13 Dec 2011

Those who clutch on to the past have no future

"You can't rehabilitate shoehorn freaks like GG," blurts Douglas Kilday about me on Cybalist, a Yahoogroups forum originally devoted to Indo-European linguistics before devolving into a depraved gathering of angry lunatics hurling invectives to malign intelligent debate. And to emphasize just how depraved many of these sorts are online, this remark apparently arose simply because of a perfectly valid reference I cited a whole ten years ago and which, to boot, I no longer even believe. I've moved on and evolved considerably since 2001, unlike some apparently. However I've discovered that this is part of Kilday's larger campaign of trolling to slander any online contributors that threaten his little basement-dwelling life.[1]

Kilday incites further: "Anyone familiar with the Etr. corpus will reject Gordon's /n/-genitive nonsense." Funny enough, the nonsense was published by Giuliano and Larissa Bonfante in 1983. It can't be "my" nonsense because I was all of 7 years old at the time! Indeed he may as well beat up a child to justify his drama-addiction because on page 70 of The Etruscan language: An introduction, it was verily alleged the following:
"There is also an archaic genitive in -n (-an, -un): so lautn: gen. lautun or lautn; puia: gen. puian."
Of course now I know that it's fabricated poppycock but that's a part of the learning process that some insecure people want to pretend they're beyond - that is, the process of trying something, getting it wrong, admitting it to oneself, and adapting accordingly. Some people get stuck at the first stage and never do a thing out of a crushing fear of failure. I suspect this is Kilday's more genuine issue.

There is no word *puian in Etruscan as we can now confirm online in Helmut Rix's Etruskische Texte. The closest form listed is puiam but this is composed of nomino-accusative puia plus phrasal conjunctive -m. It's one of several booboos they've published which give me the impression that the Bonfantes hadn't boned up on the linguistics side of their field before rushing to publish on it. I trust that in later versions of that book the claim of a genitive **-n in Etruscan was omitted, however little else had been updated after almost 20 years between the first and second editions. Their mistake is exacerbated by the fact that a published book is expected to be thoroughly thought-through before being printed and it can remain on library shelves for a very long time to misinform future readers, even several decades later.

I bring up this quote from the Bonfantes though because in a strange way it's comforting to know that even respected specialists can be fallible. It's comforting not through petty spite but because it reminds us that there's still so much knowledge for every one of us to discover and share with others openly. Once we get past our egos, that is.

[1] On Nostratic-L, Kilday concocted the claim, "it is quite clear that thesane cannot be a case-form of thesan," tripping over himself to provoke others with pompous pet theories and twisted strawman arguments despite Steinbauer and Pallottino maintaining exactly what he rejects. He forcibly mangles so much here that I really doubt his views are honest. Tellingly he cites no relevant references regarding his theory on thesan as a verb nor proffers a decent rationale in his favour. If it quacks like a duck...

7 Dec 2011

Looking into the eyes of the Iceman

Remember Ötzi the Iceman? He was that mummified man found back in 1991, ice-encased in the Alps somewhere around the border of Austria and Italy, having died some 5300 years ago at the age of approximately 45. Above is a reconstruction of his face.

I didn't know this until now but it turns out that not only can scientists figure out what supper he ate last, but they can even be reasonably certain of his eye colour thanks to genome analysis! They were brown, by the way. DNA analysis also reveals he had Lyme disease, was at risk of atherosclerosis, and of Ibero-Sardinian descent. Very fascinating stuff!

Sadly, genetics won't tell us what language he spoke but we can make some educated guesses nonetheless. Given the region, he might have spoken some Celtic or Italic dialect. On the other hand, could he have spoken Paleo-Sardinian or some other non-Indo-European language instead? We can never be sure; that's a possible option too. In case anyone is wondering though, given the millennium he died in, one thing is sure: he didn't speak an Etrusco-Rhaetic language since that population hadn't yet settled in Italy.

More information is found in this link: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/41782798/ns/technology_and_science-science/t/iceman-looks-tired-hes-years-old/

4 Dec 2011


Here's a funny little word in Greek: ψαμμακόσιοι (psammakósioi). It literally means 'sand-hundred', from ψάμμος 'sand' with the suffix for 'a hundred' attached. As you might have guessed, it conveys a huge uncountable sum. I love the mental imagery of that.