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On etruscan language

Creato il 29 novembre 2012 da Rosebudgiornalismo @RosebudGiornali

ON ETRUSCAN LANGUAGEan essay in English by Massimo Pittau. In the last 70 years, in Italy, with regard to Etruscan language, several and authentic linguistic “obviousnesses” have been ignored, neglected and contradicted. Namely, some very simple and even obvious procedures and methods, that are usually applied every day in the study of any language, belonging to any language family, by all glottologists and historical linguistics in particular, have been ignored and not applied.

Ignorance and the failed application of such methodological “obviousnesses” and hermeneutical or interpretative procedures in the study of Etruscan language depended on a certain and clear fact:

in the last 70 years the study of Etruscan language has been gained, monopolized and ruled by the “Italian archaeological school”, that is, by the archaeologists of the country and of the geographical area exactly where the great “Etruscan civilization” flourished.

1) The first “obviousness” which was ignored, neglected and contradicted by Italian archaeologists is the following: no man of culture exists, who does not know and understand that between archeology on one hand and glottology or historical and comparative linguistics on the other hand there is an ocean of differences, both regarding the subject of study and the methods that are employed. Thus any and all intervention that any archaeologist tries to make regarding the Etruscan language is completely illegitimate, over-ambitious and destined to failure.

And exactly from the fact that this first main and prejudicial “obviousness” on the immense difference that exists between archeology from one hand and glottology or comparative and historical linguistics on the other hand, all the other many “obviousnesses”, which have been ignored and contradicted by archeologists in their study of the Etruscan language derived.

2) Of the Etruscan language more than 11 thousand inscriptions are to be found, with documents of about 8,500 words, which differ one from the other. It should be reminded that the document content and thus the hermeneutical or interpretative value of these 11 thousand inscriptions at first appeared greatly reduced to the scholars from the very beginning, when they realized that those inscriptions are mainly funeral and so obviously short and repetitive. On the other hand, even if this serious initial difficulty exists, the figures that have been quoted are of course enormous and this big advantage, just two very known ancient languages, Greek and Latin, can have.

And then, with the methodological procedure of “internal comparison”, the reciprocal comparison of different 8,500 words – if this was really and completely carried out – could surely lead to the “decoding” of the meaning of several Etruscan words.

I admit that such a method of “internal comparison” took place, but to a very reduced extent and led to the decoding of just some tens of words, which are continuously recurrent in the Etruscan inscriptions; MI «I, me», CLAN «son», CLENAR «children», SEX «daughter», PUIA «wife», LUPU «dead», LUPUCE «died, is dead», AIS, EIS «god», AISER, EISER «gods», SUTHI, SUTI «tomb, grave», the numerals TU, THU «one», ZAL, (E)SAL «two», CI «three», MAC, MAX «five»,  SEMPH «seven, CEZP «eight», NURPH «nine», SAR, ZAR «ten», ZATHRUM «twenty», CIALXL «thirty», SEALXL «sixty» and some other tens of words.

So, the procedure of the “internal comparison” among the 8,500 Etruscan words we know has been applied in the past 70 years by archologists, who are the monopolizers of the Ertruscan language, only to a very reduced extent. In particular they took care not to insert in the “internal comparison” also the big number of Etruscan anthroponyms that are to be found (pre-names, aristocratic names and nick names or Latin cognomina), because they are completely convinced that these have no value in order to understand the meaning of the single Etruscan words. In fact, in neglecting to examining the many Etruscan anthroponims as well, the archeologists – as I will say further on- completely failed.

3) But even worst is the non “external comparison” of the 8,500 Etruscan words we have with other words of ancient languages, and in particular still with Greek and Latin.

Unfortunately “numbers”, notwithstanding and despite their precision, are easily forgotten. Both in Greek and in Latin about more than one hundred thousand words are possibly known, that is, all together, they are more than two hundred thousand; and this is a huge number which could offer linguists a very rich field of research and comparison.

Having said that, considering that Greek, Latin and Etruscans lived together in the same geographical area for several centuries, it is absurd to believe that many words of Etruscan language, which are unknown in their semantic value or “meaning”, cannot be paralled by the 2,000 Greek and Latin words, the meaning of which is instead completely known. They will be either Greek and Latin words which entered the Etruscan language otherwise Etruscan words which were introduced in Greek or in Latin language. (It has to end to believe that a number of Greek and Latin words have entered in Etruscan language and no Etruscan word has entered the Greek and Latin; events of communication and exchange between one civilization and another never have a ‘one and only way!).

And then the logical consequence of this special and successful general linguistic situation would be as follows: the “meaning” of the Greek and Latin words which is completely known will be the “meaning” of the corresponding Etruscan words as well. Thus the “meaning” of many Etruscan words would have been at last “deciphered” and discovered.

4) How was it possible that the Italian archaeologists have ignored and did not apply this important and necessary and so “obvious” process of “external comparison” between the Etruscan one hand and the Greek and Latin on the other? It was possible just because they have accepted totally uncritically the claim that “The Etruscan language is not comparable with any other language”.

This amazing thesis was for the first time supported by the Greek historian Dionysius of Halicarnassus (I 30, 2), who had lived a few decades before Christ; but he was not a glottologist or a linguist, also on the ground that it was necessary that from his time 1,800 years passed before the birth and affirmation in Europe of glottology as “the historical and comparative study of languages”.

In fact, the argument that “the Etruscan language is not comparable with any other” would scientifically be justified only on one condition: that the Italian archaeologists have proven their knowledge of all the languages of all the peoples who have lived in the past around the Mediterranean basin, and knowing them all to perfection archaeologists could eventually conclude with their negative thesis. But the Italian archaeologists have never demonstrated that they have an extensive and in-depth expertise in historical linguistics, and for this reason their theory of “incomparability of the Etruscan language with any other” was and is entirely without foundation. On the other hand, I am of the opinion that not even a proper linguist who possessed the vast and in-depth expertise of historical linguistics existed, which is why even any linguist would be able to speak and motivate this thesis.

Actually, when archaeologists have taken as good and they have disclosed their thesis by which ‘”Etruscan language is not comparable to any other,” not only they went against another clear and strong “obviousness”, but they even invited and imposed the linguist who wanted to participate in their meetings and to collaborate in their journals not to make use of what is the first and most important tool of linguistics, precisely the “comparison” .

Of course it has happened that almost all linguists, Italian and foreigner as well, did not accept this judgment and imposition of Italian archaeologists, but they paid their refusal with their total exclusion from the major events that archaeologists have organized from time to time also on the topic of the Etruscan language.

5) But the sentence pronounced and executed by the archaeologists of the method of “comparison” in the study of the Etruscan language logically dragged another one: the condemnation of the “etymology” or of “etymological method”. These are words which are condemned, prohibited, execrated at conferences and in journals of archaeologists relating the Etruscan language.

And instead I first believe that they are committing a big mistake not making a necessary and important distinction between the language “comparison” on the one hand and the “etymology” on the other. If I compare or connect the Latin/Etruscan gloss Amphiles, Ampiles «May», i.e. «month of the vine leaves», “with the Greek word ámpelos «vine, vineyard», “I simply establish a” comparison “, but if I said that the Etruscan name “derives” from the Greek one or the contrary, then I would do an “etymology,” which means and implies precisely the “derivation”.

In the “comparison” that I put forward among the 8,500 Etruscan words we have and which are unknown with 2,000 Greek and Latin that we have and do know, is already very important to stop at this stage, since it often allows us to “decipher” or just capture the “meaning” of Etruscan vocabulary. But no one can force a linguist not to proceed further, not to use the other important method of his research, “the etymological method”. And in the example above no one can deny a linguist to envisage the thesis that the words Etruscan Amphiles, Ampiles «May», «month of the vine leaves» the Greek word ámpelos «vine vineyard», lat. pampinus «vine leaf» and (proto)Sardinian s’ampilare «the climbing of the vine too», “derive”, independently of one another, by a word of viticulture in the “Mediterranean substratum and pre-Indo-European”.

In fact, demanding a linguist who wants to take an interest in the Etruscan language, not to use the “comparison” or the “etymology” would correspond to expect that a bird flies without using its wings.

And this is another “obviousness” ignored and contradicted by archaeologists: the linguist has the right and the duty to perform both the “comparison” of words she/he studies and their “etymology” or origin.

6) On the other hand it is a fact that the Italian archaeologists unanimously claim that regarding Etruscan language “there is no problem of deciphering”, as it had already been “deciphered completely”. But even with this thesis they do not realize they have a very improper and partly wrong concept of “linguistic deciphering”.

For an ancient language of which only written documentation are available, i.e. without any evidence in today’s tongues, in fact there are two different “deciphering”, or rather, two different levels of deciphering. The first one is to “decipher the alphabetical letters ” or graphemes, that is, in being able to turn them into oral sounds, or phonemes, that is, in being able to pronounce them, and this first step of deciphering of course has already been made for the Etruscan language, which, by virtue of the use that the Etruscans made of Greek alphabet, is now almost perfectly and totally readable or pronounceable. But the real and most important “deciphering” comes later: from the graphemes it is easy to understand what is the actual meaning they carry and conceal, that kind of deciphering according to which from the “notation” you can go to their “factual or conceptual meanings”.

It is clear that the word and the concept of “deciphering” originates from the practice of secret messages that are encrypted and transmitted with “ciphers”. Well, in an office of military deciphering, in which I worked during the Second World War, our first task was to be able to “catch” exactly the “ciphers” of the encrypted messages of the enemy, but the real decoding of these messages was made only later, when from the ciphers we caught we could get the message they carried and concealed, that is, when we could go from the signs which were encrypted to the facts or concepts which were meant and transmitted.

Well, despite the fact that the Italian archaeologists deny it firmly, the problem of the deciphering the Etruscan language exists till now and to a large extent. We read and pronounce in an almost entirely sure manner all the words that appear in Etruscan inscriptions, but, apart anthroponyms, we do not know yet the exact meaning of hundreds of Etruscan words.

7) Another “obviousness” which is ignored and contradicted by Italian archaeologists is related to the initial choice of study material. You do not need great experience in language studies to know and understand that the inscriptions of an ancient language that is unknown are all the more easily to translate the more they are long. As a matter of fact in long inscriptions the chances of both the “internal comparison” and the “external comparison” of words are much more numerous than in the short inscriptions. In addition, in the long inscriptions amendments of errors of the ancient scribe are also possible, while in the short inscriptions such amendments are almost always impossible. And also, in the short inscriptions – just for reasons of brevity – abbreviations are frequently used, and they are often indecipherable because they were made at random by different scribes. What’s more the discovery of the “falsity” of a long inscription is vastly easier than the discovery of the “falsity” of a short inscription.

This new “obviousness” of the study commonly used of a long than of a short text should have forced archaeologists to consider first of all the long Etruscan texts that are available, that is the Liber linteus the Mummy of Zagreb, which, several repetitions excluded, presents more than 500 words the Tabula Capuana which has about 190, the Cippo of Perugia with about 90, the Tabula Cortonensis with about 60; instead archaeologists have thrown themselves into the shorter Etruscan inscriptions. Some of them were certainly easy to interpret and translate, while others have proved immediately of difficult interpretation and translation.

It would be too long and also useless to show the long and intricate disputes that archaeologists have woven around some short and very brief Etruscan inscriptions, for which there was and still there is also the possibility that some mistakes made by the ancient scribe occurred and that some of them is even “false”.

On the other hand, in the field of language, it is easy to find that in general messages the more short, the more they run the risk of being ambiguous or at least poorly understandable.

8) The lack of significant relevance of the quite rich Etruscan linguistic material which have arrived at us is also derived from the fact that much of the material consists of a large number of anthroponyms (forenames, noble and nicknames) in comparison with a lexical material (titles, first names, numerals, verbs, adverbs, prepositions and conjunctions) which is much more scarce.

This serious difficulty represented by the type of Etruscan linguistic material which is in our possession cannot and should not be denied, but there was a major operation should be carried out, but this has not even been attempted by archaeologists: it is true that anthroponyms at an initial analysis look like “opaque” in the sense that they indicate or “mean” to the listener or reader only single men and single families, but true linguists know that, when analysed properly, even anthroponyms can become “transparent” in the sense that they may also reveal their original “meaning” too. Originally, also anthroponyms were “titles” as well, consisting almost always of nouns or adjectives used as nouns, even in their diminutive or augmentative form, which identified either a piece of personal data or a feature, physical or moral, of the individual who was named. For example, Italian surnames Cremona, Ferrara and Verona at first indicated the origin of a family from one of those cities, the surnames Bianchi, Neri and Rossi indicated, with the plural of the family, that their people were either of “white” or “black, dark” or “red” complexion; the surnames Forti, Gagliardi, Onesti indicated a moral quality of their holders, the surnames Medici, Mercante, Ferrari indicated their profession, the Etruscan forename Larth meant “commander, prince” (Cicero, Phil., 9.4; Livio, IV.17.1) and the other Velthur “vulture”, and so on.

So anthroponyms after an initial “opacity” properly investigated by the linguist, eventually also offer a “transparency” of lexical value. And then, even the large number of anthroponyms documented by Etruscan inscriptions, if they were analysed according to the rules and procedures of linguistics, would end by offering many important lexical elements and ideas related to the Etruscan language.

9) Among the peoples of the Italian peninsula, with whom the Etruscans came into contact, the closest one were the Romans. Between the VIII and VI century, Etruscans and Romans lived almost in a close symbiosis. It must be noted that the river Tiber was not considered at that time in the centre of Latium, but it was considered the boundary between the Romans and the Etruscans. For this reason, Rome itself was not considered at the centre of Latium Vetus, but it was precisely considered a border town between Etruria and Latium. So much so that the very name Rome was probably Etruscan, namely a variant of the title ruma “breast”, indicating the great “breast” or loop that makes up the Tiber at Tiber Isle and that the same name of the river was most likely Etruscan. Not only that, but at the time of the monarchy in force in Rome, the reigning dynasty of the Tarquins was of Etruscan nationality and also had held the city not just for some tens of years as it is commonly thought and said, but for more than a century. Even the most ancient inscriptions that have been found in Rome are in Etruscan language and alphabet and not in Latin.

Well, during the long and close contacts that the Etruscans and the Romans had especially in the age of the monarchy, it is clear and certain that several exchanges of words between their languages and especially of anthroponyms occurred. This has been brilliantly demonstrated by the old but still important and brilliant work of Wilhelm Schulze Zur Geschichte Lateinischer Eigennamen (1904), who showed a wide correspondence of many Latin anthroponyms with Etruscan ones. In my recent work Dizionario della Lingua Etrusca (Sassari 2005) I think I have – by virtue of the successive discoveries of new Etruscan inscriptions – greatly expanded the number of those matches, reaching the number of about 1,600 Etruscan anthroponyms that correspond, more or less certainly, to as many Latin anthroponyms.

But – as I mentioned before – even Latin gentilicia and cognomina, as well as their proper anthroponomastic value, have a lexical value too and I have concluded that the lexical value of Etruscan anthroponyms is the same of the corresponding Latin anthroponyms. Thus the “comparison” and the connection between the Etruscan and Latin anthroponyms has allowed us to reach about 1,600 of Etruscan words of which, more or less, now we know the lexical and semantic value as well, i.e. to expand the number of Etruscan words of which we, more or less, deciphered the semantic value or “meaning” which was first ignored.

10) It is well known that Etruscans, in their qualification that is widely recognized by the ancients of a “very religious” people (which also meant “very superstitious”; they were already used to do, for good luck, horns with fingers), did influence the religion of the Romans a lot.

Suffice it to recall that in the Roman Capitoline Triad, only Jupiter was properly Roman, while the two other goddesses Juno and Minerva were certainly of Etruscan origin. It was therefore another linguistic obviousness to suppose that following the profound Etruscan influences on Roman religion also a large part of religious terminology of the Etruscans had entered into Latin language. This entry of Etruscan religious terminology in Latin was logical and “obvious” to suppose and to ascertain in the longer texts in Etruscan language we possess, namely the Liber Linteus of the Mummy of Zagreb and the Tabula Capuana, of which it was soon realized that they were precisely “religious texts”.

But the Italian archaeologists have neglected even to try and carry out this research and checking, since they kept away from dealing with the great texts of the Etruscan language, and – as I have already said – they puzzled in the interpretation and translation of just the short inscriptions.

On the contrary I threw myself into the study of the long religious Etruscan texts, pivoting precisely in the belief that at least some part of their religious terminology corresponded exactly to the Latin one. And the results I obtained with this methodological perspective and hermeneutics have gone far beyond my wildest expectations, resulting in my final recent book I Grandi Testi della Lingua Etrusca tradotti e commentati (Sassari 2011) where I have sent forth the broadest interpretation and translation of these religious texts that has as yet been made.

11) It is well known that the father of Western historiography, the Greek Herodotus (484-425 BC.), in one very famous passage of his (I 94), says that the Etruscans of Italy were nothing more than half of the population of Lydia – land of Asia Minor or Anatolia, situated in the centre of the Aegean coast – which had to emigrate because of a severe famine which lasted 18 years. This story of Herodotus was later confirmed and even enhanced with details by other 30 Greek and Latin authors, but he was opposed by the only Greek historian, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, who instead supported the argument that the Etruscans were from Italy itself, that is they were “native (autochthonous)”. Dionysius had lived four centuries after Herodotus and so much later of the narrated events and also he had been essentially hostile to the Etruscans, of which he contested the contribution to the power of Rome, attributing it instead to the Greeks.

Well, it was logical and even “obvious” that among the 31 ancient Greek and Latin authors (Herodotus + 30) in favour of the migratory thesis (migrazionista, migratory) of Etruscans and only one – and, what is more, “suspected” – in favour of the autochthonous thesis (autoctonista), the Italian archaeologists were to opt for the thesis of the first ones, but instead they opted for the thesis of the second one. Fine example, this, of a big “historiographical scrupulousness”, a new macroscopic episode of methodological “obviousness” which was ignored and contradicted: opting for the testimony of one witness and disregarding that of the other 31 texts!

In this regard, I note that also the well known religious and civic Etruscan custom of indicating the passage of each year with the hammering in of a nail into the temple of the goddess Northia (Livio VII 3.7), leads us to suggest that the Etruscans had yet the clear historical memory of the date of their arrival in Italy, that was the beginning of this practice of theirs, and that of course they had great care to recall. This practice in fact would have had no reason to exist if it was true that the Etruscans were in Italy ever since.

Instead, starting from the fifties of the last century to the present, among Italian archaeologists this thesis prevails: «The problem of the origin of the Etruscans does not exist, as they were only of Italian origin, that is, they were “natives”». And all this is supported by archaeologists, although some linguists have been demonstrating for years many connections that exist between the Etruscan language on one side and some other languages of Asia Minor!

12) Starting from 1947, with his book L’Origine degli Etruschi (Rome 1947), Massimo Pallottino, head of the Italian Archaeological School, did not want any discussion on the “origin of the Etruscans” anymore and in practice, at least here in Italy, for many decades nobody has spoken on this subject anymore. According to him, that of the “origin of the Etruscans” would be a problem that does not make sense, as it would be the one of the “origin of the French”. Etruscan ethnos – he reasoned – was born and grew up only in Italy, just as the French civilization was born and grew up, that is “formed”, exclusively in Gaul.

This concept of the “formation of the Etruscan civilization” which occurred only in Italy, similar to that of “the formation of French civilization”, which occurred only in France, was an absolutely firm and indubitable point, which, since 1947, has affected almost all studies relating to the Etruscan civilization and even those relating to the Etruscan language up to now. Yet with a little attention it could be seen that the concept of “formation” had a weak point in itself: it was sufficient to note that, given that “French civilization was formed only in France”, nothing prevents a researcher from dealing with the problem of the “origins” of the elements that have contributed to the formation of French civilization, namely the problem of the “origin of the Latin element” that came from Italy and the problem of the “origin of the  French element”, that came from Germany . Similarly, while conceding that “the Etruscan civilization was formed in Italy”, nothing prevents a scholar to consider the problem of the “origin of the oriental element” which is clearly and strongly present in the Etruscan civilization (it even was rightly called the “Orientalizing”) and which came from Lydia in Asia Minor.

As a result the Italian archaeological school has always insisted on the perfect continuity between the ancient Villanovan culture of central Italy and the later Etruscan civilization, while the distinguished French historian of ancient civilization Jean Bérard, (La Magna Grecia – storia delle colonie greche dell’Italia meridionale, Turin 1963, pg. 493) pointed out that “The Etruscan civilization of the historical age establishes itself in opposition to the Villanovan one within which it develops, and nothing is more different and contrasting between the poor graves of cremation of the Villanovan period and the rich burial chambers of the proper Etruscan period “.

Besides, another French scholar too, who is a deep connoisseur and illustrator of the Etruscan civilization, Jacques Heurgon, argued, albeit in a very diplomatic way, the thesis of the Eastern origin of the Etruscans (see La vie quotidienne chez les Étrusques, Paris 1961, Rome et la Méditerranée Western jusqu’aux guerres puniques, Paris 1969).

13) There are quite numerous and quite obvious cultural and linguistic connections that bind with Asia Minor or Anatolia also the ancient civilization of Sardi Nuragici of Sardinia, which was the first “civilization” of Italy, as it has preceded that of Etruscans of four centuries (XIII-IX BC). There is also some information from ancient Greek historians, which shows that even the Sardi Nuragici came – just as the Etruscans – from the previously mentioned Lydia in Asia Minor. And it is also very likely that Sardinians have derived their name and that of their country Sardò-Sardinia from the name of Sardis or Sardeis, the capital of Lydia.

Cultural connections between Sardi Nuragici and the Etruscans had already been discovered and reported since several decades: tholos or “dome” of Etruscan tombs similar to that of nuragic towers, funeral small ships – of distant Egyptian origin – found in Etruscan tombs, which are similar to the nuragic ones; Etruscan bronze small statues of priests, priestesses, faithfuls and animals similar to the nuragic ones, Etruscan weapons similar to nuragic weapons.

These close cultural connections between the Etruscans and the Sardi Nuragici find their explanation in the important fact that Sardinia was and is a stone’s throw from Etruria. For the inhabitants of the Etruscan cities of the Tyrrhenian coast – they were the older ones – Cerveteri, Tarquinia, Vetulonia and Populonia, it was quicker, easier and safer to reach Sardinia than the Etruscan cities of the Adriatic, Spina and Adria.

And despite this other “obviousness” of the close and obvious cultural connections and of geographical proximity, when with my first works La lingua dei Sardi Nuragici e degli Etruschi and Lessico Etrusco Latino comparato col Nuragico (Sassari 1981, 1984), I pointed out the ‘existence even of language connections between the wrecks of the Sardinian language Nuragici with that of Etruscans, the Italian archaeologists did not pay any attention to it. They did not object to anything, but they spread a veil of total silence on the subject.

Only an archaeologist at the University of Perugia intervened with an article published in a Rome newspaper to “destroy” my book. I immediately replied by showing that he had no expertise to judge a book of historical linguistics and that- much worse – he had not even read it! A few years later the same person decided to intervene on my translation of the Tabula Cortonensis, but again showing his total linguistic incompetence, so as not to know the difference between “subjective genitive” and “objective genitive” (see – quoted above - I Grandi Testi, Paragraph 3, p. 129).

14) In the ruling thesis which is unanimously and uncritically accepted by Italian archaeologists, according to which “the Etruscan language is not comparable with any other” it was and is implicit the other argument that “the Etruscan language is not an Indo-European language”.

It is quite clear and still “obvious” that to address this topic on the Indo-European character or not of the Etruscan language you must have a very wide and very deep glottological background, that is, of “historical and comparative linguistics”; and this, of course, does not belong to the scientific grounding of an archaeologist. This is despite the thesis or the ruling of “non-indo-european character of Etruscan language”, perhaps the most widely and most commonly supported and repeated argument by Italian archaeologists.

Yet there are nor few or little authoritative glottologists who instead have argued the thesis of the Indo-European character of Etruscan language: W. Corssen, S. Bugge, I. Thomopoulos, E. Vetter, A. Trombetti, E. Sapir, G. Buonamici, E. Goldmann, P. Kretschmer, F. Ribezzo, F. Schachermayr, A. Carnoy, VI Georgiev, WM Austin, RW Wescott, FC Woudhuizen, F. Bader, FR Adrados, etc.. and also the author of this study is included. I state that is fairly well known that the discovery of the Indo-European linguistic unity has been historically and primarily achieved owing to the fact that the numerals of the first decade of many languages do correspond with each other. Well, for my part I have even shown that precisely almost all Etruscan numerals of the first decade correspond to those of other Indo-European languages (see M. Pittau, Tabula Cortonensis – Lamine di Pirgi e altri testi etruschi tradotti e commentati, already quoted, Paragraph 5, which can be read also on my website

In addition I had the opportunity to show and highlight the extraordinary and full convergence that is found between the Etruscan language and other Indo-European languages on the following points (LEGL § 5):

a) enclitic conjunction in Etruscan -C,-ca,us equal to that of Sanskrit – ca and Latin – que (Senatus Populus Romanus-que ) (LEGL § 110).

b) morpheme -s of the Etruscan genitive singular equal to that of Latin, of Greek and of other Indo-European languages (LEGL § 48).

c) morpheme -i of the Etruscan dative equal to that of Latin and Greek (LEGL § 57).

d) ending of the Etruscan present participle – nth (AMINTH «Lover» CLEVANTH «offerer», NUNTHENTH «prayer») equal to – nt – of Latin and Greek (LEGL § 124).

e) ending the Etruscan preterite – keus equal to the Greek – ke : Etr. TURICE, TURUCE, TURCE, TURKE «donated, has donated» to compare with the Greek dedórheke «donated, has donated».

f) the Etruscan locative ending – t e), t-(i)-th (e)-th(i) same as Greek, although rare, óikothi «at home» thyrhethi «at the door, outside», Ilióthi «in Ilium» (LEGL § 59).

g) Etruscan adverb TUI «here» equal to the Greek Tyi «here» (LEGL § 109).

These could seem convergences of very little importance, given the very small phonetic consistency of those morphemes and of this adverb, but instead it must be pointed out their strong demonstrative consistency, provided that, for the “economy rule” which – as you know – plays a huge role in the field of languages as well, linguistic facts that are more frequent and thus the most important are those that have the shortest and simplest phonetic structure (LEGL § 48).

And above all, we must note that these are linguistic facts which are not related to the lexicon, in which loanwords among the languages are very frequent, but to the “morphology”, in which borrowings are rare.

So even this very substantial and considerable “language obviousness” has been ignored and contradicted by Italian archaeologists, who presume to be able to also deal with the problems of “Etruscan language”: their scientific basic knowledge does not allow them to intervene at all on the question of the Indo-European character or not of the Etruscan language.

15) With such a long series of “obviousness” related to specific scientific expertise, to exact linguistic procedures, – methodological and hermeneutical ones – which were ignored, overlooked and contradicted, it was logical and necessary that the Italian archaeological school, monopolizing the Etruscan language, would lead to what was undoubtedly the greatest “philological-linguistic failure” that has ever been in the history of philological and linguistic disciplines, starting with the Alexandrian philology up to the present. And it is a “failure” that has been going on for 70 years and even continues unabated!

In this very way and for these exact reasons, a fact that seemingly so far could appear completely inexplicable can be explained: ancient languages which have been discovered in recent times and are documented with scanty and inconsistent inscriptions or excerpts of inscriptions, in a few decades have been by linguists deciphered, translated and classified. This is the case of the following languages: Sumerian, Hittite, Hurrian, Urartaic, Elamite, Ugaritic, Lycian, Lydian, Phrygian, etc. But, with reference to the Etruscan language, which is documented by about 11,000 inscriptions and also by quite consistent texts, such as Liber linteus and the Tabula Capuana, hermeneutical and research progress, carried out by the Italian archaeological school in recent decades have been almost imperceptible. The enormity of this “cultural failure” is just directly proportional to the great political, organizational and economic power that the Italian archaeologists have got and that they use extensively.

On this subject it should be noted that archaeologists – especially the Italian ones – have a huge political, economic and organizational power, that no category of humanities scholars, sociologists, anthropologists, philologists, linguists, historians, etc. not even dream to possess.

First of all, archaeologists have an enormous political power, since, with legal instruments on hand, are able to block or change zoning of cities, impede or block private buildings and public buildings as well, deflecting railways, roads, highways and airports, to declare true or false findings that consequently gain or lose value. And for this reason archaeologists are feared, respected, cherished and supported by politicians and public officials at all levels.

Secondly, since archaeologists are the “gatekeepers” of a considerable part of the “archaeological and artistic heritage” of Italy – which is also its largest and most true economic richness – for their office they get major funding from the State , Regions, Provinces, “Comunità Montane” (Mountain Communities), by municipalities and banks; with this money they are able to organize, with total autonomy and discretion, ground excavations, restoration of monuments, exhibitions, conferences and to print all publications and scientific journals they ever want.

In 1985 in the areas of ancient Etruria, Tuscany, Umbria and northern Latium, the II International Etruscan Congress was organised (the first had been organized in 1929), which was attended by over 600 conference participants from all parts of the world; on that occasion in different cities beautiful exhibitions were opened and a series of good publications on various aspects the Etruscan civilization were printed. For the organization of that grandiose conference it seems that, with the financial assistance of the State, of the regions of Tuscany, Umbria, Lazio and Emilia Romagna, the municipalities of various big cities, of the Italian Car Factory FIAT and the bank Monte dei Paschi di Siena, the sum of 4 billion of Italian lire (even the sum of 14 billion was quoted, but I do not believe it is true) was reached. Anyway, it was a very nice sum, with which it was not so difficult to organize such a grand conference.

For the same high volume of financial resources they manage, archaeologists have an easy access to all the major publishing houses, which, of course, are always willing to publish books full of beautiful photographs and numerous drawings of archaeological monuments. And for this same reason archaeologists have easy access in newspapers and magazines, with articles and interviews given to the wide popular divulgation.

In addition to this in the publishing houses archaeologists are also able to block and boycott publications that are not to their liking. I will present a personal case: a well-known and leading publisher in Florence declared to be available and happy to publish my work Dizionario della Lingua Etrusca (Sassari 2005), which includes, analyzed and often translated, the entire vocabulary of the Etruscan language, which has been discovered and published up to 2005, and it was the first and only overall vocabulary of the Etruscan language ever existing. Of this Dictionary of Etruscan Language, Riccardo Ambrosini, Professor of Linguistics at the University of Pisa, as well as President of the “Accademia Lucchese di Scienze, Lettere e Arti,” at which I had been called to hold two conferences, one on Tabula Cortonensis and the other one just on my Dictionary,  had written to me from San Lorenzo di Moriano on 18/11/2005 as follows: “Dearest Pittau, I have just received your wonderful Dictionary of Etruscan Language and I hastened to read some pages that attracted my immediate curiosity. I want to congratulate you on the clever arrangement of the material and the prudence of some proposals, which you emphasize well in your clear introduction. (….) Congratulations and a heartfelt sorry for my envy for your wonderful work, and together with these, my warmest thanks and most cordial greetings. Your [signed]“. But the Florentine publisher was dissuaded from publishing my Dictionary at least by some members of the “Istituto di Studi Etruschi ed Italici” (Etruscan and Italic Studies Institute) in Florence, then apologized to me by saying that he had continuous and organic dealings with that institution…

Finally, the directors of the various archaeological museums are often able to make “private” what are the “public archaeological and art heritage”, i.e. belonging to the Italian nation, failing to show them to other scholars and using them instead for their own publications. A dozen years ago, the Superintendent of the Archaeological Heritage of Tuscany, having got hold of the seven fragments of the famous Tabula Cortonensis, kept them hidden for more than five years to finally put them into circulation with his personal publishing (see M. Pittau, Tabula Cortonensis – Lamine di Pirgi ed altri testi etruschi tradotti e commentati , Sassari 2000, pages. 41-42).

Well, with all their immense political, administrative and economic power it was not difficult for the Italian archaeologists to grab, govern and monopolize the Etruscan language: they are able to organize and rule all the conferences on the Etruscan language they want, choose the official speakers, of course excluding those they do not like, print publications related to the Etruscan language, accept or reject linguistic study papers of their magazines – especially the richest one that is the “Etruscan Studies” (“Studi Etruschi”) in Florence.

Finally – last but not least – archaeologists obviously are ruling in their absolute pleasure, as well as in the allocation of regional Archaeological Superintendence, the chairs of Etruscologia in the universities across Italy, chairs in which they pursue and delude themselves that they know how to teach the Etruscan language too, with the help of some educational booklets that I, who also wrote the successful La Lingua Etrusca- grammatica e lessico (Nùoro 1997; initials LEGL), do not hesitate to call “indecent” because merely state rudiments of the Etruscan language dating back to the middle of the last century.

16) At this point the question arises: how did in these seventy years and how do glottologists and linguists behave now with reference to the Etruscan language?

Some linguists completely conformed to the positions of archaeologists and have been well received by them in all their initiatives, conferences, publications and magazines, and together with them, do share the glory and power.

Some other linguists attempted to enter the world of the Italian Etruscology, but with linguistic theories which are not perfectly in line with those of archaeologists, with the result that they had no luck and had to retire from the field.

I begin by mentioning the case of the linguist Marcello Durante, author of the important study Considerazioni intorno al problema della classificazione dell’Etrusco – “Part One” (in Studi Micenei ed Egeo-Anatolici”, VII, 1968, pp. 7-60, – “Part One” (in “Studies Mycenaean and Aegean-Anatolian”, VII, 1968, p. 7-60), in which he connected the Etruscan language with ancient Anatolian languages and in which there was the announcement of a subsequent “Part Two”. Having one day asked this colleague, Mr Durante, when his second study would appear, since he announced the printing of it, he replied, very disappointed, that he had completely renounced to his idea after he observed the utter indifference with which the Italian archaeologists had received his first study …

And a complete indifference the Italian archaeologists showed for a study of another glottologist at the University of Pavia, a specialist in Anatolian languages, Onofrio Carruba, L’Origine degli Etruschi: il problema della lingua (Atti VI Convegno Internazionale di Linguisti, Milano 1974 Brescia 1977, p. 137-151), (Acts VI International Congress of Linguists, London 1974 Brescia 1977, pages. 137-151). He, too, connected the Etruscan language also with ancient languages of Asia Minor. Indeed, while I have seen mentioned a few times by the Italian archaeologists the study by Marcello Durante, on the one by Mr Carruba a silence fell. And the reason is quite clear: Carruba had dared to explicitly address the issue of origin of the Etruscans, which was a forbidden topic and excommunicated by the Italian archaeological school …

And other linguists had later no better luck: they reported the Etruscan language still in the framework of the ancient languages of Asia Minor, Vladimir I. Georgiev, The language and the origins of the Etruscans (1979), and Lydiaka und Lydisch-Etruskische Gleichungen (1984) , and Francisco R. Adrados, Etruscan as an IE Anatolian (Hittite but not) Language (1989) (In “The Journal of Indo-European Studies”, Washington 1989, Monograph no. 5, pages. 363-38. And finally, the undersigned, linguist who wrote more than anyone on the tongue and rusca (12 books and hundreds of studies) and in my research and analysis have involved the high number of about 1,000 titles, 2,500 anthroponyms and 1,600 Etruscan texts: total indifference on the part of etruscologists-archaeologists, absolute silence on their part!

However, it must be pointed out and lamented that, in general, linguists, Italian and foreign ones, have been kept and were kept away from the Etruscan language, because obviously they were intimidated by the overwhelming power of archaeologists and by the ostracism exercised by them against “heretics”.

But probably even more serious is the “cultural failure” on the Etruscan language caused by archaeologists, towards the great mass of readers and fans, who are a great number in Italy and in Europe: as a result of the ruling thesis of the archaeologists about the fact that “the Etruscan language is not comparable with any other”, in the general intellectual public, and even among the teachers of every school and grade, it exists the serious prejudice by which the “Etruscan language is all a mystery,” “the Etruscan language is an impenetrable sphinx”, which so far no one has been able to “decipher”.

And this prejudice that runs in the general intellectual public drags another even more serious and very picturesque: in newspapers, in magazines, in television programmes of various broadcasts, at least every half year an erratic genius arises who is the “discoverer of the decryption key of Etruscan language”. And he has for some months the media fame and glory, as long as this is obscured after a while by a new “discoverer of the decryption key of Etruscan language” …

So these are the actual results of the monopoly and the ruling which made a category of the Etruscan language, or, rather, a “caste” of individuals so powerful that they can pass off as “linguistic competence” and boast of what is absolutely not!

Massimo Pittau

Professore Emerito of the University of Sassari

Nota bene : references can be found in the writing of the same author, 50 anni di studi sulla lingua etrusca in Italia, which can also be read on his website.

Featured image, extent of Etruscan civilization and the twelve Etruscan League cities, source Wikipedia.

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