David L. White dlwhite at
Mon Apr 2 23:57:46 UTC 2001

>> There are no valid generalizations, but abandonment of a language, once it
>> becomes seen as "the thing to do", can be quite rapid.

> Agreed. But we do have one thing to go on here, in contemplating the presumed
> replacement of pre-Etruscan, and that is the replacement of Etruscan itself
> by Latin in Etruria. If we reckon from the Roman conquest of Veii to the
> latest inscriptions at Volaterrae (ca. 50 CE) it took about 450 years for
> this to happen.

        Yes, but the Etruscans who slowly allowed themselves to be
assimilated to the Romans were the bearers of an ancient high culture, quite
respected (at one time).  Presumably any pre-Etruscan native population was

> A few shiploads of refugees from Troy or its allies, arriving over a decade
> or two, simply don't cut the mustard in this picture, no matter how dazzling
> their High Culture might have been.

        I think it was more than that.  But be that as it may, there could
have been what I call a "rolling assimilation", whereby the earlier
assmilees aid in assimilating the later assimilees.  For example, in America
a great many Germans have wound up "Anglicizing" (or Americanizing) more
recent immigrants.  (This is especially true in parts of Texas, where once
upon a time the predominant white population was German.  It used to be
assumed in San Antonio that anyone who was not a Mexican was a German.  Yes,
to some extent the Mexican were there first, but their assimilation, which
is what is relevant, was often later.  But I digress.)

> As for mysterious North Aegeans, where exactly was their homeland? The island
> of Chryse, east of Lemnos, which sank into the sea according to Pausanias
> (VIII.33.4)?  (Migrationist doctrine, rigorously pursued, eventually leads us
> either _down_ to Atlantis and similar sunken lands or _up_ to von Daeniken's
> ancient astronauts.)

        Well, I now have the unique(?) honor of having been accused both of
being a migrationist and of being an anti-migrationist.  (Perhaps I am
somewhere in the middle?)  By "North Aegean" I intended a cover term
embracing Thrace/Chalcide/Lemnos, in keeping with the accounts of the
geographers which, using an ethnonym I forget and am too lazy to look up,
seem to indicate a southward drift along those general lines.  I was hoping
someone wise in the ways of the archeology of Thrace, which would be what is
called for, might have something to say on this.  But a fairly small and
heavily genericized (for lack of a better word) East Mediterranean culture
might not leave much of a signature.

> Most Etruscan funerary inscriptions (alas!) consist only of names, but the
> language is clearly Etruscan, with genitives of parents and possessives of
> spouses commonly found. Lower-class "monuments" in some cases are crudely
> marked ceramic tiles. The language is still Etruscan. Tiles and other
> markers are there to identify the deceased to the living, and there is no
> reason whatsoever to convert the deceased's actual name into a form
> unrecognized by the living.

        That Etruscan names were often taken up by non-Etruscan people is
shown in a recent posting, where a word meaning
"Etruscan" is used as part of an Etruscan-style name among people evidently
not Etruscan, or there would have been little point in using such a name.
So I don't see that there is any contradiction here.  It is perfectly
possible, even to be expected, that lower class Etruscans even if
"originally" of different ethnicity, would have used Etruscan names, on
funerary monuments as elsewhere, regardless of whether they might have been
bilingual in Etruscan and some other language, or largely descended from
folk who had been.

> Speaking of hinterlands, I've seen speculation that Etruscan might have
> persisted as a spoken language around Mt. Amiata (the most "remote" part of
> Etruria) for several centuries after its extinction in the cities. But since
> hillbillies seldom concern themselves with permanent written records, we'll
> probably never know.

        Speaking yet more of hinterlands, I would like to know the extent of
this aspiration thing in Italian, and why, if it is characteristic of Tuscan
generally, it is not in the standard language, which according to my
understanding is a recent derivative of Tuscan, Rome having become
effectively depopulated at at least one point during the Middle Ages.
(Nothing fails like success:  the Romans created so many subtypes of
themselves that they exterminated the main branch, with a little help from
malarial swamps.)

> If "Nueces" isn't shortened from "Rio de las Nueces", might it represent a
> modified substratal name? ...)

        It might.  But since pecan trees do, strangely enough, grow that far
southwest (or almost that far:  I have seen them growing wild out in the
middle of nowhere west of San Antonio, not too far from the Nueces) I would
imagine that the name is related to this, especially since pecans are
water-loving trees, which in a semi-arid environment would (probably) tend
to grow near rivers.  On the other hand, I recall that most of what grows
along the waterways I am thinking of(which cannot really be called rivers)
is cypresses.  But the Nueces is out of my zone.  (If I ever get out there
again, I'll keep my eyes open and report back ...)  Considering that pecans
are sometimes described as being native to "the Mississipi valley", the
Nueces area might have been the first place Spanish explorers coming up from
Mexico encountered them.

Dr. David L. White

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