Pelasgian/was Etruscans

Douglas G Kilday acnasvers at
Mon Apr 23 05:51:42 UTC 2001

Rick Mc Callister (14 Apr 2001) wrote:

>Could you elaborate on that [Pelasgian substrate] with more examples? Are
>you including "Mediterranean" substrate found in both Greek and Italic?

Yes. Many of these are phytonyms whose discrepancy in form precludes direct
borrowing. Palmer cites Lat. citrus ~ Gk. kedros, li:lium ~ leirion, laurus
~ daphne:, vacci:nium ~ huakinthos, viola ~ (w)ion, rosa ~(w)rodon, menta ~
minthe:, and cupressus ~ kuparissos. The last two are sometimes assigned to
Latin borrowing from Greek (without plausible explanation of [e] < [i]) but
the Greek words are from substrate anyway. Lat. <rosa> has undergone
assibilation from *rodia, indicating that it came through Sabine (cf. basus
< badius, Clausus < Claudius). This agrees with Varro's testimony (de Agr.
III.1) that Sabine <teba> 'hill' is a Pelasgian loanword cognate with Gk.
<the:ba>, whose plural is the toponym The:bai 'Thebes' lit. 'hills'. The
same lexeme appears as Oscan *tifa (Tifata mons in Campania).

Lat. fi:cus ~ Gk. su:kon, though cited by Palmer (and Devoto) along with the
examples above, is probably from pre-Pelasgian substrate, since the other
examples do not involve such a severe vowel-shift. This lexeme may be a
relic of the pre-agricultural Mesolithic foraging economy.

Other Greek-Italic correspondences pointing to Pelasgian are Lat.
<pi:lentum> 'carriage, coach' ~ Gk. <peirins>, gen. -nthos 'wicker-basket
used on carriage' (for ending cf. Ti:ryns, gen. -nthos) and Lat. Na:r
(hydronym, mod. Nera) ~ Gk. Ne:reus orig. 'water-dweller'.

The South European Wanderwort for 'lead' probably started as a Pelasgian
term. Like <daphne:>, Gk. <molubdos> has several variants suggesting
borrowing from different substratal dialects. The original phonology is
disputed. I would guess *ml.ub- vel sim. with vocalic [l.] which resolved to
/ol/ in Greek. In the Italian dialect of Pelasgian I hypothesize reduction
of [l.] giving *mlub-, borrowed into Latin as <plumbum>. Similar
prenasalized labials in substratal words occur in <sa(m)bu:cus> 'elder-tree'
(cf. Dacian <seba> id.) and <simpuvium> 'sacrificial vessel' (cf. Gk.
<sipue:> 'flour-bin, meal-jar'). For initial Lat. pl- borrowed from ml- cf.
<place:re> 'to be pleasing' from Etr. <mlach> 'smooth, pretty, pleasing'. On
its way west, *mlub- must have undergone metathesis to *blum-, perhaps in
Ligurian. Old Basque lacked [m] and disfavored initial clusters, so this
would have become *belun, yielding Basque <berun> by well-attested
intervocalic [l] > [r].

At the superfamily level, the root above might be related to PIE *mel-
'soft', but this (like the *wrod- ~ *Hreudh- connection) is purely
speculative at this point.


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