David L. White dlwhite at
Thu Mar 22 16:32:32 UTC 2001

> Yes, and this "elite dominance" model advocated by Dr. White generally
> requires many centuries to obliterate the indigenous languages. I'm not
> aware of any evidence for native non-Etruscan speech in non-peripheral
> parts of Etruria between 700 BCE and Latinization.

        It is fairly common for "language death" or "shift", which is after
all what we are talking about here, to occur over two generations:  first
generation monolingual in substrate, second generation bilingual, and third
generation monolingual in superstrate.  (Yes, three minus one is two.)  On
the other hand the death of Greek in Anatolia took nearly a thousand years,
which clearly implies stable bilingualism, a situation well-known from
various parts of the world.  There are no valid generalizations, but
abandonment of a language, once it becomes seen as "the thing to do", can be
quite rapid.

        I must wonder as well what evidence of the speech of the lower
classes we have.  If they were not Etruscan speaking (or bilingual), would
we know it?  Surely whatever funerary monuments lower-class Etruscans might
somehow have been able to produce would have followed the upper-class model,
that being the whole point of such things. For funerary inscriptions to be
in a suitably "lofty" language that the unfortunate deceased would not have
understood is hardly unknown.  ("Hic iacet")
        With regard to possible connections between "elite dominance" and
strict class stratification (digressing slightly), a situation similar to
what I posit for early Etruria seems to have existed in early medieval
Saxony, where outside of Northalbingia the Saxons appear to have been an
upper-class rigorously and brutally holding other non-Saxon tribes, victims
of earlier conquest, in subjection.  The task became so challenging that
they (evidently) found it expedient to call upon the Franks for help.  (At
least this is the interpretation of Robinson, and I see not reason to doubt
it.)  Grant posits that the upper-class in Etruria similarly called on the
Romans for help in holding down their lower-classes.  (I suppose even then
the Romans were known to leave local aristocracies in place, which is of
course the main thing the Etruscan aristocracy would have been interested

> Large groups which stayed together would form enclaves, and this probably did
> happen with Greeks, Carthaginians, and eventually Latin-speakers in Etruria.

        And of these the Latins (at least) in time linguistically converted
the original populations of their hinterlands, unless we are all now
supposed to believe that the original population of Etruria (not to mention
the rest of the Roman Empire) was exterminated by Roman colonists cruelly
scattering their seed corn to the winds (which surely would have come as a
nasty shock to the hopeful Etruscan aristocrats; but it is a Fantasy
Scenario anyway.)

> The fundamental linguistic question is one of date: when did speakers of
> proto-Etruscan enter Etruria? If it was many millennia BCE, one would not
> expect much in the way of pre-Etruscan substrate. If it was a century or two
> before 800, one would expect a lot of non-Etruscan toponyms and hydronyms.

        Hydronyms are more reliable than other "nyms", but even hydronyms
can point in the wrong direction.  For example, most of the river names of
Texas, for example Trinity, Brazos, Colorado, Pedernales, Llano, San Marcos,
Blanco, Guadalupe, and San Antonio (not sure about Sabine, Neches, and
Nueces), are Spanish.  What does this tell us, that the original inhabitants
of Texas were Spanish speaking, as opposed to the rest of North America,
where Amerindian names are more usual?  Not really.  The Spanish were just
more willing to give new (often religious) names to rivers.  It's up to the
people in charge, and they can do as they please, regardless of our
retrospective need for solid principles and firm expectations.

Dr. David L. White

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