         Ik geef       I give        Jeg giver
Tu dai         Tu donnes       Thu gefur     Jij geeft     You give    Du giver
Egli da         Il donne           Hann gefur  Hij geeft     He gives    Han giver
Noi diamo   Nous donnons Vjer gefum   Wij geven   We give    Vi giver
Voi date     Vous donnez    Thjer gefith   Jullie geven You give   De giver
Esi danno   Ils donnent       Their gefa     Zij geven    They give  De giver

Now you can see from where the English words donate and gift come from. Also  the pronouns he, his, they and their are of Germanic and Scandinavian origin.

The uncanny similarity in nouns, verbs, their cases, conjugation and even monosyllabic prefixes led Sir William Jones to propose in 1786, a common origin for Sanskrit, Greek, Latin and other languages and the concept of Proto-Indo-European arose. As they say if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it probably is a duck.

Interested readers should carefully read the article “The Aryan Tryst With Dravidians By Dr. Sankaran Nair to realize that the Indus Valley (Mohen Jo Daro-Harappa, Dravidian civilization was more advanced and urban (drainage system, baths, rice agriculture, written script) in comparison to the non-agricultural nomadic Aryan (oral) one. The two met and melded without major violence and war and as the present corrupt and incompetent government of India does say one thing right –Jub miley sur mera  tumara, bane sur  hamara...  

Related Articles:
Proto-Indo-European: The Mother of Languages  
The Mendelian Genetics of The English Language 
Image (c) Gettyimages.com


More by :  Gaurang Bhatt, MD

Top | Random Thoughts

Views: 3615      Comments: 3

Comment Interesting article. I am both a linguistics student and a student of Sanskrit. Thank you.

28-Dec-2015 10:45 AM

Comment Interesting article... I stumble on it while searching the origin of the sanskrit word 'pragun' which means 'honest, upright' according to a Sanskrit-English dictionary by Monier-Williams published in 1899. Dr. Bhatt could you please help me with the meaning because i have named my son 'pragun' and a 'pundit' says that 'pra' is a useless prefix to 'gun'....

Ishita Agrawal
10-Jan-2014 13:07 PM

Comment Your search is enlightening. There is an endless list words of Samskrit origin in European languages. I have to draw your attention to the fact that the word Europe is Sanskrit origin. Please check for Europa the lady from which the word has derived and reply I am not giving details.

Mahavir Prasad Jain
08-Dec-2012 01:25 AM

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