Elements, the LMN proposal

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Tue Jan 2 03:26:35 UTC 2007

Does any of the works cited motivate the addition of -tum to LMN in
Latin? Does any of them provide proof that LMN was necessarily
pronounced [ElEmEn] in Latin or in any other language? What are these
several alphabets?

"Element" from Greek "elephas," whose stem is _elephant-_? What are
the sound changes that shifted _elephant-_ to element, what motivated
those changes and in what language did they occur? What are the
historical contacts between that language and Latin?

FWIW, I propose a counter-theory: that Latin elementum probably did
*not* come from L-M-N in *any* alphabet. That is, I agree with the
OED. As the boyz in the 'hood say, "Don't go for what you don't know."


On 12/30/06, Stephen Goranson <goranson at duke.edu> wrote:
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Stephen Goranson <goranson at DUKE.EDU>
> Subject:      Elements, the LMN proposal
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Elements. Michael David Coogan has written two (or more?) excellent articles
> showing that the Latin elementum then English element probably came from L-M-N
> in several alphabets. "Alphabets and Elements," Bulletin of the American Schools
> of Oriental Research 216 (1974) 61-3;  ")LP, To Be an Abecedarian," J. of the
> American Oriental Society 110.2 (1990) 322. His work has been cited
> approvingly, e.g. by Victor Avigdor Hurowitz in articles on Hebrew acrostic
> psalms) and Wm. Hallo (in his book on Ancient Near East Origins). And before
> Coogan, F.A. Wolf, J. B. Greenough (Harvard St. Class. Phil. 1 (1890) 97-99 and
> others supported this origin. But the Oxford English Dictionaryetymology offers:
> [a. OF. element, ad. L. elementum, a word of which the etymology and primary
> meaning are uncertain, but which was employed as transl. of Gr.
> {sigma}{tau}{omicron}{iota}{chi}{epsilon}{gifrown}{omicron}{nu} in the various
> senses:{em}a component unit of a series; a constituent part of a complex whole
> (hence the 'four elements'); a member of the planetary system; a letter of
> the alphabet; a fundamental principle of a science.]
> Etymology books by Klein and Shipley propose an origin from Greek for elephant,
> ivory letters. But they provide no good examples. Does anyone here have further
> information? Thanks.
> Stephen Goranson
> http://www.duke.edu/~goranson
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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