eldin raigmore wrote:
Should I shift the words for 'elements' (water, air, fire, earth, life, perhaps some more) semantically, to mean instead water-bearer, fire-bearer, earth-bearer/farmer, etc.; and from there have a more person-focused etymology, while forming retronyms for the 'elements'?
OTOH why four elements (but I see you have "life" as a quintessence), and why those four?
Why not water, air, fire, metal, wood?
Maybe add "flesh"; maybe add "space" or "distance"?
And would a farmer be an earth-bearer, or an earth-worker?
What's a life-bearer? Would that be "female entity"?
The idea of the elements does not correspond directly to those terms, and include many things elsewise. Water is really "liquid", and is closely related to the sweeping motions used in the proto-lang, which was completely gestural; it is often used as a reference for direction (e.g. "toward this lake/river"). The "liquid" concept continues to cover coldness, darkness, evils and 'anti-civilization' in general; it is- although this is not a reason for it being a 'basic' element- seen as symbolic that humans must 'darken' or 'uncleanse' their souls by drinking water, and much theology is devoted to how to work toward purity, despite consumption of evil.
Air and 'earth' are essentially up and down, air is seen as containing all that exists, while earth is seen as forming all that exists; wood, and some plants, are considered to be "extensions" of the earth, much like mountains which are shaped differently, however 'earth' or 'ground' is seen actually as the living remains of one of the pantheon of gods, and as such things like "soil", "wood", and "metal" are all seen as features of the body. (On a side note, 'metal', being generally cold and dark after forging, can be described as "watery earth-stuff", and the con-people see it as a service to their god to take the 'evil' out of his body; as an additional result of this practice, leaching and other forms of bloodletting by other animals is considered a way to cleanse oneself of evil.) Meanwhile, air is seen as a sort of multi-looped, multi-layered screen, on which the earth/god "rolls", causing the sun and moon to pass, stars to pass, clouds to pass, and wind to pass. Things moving at different speeds have their own 'layer', and the whole system is thought to repeat at different intervals, hence the 'loops'. Earth is roughly likened to gestures used in ordering people in the proto-lang, while air is related to many of the more subtle gestures.
Fire is thought of as a loose opposite to water, as fire is seen as a a 'divine gift', and is used frequently in religious ceremonies (cremation is pretty much the only way to bury the dead, as it 'obliterates' all 'evil' left in an individual by water consumption). It encompasses the concepts of civilization, home, warmth, some emotions and other abstract concepts, war, and technology. In the proto-lang, "fire" encompasses nearly all abstract gestures, including acting and dance.
Life is the only one which is pretty self explanatory; it's mostly made up of words for people and things people do. Basically any concept, including abstract concepts, which don't fit in with other categories are dumped here.
As for the semantic shift, it would be mostly toward any occupation associated closely with the element, e.g. water-bearer is any low-class "untouchable" type who creates trenches, aqueducts, cisterns, wells, etc., as well as merchants; air-bearer is any "generic worker", such as a manufacturer; fire-bearer is a priest or warrior; earth-bearer is actually earth-worker, as was said, in that they farm, or mine; life-bearer or life-worker might be more along the lines of a hunter or animal farmer (although the language has no problem allowing multiple meanings the same word, so a female or, more specifically, a pregnant female may easily be referenced by the same word).
That said, things that are elementary, like wood, metal, food, and possibly any other combination of those listed would probably be "secondary" elements, and as s uch could have a similar semantic shift.