24 Jun 2010

The 'god' word in Europe

I'm mired in a giant can of worms here. After pondering deeply the past week on all the exact details of the origin of the Etruscan word ais 'deity', I find myself not only skeptical of the direction this word traveled but also even more intrigued now of how widespread a common set of mythic traditions are. Most authors seem to be writing that the word ais spread from Etruscan into the various Italic languages. Whereas another interesting possibility I'm exploring is that it went in the other direction, from some Italic language (probably Umbrian *aisos) into Etruscan before 700 BCE.

If the Italic form was *aissos (perhaps from *h₂éisdtos '', let's say), it's interesting that the Germanic form for 'god' is so similar, *ansuz. At first I was thinking that maybe the *-n- isn't really there, maybe an etymological fantasy. However the association between different variants of the same names in different Germanic languages (eg. Ásgeir vs. Ansgar, literally 'god-spear') would assure us that the *-n- was probably there. It would almost look like a borrowing if it weren't for that *-n- in place of *-i-. Then again, what if the Germanic word were a borrowing and were originally **aisuz. With later contamination with the similar word *ansaz 'beam' due to a cosmic analogy between the structure of their universe and the structure of a house (ie. the roof = sky, the beams = gods, the supports = dwarves, etc.), we have a motive for the odd theoretical change.[1]

Curiously, we also have the Celtic god Esus which, after reading up on the basics of his myth, I'm convinced he's equivalent to one the aspects of the Etruscan solar trinity, Tinia Thufl 'Tinia of Oath'. I've spoken of this trinity before. Esus is also part of a Celtic triad involving Taranis and Teutates, which again can be matched perfectly with Etruscan Tinia Thneth 'Tinia of Thunder' and Tinia Cilensl 'Tinia of Darkness' respectively.

So now I wonder if there's a chance that these forms spread from Italic to Celtic and onward to Germanic particularly between 500 and 200 BCE. I'll have to think through this some more. There's still so much to read. Will I live long enough to know everything? ;o)

[1] Bandle/Elmevik/Widmark. The Nordic languages: An international handbook of the history of the Germanic languages (2002), p.400 (see link); Liberman, An analytic dictionary of English etymology: an introduction (2008), p.49 (see link).

16 Jun 2010

Is Etruscan ais 'deity' an Indo-European loanword?

I'm starting to suspect that Indo-European could have built up the following vocabulary based on a single verb root:
*h₂ēiti 'he shares'
*h₂ēist 'he is in a state of sharing' [sigmatic stative] → 'he reveres'
*h₂ēis 'respect, honour' [athematic root noun]
~ *h₂éisis 'honour; honoured one' [thematic noun]
*h₂éisḱeti 'he begs' (<? *h₂éisǵeti, intensive form of *h₂ēist)
*h₂éisdet 'he gives respect' (short for *h₂ēis deh₃t ?)
From this, one might then take *h₂éisos as the basis for the pan-Italic word *áisos 'god' (Venetic aisus 'god', Marrucinian aisos 'to gods', Paelignian aisis 'to gods'), which in turn goes back to *h₂ei- 'to share'.

If this idea flies right, then the commonly held view that Etruscan had imprinted their own native term onto the Italic languages would be in the wrong direction. It's very easy afterall to pin a word origin to an obscure language and play the 'out of sight, out of mind' game. So some skepticism of the status quo is healthy here.

The Eteo-Cypriot form *aisona (a-so-na), which in my view probably means 'god-offering' as it does in Etruscan, would have been borrowed from Etruscan sometime around the Orientalizing Period (c. 8th century BCE). The Italic loan implied by Etruscan ais 'god, goddess' then would have been transferred even earlier, say, right at the beginning of the Etrusco-Rhaetic immigration into Italy: the 10th to 9th century BCE.

This relates to Andras Zeke's latest thoughtful entry, The Kafkania Pebble - testament to the strangest of religious practices?, speaking on the artifact's legitimacy and possible links between a-so-na written on it (as in Eteo-Cypriot) with Etruscan aisna 'divine (adj.); god-offering (n.)'. If the word is an Italic loan though, this word on the pebble must be something else and/or the artifact could be fake. The idea that this artifact dates to the 17th century BCE strains credulity in my eyes. Nonetheless, this particular word and its origin is fascinating to delve into.

13 Jun 2010

My Etruscan temple gets a splash of paint

Here was the newest colourless version of my model. Tiles fill the roof and a moulded front and back was added. I went nuts with the front, adding some showy detail and I think it really "pops" now. If only I could live in my temple, hehehe.

As much as it looks cool in white, I then splashed it with some colour and chose a pallette based on the ample pictures available online of a physical model already created by others and which I, obviously, mimicked (see below).

And so this is the palette I copied.

Now first, Google's Sketchup doesn't render patterns nicely. It could be that I'm overlooking some special "trick" but the repetition of the patterns are obvious and annoying me. Second, while I now hate Google for randomly shutting down my site and being completely asleep at the wheel, we can still exploit Sketchup for all its worth and convert models into other 3d programs like Blender to fight against Google monopoly. It's also free to download. Blender also has some neat features that Sketchup doesn't have so I've been curious about playing around some more with this model in another program.

One site I've found shows how to convert a Blender model into Sketchup while another tells you how to convert models from Sketchup into Blender. I'll try these methods out and see what happens. Vive la resistance.

10 Jun 2010

Translating Etruscan zuci

After revisiting the noun zuci, I think I've settled on an uneventful translation of 'incense', for many reasons that I'll explain. Naturally its derivatives like zuciana and the verb root zuc- should likewise then revolve around incense and smoke.

My first reason, as always, concerns what fits the semantic context best. In this way, for example, the sentence Zea zucieneś ci aθumi-cś Afunaś penθna ama in the Cippus Perusinus (TLE 570) may mean '[They] light fire (zea) to [the] three incense-burners (zucieneś ci) for the sky (aθumi-cś) [and] for the Apuna [family] (Afunaś) who are underneath (penθna ama).' Also, on the Lead of Magliano (TLE 359), we find the short sentence towards the center of the spiral script: Eθ zuci am ar. This might be translated 'Herein () incense (zuci) is (am[a]) to be raised up (ar) (ie. to be burned).'

Beyond Etruscan however, I've recently discovered Hittite tuhhi- 'incense' and I'm starting to suspect that it has something to do with this. It's not the first evidence of Hittite substrate in Etruscan I've found and this could help date the word back to the 2nd millennium BCE, at a time when the ancestor of the Etruscan language was still in Asia Minor. Here, the replacement of word-medial -h- with a velar stop is what we'd expect of Aegean languages which bar this sound in these positions. The eventual change of Hittite's /t/ to Etruscan z (ie. /tʃ/) would be a matter of some sort of lenition (unless there's an additional hidden intermediary here).

This possible loanword is also interesting considering that we see the same Hittite word loaned into Ugaritic as dġṯ 'incense'[1] and that it has already been noted as a Mediterranean Wanderwort. The word gets around! As far as I've read so far, the Ugaritic word has no Semitic cognates and so this implies a vocalism of *duɣiθu, mirroring the Hittite nominative form tuhhis.

It's probably not the final word on this but I venture on to search for better translations.

[1] Margalit, The Ugaritic poem of Aqht: Text, translation, commentary (1989), p.446 (see link).

4 Jun 2010

An odd North African text in Greek

Memiyawanzi needs your help. Recently the blog author's been discussing an interesting North African inscription which is written entirely in Greek letters but which features Greek, Latin and some other language. Is it Punic or something else? Is it just ancient babbling in tongues? Could we unite worldwide to solve these interesting capers? Of course we can - Linguist power!

The Minoan word for 'eye'

I must praise Bayndor (Andras Zeke) for uncovering the possible Minoan word for 'eye'. Although I only caught wind of it this past week, I now see that he has commented about it before in February of this year in the commentbox under his January entry where he says: "Take the example of Lin A *79 = DO. It depicts an eye. I have a feeling that it does have something to do with Luwian Dawa = 'eye' and Etruscan Tva = 'to see'. In this case, it might have arisen through the path *tawa -> *tau -> *to [DO]."

Evidently he's been taking advantage of my Etruscan dictionary where I equate a Proto-Etruscan *tau with 'to see, to behold' (note the presentive form tva '(he/she) sees; (it) is shown' is attested in TLE 98, 170 and 399) and I'm flattered. This has had me thinking for a while and I've discovered an interesting network of facts that are only adding further depth to his astute analysis.

First off, what was immediately shocking to me was that I wasn't even aware of Luwian tawa- 'eye' when I supplied the value of 'to see, to behold' (and also 'to make see; to show') to the apparent verb root *tau. This value was solely arrived at by context where its meaning is most apparent in TLE 399, a mirror, on which is inscribed quite bluntly: Eca sren tva iχ nac Hercle, Unial clan, θrasce. "This image shows thus when Heracle, Uni's son, was satiated." The value of θrasce (or possibly two words, θra and sce) is the only thing in this inscription that remains a matter of debate.

Understanding this, it was shocking to further uncover the Latin word tueor 'to look at, behold'. The likelihood of an Etrusco-Latin borrowing immediately came to mind. Considering the Luwian stem tawa-, it makes more sense that it was Latin that borrowed the Etruscan word and that this verb is much older than Etruscan, probably stemming right back to the Proto-Aegean parent which I situate in the Aegean islands, Western Turkey and Cyprus. We then may come to the conclusion that Anatolian languages likewise borrowed a nominal derivative of this same verb from Minoan. Exciting stuff!

Yet to hold on to this interesting connection between Etruscan *tau and an apparent Minoan word for 'eye', I'm compelled to put into question Andras' value of DO for the Minoan eye glyph. Instead, I find a regular correspondance of Etruscan z with Minoan d, whereas an Etruscan t warrants Minoan t. So I wonder if it's possible that the true value here is TO instead, in which case we may reconstruct Minoan *towa 'eye' and everything becomes quite regular.

1 Jun 2010

Fat porkers get sacrificed

Perhaps I should clarify the title of this post. By "porker", I refer to its traditional meaning of "fattened young pig" and not to its colloquial use for corpulent persons, although it's always fun to be provocative. Lately I've concentrated my efforts at sniffing out the etymology of Etruscan zuśle in the absence of decent answers elsewhere. I believe I've come up with a new and more precise definition of the term and a possible origin, although it's not without some issues to still iron out.

To start with, I want to make clear that I have a precise methodology I follow. First and foremost I assess the grammatical context of the word. Our analyses mean absolutely nothing without an ability to break a text down into its constituent parts. We need an evolvable grammatical model that we test and retest as well. Structure is everything. In the texts in question, zuśle is clearly a countable noun (eg. huθ zusle = 'four zusle') and is often lumped together with other known offerings (zusleve faśei-c farθan = '(they) brought forth zusles and cake'). We can only sensibly explore etymology once we've done this first step otherwise we'll lose ourselves in a duststorm of unpruned possibilities.

The word is found amply in the Liber Linteus and also shows up in a second artifact, the Tabula Capuana. We find both the singular form, zuśle, and its plural, zuśleva. Going by the ś, we can trace zuśle back to an earliest form with full vocalism, *zusile. Most Etruscanists, like Cristofani and Pallottino, seem to have arrived at a vague overall meaning of "sacrificial animal"[1] but what type is not usually said. Fred Woudhuizen together with Jan Best suggests an idle comparison with Indo-European *suHs 'pig' but it's hard to take this at face value when his agenda is to classify Etruscan under the Anatolian branch of Indo-European and which, to be brief, uncovers the authors' gross lack of understanding of both language groups[2].

Still, a borrowing is not impossible and there was something about a connection to an Indo-European derivative of *suHs that, for some reason, seemed most alluring to me to explain this word. Perhaps it's the final -e that seems un-Etruscan to me or the odd first syllable zus-. Whatever the case, what we need is to state things with precision instead of superficial word-look-alike games. So I pursued this idea to its fullest extent until I found something interesting that really fits the context as we find it in the Liber Linteus and Tabula Capuana.

In Greek, there is the phrase σῦς σίαλος 'fattened pig'. This could reasonably be borrowed into Proto-Etruscan as *zusi(a)le (via the vocative case). If the -a- was once present in the loanword, it would be omitted quickly in an unstressed syllable, particularly so because of Etruscan's strong stress accent on the primary syllable. The -i- neighbouring s also would motivate the later palatalization of the sibilant to ś.

The only last thing to explain is how we get z- // out of Greek s-! And that's a stumper so far. Although, it's interesting to note that σίαλος is traced back as far as Mycenaean *síalos (si-a₂-ro) and σῦς may be equally ancient. Note that ὗς is the normal reflex of PIE *suHs making the variant σῦς an etymological puzzle in itself. We often find Greek s- as a sibilantized product of former *t- before a labial segment (eg. PIE *tu > Gk σύ 'you')[3]. Can we perhaps explain this by hypothesizing a Mycenaean antecedent of σῦς σίαλος, pronounced with a word-initial affricate *z-, before being transfered to Proto-Cyprian (ie. a pre-Etruscan stage in the late 2nd millennium BCE)? It's very tempting.

[1] Pallottino, The Etruscans (1975), pp.223-224 (see link); Cristofani, Etruschi: Una nuova immagine (2000), p.211 (see link): "[...] arc. e rec. zusleva da zusle (tipo di offerta sacrificiale); [...]"; Woodard, The ancient languages of Europe (2008), p.144 (see link).
[2] In the preface of Best/Woudhuizen, Lost languages from the Mediterranean (1989) (see link): "In Chapter Four a Lemnian and Etruscan text are placed in their proper Luwian language-family." Egad.
[3] Woodard, The ancient languages of Europe (2008), p.58 (see link): "Beyond the aforementioned early fricative reflexes of stops and the ubiquitious dental sibilant /s/, there is orthographic evidence of additional sibilant consonants occuring dialectally. In the alphabets of several Greek cities of Anatolia, there occurs a character Ͳ used to spell the common reflex of Proto-Greek *k⁽ʷ⁾ʰ⁾y, *t⁽ʰ⁾ + y and *tw."; At least concerning medial positions, Bailey notes in Essays on time-based linguistic analysis (1996), p. 302, fn.4 (see link): "The [tšː] that one might expect in Attic comes from *tw (τϝ) as well as from *ky [cy]; this is found in Attic, Boeotian, Cretan, and some Euboean lects, while other lects (especially Ionic and Doric) had already moved on to σσ [šː]."