5 Oct 2007

Etruscan nesl, TLE 515 and other random Etruscan stuff

I've been lying low lately, listening to Björk and 80s music as I use my spare time sniffing for more info on hundreds of Etruscan inscriptions for myself. (And hopefully one day, I'll find clear, colour photos of some of these very well hidden artifacts!) The Etruscan language and how it's been analysed so far shows one huge problem after another so I'm just going to rant about my journeys thus far with the Etruscan language.

So I was doing a search for TLE 515 the other day. In that inscription, there's a phrase tular hilar neśl inscribed on a cippus which got me thinking more on what neśl and related items really mean. Being firmly skeptical of what Etruscologists have been claiming so far, given all their other contradictions floating about, I presumed for myself that it was a praenomen based on TLE 572 (ca śuθi neśl amcie titial [...]) . After doing a little audit on this word however, I found it inscribed on the Lead of Magliano (TLE 359) as well: ... hevn avil neśl man murinaśie ... . So I must adapt my hypothesis. It must be a word then because it's unlikely for a praenomen to be dropped in a phrase in that context.

Larissa Bonfante merely claims exactly what several academics before her have claimed for a full century now, that neśl refers to a dead person. She also publishes a nebulous translation of nesna as "belonging to the dead" with a question mark trailing after it (Bonfante, Reading the Past - Etruscans, 1990. p.61 in the section Appendix 2 - Glossary of Etruscan Words). In the context of the original inscription with nesna in it (TLE 372: Θestia Velθurnas nesna), if we are to pursue her avenue of reasoning, it should then be better translated as "sepulcher" (hence "Thestia Velthurna's sepulcher") given its archaeological context. It hardly means "Thestia Velthurna belonging to the dead" afterall so it's reasonable to feel uneasy about Bonfante's superficial understanding of the language.

I have to admit then that it might seem okay to associate a root neś- with all things dead. However, it doesn't make me feel entirely secure when I see books from as early as 1883 claiming the same thing verbatim, along with unfortunately added details about its unlikely connection with Greek's root for death, nek- (i.e. as in words like nekus and nekros, see Etruskische Forschungen und Studien, ed. Deecke & Pauli, 1883. p.235). Have we not progressed at all since then? Apparently not. When I see that, I start getting Greenberg-itis, the kind of rash one gets when reading claims of translations built on whimsy and on "eyeballing" for subjective similarities. It's now understood for some time now that Etruscan is not Indo-European at all. Oh do I hate privileged people with doctorates abusing their certificates on mass comparison nonsense like this. It sends me round the bend.

It's even more curious a translation when we consider the previously mentioned phrase ca śuθi neśl which then would mean "this grave of the dead person" according to most experts. The question that pops up in my mind is what other sort of grave is there? Have you ever heard tell of a "grave of the living"? Putting jokes aside, there must be something lost in translation here but I'm unsure yet what would make better sense.

Then, let's see, what else do I have to rant about? Oh yes... I have to modify the entry of the verb θes- 'to dawn' to an intransitive verb. Another silly booboo. As I was changing it though, I realized that its participle form then must be *θesθ. The significance of that is in relation to the attested word θesθu which occurs in the sentence of TLE 329: Aχlei Truies θesθu farce. I translate it as "eastward" (i.e. "to the direction of dawn"). What I find interesting is that the word is then possibly built on this hypothetical participle *θesθ. If so, I wonder if hinθiu "below" isn't built up in similar fashion, from *hinθ "below" (found declined in locative cases as hinθa and hinθθin) which in turn may be from the participle of an intransitive verb *hin "to be below".

I'll update the Draft 002 Ammendments page soon, but I have to sleep now. I have a haircut and a thanksgiving dinner to go to tomorrow.


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