22 Aug 2007

More on Etruscan-Rhaetic relationship

When I posted Rhaetic and its relationship to Etruscan, I got exactly the response I expected: idle skepticism for skepticism's sake. While I can't force people to read about an obscure subject, I can still be active in expressing innovative ideas reinforced by a network of references for the benefit of those that want to read about it. I believe fresh thought and data cross-referencing is a way to smash through digital-age ignorance and to encourage scientific attitudes in a new era of deduction-based "original research". [1] It seems that the usual tidbits of information on the Rhaetic language that manage to sift through to the general public are often muddled and outdated by at least several decades. The Wikipedia Rhaetic article is uninformative. So much for the power of "common knowledge". At least they acknowledge a close relationship of Rhaetic to Etruscan because this is in fact the expert view.

If you doubt that fact, there's no sense in shaking your fist in defiance. Empower yourself by getting informed. Do a quick search on Google Books, for example. I managed to locate this important quote from Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, p.192:
  • "I admit that -ke or -χe in the Raetic tinaχe, θinaχe, θinake is probably identical with the Etruscan preterite ending -ce, -χe, but not in φeχe, where Kretschmer and others agree that we have a proper name [...]"
What's amazing about it is that in contrast to the "common knowledge" online, this wasn't written last year or last decade but exactly 70 years ago (in 1937). As expected however, it's nowhere to be seen on Wikipedia or other overhyped, anthill digipedias. So we can see both that the Digital Age is failing us (by way of our own mental passivity) and that the linguistic relationship between Etruscan and Rhaetic has a very long academic history worth reading about (in physical books, offline... Wake up, Neo...).

There's even more to read here in Reallexikon der germanischen Altertumskunde (2001), p.365:

  • "Names, I-formulations, and invocations are early textual forms in Etruscan, but also in related, textually more primitive, languages such as Rhaetic. Helmut Rix has found and defined structures similar in Etruscan and in Rhaetic namely expressions in which words in an oblique case defined by him as the perternitive case, on -ale or -si, are linked to a word with a predicate form ending in -ku. Rix defines the latter as perfect-like passive verbal nouns building upon an active form on -ke, thus zina-ke 'has produced' and zina-k-u 'is produced'. Rix, therefore, can point to a complete formal agreement between Etruscan: mi zinaku Larθuza-le Kuleniie-si - 'I (am) produced by Larthuza Kulenie', and Rhaetic: Lasp-si elu-ku Pitam-nu-ale - '(am/is) dedicated by Laspa, the son of Pitame'. The similarities between Etruscan and Rhaetic are essential while, among others, the Rhaetic alphabets are possible sources of inspiration for the runes inasmuch as Rhaetic inscriptions are known from the beginning of our era." (Bolded emphasis of select points are mine.)" [2]
These are exactly the kinds of grammatical links I pointed out in my previous post. Great minds must think alike. Helmut Rix who made worthy contributions towards our understanding of the Etruscan language shows keen reasoning in deciphering these Rhaetic inscriptions as well. Frankly, I would be unimpressed by any Etruscologist who couldn't at least partially read Rhaetic because the similarities are so glaring to me that there is no excuse to feign ignorance.

Those who wish to deconstruct all this evidence of an Etrusco-Rhaetic relationship as 'coincidence' need to address these above facts and references with something more substantial than existentialist philosophy, extremist skepticism or personal feelings.

[1] On Wikipedia, the term "original research" is misused and in orwellian fashion warped into a pejorative meaning, conveying "unreliability", as if to say that books or Wikipedia itself is 100% reliable. And how then do Wikipedians define their supposedly more appealing "unoriginal research"? Obviously if original research is unreliable (unless published by traditional means), then say goodbye to science and progress as we know it and say hello to Dilbert-like bureaucracy. Reject dogmatic digimaoism and strengthen your individual self-sufficiency.
[2] The term 'I-formulation' refers to phrases in classical inscriptions consisting of "I am the [votive object] of [deceased recipient]", such as those using 1ps pronoun mi in Etruscan or those in Faliscan with 1ps pronoun eco. To add to the Rhaetic example presented by Rix, the term eluku is directly related to the Etruscan passive aliqu "given" (from TLE 27) formed from the verb al which is fully attested in a myriad of other well-understood grammatical inflections: al-c [LL 8.xxiii] (inf.) // ale [LL 7.iv; TLE 615] (pret.) // alike [TLE 26], alice [TLE 295], alce [TLE 777] (perf.pret.) . Since the meaning is grammatically correct and semantically apt in the context of the Rhaetic inscription above, we have yet further ironclad proof of genetic affiliation between the two languages.


  1. Ah Wikipedia, what an odd love-hate relationship do I have with it!

    Needless to say,is that, before I started my study, I picked up most my information about linguistics through Wikipedia. Which isn't too say that wikipedia is very reliable. Everything you read, especially when no sources are quoted, should be considered false until proven right.

    The idea is fantastic, it's just a shame it isn't really coming of the ground properly. I wish people would stop overestimating themselves, and bringing additions to something they're not experts in, while in an encyclopaedia you'd expect expert opinions.

    Oh well. I really want to read up on Etruscan some time, where should I start? :D

  2. Yes, a love-hate relationship, exactly. Wikipedia is nothing more, and can be nothing more, than "unprocessed thought" that requires a thinking human being to process. The danger of Wikipedia is that (dare I say it), most human beings are not the thinking sort. Proof: World War I, World War II, Holocaust, Armenian genocide, Rwandan Genocide, bombing of Hiroshima, Gulf War, Iraq War, environmental pollutants, ozone hole... et cetera ad mortem hominis. (God, I'm such a downer.)

    If you want to read up on Etruscans, all you have to do is look it up :P However, I would say that Pallottino, Rix, Pfiffig, Bonfante and DeGrummond are names to search out for while names like Mayani and Zavaroni definitely have kooky pet theories about how Etruscan can be miraculously solved by comparing it (without a clear linguistic methodology) to another language.

    However, at all times, especially with this subject, it's important to be skeptical of even the names I endorse above because I have found various self-contradictions and you will too if you keep your eyes peeled.

    As of yet, I don't see anyone who has ironed out these contradictions and instead status quo nonsense marches on in the recent works of Bonfante, Jannot and DeGrummond. I believe the reason for this "status quo" is simply because not enough people, particularly people with strong linguistic backgrounds, are interested in or even aware of the Etruscan language... yet.