E 0524 LAUGH

The word " laugh " is of Germanic origin .

H 0532 ג ע ל

Concept of root : laughing

Hebrew word

pronunciation

English meanings

ג ע ל

la‛ag

to laugh about,

make fun of

Related English words

laugh

Comparison between European words and Hebrew

Languages

Words

Pronunciation

English meanings

Similarity in roots

Hebrew

ג ע ל

la‛ag

to laugh at, make fun of , deride

l (‛) g

English

to laugh

to laugh

l . gh

Old English

hleihhan ;

hleahtor, leahtor, leahter;

hlacerian

to laugh ;

laughter;

-

-

to deride

hl . h;

l . ht;

-

-

hl . c

Old Norse

hlja;

hlœgja;

-

hlatr;

hlœogi

hlja;

hlœgja;

-

hlatr;

hlœgi

to laugh;

to make laugh;

laughter;

derision

hl . j;

hl . g;

-

hl . t;

hl . g

German

lachen

lakhen

to laugh

l . kh

Dutch

lachen ;

uitlachen

laghen;

uitlaghen

to laugh ;

to deride

l . gh

 

 

Proto-Semitic *LA‛AG --- *LAHH- Proto-Germanic

 

 

There is quite some similarity between the Hebrew and Germanic words . The most important real difference is that Hebrew uses this root with a transitive meaning and Germanic mostly in the intransitive form . The following notes indicate that this similarity may be based on a common origin, which will result probable but not fully certain , as there remain some question marks .

 

Important is the use of this same root in causal verbs like Old Norse "hlœgja" and Gothic "ufhlohjan". And also interesting is the use of this root in the sense of "derision" in Old Norse "hlœgi" and Old English "hlacerian".

 

We doubt this root to be sound-imitating. We think nobody laughs with an L, like "lalala" or "laglag". "Hahaha", as often used to describe the sound of somebody laughing, is more natural.

 

 

Note:
  • German and in general Germanic. The Germanic word " lachen " is considered to have been created as " sound imitating ". And as such it would have been derived from a sound-describing root " * kleg " in Indo-European . But we do not have an initial K in " laugh ", and a clear weight , with a G-sound, after the L.

     

    One must always be very careful and hesitant before assuming that sound-imitation has led to a certain root . In this case it is absolutely unclear why that initial K of an Indo European " *kleg " would have been abolished . Besides that, the words that in this hypothesis are indicated as cognates , carry very different messages , such as Latin " clangere = to cry, shout " , Greek "κλαζειν , klazein " with the same meaning ( usually presented as "κλαζω , klazo" , the first person singular of the present ). And also Old Slavic " klokotati , to cackle ", with Lituanian " klageti , to cackle " . A " laughter " can sometimes have a " cackling " sound, but that is then usually especially mentioned .

     

    Greek " klazo " really has a lot of meanings, like " to make noise , bark , shout, cry , announce, celebrate " , but nothing like laughing. Greek scholars tell us that " klazein " is related to another rather important root , that of "καλεω , kaleo " which means " to call " and is related to that English verb .

 

Note:
  • Old English. We may then see a problem in Old English "hleihhan ( to laugh)" and "hleahtor (laughter)", but that does not support the conclusion of a different root. Such an H in Old Norwegian was a not uncommon aspired accentuation of pronunciation of words beginning with L . And Old Norwegian has influenced in this sense Old Saxon and with that Old English . In fact one finds quite a few examples of "HL-" beginnings in Old English . But Old Swedish and Old Danish, like Old High German , did not have an initial H added . Instructive is that West Frisian had an H , but Frisian not . Finally Old English, besides " hleahtor " also had " leahtor " and " leahter " without an initial H .

 

Note:
  • Hebrew " ל ע ג " is part of a " family " of roots, based on an old root with the word " * ל ע , lo‛ah " that has the meaning of "throat" . This two-consonant root has led to the shaping of , or at least is related to a series of three-consonant roots and words such as :

     

    ה ל ע ב hil ‛iv to mock
    ל ע ג la ‛ag to laugh at
    נ ל ע ג nil‛ag to talk " foreign"
    ה ל ע ג hil ‛ig to mock, deride
    ל ע ג la ‛ag stammering (N) ; jest
    ל ע ג la ‛eg " foreign" speaker
    ל ע ז la ‛az incomprehensible speech
    ה ל ע ט hil ‛ith to make swallow
    ל ע ע l ‛a ‛a to talk inconsiderately
    ל ע ע l ‛a‛a to swallow

     

    Important is that in the various uses of the verb " la ‛ag " we see the causative form with the same meaning as the basic one . That makes us suspect that originally the standard form may have meant just " to laugh " , like the Germanic words. Of course this is just an idea without any certainty . We know though that the various forms of verbs not always have respected their character of " standard , intensive , passive and causative" . And it would be surprising if not the concept of " to laugh " , but only the more secondary one of " to laugh at " would have been expressed by a root , that gives the expression of being related to the concept of " throat " and others about the use of the throat .

 

Note:
  • Hebrew has various ways of extending shorter roots into longer ones. Or putting it differently, to develop a root with two consonants into one of three consonants . The consonant "ל = L " , at the basis of the words of this entry, is found also in those of number E 0388 or E 1023 (Hebrew 0388) and number E 1051 or E 1024 (Hebrew 1024) . We find there roots that refer to the use of the throat and voice without speech . And they have other consonants that precede the L .

 

Note:
  • Proto-Semitic. This Hebrew root is also present in Aramaic "א ל ע ג , al‛eg = he derided", which gives a be it narrow basis for a hypothesis that Proto-Semitic was like Hebrew, which would be without an initial vowel A: "*ל ע ג , L Ayin G".

 

Note:
  • Greek has a normal word for " throat" : "λαιμος" , mentioned in Entry GR 1208 (Hebrew 0530) . It also has "λαρυγξ , larnx" that of course says " larynx ". These words come according to Greek scholars from a root " *λαι , lai " or perhaps "*ληι , li " , rather near to Hebrew . This similarity may be due to a common origin. We see in Greek also "λαλεω , laleo ", shown in Entry GR 1209 (Hebrew 0531), and meaning " to talk inconsiderately , incomprehensibly " .

 

Note:
  • Germanic in Dutch shows us just a few words that , in indicating activities through the throat , seem to be related to the verb " lachen " = " to laugh" : There is " lallen " ( also mentioned in Entry GR 1209 (Hebrew 0531) , for " la’az" as speaking inconsiderately or incomprehensibly . And there is " loeien " for " to wail, roar " . But whatever the links we see, in Germanic we have not found a word for " throat " beginning with L.

 

Note:
  • Proto-Germanic The initial "HL" seen in older languages is a Germanic development out of the "L", that can be seen as the original consonant . The second consonant does not vary much, with a double "H" spelled in several older languages and "CH" in newer , The double "HH" probably sounded like a strong aspiration, not too far from the "GH"-sound expressed by the "CH" in some variations between the tongues. An exception is Old Norse "hlja" that eliminated the "H", that was seen in Gothic "*hlahjan". The vowel "A", in front of the "HH" or "CH" a short "A", is present about everywhere, with a short "O" used in verbal forms where the verb is strong as well as in derived nouns or for example the causal verb "hlœgja = to make laugh" in Old Norse. Proto-Germanic probably had "*L A HH-" or perhaps "*HL A HH-".

 

Note:
  • Indo-European. We lack information about cognates in other groups of Indo-European languages. This makes more clear the necessity of not considering "to laugh" as sound-imitating.

 

 

 

 

 

 
Created: Tuesday 6 November 2007 at 22.30.54 Updated: 27/12/2012 at 16.26.11