3 Sep 2010

A little note on Etruscan adjectives and case agreement

A helpful and interesting post by Michael Weiss is to be found at OHCGL Addenda and Corrigenda on the Tyrrheno-Italic name Numasio-. Now for the bad news. The following is more of a tiny quibbling on Etruscan grammar as I see it rather than a major fault but I must question the Italian translation given to the Etruscan inscription found at the bottom of his post which is printed thus:
mi mlac mlakas larθus elaivana araθia numasianas
'Io (sono) il buon/bel (vaso) oleario di Arath Numasiana per il buon Larthu.'
[English: 'I (am) the good (vessel) of oil of Arath Numasiana for the good Larthu.']
I hate to be a stickler for grammar (no wait... I love it!) but for anyone actively studying Etruscan inscriptions, seeing someone miss the common phrase mlac mlakas is glaring. This phrase is repeated in a few other Etruscan inscriptions (eg. ET Cr 2.33, 2.36) and has been compared already to nearly identical formulae in Faliscan (duenom duenas) and in Greek (καλος καλο) as published by Agostiniani (SE 49:1981). This nugget of fact easily shows that overlooking this formula while parsing a sequence mlakas Larθus out of this is nonsense. Such a sequence doesn't even mean 'for the good Larth(u)' but rather *'of the blessed of Larth'.

I object doubly against this translation because I know that Etruscan adjectives (putting aside numerals and such) never precede the noun, nor are they marked with case at all. In Etruscan, there simply is no case agreement between noun and trailing adjective like in neighbouring, unrelated Latin. 'For the good Larth' would be more competently translated into Etruscan as either *Larθus mlac (genitive of giving) or *Larθe-ri mlac (locative with postposition -ri 'for').

Reexamining the inscription above, it's more likely to be translated as follows:
Mi, mlac mlakas, Larθus elaivana Araθia Numasianas.
"I, blessed of the blessed, (am) Larth's oil-vessel with Arath Numasiana."
Notice that now we see that Arath Numasiana is the one in possession of the vessel (in the commitative case ending -a) whereas Larth, whose last name is unspecified, is merely the donor (in the genitive, denoting origin).


UPDATE
(03 September 2010) After just posting this, a clearer translation had come to me by simply moving the comma over, all still in keeping with my grammatical analysis above:

Mi, mlac mlakas Larθus, elaivana Araθia Numasianas.
"I, blessed of the blessed from Larth, (am an) oil-vessel with Arath Numasiana."

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