The roads we take: Realizations of the concept No. 67 ‘road’ from Swadesh 100-word list in Celtic

2019. №5, 101-119

Tatiana A. Mikhailova
Institute of Linguistics, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia;


Being rather unpopular in modern historical linguistics, lexicostatistics continues to develop in some circles in Russia, Europe, and USA. Databases of core vocabularies for many languages (with proposed etymologies, lists of synonyms, and dating of changes) keep appearing (see “The Global Lexicostatistical Database”: www.starling/ The use of this precious comparative material sub specie of the theory of recursive semantic shift typology could give very interesting new results. The concept No. 67 from Swadesh wordlist is ‘road’, which belongs to so-called “cultural vocabulary”. The basic notion of ‘road’ depends on the level of civilization of the nation, its geographical and climatic position and its cultural contacts. The results of the conducted comparative and diachronic study of semantic changes of the word ‘road’ based mainly on Slavonic, Baltic, Germanic and Romance languages could be generalized in the following way. Three main semantic models of ‘road’ are: (1) the general idea of moving or walking; (2) the specifi cation of making the road; (3) the idea of a preferential user or use of the road. Two main directions of semantic extension can be formulated: (1) ‘road’ → ‘way, journey’ → ‘way of life, destiny’; (2) ‘road’ → ‘way, manner’ → [‘good manner’, ‘luck’]. The main goal of the article is to study Celtic (especially, Goidelic) words denoting ‘road’, to collect ranked synonyms, to give motivated etymologies, to exercise a diachronic and comparative study of the use of the names for ‘road’ in Old, Middle, and Modern Irish and in Scottish Gaelic (including comparative data from Continental Celtic and Insular Brittonic languages), and to reveal and describe supposed Goidelic innovations (slige, belach, bóthar). The fi nal aim is to introduce Goildelic data into the described scheme of semantic shift as a kind of typological support for semantic derivation.

For citation:

Mikhailova T. A. The roads we take: Realizations of the concept No. 67 ‘road’ from Swadesh 100-word list in Celtic. Voprosy Jazykoznanija, 2019, 5: 101–119.


The article is written within RFBR project No. 17-29-09124.