7 Jan 2011
In early December at Rasenna Blog, Rex Wallace, a published professor of the Classics Department faculty at the University of Massachusetts, contributed a clear photo of the new Lemnian artifact whose inscription I had mused on earlier. Wallace then insists that soromσ and aslaσ "are not s-gentives[sic] because they end in palatal fricatives". I feel this begs criticism.
Why assume this? The Etruscan san (ie. an M-like letter) represented *either* /s/ *or* /ʃ/ due to differing regional writing traditions in Italy as noted in Helmut Rix's must-have inscription catalogue Etruskische Texte. In early Greek too, san was pronounced /s/ since a separate esh-like phoneme was unavailable in the language. The 4-stroke sigma is nothing more than the san turned sideways and the Lemnians were surrounded by Greeks. In light of this, what does the mere co-existence of san and sigma suggest phonologically? Absolutely nothing. We don't know a priori which writing tradition the Lemnian san is based on. At face value, both /s/ and /ʃ/ could be possible values here. Yet it appears that Wallace's entire argument against analysing these lexemes as genitive forms rests entirely on his one narrow interpretation.
Worse still, it's a falsifiable interpretation. The Lemnos Stele consistently placed the 3-stroke sigma, not 4-stroke san, before /i/ in the dative ending -si. Surely we'd expect this -s- to be palatalized before a notoriously palatalizing vowel of all places! The two sigmas present in siasi only taunt Wallace's opinions further.
So this orthography must be backwards: the Lemnian 3-stroke sigma is /ʃ/ and the 4-stroke san is /s/. To the complete contrary, soromσ and aslaσ are indeed probable genitives, to be read more accurately as śurums and aślas.
 Speaking on Etruscan and its letter san, the late Giuliano Bonfante and his daughter Larissa note the self-evident graphic relationship between it and the modern Greek sigma in Bonfante/Bonfante, The Etruscan language: An introduction (2002), 2nd edition, p.62 (see link).