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A SHEEP IS A SHEEP IS A SHEEP

The rise and fall of the third chimpanzee

In many modern Indo-European languages, as well as in some ancient ones that we know from preserved writings, the words meaning 'sheep' are quite similar. These words must have been derived from an ancestral form that is inferred to have been owis and that was used in proto-Indo-European (PIE), the unwritten mother tongue.

As the figure above shows, the words for 'sheep' in many Indo-European languages from India to Ireland really are very similar: avis, hawis, ovis, ois, oi, etc. The modern English 'sheep' is obviously from a different root, but English retains the original root in the word 'ewe'. Consideration of the sound shifts that the various Indo-European languages have undergone suggests that the original form was owis.


INDO-EUROPEAN VERSUS NON-INDO-EUROPEAN VERB ENDINGS: TO BE OR NOT TO BE | The rise and fall of the third chimpanzee | HONOURABLE ROOT, DISHONOURABLE WORD