Here's a seemingly simple question: How do you pronounce Egyptian rw 'lion'? Coptic has laboi 'lioness' and isn't a direct descendent of rw; it can't guide us. William Albright had suggested a pronunciation *ruw based on very little. To help us backtrack, we have additional data from surrounding languages and language groups and it all shows that this word travelled far and wide across the seas.
- Indo-European: Greek λέων, Latin leō.
- Semitic: Akkadian aria, Hebrew arī.
- Aegean: Etruscan leu.
- Egyptian: rw.
So the hypothesis I've held onto for a while, is that leu could be inherited, thereby indicating earlier Proto-Aegean *lau, assuming a raising of Old Etruscan a to e before resonants, as with Old Etruscan clan 'son' > Late Etruscan clen. With the direct antecedent of Etruscan in Lydia, an Egyptian source for this word is the only thing sensible.
However, I'm beginning to ponder a more extensive idea - perhaps it's not so much Proto-Aegean *lau as *liwa. Then Etruscan leu is the result of an aforementioned Cyprian Syncope as well as the lowering of i to e. This also better explains the god mentioned in the Aleksandu Treaty, Apaliunas, whose complex name defies attempts at etymology although it's the stuff of long essays by overspecialized Hittitists.
As far as I'm concerned, Apaliunas is only understandable in Aegean terms and grammar. With the new reconstruction above we have: *apa 'father' (cf. Etruscan apa 'father') + *liwa-na 'leonine, of lions, lion-like' < *Apa-Liwana 'Lion Father'. This is apt for a sun god who would later become Greek Apollon. Unlike my former root *lau, this new form accounts more directly for the -i- in Apaliunas.
Yet there's perhaps another bonus. It's finally dawned on me that while the lion is a common sun symbol in the 2nd and 1st millennia BCE, the Egyptian language holds the key to it through simple word pun. Based on the ideogram value r` and Coptic rē, the word for 'sun' was undoubtedly once *rīʕa. The consonantal value for 'lion' is known to be rw but its vowels are harder to reconstruct because the word has not survived into Coptic times. Since I know Egyptian scribes couldn't resist good puns, I wonder if the sun was associated with lion for the simple reason that the two words shared the same vocalic matrix. Could the word then have been *rīwa? A pun between *rīʕa and *rīwa could clarify a lot.
The Semitic reflexes too seem to justify this Egyptian reconstruction since they reflect *ʔarīwu ~ *ʔarīyu. The -y- also replaces expected -w-, a typical preference of North-West Semitic languages. Glück published this very assessment. I'm sure this word is yet another Egyptian loan. The only problem is the prothetic vowel. Where is it from? The obvious answer would be from Egyptian. And so, we might want to tweak *rīwa to *arīwa. (The stress accent remains on the long vowel.)
If Egyptian contains this "prothetic vowel", should we then consider Aegean *alíwa instead of *liwa? Does this still work? Apparently so. As I said before, unstressed initial *a- is regularly dropped in Etruscan. An *Apa-Alíwana manages to keep aligned to Luwian Apaliunas. Regardless, I figure that Greek λέων must be somehow based on Minoan *(a)líwa.