18 Dec 2007

Etruscans, the status quo and the unpopularity of bold questioning

May I direct everyone's attention to a tiny, teensy, weensy, little aside in A Comparative Study of Thirty City-state Cultures (2000) on page 208, footnote 45. (You may read the following in the Google Books link here as well):
"It is the inscription ET AT 1.108[1], from Musarna, a subject city of Tarquinia, belonging to Avle Aleθna son of Arnθ and of Θanχvil Ruvfi; after having recorded that Avle Aleθna had been zilaθ spureθi[2] (possible meaning: "praetor in the city-state", scil. of Tarquinia), the text says that he was a priest of one or two different collegia (marunuχva cepen tenu, possible translations "having been cepen of the maru" or "having been maru and cepen"); cf. ET Ta 1.171 (Norchia), where we find the same type of association of maru and cepen, in the form of marunuχ spurana cepen, which renders problematic the translation of marunuχ spurana as maro publicus."
I can't resist wondering whether Mario Torelli felt the need to waste a very important point like this and hide it aside in smaller print at the back of the book in order to avoid conflict with status quo where we find it emphasized ad nauseum that marunuχ means Latin maro and zilaθ means 'praetor' with little to go on but these weak equations with Latin that have been hanging around since the 19th century. And if we add to this my conscious effort to properly analyse these terms into their grammatical constituents based on a more detailed and consistent grammatical model of the Etruscan language than currently provided (e.g. zilaθ = a participle form of a verb zil marked by participle marker clearly seen attached to well-represented verbs elsewhere such as mulv-eθ, trin-θ, acil-θ, etc.), everything that presentday Etruscologists hold dear falls apart miserably. I also dismiss the ridiculous equation of faux amis between Etruscan cepen and Latin cupencus that has been abused to argue in favour of translating this word as 'priest' despite a contrived correspondence in vocalism between the two words as Nancy de Grummond does in The Religion of the Etruscans (2006), p.34 when she misrepresents this hearsay as a conclusive fact.

Being against status quo is a difficult position to endure, even if the argument is on your side, as dear Galileo and Socrates knew all too well. While it is true that the views I express on the Etruscan language are considerably different from "mainstream Etruscology", Logic isn't about a popularity contest and I've been clear about the grammatical paradoxes I'm seeing in the prevailing body of knowledge in my previous entries. Look beyond the politics and transcend the minions that choose to enslave themselves in this new information age through the typical hypercritical malaise and minimal sense of responsibility to active listening. Popularity and status are fickle; Truth remains.

[1] The inscription is also referred to as TLE 171 and reads: avle aleθnas arnθal clan θanχvilusc ruvfial zilaχnuce / spureθi apasi svalas marunuχva cepen tenu eprθnevc eslz tenu
[2] Note that this author is heavily indulging in loose paraphrase instead of simply citing the inscription directly. Here he uses a substantive zilaθ rather than the verb form in evidence, zilaχnuce. Sigh. I really wish he wouldn't do that. For actual instances of zilaθ, see instead TLE 87 (an : zilaθ : amce : meχl : rasnal) as an example.


  1. Hey Glen!

    So far you've commented on two participial endings in Etruscan, -ax and -ath. Do you have any ideas on what they convey? For example, is one active and the other passive? I'd like to hear more of your thoughts on this.

    - Rob

  2. I'm looking into it for myself because there are numerous ideas floating around about the function of Etruscan suffixes but none of the them apply consistently in inscriptions. It's the wild, wild, west of linguistics. Giuliano and Larissa Bonfante have published that (or -th as some write) marks the imperative mood but this makes the religious-related Liber Linteus text sound like a big long list of abrasive commands. That can't be right and I think it's because people hold on to this broken status quo that nothing is getting translated in full. Thus far, I understand to be the participial ending for intransitive verbs, and I've discovered its complementary distribution with participles in -u which I interpret as specifically participles of transitive verbs. (Currently -u is only called a "passive participle" without reference to transitivity.) I'm also pondering on the possibility that underneath it all it may have originally been a stative verb marker and was used to produce derived verb stems.

    People don't talk much at all about the ending in -(a)χ but I've noticed that it forms either a type of deverbal noun/adjective derivative that conveys the meaning of "that which is X-ed" (where X represents the verb root), or a denominal noun/adjective derivative meaning "that which pertains to or derives from X". I think the ending is present in aχesχ (TLE 13), aniaχ (LL 6.i, 6.ii, 6.iv), flanaχ (LL 10.iii), mlaχ (TLE 27, 42, 62), neθśrac (TLE 131), pevaχ (LL 4.xxii),
    Φersnaχ (TLE 363), Rumaχ (TLE 300), etc., etc. As you can see, it's a highly productive suffix that people aren't discussing in depth, alas! I further believe that the passive preterite in -aχ-e is related but in order to understand why, we need a newer model of Etruscan conjugation than what Bonfante, Pallottino, Pfiffig and others have come up with so far. Keep in mind that Etruscan is a highly agglutinating language but while this is well known by experts, I don't think that fact is yet fully appreciated.

  3. Oh, and to answer your question concerning active versus passive participles, these participles in and -u are all passive in my view. If however one wanted to say "X-ing" as in "going", "walking", "dancing", "being", etc. I now think that the corresponding Etruscan verb form would be the bare verb stem itself without termination in tensal endings -e and -a.