Douglas G Kilday acnasvers at
Sat Apr 7 23:44:43 UTC 2001

David L. White (2 Apr 2001) wrote:

>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 not.

So your North Aegean Proto-Etruscan (NAPE) civilization was respected and
ancient, but below it is fairly small and heavily genericized. Now at least
we know what to look for in the North Aegean: a civilization small but
respected (like a wolverine?) and ancient but generic (like plain yogurt?).

>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?)

Sorry about that. We nativists sometimes resort to crude stereotypes.

>  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.

Then one wonders why this culture left such a prominent signature in such a
large part of Italy. How can any culture be so successful as a colonial
power, and such a nondescript failure at home?

>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.

The example of Mamurke Tursikina comes from Clusium, in a peripheral zone
where we already know that both Umbrian and Etruscan were spoken. Someone
wealthy enough to hand out custom-made golden objects doesn't belong to the
lower class anyway.

>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.

I should probably concede this point. Inscriptions prove that a particular
language _was_ used, not that others were _not_ used. It is conceivable that
non-Etruscan languages were still spoken in central Etruria, but not written
because no writing convention had been established for them. One could cite
the example of Native American cemeteries in the USA and Canada. The
exclusive use of written English doesn't mean the indigenous speech wasn't
or isn't extant.

If this is a valid parallel, one would expect a few non-Etruscan,
non-Italic, non-Greek proper names in the corpus, just as Native Americans
sometimes use Anglicized indigenous surnames. The problem is identifying
such names with our woefully incomplete knowledge of Etruscan vocabulary.
Many English surnames like "Holt" are based on obsolete words. Etruscan
gentilicia containing unrecognizable roots could be purely Etruscan, or for
all we know pre-Etruscan.

In any case, since it's _your_ theory of mysterious North Aegeans bringing
language and High Culture to Etruria, it's up to _you_ to find the
linguistic evidence. It's not up to me (or the rest of the nativist crowd)
to argue with hypothetical positions or unpresented data.

>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.

Ever played "Telephone"? The notion that standard (Roman-Latian) Italian
comes from Tuscan sounds like the result of cumulative distortion through
successive oral transmission. If memory serves, Dante chose to compose
poetry in the Tuscan dialect (with the addition of some forms from northern
dialects) because the heavy stress and distinct stress-timing allowed
phonetic parallelism on the basis of polysyllabic homoioteleuton, or
"rhyming". Dante has been called "the father of Italian poetry" which is
subjective but not really "wrong", and also "the father of modern Italian"
which is nonsense. Not even Bill Clinton could "father" a language. Some
cavalier statement like that probably got mixed in with the facts about
Dante's writing.

Roman inhabitants may have dropped to a few thousands at times, but it is
unlikely that similar depopulation occurred throughout Latium, or that the
modern standard dialect was based on importation. This dialect is strongly
trochaic, as was Roman Latin on the basis of the meters preferred in
comedies and jingles (e.g. in Suet. Jul. 51). It is irrelevant here that
Plautus and Terence were not native Latin-speakers; they were writing for
Roman audiences, and if trochaic rhythm had sounded unnatural to Romans, the
plays would have failed.


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