A Proposed Indo-Aryan Etymology for Hurrian timer(i)/timar(i)

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James Michael Burgin



In Hurrian, timer(i)/timar(i) ‘dark’ appears exclusively in the phrase timerre eženi “the dark earth” (abl.-inst.). It has been suggested that this phrase and its reflexes in Hittite and Greek derive from the common religious trope of “the devouring earth” originating in northern Mesopotamia, with Hurrian providing the first attestation. However, the atypical morphology of the adjective, which cannot be derived from a noun and does not have the normal (C)VC root pattern of Hurrian, and the semantic field, with Hurrian having borrowed many words for colors, make a native Hurrian origin for timer(i)/timar(i) unlikely. It is suggested instead that the adjective, as well as its counterpart timiraš ‘a dark/black color (of an animal)’ in the Kassite language, was borrowed from Indo-Aryan *tam-[e]r, probably as a result of a shared Indo-Aryan cultural superstratrum. While no alternatives are offered, such an etymology calls into question a Hurrian origin for the religious concept of “devouring earth.”

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