Etruscans / Pelasgians

philjennings at philjennings at
Wed Apr 11 23:21:47 UTC 2001

[ moderator edited ]

On March 30th I wrote:

>>...lost nothing by maintaining their island relationship.  This is probably
>>more true as they had not discommoded themselves in the first place by giving
>>King Uhhazitis one of their own islands, but rather settled the Arzawan
>>refugees on a Pelasgian island, such as Lemnos.  (The Pelasgians were too
>>weak to protest at being forced to share.)

Douglas G. Kilday answered:

>One of the problems with this picture is that classical sources don't place
>Pelasgians on Lemnos at such an early date. In Homer, the inhabitants of
>Lemnos are Sinties, and the epithet <agriopho:nous> (acc. pl.) tells us only
>that their phonology was non-Greek, not necessarily non-IE. Strabo asserts
>that the Sinties were Thracians. Pausanias says that the Pelasgians took
>Lemnos from the Minyae, who were aristocratic refugees from revolution in
>Boeotia. Neither group likely held the island more than a few decades, and
>the Tyrrhenians had presumably already fled from Lemnos to Chalcidice (perhaps
>driven out by the Minyae).

Me:  Particular Pelasgians were exiled from Athens to Lemnos in post-Mycenaean
times.  Homer, of course, had his 8th century views. Rolling back to the 12th
or 13th century bce, "Pelasgian" was the default ethnicity of all inhabitants
of Greece who weren't Greek.  In this earlier time, it might be questionable to
put full-strength Thracians in Thrace proper, much less the north Aegean
islands.  Minus Thracians, and considering Illyrians unlikely, who lived in
these north islands?  If not Greeks, then either default and pre-historical
Pelasgians, or Carians and Leleges, who are usually figured to be Anatolians in
language.  (Or else, I should admit, a culture of proto-Etruscans, according to
another theory.)  I'm in favor of an Anatolian-flavored question-mark.  If the
Pelasgians don't have that flavor, I decline to insist that they ever lived so
far to the north.

I also wrote:

>>Pelasgians spoke an "Anatolian" language.  They would have recognized
>>"-assos" as a geopolitical suffix, and dropped its inappropriate use,
>>therefore the Hursanassans would have become Hursana(pl) or 'Rsana(pl).

Kilday answered:

>What does your <'> signify? A glottal stop? A pharyngeal fricative? What
>business do you have citing phonological and morphological changes in
>Pelasgian? Can you give other examples of Pelasgian dropping initial
>syllables and back-forming ethnonyms by removing suffixes?

>Pelasgian loanwords are found from Persian to Sabine, and toponyms reached up
>the Danube. The language (or family) was not restricted to Anatolia.  It was
>certainly not "Anatolian IE", so no particular affinity to Hittite et al.
>should be assumed. Whether Pelasgian should be considered a branch of IE at
>all is debatable. IMHO Pelasgian is non-IE, but probably related at the
>super-family level. A possible cognate pair is Psg. *wrod- 'rose' ~ PIE
>*H1reudh- 'red'.

My response to this is embarrassment.  My <'> was of all things, a Greek
aspirate, as if I couldn't have written "hr" instead of "'r", despite the
limitations of my character set.  The Hittite scribes, working with their
character set, wrote either (short) Hursanassa or (long) Huwarsanassa.  Given
their ad hoc methods, the short form may have represented "hr" as an initial
consonant and not as a syllable.  The long form, however, is my enemy, since it
pretty much insists on being at least one, if not two, syllables, terminating
in "r".  Here lies the basis for complaints about my back-forming ethnonyms by
removing suffixes.

Kilday goes on to say such interesting things about the Pelasgians, and greater
Pelasgia, that I want to know more.  Apparently the ur-Pelasgia *could* have
included the northern islands!  Does the super family that includes proto-
Pelasgian, also include proto-Etruscan and PIE/PIA (proto Indo-Anatolian)?
Where are the glossaries?  How does he reconsile the proto-Pelasgians seemingly
occupying the same territory as others give to the Anatolian branch of
Indo-Anatolian (the Balkans) prior to their migration into Asia Minor?  Of
course, others reconsile this by saying that the Pelasgians were a branch of
the expansionary Anatolians that took the right fork into Greece, rather than
the left fork into Turkey.

I look forward eagerly to a Pelasgian topic, and discussions equally as
warm as these about the Etruscans.

I also wrote:

>>If the dominant language among the refugees was distinctive and
>>incomprehensible, as it surely was, those who spoke as the Hursana did might
>>have been called the "ta-'rsana(pl)."  The Greeks also needed a group name
>>for these people, and might have turned "ta-'rsana(pl)" into "Tyrsennoi."
>>With time, the refugees themselves would have acceded to the need for a
>>single name, minus the Pelasgian prefix: and pronounced their own way:
>>eventually Ras'na.

Kilday answered:

>What examples do you have of Greek turning /a-'/ (whatever that means) into
>/u/? Why wouldn't it become the long vowel /a:/ or perhaps a long diphthong?

Me again:  The hyphen merely points out the prefix as such.  Given the known
"ty" of "Tyrsennoi", I'd happily work back to any "tV" that produces the wanted
result.  "Ta" may be Common Anatolian of an early date, but the myriad
Anatolian languages worked their distinct ways and forms.  Lycian, for example,
gives us "Termilae" turning "ta" into "ter".  I get to be very slippery here,
ascribing just the perfect prefix to an otherwise unknown and unrecorded
daughter language, possibly spoken on Lemnos and nowhere else.

I also wrote:

>>Against this whole "Etruscan origins" story and all its props and gimmicks,
>>lies the fact that no proto-Etruscan-like language has been preserved in the
>>extensive Hittite archives, which generously cite diplomatic and liturgical
>>passages in Hattic, Palaic, Luwian, Akkadian, and Hurrian.  However, as far
>>as I know, the Hittites also ignored Achaean Greek, Minoan, and the Northwest
>>Semite language of Canaan, and even Egyptian.

Kilday answered:

>Lack of attested Proto-Etruscan isn't the trouble with your story. The trouble
>is the bizarre maze of contortions which your ethnonyms must navigate. Given
>sufficient ingenuity, a linguistic fabulist could snake the sequence T-R-S or
>R-S-N from any part of the world into Etruria. That isn't the point of doing
>historical linguistics.

To this I have no answer.  I would project my T-prefix backward in time from
the known to the unknown, if only I knew the rules.  Apparently, "ta" doesn't
work here.  Does anything?  I suppose the safest assumption is that the
Lemnian-Anatolian-Pelasgian-indigenes said "ty" all along.

"All along" being the exact 18 minutes necessary until the right Greek came
ashore and picked up the word "Tyrsennoi."  Lemnos appears to have been the
Greyhound bus terminal waiting room of the ancient world, a new crew coming
ashore every time the fleet came in.  "Lemnian deeds" may be a creative
explanation for the frequent ethnic shifts.

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