31 Aug 2007

Four Stone Hearth: Volume 22

Get your latest Four Stone Hearth fix while it's hot. The latest issue is provided to you by the Hominin Dental Anthro blogsite and can be accessed directly via the link below:

Four Stone Hearth: Volume 22

Bon appétit!

Pyrgi Tablets and the burial of the sun

One day, I was scouring the internet, assimilating new perspectives into my personal data collective as usual when I came across a comment by Douglas Kilday posted two years ago on the sci.lang forum. I actually appreciate a lot of his interesting comments and theories on Etruscan. He seems like an overall sensible guy, which is rather odd for this subject since most are loons like me. However, no one's perfect and he provided a translation to the Pyrgi Tablets that I think was sufficiently offtrack to distort what was being expressed in the artifact. The Pyrgi Tablets consist of gold sheets inscribed with both Phoenician and Etruscan texts, a kind of bilingual "Rosetta Stone", if you will. They were created to dedicate the erection of a temple to the goddess Uni-Ashtarte by a leader named Thefarie Veliana. Even though the text is referring to the same event in both languages, and even though Phoenician is fully deciphered, everyone still seems to be having oodles of trouble solving the "riddle" of these tablets. Gee, go figure. An alternative hypothesis for our ineptitude could be that riddles make more money than solutions but surely that can't be it, right?

Kilday mistranslated the vowelless Phoenician phrase b-yrḥ zbḥ šmš as "in (b-) the month (yrḥ) of the Feast (zbḥ) of the Sun (šmš)." Way off, I'm afraid. First of all it's vital that we understand that zbḥ is a pan-Semitic word describing religious sacrifice as in Hebrew זֶבַח zebaḥ (note Ehud Ben-Yehuda & David Weinstein, Ben-Yehuda's Pocket English-Hebrew/Hebrew-English Dictionary, p. 234) and Ugaritic dbḥ (see Stanislav Segert, A Basic Grammar of the Ugaritic Language, p.132) .

Sacrifice of the Sun? Yes, dammit, yes. And if you don't believe me, read here because I swear I did not make this up. The Good Shamash is not having a picnic, here. He's not having a fun outing. Etruscan worshippers seem to have commemorated each year the death and rebirth of the sun. Throughout the early world, this was a prevailing religious motif and a symbolism for the strengthening and weakening of the sun's force throughout the year, embodied as an example in the cyclical worship of the Akkado-Sumerian deity Tammuz-Dumuzi. This phrase in question refers to the cycle of the seasons and this understanding is further reinforced a few lines down when it mentions: b-ym qbr ʔlm = "on (b-) the day (ym) of the burial (qbr) of the divinity (ʔlm)". Again, the verb root qbr is well attested in Semitic languages to denote burial (Hebrew qbr "to bury", Ugaritic qbr "to bury"). So why are we still scratching our heads about it? How daft can we be? Sweet goddess, all the information is readily available if only we would check it out for ourselves.

Only by understanding the Phoenician text properly can we understand the Etruscan text. So when we see that we have a "sacrifice of the sun" and a "burial of the divinity (of the sun)", we can then get a hint as to what the month name Masan signifies. For some reason, Larissa Bonfante places a question mark beside this name of the Etruscan month as if she isn't sure that the name is a bona fide name or something else (Reading the Past - Etruscan (1990), p.60). Obviously she hasn't spent the time looking at the inscriptions available to her. The rest of us can be reassured that it is a true month of the Etruscan calendar because of the date θun-em cialχuś Masn "Masan 29th" written in the very last chapter of the Liber Linteus. The name must derive however from a word used for "burial" or "entombment" built on the verb mas since its participle form masu is found twice in the Cippus Perusinus (CPer A.xiv, A.xvii). One phrase reads: Velθina hinθa cape muni-cle-t masu = "Velthina below (hinθa) was entombed (masu) with the sarcophagus (cape) in this plot (muni-cle-t)."

29 Aug 2007

Das Storie mit der Smallisch Reddisch Riden Hood

And now for a silly diversion about pseudo-German-ish versions of Little Red Riding Hood from the Funny Pages website. You readers deserve it after scanning through my long string of naggy rants about Etruscan. On the same site, by the way, they finally solve the riddle of why the chicken crossed the road through the eyes of countless historical celebrities from Plato to Salvador Dali. I must admit in all candor that I found myself uninhibitedly urinating in my trousers from the sheer force of this witful hilarity. Enjoy, my fellow compatriots!

Minoan, Cyrus Gordon and academic politics

First off, I need to clarify for readers that I am in no way related to Cyrus Gordon despite our common last name and interest for ancient languages. He was a linguist (or purported linguist) on a fruitless mission to prove that the Minoan language was a Semitic one by completely ignoring sensible linguistic methodology. He is a perfect example of how to misuse your doctorate.

However when famed linguists pass away such as Cyrus Gordon, academic institutions and the bureaucratic clones that they spawn enforce an unsaid "taboo" that lasts anywhere from many months to several years. Rather than allowing science to prevail, it is customary practice amongst career-loving opportunists to keep hush-hush on logical criticisms, exploiting human mores like "respect for the dead" and "civility" to elevate one's status in the anthill. Behold Exhibit A, a painfully emotive eulogy in honour of the well-intentioned nonagenarian published by The Jewish Quarterly Review (2001), a clear example of science laced with personal politics, even possibly ethnopolitics. It's a kind of "reverse ad hominem", just as reprehensible to logic as its mirror twin, meant to attribute heroic grandeur to failed theories that were senseless even when they were first published. I am openly a militant logician. Reasoning stops for no man, woman or child. I believe that all sacred cows should have their entrails ripped from their frames, to be eaten raw by true priests of logical stoicism. The remaining bovine carcasses should then be burned before the altar of Minerva Veritatis, in honour of the beautiful Warrioress of Truth, Eliminator of Human Drama and Politics. I look at Cyrus Gordon's work as yet another quadrupedal to slay for the altar.

Throughout his entire book Evidence for the Minoan Language, Cyrus Gordon used the typical slice-'n-dice methods of an amateur hack. He evoked ancient words that weren't even attested in order to desperately connect them with any and every Semitic language by pure random whim, whether it be Hebrew, Phoenician, Arabic, Ugaritic, Akkadian or some obscure idiom in an obscure dialect of Old Aramaic. He had gone to every length to find any connection no matter how pathetically incorrect. Here is a few of some of his imaginary "facts" that should have expelled him from the scholarly community long ago:
  1. Minoan (y)a-ta-no- = Phoenician yatan- 'he has donated' (page 28)
    No such Minoan word. He concocted this from his misreading of the symbol for 'i' as 'no'. It's properly read a-ta-i (see here) and written on stone libation tables. In fact, Minoan doesn't appear to have initial y- because 'ya' far too often alternates with 'a' in initial position. He chose to misread it here and insisted on initial y- in this one case to supply pretend evidence for his nonsense. Yet he contradicted himself on page 42 by acknowledging pa-i-to written with the same character 'i' that he thought was 'no' in the former word! Applying inconsistent phonetic values to symbols is ad hoc garbage, as you can plainly see.
  2. Eteo-Cretan isalabr = Hebrew ʔišša lə-ḫābēr 'woman to companion' (page 9)
    No such Eteo-Cretan word. The Cretan artifact in question is Dreros #1 (see here with picture) and as you can see Cyrus Gordon takes advantage of his readers by not supplying honest pictures of the artifacts he warped to suit his agenda.
  3. One can prove linguistic relationships with random connections to random languages
    While everyone else might recognize Cyrus Gordon as a valid linguist, I just can't bring myself to believe that. The very fact that he published Evidence for the Minoan Language based on this naive principle of folk etymology shows that he didn't understand the very basics of linguistic science. Perhaps if he had read Mark Rosenfelder's excellent primer How likely are chance resemblances between languages?, Cyrus Gordon could have made a far more informed book and I wouldn't be so annoyed.
So in light of this, I share with you yet another irritating eulogy by his own alma mater, University of Pennsylvania, which was featured also in Almanac. The article leaves the reader with the impression that Minoan is already solved and even a Semitic language. This is as senseless as Anti-Evolutionary Creationism which some loons still want pushed like crack coccaine to kids in schools in nearby Kansas.

Do universities truly have a monopoly on critical thinking and competence, or are they just groupThink institutions that obstruct progress with empty speeches about celebrities with false accolades? Are we rational human beings or are we controlled by superstitious fears of the otherworld that prevent us from pointing out bad scholarship when we see it, simply because the intellectual maverick in question had just passed away? Can we not distinguish between an empty personal attack and the healthy dismantling of a dead man's irrational pet theory?

27 Aug 2007

New "update page" for news on Etruscan Glossary Draft 001

I've decided to move my updates to a seperate entry (this one). I am also placing an easy-to-find link of this post at the top of the Paleoglot website so that people can monitor my progress easily. This entry will be a permanent feature of this blog as long as I continue to modify Etruscan Glossary Draft 001.


I'm scheduling Draft 002 for September 15, 2007. Is good? Stay tuned.


Sep 14 & 15, 2007

Ane [deity] - Duplicate. Merge item with: Ani [deity]
apana "clan, ancestry" - Reduce translation to: "clan"
apirinaθ [inanimate sanctified object] - Modify form: apirinθ
This was a lingering issue concerning phonotactics. I've decided that Proto-Etruscan forms must indeed permit word-final clusters of two consonants.
Aturmuca "Andromaca" - Modify form: Anturmaca
I'm revising the form to better reflect its Greek origin. Logically I think it would have been initially borrowed with this form, but later attested as Aturmucas where the second 'u' is for a reduced unstressed schwa from earlier *a as is present in the Greek form. I suspect that the dropping of 'n' here is a part of a larger phenomenon in Etruscan since we also find hanθe sometimes written without 'n' in the Liber Linteus. I wonder if there is a rule concerning phonotactic restraints beneath this.
aθeli [type of inanimate offering] - Modify type: ni.(I) instead of ni.(II)
cenla [type of offering] - Modify form and translation: cenula "gift"
ci śar "thirteen" - Modify form: ci-śar
Cusu [gentilicium] - Add item
Attested in ET Fa 1.6 in genitive (Cusul) and TLE 634 in the unmarked nomino-accusative. Also found on the Tabula Cortonensis.
Cusuθu "member of the Cusu family" - Add item
Recorded in the plural nomino-accusative and genitive on the Tabula Cortonensis.
flereś "small gift" - Modify form: fleriś
I think the usage and etymology of this word can best be explained as consisting of fler "gift" and the derivational suffix -iś.
frunta "augur of lightning, fulguriator" - Modify form: prunta
Bonfante connected the word to βροντή although timidly by placing a question mark beside it in The Etruscans. I believe this connection is correct, although specifically from the Doric dialect, I would presume. Also p appears to become f in certain environments centuries before the instance of this word which was inscribed around the 1st c. BCE (TLE 697). So it all now makes sense: The earliest form of the word would have been *prunta.
Fufluns [deity] - Modify form: Pupluns
The p>f sound change must have happened between 500 and 200 BCE but for some reason while Etruscologists talk about it, they never seem to date it. The softening of p in Etruscan was mentioned back in 1922 in Das grammatische Geschlecht im etruskischen by Eva Lehmann Fiesel (link here) who uses this very word to reconstruct earlier *Pupluns. Well, who am I to argue?
Herme "Hermes" [deity] - Modify form: Herame
Hermes seems less and less like it was borrowed from Greek, but rather built on the verb root heram. But then that implies that... well, no, I won't go there yet. More research for me.
Hermina [gentilicium] - Modify form: Heramina
It better explains one of its forms, Hirumina, since the medial u would be a schwa, an eroded form of original a. It also better reflects its probable etymological source.
isminθian "sanctuary of Apollo, smintheion"- Modify form and type: sminθian; na.(I) -> ni.(I)
A pesky typo: Naturally it's inanimate until proven otherwise, hehe ;) The word is also without a doubt from Greek σμινθειον (smintheion) but this Greek form lacks the prothetic vowel which must be a late Etruscan innovation. I now see a connection with gentilicium Śminθina in my list and have therefore altered it accordingly.
malena "mirror" - Modify form: malana
My decision here is based on my theories regarding phonotactics and rules of accentuation in (Pre-)Proto-Etruscan but luckily malana is in fact attested (ETP 335) alongside malena, on a mirror of all things so this is a load of my shoulders.
nap [a place or vessel to hold offerings] - Modify translation: [a place for offerings]
Neθuns [deity] - Modify form: Neθunś
nurφzi "nine times" - Modify form: nurφizi
For phonotactic reasons.
paχana "bacchanal, pertaining to Pacha; Bacchic temple" - Modify type: adj., nn. to adj., ni.(II)
Paχie [male praenomen] - Modify form: Paχaie
For etymological reasons (i.e. based on the deity Paχa).
Papanai [gentilicium] - Modify form: Papana
Paziethe [gentilicium] - Modify form: Pazieθe
A shameful typo.
Peθnei [gentilicium] - Modify form: Peθna
Another typo. No rest for the wicked.
peθs "to fill"- Modify form: peθas
Modelling after other verbs in -as like acas.
Puiana [gentilicium] - Add item
Attested on a tile (ET Fa 1.6) in a tomb, presumed to be inscribed by a slave.
Rufe [cognomen] - Modify translation: Rufe [gentilicium]
sul [type of offering] - Add form
sulis [recipient of offerings] - Modify form and translation: suliś [type of offering]
Śminθina [gentilicium] - Modify form: Sminθianna
Related to isminθian. See above under same date.
Śuri [male praenomen] - Modify translation and type: śuri [unknown inanimate noun]; na.(I) -> ni.(I)
As I've blogged, I'm having trouble with this pesky little item. All Etruscologists seem to claim the same damn thing, that Suri is a deity, and yet it absolutely does not fit the contexts where we find it inscribed. (Read Suri, the saga part one.) Since I know in my heart of hearts that this is wrong, I'm on my own to figure out what it really is. I've tried translating it as a male praenomen but this fails to explain its instances in the Tabula Capuana. It must then be just a noun, possibly even inanimate and describing an offering to the gods. It just doesn't seem to be a name at all. I wholeheartedly defy anyone to translate all these known instances as a deity's name. Think of it as Glenny's little translation contest for other avid paleoglots.
θunzi "one" - Modify translation: "once, one time"
Egad, another typo of mine. How do I live with my imperfection at all? Obviously this word means "once" not "one" because of other forms with the iterative suffix -zi (cizi "thrice", cezpzi "8 times", etc.). Naturally, only θun or θu means "one" as you will read in any semi-decent book on the Etruscan language.
traula [type of offering] - Modify translation: traula "libation"
θauraχ "bull sacrifice" - Modify form: θaurχ
Phonotactic considerations. Bear with me.
θuf "oath, promise, vow" - Modify form: θup
This is corroborated by evidence from Eteo-Cretan and derivative names Θupalθa (later written Θufalθa) and praenomen Θupe.
Θufalθa [deity] - Modify form: Θupalθa
The earlier form in -p- is confirmed in the genitive form of TLE 654.
Viśnai [gentilicium] - Modify form: Viśna
Viśnaia [gentilicium] - Add item
zilaχ "overseer, leader, head" - Modify form: zilχ
Yep, you guessed it: I'm using the "phonotactics" excuse again. Bear with me as I search for the perfect "Proto-Etruscan transcription system" to organize my dictionary. As I type this, I have some new ideas about syllabic rules I could try out... perhaps for Draft 003.

Sep 13, 2007

tanám "at that, then, additionally" - Modify item: taná "then, so"
In the Liber Linteus, we only encounter etnam or its suffix -tnam. While I had a hunch that it consisted of an underlying adverb taná (which due to strong stress accent is eventually squished to *tna then itna with a prothetic vowel just as it apparently occured in eslem zaθrum < *zal-ém zaθrum "18", literally "2 minus 20") and the phrasal conjunctive -m "and", used to convey subsequent actions following a previous event, I couldn't be sure until perusing the Tabula Capuana where we indeed find itna by itself. (It's found in the sentence: Iχ nac Fulinuśnes vacil savcnes, itna muluri zile.). Hooray! I'm also simplifying the translation to "then, so". That suffices. So, I now have the following specs on this interesting little puppy:

ituna [TCap xxx], itna [TCap vi], etna-m [LL 3.xiii{bis}, 5.vii, 6.v, 6.vii{bis}, 6.xii, 7.ii, 7.iii, 7.iv, 7.v, 7.ix, 7.x, 7.xiii, 7.xiv, 7.xv, 7.xvi, 7.xvii, 7.xix, 7.xx{bis}, 7.xxii, 7.xxiii, 8.v, 8.xxiii{bis}, 10.x{bis}, 11.iv, 11.vi{bis}, 11.vii{bis}, 11.xv, 11.xviii, 11.xxii, 11.xxiii, 11.xxx, 12.i, 12.ix], -tna-m [LL 6.x, 7.xii, 8.iv, 10.xxxi{bis}, 11.xvi, 11.xvii, 12.ix]

Sep 12, 2007

aiu "oil" - Add item.
A few sentences I've noticed in the Tabula Capuana (i.e. Aiu-m vacilia Leθamsul nunθeri.;
Śanti arvus-ta aius nunθeri.
) are telling me that aiu is part of the votive offerings set down at the altar for Lethams. I suggest a possible value of "oil" but this is uncertain.
epni [type of offering] - Add item.
epni [TCap xiv] (na.sg.) // epninai [TLE 28] (loc.pl.)
iś [type of offering] - Add item.
Found in the Tabula Capuana several times either with what appears to be a phrasal conjunctive in the nomino-accusative, iś-um (TCap xiii), or in the locative plural, iśvei (TCap viii, xviii, xxviii, lx, lvi). The use of the plural in -va, an allomorph of -χva found regularly after sibilants, indicates an inanimate noun.

Sep 10, 2007

riθna "table (for sacrifice or libations)" - Add item.
The word appears in the Tabula Capuana several times and always in the locative case. So I have a hunch that based on the surrounding text, this might be describing a place where sacrifices and libations are made, and hence a table seems like a nice fit. Hopefully, I can narrow things down as I find more information.

Sep 9, 2007

alfa "ox" - Add item.
The hapax elfa is found in the environs of another interesting item Aφe. (See under "Aφe".)
Aφe "Apis" [deity] - Add name.
Considering there are no serious, in-depth translations of the Tabula Capuana available, I hope the reader respects that I'm taking my own initiative. Now, I find the phrase Aφes ilucu vacil zuχne elfa riθnai interesting because thus far, I'm deducing that ilucu means altar and that word is always right beside the names of other gods declined in the genitive in this same text (with Laran and Lethams). So if Aφe is a god, it certainly looks like the name Apis with Greek's nominative ending -s taken away as is typical of Etruscan's treatment of foreign case endings. What's more, if elfa is a noun unmarked in the nomino-accusative case and associated with the Apis cult, it's another great coincidence that it should look like a Semitic word for "ox" (note Ugaritic ʔlp perhaps pronounced *ʔalpu) considering the extensive trade between Etruscans and Phoenicians who also worshipped oxen extensively. It's too intriguing a notion to toss aside and lends an interesting interpretation to this text.
ser "to guard, to watch over" - Modify translation: "to remain".
I first saw the word on the boundary marker of TLE 515. It wasn't much to go on and spoke of deceased people which I presumed were "guarding over" the boundary. However, the word may also be written in the Tabula Capuana. If I'm not mistaken, an infinitive verb is modifying the preceding noun, aiu. To remind readers, the Tabula Capuana is written in continuous text but the scribe had used single dots to show syllabicity (e.g.: ais would be written ai.s. showing that semivowel 'i' and 's' are terminating the syllable). However I'm skeptical of how consistent he was with this dot marking. Rix presents us with a word travaiuser which I suspect is actually three words: trau "poured" (passive participle), aiu (found elsewhere in the same text) and our beloved ser.

Sep 8, 2007

Leθams - Add name.
Oh dear! My favourite deity isn't in my database already! How shameful. Well, we must add that one in then. Mea culpa.
Satilna [gentilicium] - Modify form: Śatilna.
Typo. There's a san not a sigma in Śatlnal-c of TLE 128.
savicna, Saucane - Remodify: savicnes "plate"
Please forgive my indecisiveness with this item however I have only three nebulous instances of the word to go on (CIE 10498: savcnes śuris; TCap ii: savcnes sa tirias; TCap vi: vacil savcnes). Now that I'm scouring the Tabula Capuana in more detail, its presence there just can't be easily explained if it were a gentilicium. Perhaps a better explanation, considering its presence beside words like vacil "votive", would be that it describes a votive object (a plate?). Don't quote me on it. As always, this is a work in progress. (See "savicna (?)" under September 5.)
Śatna [female praenomen] - Add name.
Found in TLE 135: Larθal Śatnal-c clan.
Velχe [male praenomen] - Add name.
Velχe [TLE 662] (na.) // Velχes [TLE 535, 662] (gen.)

Sep 5, 2007

savicna (?) - Merge with: Saucane [gentilicium]
(See "savicna, Saucane" under September 8.)
śur [religious offering] - Merge with: Śuri [male praenomen]
I'm fully aware that most Etruscologists claim Śuri to be a male deity. However, I'm skeptical of how both Erika Simon (The Religion of the Etruscans, p.59) and Jannot (Religion in Etruria, p.159) gloss over the deity while at the same time stating confidently that the deity is "well-known in Etruria" and that Colonna somehow convincingly relates it to the sun without going into further details. Erika Simon touches vaguely on some votive inscriptions with "father Suri", and as usual, no reference numbers supplied. I'll continue to dig further on this.

Sep 4, 2007

Θanra [deity] - Modify form: Θanura
Considering Θanura-ri (TCap xxiii) which I interpret to be a locative form of the name extended further with postposition -ri, the new form would account for both this and the other syncopated forms already in my database.

Sep 3, 2007

Claruχie [gentilicium] - Add item.
Found as genitive Claruχies in the inscription of a boundary marker (TLE 515).
snuiaφi "as numerous as" - Modify form and translation: snuiapi "more numerous, greater".
Pondering on the word lately (found both in the Pyrgi Tablets and the Liber Linteus), I've come to the conclusion that -pi must be a comparative ending indicating "more", rather than a similative (i.e. "like, as"). If so, I can then explain morphologically the numeral cezp "eight" as underlying *ciś-pi "three more (than five)". In fact, I may have already encountered the elusive similative suffix in clanti "stepson".
zamaθi [type of vessel] - Modify translation: "gold".
While deeply leery of the otherwise faulty translations I see in books by Pallottino, Bonfante, Jannot and DeGrummond, I have to say that it looks like this word might be properly translated afterall. It appears in all honestly to be describing the object of inscription TLE 489 which happens to be a gold fibula, not a vessel. My translation is incorrect; I will adapt. It is often compared with Greek xanthos which appears at first an ad hoc connection however the Greek word is interesting in that its etymology is currently unknown. I'm now wondering if the word is originally Hittite or Luwian in origin.
zamaθiχ "golden" - Add item.
The adjectival form of zamaθi would be formed with the application of the common derivational suffix used to form new substantives, particularly adjectives (n.b. mlaχ "blessed" and Rumaχ "Roman"). In the Liber Linteus, both zamθic and zamtic are found with final kappa (letter 'k') instead of chi (letter 'χ') making it appear as though it were a noun with conjunctive -c "and". However I now must concede that the noun phrase caperi zamθic must refer to a "golden bowl" for offerings making zamθic an adjective from an earlier form *zamaθiχ. Another attested adjective in the Liber Linteus, Cemnac, is alternatively spelled Cemnaχ in the same document.

Sep 1, 2007

nafau "pillar" - Modify translation: nafa [uncertain verb].
I've decided that the word must instead be a passive participle, not a noun. It would then be acting as an adjective, in an accusative noun phrase muθ nafau-cn in the Liber Linteus (LL 12.vi).

Aug 31, 2007

fler "gift" - Modify gender to Type I (i.e. declined with s-genitive).
I incorrectly keyed the gender as Type II, but the genitive is attested in the Liber Linteus as flerś. I'm now seperating instances of flereś (< *fler(a)-iś) as a seperate noun, a kind of diminutive of fler using the suffix -iś which is productive in forming derivatives. I briefly thought today that it should be translated as "statue" however this just doesn't work in some sentences in the Liber Linteus where it implies that the item can also be poured. So I'm keeping it as "gift" after it all. A blog entry talking more on this conundrum is forthcoming.
flereś "little gift" - Add word.
A blog entry talking more on this conundrum is forthcoming.
Mura [gentilicium] - Add name.
Attested in ET Vc 1.55, TLE 906 and TLE 908 in the locative case as Murai.
Una [gentilicium] - Add name.
Attested in ET Vc 1.45 in the genitive case as Unas.

Aug 29, 2007

Turanu [deity] - Modify form: Turaniu.
Although we actually only find Turnu attested (see here), his name (equivalent to Greek Eros) is surely a derivative of Turan, his mother's name, plus a diminutive suffix -iu. Depalatalization of 'i' after liquids (i.e. l, r, m and n) has a plethora of examples in Etruscan and affects the expression of other suffixes like the gentilitial suffix -ie in many names.
Caiśra "Caere" - Add city name.
It is apparently attested as Ceizra (ET Vs 6.7, Vs 6.8, Vs 6.9). Plus, Virgil's gloss Cisra in the Aeneid kinda helps. The hardening of sibilant 'ś' to affricate 'z' before 'r' is regular (e.g. huzrnatre < *huśrnatre, found in TLE 131).
pesnaiu [type of vessel] - Add word.
The word is found once in TLE 38 (a vessel) which is often transcribed into gobbleygook like this or this. My understanding of this inscription however (despite experts hiding photos from plebs like me and clearly adding extra letters that aren't there) is this:
  • Velθur Tulumneś pesnu zinace, mene, muluvanice.
    Velthur Tulumnie fashioned the [vessel], set it down, and had it blessed (i.e. by a priest).
No doubt the name given to this type of vessel is related to the offering of pes mentioned in the Tabula Cortonensis (lines 3 and 5). A very early syncope might have reduced a diminutive *pesna-iu to *pesniu and then to pesnu (compare Turnu < *Turaniu, the name for the child of the goddess Turan).

Aug 28, 2007

Tuśnutinaie [gentilicium] - Add name.
The form Tusnutnie is found in ET Cl 0.8, Cl 0.9, Cl 0.10 and Cl 0.11.

Aug 27, 2007

muni "grave plot" - Revise translation: "plot, area".
Due to its use in the Pyrgi Tablets, a specific translation like "grave plot" doesn't fit since what is being talked about in this inscription involves a temple of Uni. It would more naturally be the land on which the temple was built by Thefarie Veliana. (The Etruscans believed the land of holy places and its boundaries were sacred and needed to be protected with special religious rites.) Ergo, I will now generalize the translation to account for this to "plot, area".
munisule "tomb" - Add word.
The word is attested in TLE 84 in the unmarked nomino-accusative case (the subject or object of a sentence), as well as in TLE 172 and 173 in the inessive case (indirect object with "in"). The meaning seems to clearly mean "tomb" (TLE 84: Larθiale Hulχniesi Marcesi-c Caliaθesi munsle. = "The tomb for Larth Hulchnie and for Marce Caliathe." This sentence is written directly on the wall of the Tomb of Orcus and that's good enough for me.) It is clearly a derivative of muni although I'm as yet unsure of the semantics of the ending. I have placed some forms of this word under muni, mistaking them as dative or genitive forms. I am now placing these forms under this item instead.

Aug 26, 2007

lup "to die" - Revise translation: "to depart to".
I recently discovered grammatical evidence showing that this verb does not literally mean "to die" as claimed by experts, but rather is a euphemism. Its primary meaning therefore must be updated. I've explained my reasons in the article Death and euphemisms in Etruria.
murza "small sarcophagus" - Delete word.
I now feel that the plural form murzva should be placed under muriś instead. (Note that inanimate plural -va is an allomorph of -χva used after sibilants and certain other sounds.) I had presumed that this word was formed with the common diminutive -za but there is no direct evidence of its existence in its expected singular *murza whereas muriś is well represented. (Interestingly, the purported existence of *murza 'small urn' is frequently published without references as in Compendium of the World's Languages. Frustrating, very frustrating.)
śealχu "sixty" - Delete word.
This is an extra entry for "sixty" that I lost track of. The proper form is śaiálχal but this is already in the pdf.

Death and euphemisms in Etruria

I know my obsession with death lately is a little avant-garde considering that there are still a few months before Halloween but I never liked following trends. Hardly hours had passed since I successfully uploaded the first draft of my Etruscan glossary on Lulu before my mind started pondering the subtle nature of the verb lup, normally translated as "to die", and I realized that I already have something new to put in Draft 002. Excellent! Intellectual evolution is exhilarating! Let me explain.

My database helps me powersearch and recognize patterns I might not have noticed without it. One grammatical quirk I just uncovered was something involving the participle. It is already generally accepted that -u is a passive participle marker. We see it in a variety of verbs like tur "to give" (turu "given") and mal "to bless" [1] (mulu "blessed"), so there is no denying that this is its function. The fact that no one seems to have noticed however is that there is a second marker of the passive participle, namely (pronounced as an aspirated "t").

Bonfante has mistakingly called this ending an "imperative" which has helped to completely confuse her more astute readers. Imperative forms of verbs are used to form commands like "Study, study, study!" or "Be wary of unsubstantiated claims!" Despite what Bonfante and others have been publishing up to now, no shred of concrete proof has ever shown that this is really an imperative marker and, in fact, if we actually were to apply it to the inscriptions, it gives the texts a sophomoric sound that would make even Zacharie Mayani laugh.

After one goes to the trouble of examining the distribution and usage of this ending (found especially often in the Liber Linteus), one will notice that verbs that take the u-participle don't use the ending in and likewise, those verbs found terminating in don't take the u-participle. So we have turu "given" and mulu "blessed" amply attested, but the misnamed "imperative" counterparts, *turθ and *mulθ are nowhere to be seen. And we find nunθenθ and acilθ, but we just never find *nunθenu and *acilu. I don't think we will ever find them. This grammatical correlation here is so strong that I am really convinced that we have two passive participles here. The use of one or the other ending is determined by the transitivity of the verb: Intransitive verbs get the θ-participle and transitive verbs get the u-participle.

However, if this is true, why does an intransitive verb like lup "to die" have a transitive passive participle? Obviously you don't need an object in a sentence if the verb is "to die". You just die and that's all she wrote, right? One might even joke that dying is one of the most intransitive acts you can ever make in your lifetime. Logically, if the verb is hinting at transitivity then it is probably because lup doesn't actually mean "to die" per se. My answer is that the verb is merely acting as a euphemism for death and that its true primary meaning is something a teensy bit different. But then what is its meaning?

Let's read Richard Oliver & Allen Marcus, Words and the Poet, p.108. Behold the zany, interlinguistic mortuary parallels that follow:
  • Latin obitus <=> Etruscan lupu
    participle, "passed on, met (death)"

  • Latin obiit <=> Etruscan an lupuce
    perfective, "he/she has passed on, he/she has met (death)".
The Latin verb obīre, coincidently is also the source of the word "obituary". Another, perhaps stronger interpretation in light of some Etruscan inscriptions is "to depart to/into" (compare with English the departed and Latin abīre). Now we might finally make sense of the inscriptions:
  • Avils LX, lupuce munisvleθ. (TLE 172)
    At age 60, he departed within the tomb.
  • Lupuce munisuleθ calu. (TLE 173)
    He departed within the tomb into the earth.
  • Calusi-m lupu meiani munisleθ. (TLE 99) [2]
    And then into the earth he is departed in youth within the tomb.
With the above examples, we can now analyse lup as a transitive verb that takes an accusative object. Its meaning is not specifically "to die" but rather "to depart to". Since the verb already contains a built-in directive nuance [3], the accusative object should be translated into English as "to/into X" (thus an calu lupuce = "he has departed into the earth"). In the context of funerary inscriptions, the object can be left out since "the earth below" is the implied destination of the deceased. As a passive participle, we see that the object "earth" is overtly declined in the dative (thus an lupu calusi "he is departed into the earth")

In the pdf I uploaded, I still have lup listed as most Etruscologists like Bonfante and Pallottino have translated it: "to die". So it looks like we already need to tweak one of these translations for the next draft. Stay tuned.

[1] I haven't yet talked about mal but I don't translate mulu as "given" as Bonfante would. My reasoning is that the verb is related to forms in mal (e.g. male) and to mlaχ (which I list under maláχ) normally translated as "beautiful".
[2] Note that the last word may also be muni-cleθ as per the similar word found clearly on the Cippus Perusinus muni-clet "in the plot" with the verb mas "to entomb".
[3] I anticipate that some readers might feel critical of a verb with a "built-in directive nuance" but there are similar things in Latin. Its verb īre, which ob-īre and ab-īre above are built on, can also use the accusative and when it does it has a distinctly directive meaning indicating "towards": Romam eō = "I go towards/in the direction of Rome" (see here).

25 Aug 2007

Etruscan Glossary (Draft 001 available for Free Download)

Well, I've gone and done it, now. I put up a quick pdf of some Etruscan vocabulary that I've been collecting since earlier this year in my database. The pdf currently contains 806 entries representing some of the more secure items that I have. I also have hypothetical roots deduced by analysing word etymologies in my database, such as *Carθaza "Carthage" ascertained from the attested name Karθazie whose context lies in TLE 724, but I decided to leave this all out for now. I've also left out commentaries on word etymology, background information on each word, and translations made by various other authors that I also have amassed. I just want to give people a good quick guide to the meat and bones of this language.

Etruscan Glossary - Draft 001 (Aug 24 2007)

Since it's an ongoing project, I will be making many revisions and tweaks as I go along and discover new information. It's not a simple task either. The main problem is how astonishingly untrustworthy author's transcriptions of artifacts are and even how ad hoc their translations are. So this task requires me to get deeper into the whole thing and go step by painstaking step through all inscriptions myself to make sure that I'm not just aping a falsifiable theory from some lazy author (see my growing Etruscan folder for more details on kooky errors I've found in books). This requires the bravery of suggesting better translations rather than sticking with the marketed status quo that isn't working.

There are many other hidden dilemmas here. One other issue is how to present the vocabulary. I found that organizing word variations under a single "Proto-Etruscan" standard was the most sane way to go, rather than listing each variant seperately. Such a standard would represent the earliest form of the word whether directly attested or not, arrived at by the existent data. This presents further issues in itself such as "What should this Proto-Etruscan standard look like?" and "What strict phonotactical rules should I follow to guide my standard properly?"

I was inspired to do this in part because of what appears to be really pitiful information online on the subject, typically represented by sites like Rick McCallister's Etruscan Glossary. Of course, the well-intentioned McCallister expended a lot of commendable effort to do this many years back but it unfortunately illustrates how an author or webmaster with a relativistic philosophy that "any theory is just as good as any other" wastes his or her effort by not taking up the responsibility of knowing the subject well enough to competently sift through the nonsense oneself. Instead that onus is unfairly placed on the fact-seeking reader, the very person that depends on better informed people to learn from!

The results of McCallister's fear of academic commitment are exactly what are to be expected: a big long list of completely self-contradictory gobbleygook. Everything from early 20th-century Nostraticists to bona fide crackpots and amateurish hypotheses expressed by random people online. Busy people just don't have enough time in the day to piece it all together.

So I hope that everyone enjoys this Borg-like data-collecting project of mine and if you have suggestions or encounter pdf problems, don't hesitate to share your comment! Thanks.

For updates on Draft 001, click the link at the top of the page, or simply click here.

24 Aug 2007

The Etruscan afterlife is scary... only in Hollywood

And all this time, I thought Etruscans didn't have sexy marketing appeal. Recently, I ended up learning something new. Not necessarily something useful, but something new. I recently discovered that a surprising number of filmmakers over the decades have tried sincerely to make their big break in bloody horror films by capitalizing on the "mystery" of our lovable ancient people as a perfect reason to hack up body parts on the big screen. I learned this from the Eternally Cool blog and I have to agree: We need an Etruscan film festival. I'll get the snacks but bring your own booze.

The image above is selected from a funerary painting in the Tomb of François. Scenes like this continue to be misinterpreted by both experts and laymen alike as proof that Etruscans were brutal, blood-thirsty people or that their conception of the afterlife was somehow depressing and scary. Yet considering the sheer volume of human blood spilled during the Crusades and the innumerable depictions from faithful artists over the more recent centuries covering the topic of Purgatory and Damnation, we would have a much stronger case of saying this about Catholics. (And the scary thing is, while the Etruscans are long gone, the Catholics are still among us... [cue creepy music]...)

The real reason for these bloody paintings can be read in Etruscan Myths (2006) by Etruscologist Larissa Bonfante and her British Museum curator sidekick named Judith Swaddling. Therein, it is explained that in place of ritual animal sacrifice, which would occur in solemn occasions such as this, a visual depiction of blood-spilling was just as holy as an offering for bribing the powers of the underworld into protecting their loved ones. Greeks also used this visual device as a form of protection (e.g. "The Evil Eye") and considering the tight economic and cultural ties between these two peoples, it's natural that Etruscans were doing the same thing. However, what Bonfante says is not groundbreaking because I discovered that the topic of apotrope in Etruscan art was already published in 1977 by the Folklore Society. As you can see, progress in Etruscan studies is glacially slow and frustrated at every turn by a sea of dim-witted scholars which I will talk about below.

Part of our ignorance on Etruscan religion lies in the very wording used to describe some deities in the Etruscan pantheon which are in the end relics of Christian religiocentrism as it existed in North America and Europe in the 19th century. There are few other deities so consistently distorted as the god Charun who, even in modern times, continues to be mischaracterized as a "demon", "death-demon" or even more ignorantly as "monster". You'd expect this emotional rhetoric from loons on the street or independent scholars perhaps, yet the very people pushing this spin are in fact supported by famous university publishers thereby adding weight to their pop-history rhetoric in the minds of the many unquestioning readers who are surprisingly impressed by this sort of empty backing: Louisa Banti, Etruscan Cities and Their Culture (University of California, 1973); Herbert Hoffmann, Sotades: Symbols of Immortality on Greek Vases (Oxford University Press, 1997); Charles Gates; Nancy De Grummond & Erika Simon, The Religion of the Etruscans (University of Texas Press, 2006).

Imagine an Egyptologist, as an example, who publishes a like-worded book today and in it has enough bold ignorance to distort Osiris into a "blue death-demon" or describe the jackal-headed Anubis who also is present in afterlife scenes as "monstrous" simply because of his surreal, anthropomorphic representation and sharp, canine teeth. Worse yet, imagine some would-be expert describing a modern polytheistic religion in this careless manner. A parallel sentence to what we often find in books on Etruscan religion would be something nonsensical like "Ganesha is a hideous, half-elephant-half-man death-demon who chops the deceased with his trusty axe and spears them with his menacing trident." Now imagine how long such a fool's university career might last or how many angry letters they deservedly will receive. Yet when we compare this absurd hypothetical situation to the actual and equally absurd vacuousness printed in page 13 of Death and Burial in the Roman World, by Jocelyn Mary & Catherine Toynbee of John Hopkins University, we might ponder on how low the bar is in Etruscan studies.

Now that my rant is done, let's watch the cheap movie!

22 Aug 2007

More on Etruscan-Rhaetic relationship

When I posted Rhaetic and its relationship to Etruscan, I got exactly the response I expected: idle skepticism for skepticism's sake. While I can't force people to read about an obscure subject, I can still be active in expressing innovative ideas reinforced by a network of references for the benefit of those that want to read about it. I believe fresh thought and data cross-referencing is a way to smash through digital-age ignorance and to encourage scientific attitudes in a new era of deduction-based "original research". [1] It seems that the usual tidbits of information on the Rhaetic language that manage to sift through to the general public are often muddled and outdated by at least several decades. The Wikipedia Rhaetic article is uninformative. So much for the power of "common knowledge". At least they acknowledge a close relationship of Rhaetic to Etruscan because this is in fact the expert view.

If you doubt that fact, there's no sense in shaking your fist in defiance. Empower yourself by getting informed. Do a quick search on Google Books, for example. I managed to locate this important quote from Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, p.192:
  • "I admit that -ke or -χe in the Raetic tinaχe, θinaχe, θinake is probably identical with the Etruscan preterite ending -ce, -χe, but not in φeχe, where Kretschmer and others agree that we have a proper name [...]"
What's amazing about it is that in contrast to the "common knowledge" online, this wasn't written last year or last decade but exactly 70 years ago (in 1937). As expected however, it's nowhere to be seen on Wikipedia or other overhyped, anthill digipedias. So we can see both that the Digital Age is failing us (by way of our own mental passivity) and that the linguistic relationship between Etruscan and Rhaetic has a very long academic history worth reading about (in physical books, offline... Wake up, Neo...).

There's even more to read here in Reallexikon der germanischen Altertumskunde (2001), p.365:

  • "Names, I-formulations, and invocations are early textual forms in Etruscan, but also in related, textually more primitive, languages such as Rhaetic. Helmut Rix has found and defined structures similar in Etruscan and in Rhaetic namely expressions in which words in an oblique case defined by him as the perternitive case, on -ale or -si, are linked to a word with a predicate form ending in -ku. Rix defines the latter as perfect-like passive verbal nouns building upon an active form on -ke, thus zina-ke 'has produced' and zina-k-u 'is produced'. Rix, therefore, can point to a complete formal agreement between Etruscan: mi zinaku Larθuza-le Kuleniie-si - 'I (am) produced by Larthuza Kulenie', and Rhaetic: Lasp-si elu-ku Pitam-nu-ale - '(am/is) dedicated by Laspa, the son of Pitame'. The similarities between Etruscan and Rhaetic are essential while, among others, the Rhaetic alphabets are possible sources of inspiration for the runes inasmuch as Rhaetic inscriptions are known from the beginning of our era." (Bolded emphasis of select points are mine.)" [2]
These are exactly the kinds of grammatical links I pointed out in my previous post. Great minds must think alike. Helmut Rix who made worthy contributions towards our understanding of the Etruscan language shows keen reasoning in deciphering these Rhaetic inscriptions as well. Frankly, I would be unimpressed by any Etruscologist who couldn't at least partially read Rhaetic because the similarities are so glaring to me that there is no excuse to feign ignorance.

Those who wish to deconstruct all this evidence of an Etrusco-Rhaetic relationship as 'coincidence' need to address these above facts and references with something more substantial than existentialist philosophy, extremist skepticism or personal feelings.

[1] On Wikipedia, the term "original research" is misused and in orwellian fashion warped into a pejorative meaning, conveying "unreliability", as if to say that books or Wikipedia itself is 100% reliable. And how then do Wikipedians define their supposedly more appealing "unoriginal research"? Obviously if original research is unreliable (unless published by traditional means), then say goodbye to science and progress as we know it and say hello to Dilbert-like bureaucracy. Reject dogmatic digimaoism and strengthen your individual self-sufficiency.
[2] The term 'I-formulation' refers to phrases in classical inscriptions consisting of "I am the [votive object] of [deceased recipient]", such as those using 1ps pronoun mi in Etruscan or those in Faliscan with 1ps pronoun eco. To add to the Rhaetic example presented by Rix, the term eluku is directly related to the Etruscan passive aliqu "given" (from TLE 27) formed from the verb al which is fully attested in a myriad of other well-understood grammatical inflections: al-c [LL 8.xxiii] (inf.) // ale [LL 7.iv; TLE 615] (pret.) // alike [TLE 26], alice [TLE 295], alce [TLE 777] (perf.pret.) . Since the meaning is grammatically correct and semantically apt in the context of the Rhaetic inscription above, we have yet further ironclad proof of genetic affiliation between the two languages.

20 Aug 2007

More on thematic vowels and the voicing of Pre-IE word-final *-s

I received a very intriguing comment from Chris Miller under my previous post the other day. (His full comments can be see under Pre-IE alternating thematic vowels.) I felt that it deserved to be talked about with another blog entry since this is a complex topic. He offers a clever alternative view of things:

"Based on the data you give in your entry, I think there might be an alternative explanation, again phonetically based, albeit slightly more complex. I notice that in the data you give, /o/ appears before three kinds of consonants:
  • 1) h2 (the "a-coloring" laryngeal, often hypothesized to be a pharyngeal)
  • 2) r
  • 3) nasals m and n.
It so happens that all three of these classes of consonants often have the effect of lowering adjacent vowels cross-linguistically. [...] It should be useful to follow up this hypothesis and compare it to your original voicing-based hypothesis. "

Excellent idea. Be careful what you wish for, hehe.

I already attributed in the previous post the subjunctive 1ps *-oh₂ to an earlier Pre-IE subjunctive 1ps in *-om which, because of the semantics of certainty/uncertainty, acquired the so-called "perfect" ending. I remind everyone that only the 1ps acquired the perfect ending so it's an interesting oddity that I felt needed explanation. Also, in this period of time, the perfect would have been also doubling as a mediopassive. IEists already blame the perfect for the origin of the mediopassive so this isn't a stretch[1]. To boot, the matter of the subjunctive 1ps ending might tie in with the origin and dating of the pronoun *egoh₂ (see The origin of Indo-European ego). However, there is an added reason for my choices. Wherever else we find word-final *-h₂ with a preceding vowel, that vowel is invariably *e (pronounced [a] due to vowel colouring), and never *o. Note the ancient "animate collective" suffix *-eh₂, later becoming feminine in most but not all IE languages.

The *o in the lonely subjunctive 1ps is really a case that sticks out like a sore thumb and cries out for a special explanation as I have provided it, whereby an original *-om explains *o by way of a following voiced *m just as we find in the 1pp, *-o-mes. The co-existence of both 1ps subjunctive *-oh₂ and nominal ending *-eh₂ shows that pharyngeals aren't any better at explaining thematic vowels.

Then there is the matter of word-final *-s in Pre-IE. To me, Szemerenyi's Law suggests that in order for *-s to have disappeared the way it did (e.g. Pre-IE *dʰǵʰom-s > PIE *dʰǵʰōm, nominative form of "earth"), it would have to have been voiced. A voiced word-final allophone [z] following a voiced resonant would be far less salient and would be especially prone to erosion over and above a voiceless [s]. Immediately following vowels, *-s apparently was preserved (as in *n̥mr̥tos). The genitive demonstrative *tesyo "of that" (from the stem *to-) shows me that *s had always been voiceless in medial position, and *tod (inanimate nomino-accusative form) shows me that *-d was voiced during this Pre-IE period when alternation in thematic vowels first arose.

While the pair *tesyo/*tod can be explained by my voicing theory, pharyngeals simply cannot explain it.

Now, I didn't mention the voicing of word-final *-s in my previous post because it would only obfuscate the larger pattern I wanted to discuss. Afterall, an inquisitive mind might hit upon seeming contradictions in my own theory:
1. If *-s were voiced at the time, why don't we see 2ps non-indicative **bʰeros instead of *bʰeres then? (Because *bʰeresi reinforced *e in *bʰeres by simple analogy.)

2. If *-s were voiced at the time, why plural *-es instead of **-os? (Because of the PIE speaker's need to keep athematic nominative plural *-es distinct from singular nominative thematic *-o-s and there might have been already a distinction between Pre-IE *-es and *-əs. Keeping singular/plural contrast was at stake.)

[1] Originally proposed as far back as 1932 by both Kurylowicz (note Filip Baldi, The Foundations of Latin, p.364) and Stang. Further information on the similarities and relationship of the perfect and mediopassive conjugations may be gleaned from Benjamin Fortson's Indo-European Language and Culture, 2004 on p.93.

19 Aug 2007

Old Japanese Pronouns

All I do is search, search, search. Here's another link that somebody might appreciate:
It's not just about Old Japanese but also talks about reconstructed Proto-Japanese. Now we can get to know a great deal more about the good people who brought us Godzilla, electronics and the tasty but nasally dangerous condiment called wasabi that I can't seem to resist.

17 Aug 2007

Problems with Etruscan inscription TLE 890 (or with Etruscologists)

Just so we're on the same page, I thought it would be kind to display a photo of TLE 890 since it seems that most Etruscologists like to hide these clear photos of inscriptions. The text is read from right to left and spells out the following:
  1. felsnas : la : leθes
  2. svalce : avil CVI
  3. murce : capue
  4. tleχe : hanipaluscle

There was a larger purpose to my rant on Enclitics and Noun Phrases in Etruscan and I'm just itching to test my new theory out on this inscription. So let's go for a ride.

We know that La in the first line is an abbreviation for the male praenomen Larth. Larissa Bonfante claims it translates as "Felsnas, son of Larth Lethe lived 106 years. (He) lived at Capua. (He) was enrolled in the army of Hannibal". Try for now to put out of your mind the astonishing fact that this man is actually inscribed to have lived to the ripe old age of 106 in pre-industrial times and how this puts your state of health to shame. We can see full well at the end of the second line the three numerals for CVI. (Note that the scribe wrote an ancient variant of upside-down upsilon for "five" which is attested elsewhere in Etruscan.) Yep, apparently he was 106... or maybe his community just lost count.

Now, let me warn readers that the last translated sentence which I mark in red is entirely mangled beyond recognition by Bonfante. One hint of her error in judgement is the consideration that if tleχe really meant "in the army", the use of the simple locative -e to convey "in" is not justified by attested examples elsewhere. The locative normally is equivalent to English "by", "at", "with" or "on". When one says "he is in the army" one is not saying someone is physically "in" an army since an army is an abstract concept. One really means that someone belongs to a group called an army. The genitive case then would be more appropriate in Etruscan, which typically conveys ownership or relationship. Bonfante, not being a linguist, isn't the first expert we should be running to in order to explain the grammar of this inscription anyways but sadly, aside from Rix, there doesn't seem to be many options for the reader who wants to bypass the mysterymongers to get at the nutritious morsels of linguistic fact.

Let me also assure you that mur, which is attested a couple of times in the Liber Linteus document (LL 11.vi, viii), does not mean "to live" given all of its contexts and in fact in all likelihood means the very opposite, "to die". If you don't believe me, please ask yourself how this verb could have possibly built a word like murs "sarcophagus" (translated this way by Massimo Pallottino himself) which conveys the complete opposite of what it supposedly means. Obviously, this contradicts Pallottino's (and Bonfante's) published belief that mur means "to live" while supporting the complete opposite translation.

(Oh-oh. I smell a historical controversy coming on!)

But this simple two-plus-two revelation would lend a completely different interpretation to the sentence, starting with a necessary, grammar-based readjustment of the translation of Tleχe Hanipalus-cle as "during the *War* of Hannibal". Maybe classicists like Bonfante should be aware of things like, say... Latin, where the equivalent phrase, Bello Hannibalis, was also used a lot by Romans like my main man, Livy? Just a teensy thought. The use of the simple locative -e to specify a point in time is securely attested in the Liber Linteus (n.b. θesane "in the morning").

Yet, after we've finished dancing around a bonfire fueled by the red herrings in Bonfante's books and break free from our naive dependence on narrow specialists to define our world for us, we might finally come to an independent realization that for Larth to have died during the War of Hannibal, his death would have to be placed between 218 and 201 BCE, not his army enrollment - a century earlier than is widely published! In other words, he would have to have been born sometime between 324 and 307 BCE and could only have been fit for the army between 304 and 287 BCE.

Quite frankly I find this whole absurdity deliciously hilarious. I hope you do too. Don't forget to pay me royalties in case you decide to publish, hehe.

Or... maybe I'm crazy. But at least I'm thinking about these nagging details about Etruscan grammar. I'm old school. I believe that a translation should be consistently applied and should follow a clear grammatical model. If that methodology had been applied throughout the 20th century, there wouldn't be people claiming that Etruscans are a mystery today.

16 Aug 2007

Love is locative

Okay, this is probably less about historical linguistics and more to do with how a language with a long history might be evolving into something totally out-of-hand. I couldn't help but laugh at this news item from Beijing:

Makes you want to impose laws to prevent some people from having babies, doesn't it? Thank my friend, Amy Hui, for this news tip.