Émile Benveniste, Indo-European Language and Society
Book 1: Economy
Section 1: Livestock and Wealth
1: Male and Sire 2: A Lexical Opposition in Need of Revision: sus and porcus 3: Próbaton and the Homeric Economy 4: pecu and pecunia Section 2: Giving and Taking
5: Gift and Exchange 6: Giving, Taking, and Receiving 7: Hospitality 8: Personal Loyalty Section 3: Purchase
9: Two Ways of Buying 10: Purchase and Redemption 11: An Occupation without a Name - Commerce Section 4: Economic Obligations
12: Accountancy and Valuation 13: Hiring and Leasing 14: Price and Wages 15: Credence and Belief 16: Lending, Borrowing, and Debt 17: Gratuitousness and Gratefulness Book 2: The Vocabulary of Kinship
Introduction 1: The Importance of the Concept of Paternity 2: Status of the Mother and Matrilineal Descent 3: The Principle of Exogamy and its Applications 4: The Indo-European Expression for "Marriage" 5: Kinship Resulting from Marriage 6: Formation and Suffixation of the Terms for Kinship 7: Words Derived from the Terms for Kinship Book 3: Social Status
1: Tripartition of Functions 2: The Four Divisions of Society 3: The Free Man 4: phílos 5: The Slave and the Stranger 6: Cities and Communities Book 4: Royalty and its Privileges
1: rex 2: xsay- and Iranian Kingship 3: Hellenic Kingship 4: The Authority of the King 5: Honour and Honours 6: Magic Power 7: Krátos 8: Royalty and Nobility 9: The King and his People Book 5: Law
1: themis 2: dike 3: ius and the Oath in Rome 4: *med- and the Concept of Measure 5: fas 6: The censor and auctoritas 7: The quaestor and the *prex 8: The Oath in Greece Book 6: Religion
1: The 'Sacred' 2: The Libation 3: The Sacrifice 4: The Vow 5: Prayer and Supplication 6: The Latin Vocabulary of Signs and Omens 7: Religion and Superstition
Chapter 4: Livestock and Money: pecu and pecunia
For all comparative philologists, Indo-European *peku means “live-stock” or, in a narrow sense, “sheep.” The meaning of “wealth” (e.g. Lat. pecūnia) is consequently regarded as secondary and this is explained as the result of a semantic extension of the term which originally referred to the main type of wealth, i.e. live-stock.
A study of *peku and its derivatives in the three great dialects where it is represented—Indo-Iranian, Italic and Germanic—leads to a reversal of the traditional interpretation: *peku originally meant “personal chattels, movables” and it was only as a result of successive specifications that it came to mean in certain languages “live-stock,” “smaller live-stock” and “sheep.” The evolution runs parallel with that of próbata (Book One, Chapter Three).
In the vocabulary of the Indo-European economy, which was of a pastoral character, there is one term of central importance, *peku, attested in three great dialect regions: Indo-Iranian, Italic, and Germanic (Lithuanian pekus is most probably a loanword from Germanic or some other occidental language).
All comparative linguists are agreed in regarding *peku as the Indo-European name for “live-stock” and in deriving it from a root *pek- ‘to shear’. Thus, on this view, the term was applied to the sheep as the bearer of the fleece, and it was only as the result of a secondary development that the term came to be used for “live-stock” in general. Such is the explanation put forward in the early stages of comparative grammar.
An attempt will now be made to show that this conception of *peku is untenable and that a renewed examination of the evidence is necessary. The investigation will be concerned successively with Indo-Iranian, Latin and Germanic and will lead to conclusions which go beyond the problem under consideration.
The forms to be studied are Vedic paśu and Avestan pasu. In Vedic, the meaning is by and large “live-stock,” and this is confirmed by the various circumstances of its employment, its connection with vraja ‘cow-pen, fold, stall’, with gopā ‘shepherd’, with yūtha ‘flock’, etc. It must, however, be observed that:
1) paśu is a collective term which covers the types of domestic animal (horses, cattle) and only those: aśvavantam gomantam paśum (Rig Veda I, 83, 4), paśum aśvyam gavyam (V, 61, 5), etc.;
2) paśu even includes man, who is regarded as a biped paśu, on a par with the quadruped paśu: dvipáde cátus padeca paśáve (III, 62, 14). It is not only from this passage that this can be inferred, it is the explicit teaching of the Satapatha-Brahmana (VI, 2, 1, 2) on the five paśu: puruṣam aśvam gām avim ajam ‘man, horse, ox, sheep, goat’. Other texts transpose this definition into a theory of sacrifice.
The inclusion of man among the paśu is indicative of a pastoral society in which movable wealth was composed of both men and animals, and in which the term paśu, which at first denoted movables, could stand both for bipeds and quadrupeds.
Iranian confirms this view. The association of men and animals, implicit in the Vedic definition, is expressed by the Avestic formula pasu vīra “livestock-men,” the antiquity of which has long been recognized.
What is the real meaning of vīra ‘man’ in the Avestic formula pasu vīra, which is echoed at the other end of Indo-European by the uiro pequo of the Iguvine tables? For Sanskrit, Lüders has shown that vīra, in a context where it is connected with livestock, means “slave.” This meaning, whether taken in a strict sense or merely as “house personnel, domestics,” is also valid for the Avestic vīra in pasu vīra.
We may adduce further confirmation taken from a gāthā of Zarathustra. In a strophe of a pathetic tone (Y. 46.2) Zarathustra complains of his impotence in overcoming the hostility which surrounds him on all sides: “I know why I am without power, Ο Mazda; it is because I am kamna-fšu (=I have few pasu) and because I am kamna-nar- (=I have few men).” The two qualifications kamna-fšu ‘who has few pasu’ and kamna-nar- ‘who has few men’ evidently come from the formula pasu vīra, with a replacement of vīra by nar-, which is also known in the Avesta. It is the fact that he has few pasu and few nar- that makes Zarathustra “powerless.” These possessions, which constitute the two species of movable wealth, together confer power. We may now add the Gathic expression kamna-fšu, kamna-nar- to the Avestan repertory of compounds based on the expression pasu vīra with their characteristic pairing.
The diversity of the linguistic evidence reflects the importance of pasu for the pastoral society of the northeast of Iran, the ideology of which has inspired the most ancient parts of the Avesta.
We shall restrict ourselves to the most ancient phase without following the later development of pasu, which is in any case well known. The ancient term has become today the name for “sheep” in one part of the Iranian world. A further specialization has thus followed on a much earlier one which conferred on pasu the meaning “livestock.”
All the same, it is in the sense of movable wealth that the Avestan vīra in pasu vīra has to be understood. This turn of phrase designates the totality of private movable possessions, whether human or animal, the men being sometimes included in paśu (pasu) but sometimes mentioned separately.
The same interpretation might be extended to uiro in Umbrian, not only because the formula uiro pequo comes from a common Indo-European heritage, but because of a specific indication peculiar to the two Italic peoples, the Umbrians and the Latins. Not enough attention has been paid to the striking similarity between the Umbrian formula and a passage in an ancient prayer by Cato. In Umbrian a certain ritual expression appears eleven times: uiro pequo…salua seritu ‘salva servato’. Compare this with Cato: pastores pecuaque salva servassis. It suffices to superimpose the two texts:to bring out the close correspondence of the two formulae. All the successive terms are etymologically related, except the first, where the same meaning is expressed by separate terms: it is precisely the Umbrian term uiro for which the Latin equivalent is not viros but pastores. From this we may conclude that Umbrian uiro, linked with pequo, designated the men whose task it was to look after the livestock. Thus we have in Umbrian an exact parallel to the notion of vīra associated with pasu in Indo-Iranian.
Umbrian uiro pequo…salua seritu
Latin pastores pecuaque salva servassis
That pasu in the first instance had an economic sense can be confirmed from the term kṣu, which, although related to paśu- as Av. fšu- is to pasu-, became detached early on and kept the original sense better. The adjective purukṣu means “abounding in riches,” “in possessions,” but not specifically in livestock. This is an epithet of the gods Agni, Indra, Soma, and is often found associated with words meaning “wealth.”
All the indications point to the fact that the sense of “livestock” is a restriction of the more ancient comprehensive term “movable wealth,” applied as it was to the principal form of property in a pastoral society.
The formation of pecūnia is unique in Latin. This gives it its value, but also its difficulty. It must be stressed that up to now the problem of its morphology has not been considered. The formal relation of pecūnia to pecū is that of a secondary derivative, which resulted in a lengthening of the final vowel of the stem. The essential question is that of the suffix. A parallel to the formation of Lat. pecūnia has been pointed out by Meillet among others: it is the O.Sl. -ynji (< *-unia). The suffix -ynji in Old Slavic makes abstract nouns from adjectives, e.g. dobrynji ‘goodness’ : dobrŭ ‘good’; or female names derived from corresponding male ones: bogynji ‘goddess’ : bogŭ ‘god’. We may even adduce a Slavic derivative in -ynji from a stem in *-u-: this is lĭgynji ‘lightening’ : lĭgŭkŭ ‘light’ (cf. Skr. laghú-, raghú- ‘light’).
This connection may be accepted, but we must draw certain conclusions. Since Latin pecūnia is an abstract noun, we have to posit an adjective as its basic form, just as with the Slavic abstract nouns in -ynji. We should then have to regard *peku as the neuter of a very archaic adjective which has not been preserved in any language. If this conclusion, inescapable as it is, seems too bold and if we think that it postulates a form the existence of which cannot otherwise be demonstrated, there still remains the alternative of explaining pecūnia from the resources of Latin.
We can link pecūnia with feminine derivatives in -nus, -nā- which are formed from nouns in -u-: thus fortūna, which is derived from *fortu- (cf. fortu-itus), or Portūnus, opportūnus from portu-. We should then have to admit (1) that the correspondence between Latin pecūnia and the Slavic form in -ynji is only apparent and is due to a secondary process, and (2) that pecūnia is an abstract in -ia formed in Latin itself from a derivative -nus/-nā analogous to portūnus, fortūna (cf. portus and fortu-itus), or possibly from a feminine form in *-nī-.
This is the dilemma which confronts us in the analysis of this abstract noun for which there exists no parallel in Latin. Either pecūnia is an example of the same type of formation as the Slavic words in *-ūnyā and it must be linked up with an ancient adjective and not with the historical neuter pecū; or pecūnia is derived directly from the neuter form pecū, but by a process of suffixation which is not immediately comparable to the Slavic abstract noun in -ynji.
The other substantive which is derived from pecū is pecūlium. Here again we have an isolated form without analogous formations among the neuter words in -ium. Nevertheless it is possible to unravel its formation. Between pecū and pecūlium we have to posit an intermediary *pecūlis, which stands to pecū as īdūlis stands to īdūs and tribūlis to tribus. For the relationship between *pecūlis and pecūlium we might compare edūlis and edūlia (whence edūlium). From pecūlium is formed the denominative verb peculo(r), from which comes the noun peculātus, -ūs. Thus the series pecūlium : peculo(r) : peculātus becomes parallel with dominium : dominor : dominātus. The whole string of derivatives which are grouped around pecūlium are now rationally organized.
Now the essence of the problem is, however, the meaning of pecūnia, that of pecūlium, and their relation to pecū. In the eyes of comparatists, pecū means livestock, pecūnia ‘wealth in the form of livestock’ and pecūlium ‘the animals given to a slave’. This is the information found in all etymological dictionaries and in works on Latin morphology, all of which repeat the interpretation of the three terms pecū, pecūnia, pecūlium, an interpretation which goes back for centuries and even millennia because it comes to us from the Roman etymologists. The formal relationship between the three words is assured. The problem is how to interpret it. To this end we have to begin by establishing the sense of pecūnia and pecūlium.
It is not enough to have explained the formal link which exists between pecūnia and pecū. We must also elucidate the sense relationship which follows from the derivation. Yet we shall peruse in vain the works of early and classical Latinity; equally fruitless will it be to scrutinize the examples quoted in Latin dictionaries; nowhere shall we discover a link between the meaning of pecūnia and that of pecū ‘flock, live-stock’. In all the examples quoted pecūnia means exclusively “fortune, money” and it is defined as “copia nummorum.” We thus have no option but to proceed by methodical inference without regard for traditional views.
If from the outset pecūnia had the exclusive meaning of “money, fortune, χρήματα,” this is because pecū has exclusively an economic sense and means “movable possessions.” Only in this way can we account for the constant meaning of pecūnia which as a collective abstract noun generalizes the specific sense of pecū.
It was only by a special development of a pragmatic and secondary kind that *peku, which meant “movable wealth,” became applied in particular to an item of the real world, “live-stock.” In this analysis we must distinguish two different theoretical planes: (a) that of “signification” and (b) that of “designation.” Consequently we must distinguish (a) the proper sense of *peku as revealed by its ancient derivations and (b) the historical use of the word to designate “live-stock.” Once the semantic link between the particular term *peku and the particular reality “live-stock” was effected, the designation became fixed for a time. But history does not stand still and new specifications can always come about. This is what happened with the differentiations which were effected in Latin between pecū; pecus, -oris; pecus, -udis. They form part of Latin lexical history and do not affect the fundamental relationships which it is our task to bring to light.
It is precisely these relations which have been misunderstood. The result is that both pecū and pecūnia have been wrongly interpreted. And these inexact ideas inspired first Romans and then modern scholars to offer the naïve translation of pecūnia as “wealth of live-stock,” which goes against all the evidence. On the contrary, we may posit that the real nature of the prehistoric pecū is elucidated by the real meaning of the historic pecūnia.
The notion “movable possessions,” expressed by pecūnia, may embrace other types of property than live-stock. Some idea of its original extent can be gained from a notice of Festus which may refer to an archaic expression: pecunia sacrificium fieri dicebatur cum fruges fructusque offerebantur, quia ex his rebus constant quam nunc pecuniam dicimus (‘a sacrifice was said to be made with pecūnia, when fruits and produce were offered, because what we now call pecūnia consists of such things’).
For this glossator, fruges fructusque constituted the pecūnia. We record this extended meaning of pecūnia without rejecting, but rather by reinterpreting, the definitions of Varro: pecuniosus a pecunia magna, pecuniam a pecu : a pastoribus enim horum vocabulorum origo (‘“pecuniosus” from “great pecunia”; “pecunia” from “pecu”: for these words originally belonged to the vocabulary of herdsmen’).
We only need to read Varro (L.L.) to realize what was understood in his time by pecūnia : under pecūnia he includes words like dos ‘dowry’, arrabo ‘deposit’, merces ‘salary’, corollarium ‘tip’ (V, 175); then multa ‘fine’ (177); sacramentum ‘sacred deposit’ (180); tributum ‘tribute’ (181); sors ‘pecūnia in faenore’ (‘capital bearing interest’) (VI, 65); sponsio ‘a deposit guaranteeing a promise of marriage’ (VI, 70). In addition there existed pecūnia signata ‘minted money’ (V, 169), the nuncupatae pecuniae of legal texts (VI, 60). In short, pecūnia covers all possible uses of money as an economic value or as a monetary symbol; but, we again repeat, it never refers to possession of “live-stock.” This means that in Latin usage, pecū and pecūnia had become separate terms owing to the fact that when pecū became specialized as the designation for live-stock this did not affect pecūnia, which preserved its original sense of “movable possessions.”
What has been said of pecūnia is to a large extent also true of pecūlium. We have here a term which, we may say straight away, is still further removed from pecū than pecūnia was. It is known that pecūlium denotes possessions granted to those who had no legal right to possessions as such: personal savings granted by the master to his slave and by the father to his son. The notion of “personal possessions” is the key notion, and they always consisted of movable goods: money or sheep. It is no task of ours to enquire why pecūlium refers to the savings of the slave and pecūnia to the fortune of the master; this is a problem which concerns the history of institutions and not the linguistic form. The distribution stated, we shall recognize the meaning of pecūlium in the derivative pecūliāris ‘pertaining to pecūlium’ or ‘given as pecūlium’. In fact, pecūliāris is only an adjective of pecūlium, and any movable possession can become pecūlium. This is seen as early as Plautus: a young boy can be given as pecūlium to the son of the master and will be called his pecūliāris puer. This is one of the elements in the comedy of the Captivi (v. 20, 982, 988, 1013). In ordinary conditions of life the slave could hardly amass a pecūlium except with what was within his reach: a little money and a few sheep. But this limitation did not imply that pecūlium designated an item of live-stock or a coin.
We thus find in pecūlium a second proof that the basic notion, that of pecū, did not refer specifically to live-stock. In pecūlium, even more than in pecūnia, the connection with personal property is underlined, even if it was restricted to a certain social class. But the possessions concerned are invariably movable ones, whether pecūlium is taken in the strict sense or in the figurative sense. These two notions, personal possession and movable possessions, also apply to the derived verb peculo(r), which yielded pecūlātus ‘(fraudulent) appropriation of public money’. Between this legal term and the basic term pecū a functional continuity can be re-established, pari passu with the link of morphological derivation. We may here argue from analogy. In the same way as we work back from edūlium ‘a tasty dish’ to edūlis ‘edible’ and thence to *edu, roughly “edibles,” so from pecūlium ‘personal movable possessions’ we work back to *pecūlis *‘what may be possessed’ and from *pecūlis to pecū, which we must now define as “(movable) property.” Whatever route we choose, we always arrive at the same conclusion: pecū signifies “movable property” (personal chattels).
The word *peku is attested in all the ancient Germanic languages, but the sense varies according to the dialect and it is precisely these variations which are illuminating for the real sense of the term. We must scrutinize it in the proper context of each of the ancient dialects. It so happens that within the Germanic group the Old High German form fihu (variants feho, fehu) is the only one which denotes “live-stock.” In texts translated from Latin this word renders pecus, pecudes, and more generally iumenta. We may deduce further fëhelîh ‘tierisch’ (animal-like), fihu-stërbo ‘animal-plague’, fîhu-wart ‘Viehhirt’ (herdsman), fihu-wiari ‘Viehweiher’ (animal pond). But these are Latinisms and here, as in many other instances, the Latin models were the determining factor. In fact we shall see that Old High German fihu was very far separated from the meaning which the word had preserved in the rest of the Germanic group, and the innovation or specialization must be laid at the door of Old High German, contrary to what is generally believed. Otherwise it would be impossible to understand the situation of *peku in all the other dialects, still to be described. Nor could we understand the role which this Old High German term played in the genesis of mediaeval Latin feudum ‘fief’.
We must first examine the Gothic evidence. The Gothic neuter faihu means only “money,” “fortune” and never refers to the animal world. An example follows. Gahaihaitun imma faihu giban ‘they promised to give him money, epēggeílanto autō̂i argúrion doûnai, promiserunt ei pecuniam se daturos’ (Mark 14, 11).
This example should suffice to demonstrate that faihu, the term chosen to translate Gr. khrḗmata, argúrion, Lat. pecūnia, possessiones refers exclusively to money, to wealth. This is also shown by the Gothic compounds of faihu, such as faihufriks ‘avaricious, pleonéktēs, philárguros’, faihufrikei ‘cupidity, pleonexía’, faihugairns ‘desirous of money, philárguros’, etc.
It is clear that faihu was completely foreign to the pastoral vocabulary which includes quite different expressions, such as hairda ‘herd, poímnē, agélē’; hairdeis ‘shepherd, poimḗn’; aþwei “flock, poímnē’; wripus ‘flock, agélē’, lamb ‘sheep, ewe, próbaton’. The semantic associates of faihu are the terms which designate money and wealth: gabei ‘wealth, ploûtos’, gabeigs (gabigs) ‘rich, ploúsios’, and the denominative verbs gabigjan ‘to enrich, ploutízein’ and gabignan ‘to enrich oneself, plouteîn’; further, silubr ‘money, argúrion’ (metal and money), skatts ‘the coins, dēnárion, mnâ’, in the plural ‘pieces of silver, argúria’.
A further proof that Got. faihu had no connection with the sphere of animal husbandry is furnished by a lexical relationship which has escaped notice and which must be established.
There exists in Gothic a verb gafaihon, bifaihon, which translates the Greek pleonekteîn; from this verb is derived the noun bifaih ‘pleonexía’. In the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, which contains all the examples, St. Paul uses “pleonekteîn” for “getting the better of somebody, to enrich oneself at his expense, to exploit him.” This is what the Gothic bifaihon, gafaihon renders.
The explanation of faihon is to be found within Gothic itself; faihon is the denominative of faihu. Its morphology is that of verbs made from nouns in -u-, e.g. sidon : sidus, or luston : lustus. The semantic connection between faihon and faihu is seen from the use of compounds of faihu. Since faihu denotes “money, wealth” and since faihu-friks translates pleonektēs, just as faihu-frikei and faihu-geiro translate pleonexía, a verb faihon (bi-, ga-) was created as the equivalent of pleonekteîn in the particular sense of “to enrich oneself (at someone else’s expense).”
We now examine the Nordic evidence. The usual translation for Old Norse fé ‘Vieh, Besitz, Geld’ (in German—live-stock, possession, money) must be rectified: basic and primary is the notion of “wealth, movables.” This emerges from three circumstances:
1) the expression gangandi fé for “live-stock” evidently implies that fé alone did not signify “live-stock,” but “wealth, possessions”; gangandi fé was used with reference to “wealth on the hoof,” the “live-stock”; cf. Gr. próbasis, próbaton.
2) The compound félag ‘common possession’, from which comes félagi ‘comrade, companion’ (this passed into Old English as feolaga ‘fellow’) also required the sense of “fortune, goods,” for fé and not that of “herd.”
3) The denominative verb féna means “to enrich oneself,” hence “acquire a fortune (fé).” From this is derived fénadr ‘riches’, which eventually came to mean “live-stock” as the result of a new specialization.
For Old English, it is sufficient to consult the Concise Anglo-Saxon Dictionary by J. R. Clark Hall and Meritt to see that féoh in the sense of “cattle, herd,” traditionally put at the head of the article, is attested only in a few examples, which incidentally would now require careful reconsideration, while the great majority of the examples are found among the headings “movable goods, property” and especially “money, riches, treasure.” We may say, then, that in Old English féoh was applied first and foremost to riches in general or to movable goods and only in the second instance, and then very rarely, to that form of movable property which consists of live-stock. In Beowulf it means solely “riches” or “treasure” and in Aelfric the expression wi liegendum fēo ‘for ready money’ confirms the antiquity of the sense. Finally, there are only three compounds where féoh means “animals” as against about thirty where it means “money, riches.”
The same observation can be made for Middle English by studying the articles on fẹ in the Middle English Dictionary of Kurath-Kuhn (III, 430). There are very few examples meaning “live-stock” but many more of fe in the sense of “movable property; possessions in live-stock, goods or money, riches, treasure, wealth,” and of “money as a medium of exchange or used for taxes, tributes, ransom, bribes etc.”
It was necessary to examine afresh the examples and to classify the usages according to their exact contextual value, liberating ourselves from the traditional schema which imposed “live-stock” as the primary meaning at all costs. This revision would probably be of some consequence for the history of English fee and that of French fief, Old French feu. According to the traditional explanation the Frankish fehu ‘live-stock’ is derived from Latin feus, ‘movable wealth’. It would rather seem that fihu, like Gothic faihu, designated all forms of movable property and that it kept that sense when it passed into Latin. Here, too, a new examination would appear to be called for.
What has been outlined above shows that the traditional conceptions of *peku in Indo-European must be entirely rethought. Our first conclusion is that *peku signifies “movable personal possession.” That this possession may in fact take the form of live-stock is a separate datum which concerns social structure and the forms of production. It is only in virtue of this frequent association between the term *peku and the material reality of animal husbandry that, by a generalization which took place outside the class of producers, *peku came to mean “live-stock” (the first specialization), then specifically “small live-stock” (the second specialization), and finally “sheep” (the third and last specialization). But intrinsically *peku does not designate either the flock or any animal species.
We are now able to establish a correlation between the proper sense of *peku, thus restored, and its dialect distribution. It is interesting to note the fact that *peku is lacking in Greek. This is no accident. Such an important notion could not simply disappear. The Indo-European term was in fact replaced in Greek by a new designation, which had the same sense. This is the Homeric próbasis with its far more common equivalent, próbata. Our study of this term (see above, Book One, Chapter Three) has revealed the evolutionary model which we have posited for *peku: it was, to begin with, an expression which designated “movable possessions.” For extra-linguistic reasons this term was frequently applied to the possession of “live-stock.” It thus became the word for live-stock and subsequently for the predominant species, “the sheep.”
But as was shown above, this specialization, which took place at an early date in Indo-Iranian, did not take place everywhere. We have in Latin and in a large part of Germanic testimony of great antiquity which shows that the initial meaning was “movable possession” and this explains the derivatives. This evolution is not reversible. It is in the highest degree improbable that *peku, if it had really signified “live-stock,” could have come to designate “money” and “fortune” in general, which is the exclusive meaning of próbata. Similarly the specific English term cattle, Fr. cheptel, goes back to Latin capitale ‘principal property’; already in a text of 1114, captale means “chattel, cattle, movable goods.”  But in the Middle Ages it still has the meaning “fortune, goods, income,” and the Spanish caudal signifies “goods, riches.” The progress from “movable possession” > “live-stock” is characteristic. But once accomplished, it is irreversible. Thus “livestock” is very often designated by expressions which refer to possessions in general, that is, it is simply called “property”; but the reverse never happens.
Our interpretation of *peku and its evolution thus conforms to what might be called the norm with regard to the terms of possession: a general or generic term is used by a certain class of producers as the designation for the typical object or element. In this sense it spreads outside its original milieu and becomes the usual designation of the object or element in question. Such is the case here. We have been able by comparative study of the evidence presented in three dialect groups to follow the stages of the process in the case of *peku, and to verify to a certain extent this internal reconstruction.
A last conclusion concerns the etymology of *peku. If the present demonstration is considered acceptable, it destroys the traditional rapprochement with *pek(t)- ‘to shear’. It is evident that *peku, a term with an economic sense which does not denote any animal, can have nothing in common with terms derived from *pek(t)-, which are concerned with the technique of shearing and combing wool: Gr. pékō ‘comb, card’, pókos ‘fleece’, pektéō ‘shear’, pékos n. ‘fleece’, pokízō ‘shear the wool’, kteís ‘comb’; Lat. pecto ‘comb, card’, pecten ‘comb’, pexus ‘hairy, downy’, Arm. asr ‘wool’. Between these forms and *peku the resemblance amounts to no more than simply homophony. The connection must be abandoned, and *peku-, a vestige of the most ancient Indo-European vocabulary, seems irreducible to any known root. 
[ back ] 1. Baxter-Johnson: Mediaeval Latin Word-List, 1934, p. 64.
[ back ] 2. A much more detailed version of the present study has been published in the USA in the conference proceedings entitled Indo-European and Indo-Europeans, 1970, University of Pennsylvania Press, 307–320.