Douglas G Kilday acnasvers at
Fri Mar 30 10:54:54 UTC 2001

David L. White (22 Mar 2001) wrote:

>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.

Agreed. But we do have one thing to go on here, in contemplating the
presumed replacement of pre-Etruscan, and that is the replacement of
Etruscan itself by Latin in Etruria. If we reckon from the Roman conquest of
Veii to the latest inscriptions at Volaterrae (ca. 50 CE) it took about 450
years for this to happen. As Grant has pointed out, Etruria is not a
"refuge" for residual peoples. Its fertility has certainly supported a
substantial population since the Neolithic arrived, several millennia before
history. If Etruscans came from someplace else and Etruscanized the natives,
one would expect several centuries to be required, and that is assuming a
continuous influx of Etruscans analogous to the influx of Latin-speakers
during Latinization. A few shiploads of refugees from Troy or its allies,
arriving over a decade or two, simply don't cut the mustard in this picture,
no matter how dazzling their High Culture might have been. As for mysterious
North Aegeans, where exactly was their homeland? The island of Chryse, east
of Lemnos, which sank into the sea according to Pausanias (VIII.33.4)?
(Migrationist doctrine, rigorously pursued, eventually leads us either
_down_ to Atlantis and similar sunken lands or _up_ to von Daeniken's
ancient astronauts.)

>For funerary inscriptions to be
>in a suitably "lofty" language that the unfortunate deceased would not have
>understood is hardly unknown.  ("Hic iacet")

Most Etruscan funerary inscriptions (alas!) consist only of names, but the
language is clearly Etruscan, with genitives of parents and possessives of
spouses commonly found. Lower-class "monuments" in some cases are crudely
marked ceramic tiles. The language is still Etruscan. Tiles and other
markers are there to identify the deceased to the living, and there is no
reason whatsoever to convert the deceased's actual name into a form
unrecognized by the living.

>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.)

No, the violent scenario would have obliterated the names as well as the
people, and some of the names are still around. The family Ceicna of
Velathri became the family Caecina of Volaterrae, and is now the family
Cecina of Volterra. It's too bad the language itself wasn't as resilient as
some of the aristocrats were.

Speaking of hinterlands, I've seen speculation that Etruscan might have
persisted as a spoken language around Mt. Amiata (the most "remote" part of
Etruria) for several centuries after its extinction in the cities. But since
hillbillies seldom concern themselves with permanent written records, we'll
probably never know.

>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.

I concede this point. Retention of toponyms is a complex matter. I can't
pretend to have a handle on any of the factors at work in prehistoric

I note in passing that casual surveys may undercount the old toponyms due to
popular assimilation or "folk etymology". If "Nueces" isn't shortened from
"Rio de las Nueces", might it represent a modified substratal name? Or was
an early explorer so tired of fording rivers that he exclaimed "Nuts,
another river!" and the name stuck? (Stranger things have happened in Texas,
I'm sure...)


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