Douglas G Kilday acnasvers at
Mon Mar 12 09:14:23 UTC 2001

David L. White (8 Mar 2001) wrote:

>I have it on good authority (Eric Hamp) that English-like aspiration occurs in
>some Pennine Italian dialects.  Perhaps an ancient version of this is the
>source.  But what language is "Thouskoi" in?  Something similar, by the way,
>appears to be going on with "Punic" versus "Phonecian", and I would like to
>know what the story is there.

The Pennine Alps are a long way from the Sabine country. Not knowing much
about Alpine dialects, I wouldn't know whether to attribute the aspiration
to substrate or the influence of German. If I squint at the map, I can see
the Matterhorn and a place called Zermatt, so I presume that German is, or
recently was, spoken here.

"Thouskoi" is late Classical Greek, with circumflexed "ou". Dioscorides (ca.
50 CE) gives 13 of their phytonyms, several of which are clearly Latin,
evidently from the Tuscan dialect which was heavily influenced by Etruscan.
"Punic" is from Lat. Punicus, earlier (or archaistic) Poenicus, from Gk.
Phoinikos, probably borrowed before the Romans bothered reproducing
aspiration. This of course is from "Phoinix", which is problematic. It means
'Phoenician' already in Homer, 'date-palm' (i.e. Phoenician tree), 'dark
red, Tyrian purple' obtained from shellfish, and of course 'phoenix-bird'
(Hdt. II.73), probably based on the actual flamingo. The etymological
situation is a mess. Some proposals I have seen are:

(1) "Phoinix" originally referred to the date-palm, Phoinikia meant
'Palm-land' and the other usages originally meant 'Phoenician dye/color' and
'Phoenician bird' or 'Ph.-colored bird'.

(2) The color-sense is primary, connected with <phoinos> 'blood-red',
<phonos> 'slaughter', etc. Phoinikia meant 'land of the red ones' referring
to their use of dye.

(3) The bird's name is primary, derived from Egyptian <bynw>. How a fabulous
Egyptian bird came to give its name to Phoenicia is anybody's guess.

I don't find any of these satisfactory. Probably we are dealing with some
confusion or assimilation of originally distinct words.

>My view is that they [the Etruscans] were a small group, very open to foreign
>influences, and that their later prevalence in Etruria is due to, dare I say
>it, elite dominance.  I think we agree that a large group could not have led
>an in effect secret existence in the Northern Aegean for several centuries,
>even during the Dark Ages.  But classical authors are not in general reliable
>for more than a few generations before their time, and for what it is worth,
>there are some assertions (evidently accepted by the Etruscan themselves) that
>they came from Anatolia.  A soujourn in Thrace/Chalcidice/Lemnos would not
>cause this to be untrue.

I have grave doubts that the Etruscan presence in Etruria, Romagna, and the
Po valley was a small elite. That _may_ have been the case in Campania
before the Samnite conquest. But in Etruria and the northern areas, a
substantial part of the general population must have been Etruscan, and I
don't see the elite-dominance model applying.

As for classical Etruscans wanting to believe in glorious ancestors who
fought in the Trojan War, this sort of romantic illusionism is practically
ubiquitous. In the USA it isn't hard to find folks who insist they are
descended from their Sunday-school heroes, seizing on the flimsiest
superficialities to establish their own membership in the fabled Lost

>Could this long vowel [in <Tro:s>, <Tro:ios>, etc.] not be secondary, by
>compensatory lengthening, /trosy-/ -> /trohy-/ -> /trooy-/, with /y/ later
>lost where not re-analyzable as part of a suffix with /i/?

I don't see any compensatory lengthening in Epic genitives like <megaroio>,
where we have /oyo/ < */ohyo/ < */osyo/.

>In any event, for there to be a difference of opinion about whether some vowel
>is a short high vowel or a long mid vowel is not unheard of, as seen in Vulgar

According to Palmer, Vulgar Latin first "closed" the quality of long vowels,
giving nine distinct vowel-timbres (/a:/ could not be "closed"). The
phonemic distinction of vowel-quantity was then lost, as stressed vowels
became long and unstressed ones short. Convergence of close /o/ with open
/U/, and of close /e/ with open /I/, formed the basis of Continental West
Romance. I don't know which dialect of VL you have in mind when you cite
convergence of /o/ with /I/.

>Length is not necessarily that clear.  The lowering of Greek original long
>mids would have to be later, but as far as I know there is no reason that this
>(somewhat strange) development has to be especially early.  The lack of a
>distinction between /u/ and /o/ also may well have something to do with
>borrowings at different times by different peoples taking slightly different

I don't see what borrowing has to do with the lack of /o:u/ distinction in
Etruscan. Having only one phonemic back-vowel quality is an essential
characteristic of the language.


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