15 Aug 2012

An excerpt from Liber Linteus chapter X

In the Liber Linteus, I identify a sentence in chapter 10: Ce-pen sulχva maθcva-c pruθseri. The grammar and vocabulary is pretty straight-forward and we have a typical SOV sentence pattern, the default word order in Etruscan and one of the most common word orders on our little planet.

The word cepen has been horribly mistranslated by several Etruscanists as "priest" due to an absurd and forced connection with Latin cupencus but, ignoring the already significant fact that the two words are nothing alike aside from a vague consonantal resemblance, this semantic value is frightfully inadequate for the many contexts in which we find it. The most apt translation that more respectfully obeys its context, and which may doubly be explained morphologically, is 'here below', composed of cai 'here' (> Late Etruscan cei) and pen 'below'.

The sequence sulχva maθcva-c is united by a trailing conjunction in -c and is thus a noun phrase. Both words are marked with the inanimate plural marker -χva, with its allomorph -cva when following aspirated stops. The two nouns are therefore plural, countable and, being inanimate, incapable of being the true agent of this sentence.

This brings us to the interesting verb pruθseri. It ends in a postposition -ri 'for, to' which is often interpreted with a necessitative aspect, although one could also think of it as a future tense. Stripping away the ending, this leaves the stem pruθ(a)s, which I've interpreted to be made up of a root *pruθ- plus a derivational marker -as (a common verb formant as in acas; perhaps a stative or passive-like marker?). For now I will assume that the most sensible value here is 'is to be set down' or 'shall be set down' in which case we can trace this word to a Greek loan from προθέω 'to set before'.

Together that leads to my translation of Ce-pen sulχva maθcva-c pruθseri into English as "Here below the cereals and gathered fruits(?) are presented." As we should rationally expect from this type of document, we read from it a prescribed religious ritual to be performed on a particular day. Being able to break these sentences down into understandable grammatical constituents is very important in the translation process and is better than just assigning values willy-nilly as has been the far-too-common practice in this stagnant field.


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