Sunday, December 14, 2014
Tigers and Proto-Indo-Europeans
Indo-European languages lack a cognate for the word tiger. In fact, it seems that not even the early Indo-Aryans were familiar with these big cats, because they borrowed their word for tiger from the Dravidians.
I've always found this fascinating, because tigers were once much more widespread than they are today, and found in the Caucasus, eastern Turkey, northern Iran and Afghanistan, and the riverine forests and wetlands of Kazakhstan until the mid 1900s. Here's an old postcard from Berlin Zoo showing a tiger caught in Georgia, western Caucasus.
What this tells me is that the Proto-Indo-Europeans didn't live very close to the Caucasus, Iran, the wetter parts of Kazakhstan, or in fact in any part of Asia inhabited by tigers.
By the way, here's some more reading:
Linguistics, archaeology and the human past