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Split serpents and bitter blades: Reconstructing details of the PIE dragon-combat

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Title: Split serpents and bitter blades: Reconstructing details of the PIE dragon-combat
Author(s): Slade, Benjamin
Subject(s): PIE, proto-indo-european, historical linguistics
Abstract: In this paper I present evidence for a formula associated with the Indo-European dragon-slaying myth, Proto-Indo-European [PIE] *bheid- {h3 egwhim, kwr mi-} ‘split serpent / worm’. This formula is derived via an examination of the verbal collocations which frequently occur in the context of the Vedic dragon-combat; these involve not only p han- ‘slay’, but also the semantically more specific verbs p bhid- ‘split’, p vra´sc- ‘tear, cut, split’, and p ruj- ‘break’. Not only are these latter three verbs employed in describing the dragon-slaying itself, but they also often appear describing actions linked to the dragon-combat (e.g. the releasing of the wpaters/cows), and in both cases co-occur with forms of han-. Vedic is found to provide robust evidence for the reconstruction of PIE *bheid- {h3 egwhim, kwr mi-}, which is supported by data from Iranian and Germanic. Though not as widely distributed as PIE *gwhen- h3 egwhi- ‘slay serpent’ (attested for instance in Vedic ahann ahim ‘(he) slew the serpent’)—a formula discussed in great detail by Watkins (1987, 1995)—*bheid- {h3 egwhim, kwr mi-} ‘split serpent/worm’ is semantically more specific, and therefore more distinctive, than *gwhen- h3 egwhim, thus lending additional support for Watkins’ thesis that there exists a distinctively Indo-European dragon-slaying myth, and serving to further characterise the nature of that myth.
Issue Date: 2009
Citation Info: Studies in the Linguistic Sciences 2009: 1-57
Genre: Article
Type: Text
Language: English
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/13178
ISSN: 0049-2388
Publication Status: published or submitted for publication
Peer Reviewed: is peer reviewed
Date Available in IDEALS: 2009-07-27
 

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