10 Jun 2010

Translating Etruscan zuci

After revisiting the noun zuci, I think I've settled on an uneventful translation of 'incense', for many reasons that I'll explain. Naturally its derivatives like zuciana and the verb root zuc- should likewise then revolve around incense and smoke.

My first reason, as always, concerns what fits the semantic context best. In this way, for example, the sentence Zea zucieneś ci aθumi-cś Afunaś penθna ama in the Cippus Perusinus (TLE 570) may mean '[They] light fire (zea) to [the] three incense-burners (zucieneś ci) for the sky (aθumi-cś) [and] for the Apuna [family] (Afunaś) who are underneath (penθna ama).' Also, on the Lead of Magliano (TLE 359), we find the short sentence towards the center of the spiral script: Eθ zuci am ar. This might be translated 'Herein () incense (zuci) is (am[a]) to be raised up (ar) (ie. to be burned).'

Beyond Etruscan however, I've recently discovered Hittite tuhhi- 'incense' and I'm starting to suspect that it has something to do with this. It's not the first evidence of Hittite substrate in Etruscan I've found and this could help date the word back to the 2nd millennium BCE, at a time when the ancestor of the Etruscan language was still in Asia Minor. Here, the replacement of word-medial -h- with a velar stop is what we'd expect of Aegean languages which bar this sound in these positions. The eventual change of Hittite's /t/ to Etruscan z (ie. /tʃ/) would be a matter of some sort of lenition (unless there's an additional hidden intermediary here).

This possible loanword is also interesting considering that we see the same Hittite word loaned into Ugaritic as dġṯ 'incense'[1] and that it has already been noted as a Mediterranean Wanderwort. The word gets around! As far as I've read so far, the Ugaritic word has no Semitic cognates and so this implies a vocalism of *duɣiθu, mirroring the Hittite nominative form tuhhis.

It's probably not the final word on this but I venture on to search for better translations.

[1] Margalit, The Ugaritic poem of Aqht: Text, translation, commentary (1989), p.446 (see link).

1 comment:

  1. This Wanderwort seems to have an Indo-European origin: *dhuh2- "to smoke". For starters, compare Latin "fumus" and Sanskrit "dhumá", both meaning "smoke". The Wiktionary for the Latin form has more on it: http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/fumus