28 Dec 2007

Me fighting myself on the Etruscan name Uple

I will admit it. There's a certain sense of unavoidable shame that comes with learning, particularly the kind of open day-to-day learning that a blog can convey. Blogs can be brutally personal, which explains no doubt why some people experience blogger burnout. It's taxing to the ego to make a booboo. We all want to be accepted in the beehive, not shunned as the town heretic. Communication, especially in our day and age is a double-edged sword that is both necessary to explore new answers and seek them out from others, and yet a potential source of embarassment if it should so happen that there's even a chance that you're horribly wrong. There's no such thing as a perfect learner that never makes mistakes. Errors are the very soul of learning. So when you're like me that puts himself out there for the world to see weekly, I too find it hard not to feel a sense of shame when I have to prove myself wrong because of that blasted thing called conscience. And yet, I would be more embarassed as a human being to pretend that I don't make mistakes. So I will out my possible error... although I still am not certain about what to make of the data.

This has to do with ''TLE 193'' in my recent, lazy rant (see Zavaroni, his 'comparative method' and TLE 193). In it I made a horrendous job mixing too many issues at once. Absolutely horrible! I should be shot, really. While Zavaroni's interpretation of amce is certainly left-of-center and uses horrible methodology, confusing that topic with a risqué interpretation of my own probably didn't help matters much, did it? Yes, I know. I have no face, as they say in the streets of Hong Kong. But this conundrum regarding that inscription is still fishy so let me give you an update on what I found on this supposed name.

The standard interpretation of line two of ''TLE 193'' is that avils śas amce uples means "For four/six years, (she) was (wife) of Uple." Some interpret śa as "six", others as "four" (see The dicey proof of Etruscan numerals) but this isn't the heart of the issue that I brought up here. The problem was that I was skeptical of the name and the idea that a funerary object would be inscribed with only marital information instead of age. Where the hell is her age of death? Why wasn't that considered important to the family? Added to that afterall, we find ufli in the Liber Linteus (LL 11.x) and because of the purely ritualistic and impersonal content of that document, it simply cannot be a praenomen here. We also know that f in the same syllable with u regularly comes from p (as in Pupluna ~ Fufluna). Hence we can't get around it: There is indeed a noun stem (perhaps originally *upil) underlying the declined form ufli in the Liber Linteus.

So really then, my issue is not whether this noun stem exists but whether a similar looking name also exists to explain uples in TLE 193. Which one is it, a noun *upil or some relatively uncommon name? To prove the existence of the name I needed to see more proof of its usage and so far I believe that I found delicious counterevidence to shame my masochist self. Behold:

ET Ta 1.180: l uple "L(arth) Uple."

CIE 1566: vl . veratru // uφalias "Vel Veratru, of Uphale"

Damn, I've defeated myself! Aaaargggh!!! Well, very good then. I am a worthy opponent, hehehe. So I have to admit that there must be a name of the underlying Proto-Etruscan form *Upale with the usual weakening of bilabial stop /p/ to bilabial fricative /φ/ next to tautosyllabic /u/, hence the spelling with the letter phi in CIE 1566's uφalias to convey the fricative. The above inscriptions imply that it's used both as a male praenomen and as a gentilicium. If that's the case, perhaps I'm seeing a subtle difference between underlying praenomen *Upale and gentilicium *Upaliie (-ie = [gentilicial suffix]).

However, this is hardly the end of my confusion on this. For one thing, I will only ever feel secure about TLE 193 and other inscriptions once I have clear *photographs* of them in my sights. I also still need to locate a credible source of this name. Most often it is presumed to be Italic in origin. Some have suggested Latin Opilius or Oscan Upils as a source but if the syncopated vowel is -a- as in CIE 1566, those claims are probably misguided. In the book Die etruskische Sprache: Versuch einer Gesamtdarstellung (1969), Pfiffig linked the name to Oscan ufal-, supposedly from Italic *ouf(i)l- (link here), but I get skeptical when I see too many hyphens and parentheses[1]. I'd rather a clearer etymology. Where does Pfiffig get this root ufal- from? I'm not yet sure.

Stay tuned and thanks for your patience, people. Hopefully you're all learning with me so that next time I get out of line you can slap me with some of these cold, hard facts.

[1] I just found the Oscan name not even ten minutes after posting this. That wasn't too hard; seems kosher. (Oakley, A Commentary on Livy, Books VI-X (2005), p.107).


  1. Hey Glen!

    You wrote: "Some have suggested Latin Opilius or Oscan Upils as a source but if the syncopated vowel is -a- as in CIE 1566, those claims are probably misguided."

    I'd like to offer some light on this subject. According to Andrew Sihler's New Comparative Grammar of Greek and Latin, Latin levelled short unstressed vowels to /e/ in closed syllables and before /r/ and to /i/ elsewhere. So it's certainly possible that Latin Opilius came from earlier *Opalios or the like.

    - Rob

  2. Thanks for that yummy fact. My question here is: What is the direct source and time of borrowing of this name Upale in Etruscan. So if the medial syncopated vowel in Etruscan is -a-, like I said, I figure that the source cannot be Opilius itself. Plus, since it evidently precedes Etruscan syncope, it therefore was borrowed before 500 BCE. So we know this is an early loan. Apparently though, Oscan has Upfals also so...

    When I say this in your quote, I'm simply suggesting that an Osco-Umbrian version of the name would provide a more direct source than Latin. The Etruscan-speaking areas especially neighboured and overlapped with Umbrian areas.

  3. I just also realized, Rob, that what you say undermines what Pfiffig wrote here and the etymology might be revised as follows to make better sense of phonetics and timeline:

    Proto-Etruscan *Upale < ? Pre-Umbrian *Upfall(o)s