GSAS Indo-European Workshop
Alexander Forte, Harvard University
Title: "A Semantic Re-evaluation of Indo-European *nes"
Friday, February 22 at 4p.m. Location: Boylston Hall 104
In Indo-European scholarship of the past several decades, the semantic field of the root *nes- has been steadily accreting. This semantic expansion of *nes- from its oldest and most basic gloss, 'return → come home,' is in response to the perceived impossibility of the more limited meaning's ability to account for the semantically diverse set of derived verbal and nominal formations found in the various daughter languages. The following approach will attempt to reconcile the various instantiations of *nes- through using comparative data in an argument of semantic directionality. This paper will propose that an original intransitive 'turn' semantic for *nes- may account for the root's diverse offspring, and that a semantic progression from 'turn' to 'return' is wide-spread not only in Indo-European, but also in a wide variety of languages, ranging from Sumerian to Japanese. If correct, this argument has implications for Greek epic (Gr. nostos / neomai etc.), Greek philosophy of the mind ( Gr. noos / nous), and IE poetics more generally.