Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Daily Hump: Sitars and Guitars

About 6 weeks ago I began taking Persian. It's an amazingly beautiful and logically constructed language that shares numerous ancient Indo-European roots with our modern English. Like when learning any language, one of the first things you do is count to 10:

yêk, do, sé, chahâr, panj, shesh, haft, hasht, no, dah

This leads us to the first of today's words. Thanks to the early works of George Harrison, the sitar, originally of northern Indian origin, has become a fairly recognizable instrument in the West. The word sitar is, however, purely Persian and comes from the words (three) and tar (string). Per Wikipedia:
A similar instrument is used to this day in Afghanistan, and the original Persian name is still used. Both instruments are most likely derived from the Kurdish tembûr, which is a long, lute-like instrument with no gourd resonating chamber. Both the tembûr and sehtar were used in pre-Islamic Persia and are used in Iran today.
For whatever reason the instrument gained strings when adopted into Indian culture.

Upon learning the etymology of sitar in class last night I immediately drew a connection to guitar. Guitar seems to share the tar (string) root, which would make sense, but what is the gui- portion? Again, Wikipedia:
The modern word, guitar, was adopted into English from Spanish guitarra, derived from earlier Greek word kithara. Prospective sources for various names of musical instruments that guitar could be derived from appear to be a combination of two Indo-European roots: guit-, similar to Sanskrit sangeet meaning "music", and -tar a widely attested root meaning "chord" or "string".

The word guitar may be a Persian loanword to Iberian Arabic. The word qitara is an Arabic name for various members of the lute family that preceded the Western guitar. The name guitarra was introduced into Spanish when such instruments were brought into Iberia by the Moors after the 10th century.
Per the OED, guitar first made it into the English language in the 14th century, in the form of gittern. You may also be interested to note that the Greek kithara (cithara) is responsible for our English word zither.

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:: posted by David, 8:23 AM


Zither? Are you refering to those things that cut paper, you thilly gooth? Or perhaps the girlth I went to nurthery school with?
Blogger Loocite, at 12:31 PM  

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