Followup anti-etymology: ? *täCə ‘birch bark covering’

In the last post I parenthetically mentioned a PU root “*täsə (UEW: *tisɜ)” ‘birch bark covering for a teepee’. This has been previously reconstructed from very scanty evidence: Komi /tis(k)a/, Forest Nenets /tʲēt/ ([tɕi͡et]), Kamassian [tʰɤʔ]. The latter two point to a Proto-Samoyedic form *t¹ät¹, which per the Komi comparison would have to be equal to plain *tät (*t¹ stands for *t or *č, which cannot be distinguished without Selkup). Samoyedic sometimes seems to have irregular *ä for PU *i (e.g. *mäńä ‘daughter-in-law’), but I think this word does not need to be one of them: this can be also the inverse, with Komi /i/ secondarily from *ä, a development attested also in e.g. /ki/ ‘hand’ < *kätə.

UEW makes the same mistake, I think, in one other case too: Permic *li ‘sap, phloem’ ~ Kamassian [lēji] ‘sap’ has been reconstructed as PU *lijɜ, where *läjə or *läŋə would seem better to me (but unexpected retention of *l- in Samoyedic and the unexplained (suffixal?) final vowel leave me suspicious on if this comparison, too, is correct at all).

I realize today that the consonantism of my alleged *täsə requires more thought, however. This reconstruction as such should give voiced **-z- in Komi, not voiceless /s/! The variant with /sk/ is however a good hint that the word probably comes about thru some degree of suffixation. I can think of at least three options, none of them entirely unproblematic however:

  1. a PU root *tätə, continued directly in Samoyedic but suffixed to *tätə-ksə > *ti-s(k)-a in Permic, with regular loss of medial *-t-;
  2. a PU root *täsə, continued directly in Samoyedic but suffixed to *täs-kä in Permic;
    • but from early *ä-ä I would rather expect **ɤ or **e in Komi;
  3. a PU form *täkə-ksə / *täxə-ksə / *täwə-ksə, with the 2nd syllable regularly lost in both branches and the nominal suffix *-ksə reduced to *-t in Proto-Samoyedic;
    • but I would expect *-tə, as also found e.g. in *suksə > *tutə ‘ski’ or Jussi Ylikoski’s recent comparison of northern Samoyedic predestinative *-tə with the Finnic translative *-ksi.

If any further cognates were found elsewhere in Uralic, they should be able to help clarify the situation. Quick checkups of Mordwinisches Wörterbuch and Yhteissaamelainen sanasto and mentally going over the Finnish lexicon have all come up negative, at least. Common Ugric “*täŋɜ-tɜ” ‘quiver’ has some vague resemblance (birch bark is a reasonable material for quivers) but probably not enough. It’s also one of the cases with Ob-Ugric *ɣ ~ Hungarian g, which I think is a point against native Uralic origin, ditto **-tɜ which is not a known nominal suffix in Uralic.

Looking outside of Uralic will be a worthwhile check too. I am firstly reminded of Indo-European *(s)tegʰ- ‘cover, roof’ (> German Dach, Greek (σ)τέγος, etc.), which would be a fair match for my third reconstruction as *tä{k|x}ə(-ksə). Routing a loanword into Samoyedic would require a reflex in Indo-Iranian or Tocharian though, and going by standard references neither of them seems to have any kind of a basic noun reflex of this root. The Uralic support is also much too shaky for me to consider any kind of ancient Indo-Uralic cognate status, in case this doesn’t go without saying. So no progress here either.

A better lead seems to be found towards the east. A quick lookover of Turkic has proven similarly unproductive; but in Tungusic we finally find *tüksa ‘birch bark covering for a house’, an exact semantic match with fairly close-by shape. The Komi word could be actually interpreted as a relatively recent loanword from the Evenki reflex /tiksa/. The sound substitution to /sk/ would be curious, as if recapitulating the Proto-Permic metathesis of inherited *ks, but this is really not any worse of a problem than the issues in the comparison with Samoyedic. Morphologically then this comparison indeed looks better! While Komi /-a/ is a known derivational suffix, it productively forms only adjectives. Bisyllabic nouns ending in /a/ are often instead loans, e.g. /ćarla/ ‘sickle’, /koba/ ‘spinning wheel’, from Turkic; /kaľja/ ‘type of beer’, /ľuśka/ ‘spoon’, from Finnic. — Komi and Evenki are not known as close neighbors, but both have been notable trade languages in western Siberia before the expansion of Russian, and a few other Tungusic loanwords in Komi have been already proposed as well.

It still would be good to have additional evidence for *ks → /s/ or /sk/ in loanwords into Komi however. The cluster /ks/ is not categorically shunned, and it can be found e.g. in /ɤksɨ/ ‘prince’ (probably ← Alanic, cf. Ossetic /æχsin/ ‘lady, princess’, though some details of transmission remain unclear).

I have also not managed to scrounge up any other etymology for the Samoyedic words. Regardless, going by the to the Komi ← Evenki loan hypothesis, I now lean towards not reconstructing this word for Proto-Uralic after all.

Followup anti-etymology: ? *täCə ‘birch bark covering’