David L. White dlwhite at
Thu Mar 15 15:41:36 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.

        Geography is becoming confused.  I believe Hamp's original words (it
was 10-15 years ago) were something like "mountains of central Italy".  The
Alps have nothing to do with anything.  I would gues the phenomenon must be
the same thing recently pointed out as existing in Tuscan, though if it is
truly general to Tuscan we must wonder why it did not become established in
standard Italian.  My point was that aspiration is known from that general
area, and might one way or another explain the evident /th/ of "Thouskoi".
        But I could have sworn I saw "Thoursk-" cited (as Umbrian) at one
point.  What is this?

> 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.

        I would say _originally_ a small elite.  People can easily shift
their ethnic identity.  The genetic evidence shows that this clearly
happened in Turkey, where people who now think of themselves as Turks had
ancestors who thought of themseves as Greeks (who in turn probably had
ancestors who thought of themselves as Phrygians, etc... )  I note that
class divisions in Etruscan society seem to have been unusually rigid, with
no true middle class.  This might be because class divisions went back to
earlier ethnic divisions re-analyzed, there being great efforts to keep the
conquered in their place by erecting uncrossable class barriers.  Otherwise
the failure of Etruscan society to develop a middle class comparable to what
existed among the Greeks and Romans is somewhat strange.

> 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
> Tribes.

        We are not disagreeing about anything here.  But the fact that they
_could_ be wrong does not mean they were.  My point was that the
after-the-fact glory of Troy could well have caused any northern Aegean
interlude to be skipped over.

>> 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/.

        Nor in the ancestor of /naio/, from /nasyo/.  With dentals followed
by /y/ it appears (to me) that what happend was (in effect) metathesis, as
in /melaina/ from /melanya/, followed, where applicable, by /s/-loss:
/nasyo/ -> /naiso/ -> /naio/.  In such a sequence compensatory lengthening
would not be expected, as the /s/, by the time it is lost, has ceased to be
        The process I posit would have to be later than the change of
original /sy/.  But as the word for Troy was clearly not part of the IE
inheritance, I see no great problem with that, not counting ad-hocness.  But
for foreign borrowings to have unique sequences, regarded as at least
awkward, is not unheard of.  There would have been a second loss of /sy/
phonologically parallel with the loss of /sw/, which _did_ involve
compensatory lengthening, probably because it did not involve (de facto)
metathesis.  I admit that this probably did not happen, preferring option #2
below, but I do think there is nothing _fatally_ wrong with it.

>> 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 Latin.

> 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.

        Yes, the point is that long mids can sound like short highs, or
mergers would not happen.  Thus one language's long mid could sound like
another's short high.  When it happened in Latin is irrelevant, though I
believe most observers would posit a difference in quality for Latin shorts
and longs going way back into pre-history.

> I don't know which dialect of VL you have in mind when you cite
> convergence of /o/ with /I/.

        Must have been a typo.

>> 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
>> forms.

> 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.

        Certainly no sane observer would suggest that the lack of a
distinction bewteen /o/ and /u/ in Etruscan was _caused_ by borrowing.  My
point is that, where no distinction exists, it is possible for intermediate
phonetic types to be produced.  I particularly recall a professor of mine,
from Massachusetts, who made no distinction between the vowel of "caught"
and the vowel of "cot" (which seems to be the trend these days), routinely
producing for either (in my idiolect) a vowel that sounded exactly "on the
cusp" between the two, thereby annoying the hell out of me.  (I kept feeling
like asking him which one he meant.)  If the same sort of thing happened
with Etruscan /o-u/, then some difference of opinion among borrowing
languages about whether the vowel in question "was"  /o/ or /u/ is entirely
understandable, even predictable.  In sum, for Etruscan /o-u/ to have
sounded like short /u/ to some Greeks (or other people) of one period and
dialect and like long /o/ to other Greeks (or other people) of another
period and dialect would be not at all suprising.  The only thing I would
say is that since an open long /o/ of the later omega type would almost
certainly not have been what Etruscan /o-u/ sounded lke the borrowing with
long /o/ must predate lowering of this, which in turn was probably motivated
by the creation of a new vowel from /ou/ of various sources. But again, this
(unless I am missing something does not seem like a fatal, or even
near-fatal, problem.

Dr. David L. White

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