28 May 2010

Expanding the Etrusco-Lemnian primer

I've expanded my previously announced pdf to include not only my basic sketch of the Etrusco-Lemnian nominal declension but now also the pronouns and demonstratives as well. Sadly, no one has a clue as to what the plural pronouns were like and, as far as anyone knows, they aren't attested, so I'm restricted to the singular pronominal paradigm. Let's hope a happy-go-lucky farmer trips over a new Etruscan artifact with plural pronouns on it some day.

Anyways, lest I ramble on again, I've renamed my pdf Etrusco-Lemnian Declension and it's to be found in the Lingua Files section as always.

26 May 2010

Etruscan syntactic inversion

Etruscan word order can be confusing. Despite being clear overall that this language is of the accusative-type with a default SOV word order, I've noticed many times through the course of my studies that the verb sometimes likes to stray to the middle or even to the beginning of the sentence or clause just to confuse me. I haven't read anyone getting into detail about Etruscan word order and it sometimes feels like I'm the only one seriously studying this amazing language. I find no decent answers anywhere, to my frustration, so I guess we have to get our hands dirty and do this ourselves if we want to get it pieced together at all.

The only answer for this I can come up with is that this is some kind of "inversion" like that which occurs in languages like German and Dutch[1]. If so, there must be a "trigger" that causes the verb to push to the beginning before the subject and object as it does in two relative clauses of the Laris Pulena inscription (TLE 131). I've parsed the relevant sentence with some helpful modern punctuation as follows:
Χi-m, culsl leprnal,
pśl varχ-ti cerine pul alumnaθ, pul hermu huzrna-tre;
pśl tenine eprθnev-c meθlum-t pul hermu.
The two instances of pśl, I believe, are referring back to the genitive phrase culsl leparnal. In each of these relative clauses, we find the verb at the beginning, ahead of any unmarked nomino-accusative nouns. In the first clause, the preterite verb cerine precedes what may be two nouns, pul and alumnaθ. (I've abandoned the idea that pul is a relative pronoun declined in the type-II genitive, which should probably have been written *pl if it were so, because it causes too many structural and semantic difficulties in this passage.)

In the Cippus Perusinus, the phrase ipa ama hen 'that which is forth' might also suggest this same sort of "verb-forwarding". Afterall, if we understand hen to be an adverb, we might expect *ipa hen ama in a more well-behaved SOV language[2]. Again, we see verb-forwarding in the presence of the relative pronoun.

However, if the relative pronoun triggers word-order inversion, it doesn't appear to be a consistent rule since in TLE 27 we read:
[...] in-pein mler usi ateri.
Here, the verb ateri follows the object mler in a clause introduced by in-pein 'where, at which'.

[1] Odlin, Language transfer: Cross-linguistic influence in language learning (1989), p.94 (see link): "Studies of Dutch and German offer particularly intriguing examples of where word-order transfer can lead to different acquisition patterns. Both languages employ SOV in subordinate clauses and SVO in main clauses, although other main-clause word orders are possible under special circumstances."
[2] Bomhard/Kerns, The Nostratic macrofamily: A study in distant linguistic relationship (1994), p.161 (see link): "Thus, in a consistent SOV language, an attributive adjective or a genitive precedes its 'head' noun, an adverb precedes its adjective or verb, a noun precedes its case ending or postposition, [...]"

21 May 2010

Relative pronouns in Etruscan

A small commentbox coalition developed recently against my Etruscan translation concerning the Cippus Perusinus such that ipa in ipa ama hen agrees in case with its antecedent, tezan 'cippus'. I remain unmoved. Rather than honest criticism, the claims made were boldly exploiting unreferenced half-truths and exaggerating the importance of minutiae while, as always, cloaked in complete anonymity. A bullshitter exposes himself when he approaches the grammar of one language by sole appeal to another unrelated one. Etruscan isn't Latin; apples and oranges. I appreciate the comical absurdity of the attempt though.

Back to linguistics, it's beneficial to explain why their "issues", or what I like to call, "turds", are inane so that no sensible reader could be confused by my judgement calls. The first turd was their imaginary "language universal" such that relative pronouns are always declined according to their role in the subordinate clause and never by their role in the antecedent. The second turd was the general ignorance they had regarding Etruscan's relative pronoun ipa (and about the language as a whole, for that matter).

Concerning these imaginary universal case-agreement rules

Speaking globally, the choice of a relative pronoun's case is *not* necessarily bound to the subordinate clause alone, despite the persistent shouting from this normally silent group of persons. For example, on the grammar of Old English, Gotti/Dossena/Dury, English Historical Linguistics 2006: Syntax and morphology, v.1 (2008), p.11 explains that a relative pronoun may share with its antecedent "features for number and gender, and, optionally, for case". An example is:
Ic wat witodlice ðæt ge secað ðone hælend ðone ðe on rode ahangen wæs.
"I know truly that you seek the Lord (ACC.), who (ACC.) was hung on the cross."
If a relative pronoun was only about its relative clause, we should expect "who" to be declined in the nominative since it's the patientive subject of the participle formation, "was hung". Classical Greek also throws a curve now and then,[1] and same too for Arabic where the dual relative pronoun agrees with its antecedent in gender, number and *case*.[2]

Regarding Ancient Ugaritic, Roger Woodard publishes in The Ancient Languages of Syria-Palestine and Arabia (2008), p.31: "The relative pronoun agrees in gender and number with its antecedent; whether the case of the relative pronoun itself is decided by the case of the antecedent or by the function of the relative pronoun in its clause cannot be determined [...]" Even Woodard is unaware of this alleged "language universal" that I'm being harassed with.

There's no need to elaborate further. It's official: my commentbox hecklers are bored latchkey kids.

Etruscan relative pronouns (for real, this time)

If we're going to talk about Etruscan relative pronouns, let's talk about Etruscan relative pronouns. Not Latin ones, Greek ones or Esperanto ones. In Etruscan, there's no question that the relative pronoun is declined for case as are all known pronouns and demonstratives. In the Cippus Perusinus, ipa is certainly in the nominative case (matching corresponding nominatives ita 'that' and ica 'this') but the question is whether this pronoun's declined according to its role in the relative clause or its antecedent, tezan, which I give the value of 'cippus':
Sleleθ caru tezan fuśleri tesnś teiś Raśneś ipa ama hen.
I admit that this is tricky to assert based only on this (despite the fact that my translation is still grammatically valid and contextually sound) but if one is so certain that Etruscan relative pronouns somehow must behave like Latin ones, then I defy such narrow-minded armchair linguists to explain the following on Laris Pulena's sarcophagus (TLE 131):
Χim culsl leprnal pśl varχti cerine pul alumnaθ pul hermu huzrna-tre
Things aren't so simple. First off, we may wager that pśl is an unstressed type of pronoun because it's spelled without vowels just as postclitic demonstratives are (eg. cl 'of this', tś 'to that'). Second, this pronoun appears to be doubly marked which is normal for Etruscan and observed many times elsewhere. In fact, in a language like Etruscan proven to operate under Suffixaufnahme, in what way can we meaningfully avoid interpreting this sentence as a genitive case agreement between three consecutive elements that I've boldfaced in the above phrase (ie. culs-l leprna-l pś-l)? And if we can see this, then we can see that the role of the antecedent in Etruscan relative pronouns might actually be important.

For now, I've never ever seen a decent and complete translation of this artifact so we're in uncharted territory. However, here are some hints I can most securely offer: χi-m 'and next' and culsl 'of the gate'. Have fun pondering on that. As always, everyone is free to have opinions but may yours be only productive ones.

[1] Croy, A primer of Biblical Greek (1999), p.164 (see link) gives the following example:
ἀκούομεν τῶν λόγων ὤν ἡ θυγάτηρ σου λέγει
"We hear the words (GEN.PL.) which (GEN.PL.) your daughter speaks."
[2] Ryding, A reference grammar of Modern Standard Arabic (2005), p.323 (see link):
li-l-zawj-ayni llað-ayni ya-ntazˤir-āni ħadaθ-an saʕīd-an
"for the couple (OBL.DL.) who (OBL.DL.) are awaiting a happy event"

19 May 2010

Grammar of Etrusco-Lemnian nouns

Finally, I decided to put out a simple file on Etruscan grammar. I've just focused on nouns and it's not that extensive but I can work on it and improve it as time goes on. My grammatical outline differs slightly from the usual, particularly where the case in -is is concerned, often called an ablative case ending, but which I've found to be a directive case signifying direction toward something.

Anyways, the file has been uploaded to the Lingua Files section under Etrusco-Lemnian Nouns. Cheers!

(28 May 2010) As per a later entry, the pdf labeled Etrusco-Lemnian Nouns has now been expanded to Etrusco-Lemnian Declension.

16 May 2010

Ipa ama hen

I'm recently revisiting the Cippus Perusinus and the phrase ipa ama hen. I find myself driven to translate Etruscan on my own because the "translations" that others have published are constantly self-contradictory rubbish.[1] The grammatical outlines offered for Etruscan, like those of the Bonfantes, are undetailed too and, I believe, misleading to some extent. I suggest something radical. I suggest that Etruscan had a consistent grammar like any human language and that if somebody wants to translate a forgotten language badly enough they'll either get their hands dirty and seek out its structure (based on proper linguistics) or act like a crackpot by randomly translating sentences by whim with what may as well be a ouija board and dowsing rods. Translations made without showing their grammatical structure are worthless and a possible sign of someone conceitedly pulling the reader's leg, wasting their good time.

The word-by-word translation of ipa ama hen is itself very easy. Each of these words is found many times in other inscriptions and so their combined translation is undebatable as 'which is forth'. The first word is the relative pronoun ipa meaning '(he/she) who' or '(it) which', the second is the presentive form of am 'to be', and the third is an adverb meaning 'forth' or 'ahead'. The problem that was stumping me was not this phrase's translation per se but its exact semantic context in the larger inscription. Although the text has no punctuation aside from dots occasionally dividing up words, I'm able to parse this full sentence:

Sleleθ caru tezan fuśleri tesnś teiś Raśneś ipa ama hen.

Let's break this down by first identifying some of the easier words here. As I said, ipa ama hen means conclusively 'which is forth'. But Etruscanists are also generally aware that caru is a transitive participle meaning 'made'; tezan means 'cippus' (see Paleoglot: The Etruscan word 'tezan'); tesnś is a declined form of tesiam ~ tesian 'sacrifice'; teiś is the directive form of ta 'that, the'; and Raśneś is likewise the directive form of Raśna 'Etruria'. What's also interesting here is that tesnś teiś Raśneś must constitute a meaningful noun phrase in itself, with at least the last two words declined in the same directive case in -is (deceptively similar to the type-I genitive ending -(a)s). This hunch is luckily confirmed by the same phrase repeated further down in the inscription but entirely in locative forms instead: tesne Raśne cei.

Fleshing out the above sentence with these cross-correlated values and applying a consistent grammatical analysis to the rest, we end up with a decent partial translation:

Sleleθ caru tezan fuśleri tesnś teiś Raśneś ipa ama hen.
'In (a) slela (the) cippus (was) made for (the) fuśil of the sacrifice to [the] Etruria which is forth.'

Now perhaps you see what was stumping me: To what exactly does 'which is forth' refer? To the glory of Etruria? To the animal sacrifice? To the stone cippus on which it's written? What? Staring at the sentence for a while though, I realized that this can be answered very easily by noting that ipa is declined in the nominative case. If it were referring to either tesnś or teiś Raśneś, then we couldn't expect ipa but rather a non-nominative form such as *ipeś. We must match this pronoun with the grammatical subject of the sentence, which happens to be tezan 'cippus'.

This now entirely makes sense. It's simply the cippus 'which is forth'. The text, as is typical of classical inscriptions like this, is referring to itself. As a record of a ritual offering to the gods, this neatly inscribed stone slab would be positioned ahead of any reader who stumbles upon it. Of course, now, the artifact has been ripped from its original context and purpose, having originally been intended to permanently mark a sacred plot of land. The meaning of the rest of the words might then be elucidated by educated guesses: *slela = 'quarry' & *fuśil = 'record'.

[1] George Hempl translated ipa ama hen naper XII as 'By means of this pail portion out twelve wild boars.' (see link) while Ilse Nesbitt Jones exhibits modern lunacy with ipa ama hen naper XII = 'If (it) is at one with Offspring 12 [...]' in Five texts in Etruscan: early Gothic language of Tyrrhenians and ancient Jutes (2002), p.119 (see link).

13 May 2010

Google is officially random. (And yes, my blog is back...)

Today, possibly around noon or so, my blog was removed. It turns out that Blogger, owned by Google, decided that it was a neat idea to block access to my Gmail account and my blogger account at the same time, while also blocking everyone else's access to my blog that I've been faithfully contributing to for years. A damaging message was placed on it to the effect of "This blog has been removed." Obviously, it's not... now.

At the time all Google told me is that it was due to a "violation". Violation of what? From me? How on earth?? I maintain a mundane linguistics blog. How did this become too X-rated to handle all of a sudden? Sufficed to say, my heart dropped and I was completely floored that Google's system could really be this asinine. Yet it is. And it gets even more suspect as I was to soon discover.

I was given only two options to remedy the situation. The first thing I tried was to use their contact form. But let's face it. We all know that the Google Team would take their sweet time responding because I, you and everyone else is just a number in their overblown bureaucracy. By that point, all my readers would be completely gone and my blog effectively destroyed just by some retarded technicality. And keep in mind, Google was just not telling me what the "violation" was! Why the secret?

I was leery of the second option that Google provided. Supposedly, my account could be "immediately" unblocked if I simply provided them one teensy thing: my cellphone number. Excuse me? That's really getting personal. I don't hand my cellphone to everybody because I don't want jerks phoning me or advertisers harassing me with their wares. But Google had me by the balls and was essentially holding my blog and email account for randsome until I divulged my personal info which may or may not be compromised in the future. I caved in, shelled out the number, and magically, the block was lifted and my blog restored.


Checking into my gmail, I noticed a message in my account that I never wrote. Now I had the disturbing answer. Apparently some jackass hacker from Russia had cracked into Google's servers and used numerous accounts just to spam some stupid site of theirs to each victim's contact emails. Swell! So basically, my worst fears realized: Google, not being able to keep my email, my blog account or even its own server secure now has my cellphone number to be abused too. Hooray!

I'm so turned off with Google at this point, I mean war. I'm thinking of ways to wean myself off of Google products quickly and Wordpress is looking good now. I'll be looking into that shortly. I expect better handling of the problem than this from a legitimate "service" but it seems that nowdays "service" has become a jaded term designating its complete opposite. Freedom is slavery; war is peace; service is random.

The hidden one

In his Glossai, we attribute Hesychius to writing that Γέλχανος (Gélchanos) was the name of Zeus on Crete (ὁ Ζεύς, παρὰ Κρησίν) and Ἐλχάνιος (Elchánios), the name of a month in the Cretan city of Knossos.[1] Further we read that Velchania was a Cretan spring festival in honour of the god, mentioned in inscriptions from Lyttos and Gortyn.[2] Understanding the initial gamma of Γέλχανος as a subtle typo for digamma, thus *Ϝέλχανος (Wélchanos), there's a common theme in all of this: a Pre-Greek Cretan god named *Welkʰan. This god is in turn surely related to Etruscan *Velχan which is already accepted by Etruscan specialists to be the unattested source of the Latin name Vulcānus, also of non-Indo-European origin.

If the inherently imprecise comparisons between *Welkʰan and Greek Zeus are based only on a prominent position in the pantheon, and if we already have evidence of an Etruscan solar trinity, the identity of this god and his meaning becomes clear. *Welkʰan appears to be just another name for an aspect of the sun as it passes through the underworld at night. He is then also symbolic of the hope of afterlife and of the sun's re-emergence out of winter's darkness in the spring. This explains the spring festival in his honour and also implies that in Classical Greek times, Pelasgian solar cults and an underlying trinity were still alive and well in Crete, just as in Etruria. Note also the names of Egyptian Amon, the god of the setting sun, and Greek Hades, lord of the underworld, which both fundamentally mean "the Hidden One" or "the Unseen One".

[1] Perseus Online: ϝέλχανος and Γελχάνος; Flensted-Jensen/Hansen/Nielsen/Rubinstein, Polis & politics: Studies in ancient Greek history (2000), p.88 (see link): "The remaining three month names are Welchanios (I.Cret.IV 3.1; 184.3), Eleusinios (I.Cret.IV 232 + Inv. GO 352; Magnelli [1998]), and Ionios (I.Cret.IV 181.3). Welchanos appears to have been an indigenous Cretan (perhaps Minoan?) god who was later identified with Zeus (Hesych. s.v. Γέλχανος; Willetts [1962] 250-251; Capdeville [1995] 155-288)." (boldface mine)
[2] Dietrich, The origins of Greek religion (1974), p.16 (see link).

10 May 2010

A Minoan word for red dye

Here's an interesting set of reflexes for discussion. It hints at yet another Wanderwort possibly eminating out of Minoan Crete regarding materials used for red dye:
The second syllable of the Hittite form alternates between -i- and -a- and the internal stop is sometimes written out in the script as -t- (/d/) or -tt- (//). Its large variation in spelling might hint at a post-Proto-Anatolian borrowing. The Mycenaean reflex is attested in a feminine adjective spelled out in Linear B as mi-to-we-sa 'red-painted' and combined with later Classical Greek μίλτος points to the root *milto-. The vocalism of the Egyptian word is unattested due to the nature of its script but if we reconstruct *mīnašat, it agrees better with the Hittite and Mycenaean material while still resembling the Latin reflex enough to pursue this hypothetical relationship further. Finally, it's impossible for Latin to have acquired a Minoan word directly but if Etruscan brought related cognates to Latin, we have here a full package of evidence pointing to a general Aegean word describing minerals used for bright red or red-orange dye. Given the ambivalence of the exact mineral, we might surmise that it was the colour that was most important in the word's semantics and not the chemical structure (something the ancients could hardly know about anyway). Thus, whether red lead (Pb₃O₄) or red ochre (Fe₂O₃), the word must have described any mineral which could be used to make bright-red or red-orange dye.

Now if we accept that there is a Minoan word here, what is its likeliest form? This has got me thinking hard and long because while there appears to be a relationship between the above words, finding a common etymon behind them all is tricky. For me, Hittite, Egyptian and Mycenaean all point to a general structure of *miN(T)- (N = resonant, T = coronal). The Latin word, which we might assume is from Etruscan, strangely doesn't reflect the expected coronal. At this point, it's understandable that one might decide to abandon this idea altogether due to a lack of consistency. However, for the sake of brainstorming, I thought of one elaborate possibility.

Let's suppose that there was an Aegean root *minyu 'red-orange mineral dye'. From this, let's also suppose that Minoan added an optional suffix *-zo (cf. Etruscan diminutive *-za), thus Minoan *mĩyuzo. This can then yield all of the Hittite, Egyptian and Mycenaean reflexes at once. In Etruscan however, inherited *miniu, without suffix, would yield Latin minium 'red lead'. Now we just might be able to explain this whole package of possible substrate. Maybe outlandish but it was worth a shot.

7 May 2010

Against the *dkmtóm camp

Some Indoeuropeanists reconstruct *-dḱomt- '-ty' and *dḱm̥tóm '100' instead of simply *-ḱomt- and *ḱm̥tóm by analogy with *déḱm̥ '10'. While superficially seductive, there are some good reasons against this.

No evidence for **d in *ḱomt-/*ḱm̥t- whatsoever

This elusive **d has never been directly attested in any Indo-European (IE) cognate of the higher decads, despite there being a plethora of languages to choose from. A lack of proof is enough to dismiss claims by simple Occam's Razor and burden of proof. Yet some scholars persist putting **d- in *-ḱomt- and *ḱm̥tóm, with or without parentheses, before bearing evidence that directly demonstrates this phoneme in these stems, showing that there continues to be a widespread disregard for linguistic methodology and due process in PIE studies.

Laryngeal switcheroo

Since this **d fails inspection, some resort to an alternative *h₁ to account for lengthening in Greek and Latin decadic compounds. Frederik Kortlandt goes so far as to assume that *h₁ (as /ʔ/) comes from earlier **ˀd which he describes as both "preglottalic" and "implosive" interchangeably without anything but circumstantial evidence. He imposes this same change in word-initial position and traces them to original ejectives as per Glottalic Theory[1] (ie. *tʼḱm̥tóm > *ˀdḱm̥tóm > *(ʔ)ḱm̥tóm). I find this implausible and unnecessary[2] and I have already settled on laryngealization (ie. creaky phonation), with derivative word-internal pre-laryngealization, as a superior alternative to wholesale preglottalization in all environments. Both the change of word-initial ejective to preglottalized voiced stop and the ad hoc reduction of *ˀd to here, further compounded by his claim that this laryngeal then explains -e- in Greek hekaton '100'[3], are a series of exotic and contrived fabrications.

Yet even if one wishes to defend **d in a Pre-IE reconstruction, it nonetheless has no business being in a valid root of Indo-European proper. Pushing it to Pre-IE, however, doesn't let the theorist off the hook either. Justification must still be demanded.

Must the vanishing *d be a phonetic phenomenon?

Before any of these considerations, it's presumptious to immediately think that *déḱm̥ and *ḱomt-/*ḱm̥t- must be built on exactly the same stem. A poignant example is Proto-Austronesian (PAN) *sa-puluq 'ten' or literally 'one-ten', built on *esa 'one' and *-puluq 'ten; -ty'. In higher decads, *sa- is naturally replaced by other numbers (cf. *duSa-puluq '20; two tens'). Oddly, this reflects best the actual PIE pattern observed in higher decads where *d- seems to be likewise omitted. Must the disappearance be phonetic instead of morphological? There's no evidence thus far published to support that assumption - the proposed phonetic changes fail miserably and further we have parallel PAN evidence to support a morphological cause.

A solution

Rather than indulging in unnecessary assumptions, let's take the unexpected lack of *d in higher PIE decads as a done deal. Let's also reject simplistic solutions involving a ubiquitous deus ex machina like *h₁. Let's instead acknowledge the obvious that number systems are unlikely to evade analogical levelling over the course of millennia. Instead of taking the lengthening in 30 to 90 at face value as a Proto-Indo-European feature, we accept that the overall PIE data is ambiguous to lengthening and that there are later changes at work.

To go with this topic, I've created my own pdf and placed the link on my Lingua Files page showing how I personally would reconstruct the Indo-European number system. As you can see, my view looks a lot like had been originally reconstructed before idle speculation got the better of IEists by the latter half of the 20th century.

We may blame the lengthening in the Greek and Latin decads on analogy between '30'/'40' and the rest of the decads that originally could not have produced such lengthening. The ultimate source of lengthening? Concatenated neuter forms of '3' and '4' marked with the collective marker, *-h₂, that originally quantified a neuter stem *ḱómt-. Note that the numbers 5 to 9 were unmarked for case and therefore are bare. Once fossilized in '30' and '40' and once laryngeals gave way to compensatory lengthening, the decads from 50 to 90 were prone to analogical lengthening. Latin shows intervening -ā- (eg. quīnqu-ā-gintā) in these stems while Greek shows -ē- (eg. πεντ-ή-κοντα), clearly showing different post-IE strategies employed to normalize obscured decadic terms.

[1] Kortlandt, Baltica & Balto-Slavica (2009), p.68 (see link): "In my view, the original PIE ejectives developed into implosives in all branches except Anatolian and Tocharian, and show traces of glottalization and/or partial merger with the laryngeals in Germanic, Italic, Greek, Armenian, Indo-Iranian, and Balto-Slavic."; Evidence and counter-evidence: Essays in honour of Frederik Kortlandt (2008), p.417 (see link): "In a number of papers Kortlandt (1988a, b; 2000; 2003) has suggested that the ejectives that both he and I reconstruct for Proto-Indo-European changed into preglottalised stops in Proto-Germanic before they became plain voiceless stops in the individual daughter languages."
[2] Fallon speaks against the proposed Germanic change in The synchronic and diachronic phonology of ejectives (2002), p.283 (see link); Doubts are also offered in The new sound of Indo-European: Essays in phonological reconstruction (1989), p.218 (see link).
[3] Venneman, The new sound of Indo-European: Essays in phonological reconstruction (1989), p.28 (see link). Kortlandt's offer solves nothing since **h₁ḱm̥tóm alone can only supply Greek *ekatón (missing h-) while **sm̥-h₁ḱm̥tóm would produce even worse results: *smākatón!

4 May 2010

New pdf on Indo-European verbs

I've put up a new pdf in my Lingua Files section on my views about Proto-Indo-European (PIE) verbal inflection. This pdf is a culmination of many of the posts I've already pushed out on this blog.

As a recap, I had come to a couple of major revelations on PIE that diverge from the "mainstream" but problematic view:
One: The unlikely phonological system can finally be rationalized by turning palatal stops to plain ones and plain stops to uvular ones while shifting phonation to a contrast between creaky and plain voice rather than plain versus breathy.

Two: The traditional "present-aorist-perfect" verb model (which is notorious for being an inadequate model representative only of a post-IE stage) can be reworked into an earlier two-dimensional system of subjective/objective versus progressive/non-progressive to now explain why Anatolian & Tocharian verbs behave so differently.
Now, I use the term progressive to specifically refer only to an affirmative, ongoing action in the realis mood while non-progressive covers everything else, including negative actions regardless of aspect or tense. I've modeled this system partly on what I know of the pecularities of the Mandarin verb which is also tenseless.

This makes for a very different PIE but these drastic changes are unavoidable if we are to solve some problems that have thus far gone unsolved. I've dared to theorize, if anything, for the sake of my own personal understanding and exploration, but hopefully my summary will also help anyone else interested to understand at a glance what I'm getting at and/or inspire others to blog their own insights and innovative solutions.

2 May 2010

Manly goats

I don't mean to be lewd, although it's an irresistible temptation of sinful pleasure, but it was Mallory and Adams in Encyclopedia of Indo-European culture (1997) that wrote that *kápro- 'goat', from whence Latin caper, is built on the word for 'penis', *kápṛ.[1] This is an old tired line mentioned too by Julius Pokorny. Seemingly the endowment of goats left quite a large impression on the ancient world. Or is it only a post-Freud obsession? Greek assigns a different quadriped to its allegedly related word κάπρος, 'wild boar'. The only perceivable similarities between a goat and a boar are their hooves and general mammalian air but several scholars want us to believe that the majormost commonality is their respective external organs. How might we touch upon this odd penchant to name animals based on reproductive parts of the body and how might we avoid possible blindness in doing so?

The Ancient Greeks were conscious of the enticing difference in meaning between their word and the similar one in Italy. Hesychius glossed the word κάπρα describing it as 'goat' and he assigned it to the "Tyrrhenian" language (ie. Etruscan). Surely he was alluding to Latin caper and made a mistake in judgement, perhaps based in turn on his own erroneous sources. Or was it really a mistake? Maybe we have it all wrong. Maybe this is another case of mistaken identity and Indo-European bias in the field of etymology. Maybe this is really an Etruscan word that was exported to surrounding IE languages of Western Europe and just maybe there is no such stem *kapro- or penis-based animal terms here at all.

As with so many other dubious roots slopped into Mallory & Adams' EIEC, this one begs to be investigated more closely. For starters, they find it difficult to explain the Celtic reflexes that curiously would point to an Indo-European *g- instead of *k- and in order to protect their reconstruction, they point to possible contamination with a similar PIE animal root. However, if we follow instead Hesychius' testimony, the irregular Celtic reflexes can be perfectly explained through borrowing from the implied Etruscan etymon *capra with its unaspirated [k-]. To the foreign Celtic ear, it could very well sound more like their [g-] than their [kʰ-] did since their plosive contrast was one primarily of voice, not of aspiration as among the Etruscans.

This would really make sense and go with Hesychius' testimony but for one thing, the inclusion of Iranian data like Modern Persian kahra- 'kid', Auramani kawrā 'sheep', Saka Khotanese kaura-, kám̥ra- 'sheep' which has been attributed to a Proto-Iranian reconstruction, *kafra-. Note a complete lack of Indic reflexes situated anywhere to the east. Does this Iranian evidence, much of which is obscure, honestly give us reason to reconstruct a PIE root? Has it been shown that these words are not just borrowings? I'll have to examine this more later and try to solve my own questions. This doesn't seem to be a simple affair.

[1] Mallory/Adams, Encyclopedia of Indo-European culture (1997), p.229: *kápros 'he-goat (male Capra hircus)' (see link).