The aim of the project is twofold: 1) to create an Indo-European etymological data-base which, in due time, will be available to the scholarly community on the Internet; and 2) to compile a new Indo-European etymological dictionary, which will replace Julius Pokorny's Indogermanisches etymologisches Wörterbuch (1959). Pokorny's masterpiece is an indispensable tool used by Indo-Europeanists for all kinds of research, but is completely outdated. A new dictionary is a long-felt desideratum.
The whole project is planned in such a way that every researcher will be responsible for one language, the one in which he or she is specialized. Later, the collected evidence will be rearranged in accordance with the respective Proto-Indo-European roots, and an editor or a team of editors will give the lemmata their final form.
The Leiden IE department has been working on the project for more than seven years. At its first stage, Peter Schrijver devised the data-base structure and the system of language abbreviations, which have been electronically implemented by Andrea de Leeuw van Weenen.
The next step was to fill in "blank spaces" on the etymological map of IE languages. We
have at our disposal good recent etymological dictionaries of Sanskrit, Greek, Gothic, but
there are no etymological dictionaries of Tocharian, British, Old Frisian, etc. while the last
compendia of Albanian or Modern Persian etymology are more than a century old. It was
therefore decided to start with these less privileged languages.
- Thanks to a grant of the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO), Jörundur Hilmarsson (Reykjavík) could spend his sabbatical in Leiden in 1991-1992 working on an etymological dictionary of Tocharian. In spite of his progressing illness, he managed to finish the letter K and a substantial part of words starting with a vowel, which altogether constitutes approximately a third of the whole. His much regretted death on August 13, 1992, put an abrupt end to this endeavour. The unfinished manuscript has now been published (J. Hilmarsson, Materials for a Tocharian historical and etymological dictionary, edited by Alexander Lubotsky and Guðrún Þórhallsdóttir with the assistance of Sigurður H. Pálsson, Reykjavík: Málvísindastofnun Háskola Íslands, 1996).
- In the period from the end of 1994 to 1997, Dirk Boutkan worked on an etymological dictionary of Old Frisian (more specifically, of the language of the Riustringer codices). This work, which was supported by a research grant of the NWO, is now almost completed.
- In 1995-6, Bardhyl Demiraj (Tirana) spent twelve months in Leiden (with financial support of the NWO and the Research School CNWS) compiling an etymological dictionary of Albanian (with an emphasis on the inherited vocabulary), which appeared last year (Albanische Etymologien: Untersuchungen zum albanischen Erbwortschatz, Amsterdam - Atlanta: Rodopi, 1997). On the basis of his dictionary, Demiraj later prepared an etymological data-base. At the moment, he is working on the second volume of his dictionary, which will contain the remaining part of the Albanian vocabulary.
- Leonard Hertzenberg (St.-Petersburg) spent several months in Leiden in 1996 (again
with financial support of the NWO) working on an etymological dictionary of Modern
Persian. We hope that this book will be completed next year.
In December 1997, we received a substantial grant from the NWO, which made it
possible to intensify the work on the IED. Three post-docs will work for three years full time
on the project, viz. on Germanic (Boutkan: Old Saxon and Gothic), Baltic (Derksen), and
Slavic (Mikhailov). At the same time, two PhD students (financed by the CNWS) will be
preparing etymological data-bases of Old Irish and Armenian.
At the moment, the tasks in the IED team are distributed as follows:
The major "uncovered" languages are: Anatolian, Tocharian (completing Hilmarsson's work),
Germanic (Old English, Old High German, Old Icelandic), Iranian (Old and Middle).
Please send your suggestions or queries to Alexander Lubotsky or Robert Beekes,
Department of Comparative Linguistics (VTW)
NL - 2300 RA Leiden