You know, like who, what, where, when, why, which, and how.
Maybe we’ll get an explanation as to why how is the only one not beginning with
W. Why don’t we change that?
Who comes from
the Old English hwa
, which could also mean someone or anyone as well as who
. It’s from the Proto Germanic hwas
and earlier, the Proto Indo European kwo-
, which was the source of a lot of interrogative pronouns, as we’re about to see. No explanation as to why it switched from K to H, but it
does seem like the H to W thing is just because the former has softened over
the years. And whom
is from the same place, just via hwam
which is another version of hwa.
What is from
the Old English hwaet
, where it
could mean what but also who, something...and hark
It’s from the Proto Germanic hwat
which you may recognize as what with the first two letters switched, and the
Proto Endo European kwod
, which is a
form of kwos
. Another form for who.
Why comes from
the Old English (again) hwi
was a form of hwaet called the instrumental case
Instrumental is an old grammar form that appeared in Old English (Russian
actually still has it) that indicates indirect receivers of action, objects of
prepositions, or that a thing is being used. Basically why comes from a form of
what that isn’t used anymore and as we all know it comes from the word for who.
Although Proto Indo European also had a version of why, kwi
, again, another version of kwo.
Okay, you can probably guess at least some of this one.
Where comes from
the Old English hwaer
. No surprises here. It’s
from the Proto Germanic hwar
is from, all together now, kwo. Are you beginning to see a pattern?
I probably don’t even need to look this one up to guess, but
here we go. When is from
the Old English whaenne
, which means
as a direct question. It’s from
the Proto Germanic hwan
which… looks very familiar. Dammit,
it’s the same one as before and it’s from kwo-.
I’m no longer expecting anything new. Which
in Old English, and was
actually short for hwi-lic
, “of what
form”. So yeah. Hwi again. And the lic means body (body/form) and is where like
from. Hwi-lic comes from the Proto Germanic hwa-lik-
and we all should know by now that hwa/hwi comes kwo-.
How comes from
the Old English hu
, just how
. Before that, it’s
the Proto Germanic hwo
and of course
Proto Indo European kwo. No clue as to why this one stuck with H while none of
the other ones did. Just weird I guess.
tl;dr: All question words go back to kwo-. It is the one