Friday, May 26, 2017

Pre-Greek studies volume 2 is here!

Do you remember our first volume of Pre-Greek studies by G.Tardivo called "Prometheus or Amirani"? We've just publiced part 2 which is "An updated study on the Pre-Greek substrate and its origins". You will find it under our articles in both HTML and PDF format.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Prometheus or Amirani part 2: An updated study on the Pre-Greek substrate and its origins

Prometheus or Amirani part 2.

An updated study on the Pre-Greek substrate and its origins.
Giampaolo Tardivo, Philippos Kitselis


Abstract
In the late 80s and early 90s, Colin Renfrew presented his Anatolian hypothesis. According to him, the agrarian revolution begun in Anatolia, and from there, it spread out in Europe. He supposed that these farmers were carriers of the Proto-Indo-European language, but his theory had weak support from Indo-European linguists. Some questions then arise: What language(s) was introduced in the Ægean islands and mainland Greece by these early farmers? Can we figure out the affiliations of the Minoan language? A different agrarian hypothesis will be shown in these pages, unrelated to the Indo-European and Semitic language families. It instead is featuring a new language family that encompasses the Ægean, Anatolia, Caucasus and the Near East.

Keywords: Pre-Greek, Minoan, Substrate, Anatolia, Caucasus, Near East, Hattic, Hurrian, North Caucasian, Agricultural substrate hypothesis

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The Ægean and Anatolia from an anthropological point of view

Nine thousand (9,000) years ago farming spread to Europe through Greece and the Balkans. Today there is clear genetic evidence that those farmers arrived to Greece from Anatolia, nowadays Turkey, and the Levant through the sea (Paschou et al 2014; Fernández et al 2014; Hofmanová et al 2016). At that time Greece had a small1, scattered Mesolithic population found only in the coastal zone of the south and west (Van Andel and Runnels 1995). The demographic impact of an agrarian population arriving at Greece was considerable. Those farmers were not just waves of migrating men, but whole families (Goldberg et al. 2017) that could continue to breed and speak their mother tongue in the new lands. Yet language is very dynamic and does not necessarily depend on numbers. Newcomers carried out more advanced technology and a new way of life. The indigenous hunter gatherer societies were not the only ones to define the shape of things to come anymore2. This was the beginning of a long and complex process of colonization of new territories, together with the displacement, acculturation, and/or assimilation of indigenous Mesolithic hunter gatherers (Colledge et al 2004). However, genes and languages are not always correlated (Campbell 2015). There is a very long timespan between the migration of Anatolian farmers to Greece and the earliest attested languages of Anatolia. We have no clue what happened during those ~5000 years of unattested documentation and we have no sample of an indigenous pre-Indo-European western Anatolian language yet. Nevertheless, there are good reasons to seek an answer for the linguistic prehistory of Greece on the other side of the Ægean.

The Ægean and Anatolia from an archaeological point of view

In this occasion, archaeology and genetics come to the same conclusion. Colledge et al (2004) made a study on the archaeobotanical remains recovered from 40 aceramic Neolithic sites in the Near East and south-east Europe. They noted a similarity between the southern Levantine, Cypriot, and Ægean sites. They concluded that there is a possibility of two dispersal routes: The first route was the maritime-based colonization of Cyprus, central Anatolia, Crete, and mainland Greece from a Levantine core region; the second route was a land route from central/western Anatolia, reaching Thrace and south-east Europe. Pinhasi et al (2004, 2005) provides both archaeological and anthropological evidence for the dispersal of farmers to Greece. Apart from coming to the same conclusions as above, their following observation took our attention:
Pinhasi and Pluciennik, in their analysis of craniometric affinities between populations, point to the homogeneity between Çatal höyük and early Neolithic Greek and south-eastern European groups. This homogeneity contrasts with the pronounced heterogeneity found among other Pre-Pottery Neolithic groups in the Near East. On the basis of these results, they hypothesize that a founder population from central Anatolia (represented by specimens from Çatal höyük ) spread into south-east and central Europe.

One cannot ignore the similarities between central Anatolia and Crete. Mellaart (1962) and Dietrich (1967) were among the first to compare the material from Çatal höyük with what we know of Cretan religion and practices. Renfrew (1998) regards the presence of bread-wheat (Triticum aestivum) in stratum X at Knossos of crucial relevance, since this is absent from other early Neolithic sites but present in early levels at Çatal höyük and Can Hasan III in central Anatolia. Çilingiroğlu and Çakırlar (2013) conclude:


Strong interactions with extra-local communities, such as via obsidian exchange, resulted in the cultural relatedness of these societies with those of the contemporary Aegean and Inner-West Anatolia. The similarity of the settlement patterns, subsistence, architectural techniques and material culture in this entire region is a clear manifestation of the close interactions among early farmer-herders. Land routes, river valleys and maritime routes across Anatolia, Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean were heavily used by prehistoric communities. The long-term circulation of Melian obsidian, the colonisation of the islands of Crete, Gökçeada (Imbros), Cyprus and the simultaneous appearance of impressed pottery around 6100–6000 calBC are clear signs of the continuous and intensive use of maritime routes across the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean. Considering the current state of the archaeological record, Aegean Turkey as a geographical unit is encircled by a dual interaction zone comprising the inner Anatolian and west Aegean cultural spheres. As such, Aegean Turkey also played a key role in the mutual exchange of cultural features between inner Anatolia and Greece.
There’s so much to say about the archaeological data, that it could monopolize this paper which intended to focus on linguistics. A point has been made and it gives good indications; now it’s time to deal with the data we have on language and see if that points us to the same direction.

(Pre-)Greek and its legacy

It is well-known what emerged from Ventris and Chadwick Linear B decipherment, and it is not the case here to repeat once more their results. An early form of (pre-classical) Greek was identified. After this result, some tablets with similar symbols (Linear A) are still waiting for their decipherment. Despite several attempts to crack down the Linear A mystery, no one reached a general consensus. The island of Crete bear the name of «cradle of Europe», and no doubt, there are good reasons to say so. Marvellous buildings, beautiful frescoes, advanced technology and many more items put the Cretan civilization of the bronze age period, in the podium. A clear demarcation needs to be done about Crete – and Greece in general – and all its written record. During excavations on the island and continental Greece, tablets with animal, plants and tools pictures were found, the so-called Cretan hieroglyphics; some others are, with more stylized images, of syllabic reading, alias Linear A. On top of that, very few abrupt inscriptions in the Greek alphabet (scriptio continua) are also found (Praisos, Dreros, etc); and they are known as the Eteocretan inscriptions. All this material, in the best-case scenario, belongs to the early settlers of Crete. It is conceivable that, early settlers and newcomers were in symbiosis for centuries, and then, assimilation occurred. A question may arise: did they disappear without trace over the time? Let see what is happening after very long time of doom and darkness within Greek language. 

Greek language is classified – no doubt – as part of the Indo-European family. However, part of its lexicon and morphology shows a degree of individuality, uncommon to it. Some academics analysed the Greek language from phonological ground, and then came to the conclusion of a substrate, simply because there are words that violate those rules. Due to its geographical position, the Ægean sea is very favourable to trade and commerce with the Near Eastern and North African coast line; that means a cross-linguistic interchange begun very early in history. The Near East got populated by Afro-Asiatic (or Semitic-Hamitic) people and it is now clear that some Semitic words – time to time – entered the Greek language (loanwords); in this way, two elements (Indo-European and Afro-Asiatic) are easily identified.

Pre-Greek: Indo-European or non-Indo-European?

Aside those identifiable loanwords, Greek has a fair amount of vocabulary belonging to a language (or languages) spoken in the Helladic area before Greek. Paul Kretschmer (1896) was an excellent pioneer in this field, who spotted a striking similarity between Greek and Anatolian place names. After the decipherment of Hittite and Linear B, Indo-European hypotheses were becoming rampant  among linguists; remarkably Georgiev (1966) and Palmer (1958). Unfortunately, such an experiment never achieved its goal. The Pelasgian myth had done so much harm and was no longer taken into consideration. Hester (1964) gave, a well-deserved, final blow to the “Pelasgian” school of thought. At the same period, several attempts with Afro-Asiatic languages (Gordon 1957; 1966) gave no better results.

It was time for a new beginning in the field of pre-Greek studies. Furnée (1972) made an effort to recollect all Greek lexical items and so did R. A. Brown (1985), who wrote an interesting book on the subject. The material was later reassessed by Beekes who released several volumes (2003; 2007; 2014) with an extensive analysis. He convincingly demonstrated that the substrate we’re dealing with is not Indo-European. Even Renfrew (1998: 241) acknowledged that3:

The Greek language is unusual among the languages of Europe in the high proportion of its vocabulary which includes words which are not only not Greek words, but apparently not part of an Indo-European vocabulary either.
But what about the “Luwian stratum” in the Greek place names? The pre-Greek place names might have Luwian equivalents, but the Indo-European origin of those names is questionable. It is more likely that they belong to a non-Indo-European stratum that was common in Greece and Anatolia. For instance, the mountain name Παρνασσός has a Luwian equivalent Parnassa, which is believed to be derived from the Luwian root parna ‘house’, a word that lacks secure cognates outside Anatolia. Comparable material is found nearby in the Mediterranean region like the Egyptian pr “house” and Hurrian pur(u)li “house”. Yakubovič (2008: 12) has given the most convincing answer to the Luwian substrate hypothesis:

In order to argue that this layer of toponyms has a Luvian or Anatolian origin, one has to demonstrate a preponderance of Luvian or Anatolian morphemes within this layer. The consonantism of the Greek -(ι)νθo suffix appears to be more archaic than that of its Anatolian counterpart -(a)nda, since /th/ could be easily reinterpreted as /t/~/d/ in the Anatolian languages that lacked phonological aspiration, whereas the opposite change in Greek would be unmotivated. The presence of the (voiceless) aspirate series in the Pre-Greek substrate is independently confirmed through the devoicing of the etymological voiced aspirates in Greek. 
With regard to the Greek suffix -(α)σσο-, de Hoz (2004: 46-47) reminds us of the existence of its allophone -(η)ττο- in Attica (for examples, see already Kretschmer 1896: 405). The dialectal variation between -σσ- and -ττ- in the inherited stratum of the Greek lexicon normally points to the etymological clusters *-kj- or *-tj-, which later developed into the affricate /ts/ or something similar. Neither the substrate suffix *-ntho- nor the substrate suffix *-tso- would have convincing comparanda in the Indo-Hittite language family.
Chadwick (1969:89) expressed his Luwian scepticism on the same grounds. Beekes (2014:3) issues a caution regarding the labelling of certain non-Greek words in Greek as Luwian. An example is Greek τολύπη “clew, ball of wool for spinning” and the clearly related Luwian/Hittite taluppa/i “lump, clod”. Both the Greek and Anatolian words lack Indo-European etymology and should be seen as non-Indo-European words that entered the Greek and Luwian/Hittite vocabulary. Furthermore, the number of confirmed Luwian loanwords in Greek is close to zero and the lexical material typically identified as pre-Greek reminds us nothing of an Indo-European language. There is of course a small number of probable Indo-European loanwords in Greek4, borrowed most probably from neighbouring languages and not from a substrate or superstrate (Hester 1964: 384). Attempts to identify concrete Indo-European pre-Greek languages appear doomed to failure5.


The linguistic landscape of the Ægean, Anatolia and Caucasus through time

The situation in the neighbouring areas, such as Anatolia and the Near East, was no less complicated. Even there, some languages were classified as non-Indo-European and non-Afro-Asiatic; a third phylum of languages must be considered.

Let's start with central Anatolian region and the lands west of it. All languages spoken there, such as Luwian, Hittite, Carian, Lycian, Palaic and Lydian, were all of Indo-European origin, except one: Hattic6. Not much is known about this language, it is poorly attested with no secure translations. It is certain that Hattic partially influenced the Hittite language, especially in the religious field. Palaic, another poorly attested Indo-European language on the north, shows traces of Hattic or related substrate. In the eastern areas (including Hatay, Adana, Tarsus and Mersin), two languages were of the third phylum: Hurrian and Urartian. Even those languages are not fully understood. The picture, as a whole, cannot exclude the island of Cyprus with the Enkomi inscriptions7.

To stitch altogether at this point, a lot of obstacles are on our path. Two ways are possible: Was there a single linguistic family spread out over the time, or were there different groups of different origins? To conclude this chapter, some scholars put the origins of the Ægean civilization further north, to the Balkan Mountains; unfortunately, with no results. In the last decade, an Anatolian origin of the Minoan civilization is considered to be more likely. Their common heritage is largely considered and in spite of the lack of linguistic material to work it out, recent excavations in the Anatolia plateau reveals the existence of urban life (~10.000 years old) and a social structure of a highly developed civilization. Based on artefacts and material culture, Anatolia is supposed to be very fertile back in the Neolithic age, further, for some reason, such as overpopulation or natural environmental changes, people moved on to more secure areas. Anatolia is an important place, it stretches the from Iranian mountains to the sea of Marmara, and from the Caucasus mountain to the fertile crescent, between the Black sea and the Mediterranean Sea. It is conceivable that, back in the remote past, a more homogeneous population settled in Anatolia, and then, spread by migrating.

In somehow, it is possible to imagine a survival in the most inaccessible area, such as Caucasus mountain. It is well known that the Caucasus mountain was during millennia, a natural refuge for people. That explains why several linguistic families are in found on both sides of the mountain chain. Those ‘families’ are unrelated each other, furthermore, we need to distinguish between Caucasian languages and languages of the Caucasus. Among indigenous Caucasian languages, 2 or 3 families are recognized:

  1. Kartvelian, consisting of only 4 languages: Georgian, Mingrelian and Laz-Svan. This language family is unrelated to any other family worldwide.

  2. North-West or Western Caucasian; divided in 2 main branches, Adyghe and Abkhaz-Abaza.

  3. Nakh-Daghestanian or North-Eastern, split up in VeiNakh (Chechen-Ingush), Avar-Andi, Tsezi, Lak-Dargwa and Lezghian groups.
Some Caucasologists disagree with this assumption, then, the North-West and North-East should be grouped together, some others would explain their common lexicon as loanwords or areal diffusion. In contrast to Caucasian languages, the “languages of Caucasus” may refer to the languages spoken by people whom settled in the area from time to time, but they are not indigenous; they belong to various language families such as:

  1. Indo-European (Russian, Armenian, Ossetian, Pontic Greek).

  2. Altaic (Azeri Turk, Nogai).

  3. Mongolian (Kalmyk).

  4. Afro-Asiatic (Assyrian Neo-Aramaic).
Such a complexity is due to historical reasons. Mountains always offer – despite the difficult environment – a secure protection from new waves of populations. This picture might explain its colourful variety. To resume all contents, from geographical position, Anatolia appear to be in the middle, close to Ægean sea and Caucasus mountain, making it a good point of dispersal.

The Pre-Greek lexicon

There are more than one Greek etymological dictionaries, notably Chantraine, Frisk and the last one is Beekes “Etymological dictionary of Greek”. Beekes dictionary is more complete, because it includes Hesychios (and other authors) glosses. Part of the dictionary is devoted to Pre-Greek words but only in synchronic manner. In Beekes’ pages, comparison is ignored on purpose, because as he says:
[The comparison] with Basque or Caucasian languages has not been considered as this is not my competence; I think it possible that there are such connections, but that must be left to others.
Even L. R. Palmer (1963) in his analyses of the Mycenaean texts wrote:

The existence in the syllabary of a system of opposition plain: palatalized: labialized to the neglect of the opposition voiceless: voiced: aspirate, which are essential to Greek, strongly suggests that the ancestral form of the syllabary was created for a non-Indo-European language. Such phonemic systems are found inter alia among Caucasian languages. 
After that, no major reference to Caucasian languages comparison has been made. Some Pre-Greek words are actually of Afro-Asiatic origin (loans), and their use it goes back to ‘Minoan time’. According to Beekes, Pre-Greek words shows variation in spelling, then, two options are possible:

  1. Time and/or geographical reason.
  2. A writing system unaware of the real pronunciation.
The second option is more credible. The creation of writing system is strictly connected with a specific language, any other language has to ‘adapt’ graphic symbols to the nearest sound in the system. A typical case is the Arabic graphic system for Persian, where some changes have been applied. Unfortunately, the Greek alphabet not only dropped three symbols: ϡ (sampi), ϙ (qoppa) ϝ (digamma); further, any other symbol was never added to. In this way, correct reading becomes difficult. Needless to say, Beekes’ synchronic analyses are available online; and it is not the case here to copy and paste few pages on the subject.

The Pre-Greek affiliations

Pre-Greek language is linked – in somehow – with more Eastern languages, some of them still spoken in Northern Caucasus. This kind of research initiated by Tardivo is ex-novo, there are no previous major studies, except a shallow attempt to compare Georgian with Greek, a complete failure in the matter. All North Caucasian languages lack of written sources, at least, from the ancient times. Only Caucasian Albanian has left some words from the medieval era, but there are no attestations earlier than 18th century CE. It might sound very unusual to see a connection between the Ægean sea and Caucasus mountain, but many Pre-Greek words have an exact counterpart in North Caucasian languages; even their phonological features are working in the same way. Furthermore, it is possible to trace the same word in Hattic and/or Hurro-Urartian languages. Previous attempts to connect Hattic with Western Caucasian languages were deeply criticized outside Russia and the same happened for the comparison between Hurro-Urartian and Nakh-Daghestanian languages. At the end, a deal with Greek substrata never took place. There are two options in the field, in the worst scenario, those words could be interpreted as loanwords; a survival over time. Some Pre-Greek, Hurro-Urartian and/or Hattic words are still in use within Greek8. It is well known that, substrata elements cover up different parts of the lexicon, from trees to place names, from theonyms to everyday life. This search is working on both ways, there are common roots – or they are supposed to be – among all those languages. A relevant point is the written system for Hattic, Hurrian and Urartian; mainly cuneiform, and in some cases, the Phoenician alphabet that was in use for Hurrian. Some words show very long history, like δεύω ‘make wet’, which is seen also in Hattic with tepune, tewuʃuneʃ (tewuuniʃ) ‘Opfer [?], Trankopfer / drinking offering’, and then in Hurrian teb- / tew- ‘to pour, to cast’. It is possible that a common root in *tew(u)-, with basic concept of ‘to pour liquid, make wet’. Furthermore, the same word is found in Akhwakh with =et’w- ‘to drop, to drip, to flow’, in Bezhta with =ot’ ‘to spill, to flow’, and in Tindi with t’ot’ ‘to drip’. Almost all Daghestanian languages (except three) have class-marker, that is why =... appear in adjectives, verbs, etc. Nevertheless, it is clear that there is no opposition between voiced - voiceless, this aspect is manifest in Pre-Greek too, like in κόρυθος ~ κόρυδος, as well as with Nakh-Daghestanian languages:

Avar: d, n, t’
Lezgian: d, tː
Archi: d, n
Tabasaran: d
Chechen: d, Ø
Andi, Tsez and Dargwa: n
Lak: n, t’

A clear sample is ‘winter’:

Lezghian: q’ɰd
Agul and Tabasaran: q’ʔurd
Archi: q’ʔótːaqʔ

All authors (Palmer, Brown, Beekes) agree on this aspect for Pre-Greek, then, if extended to the group as a whole, the result is unchanged.

Another very common case is α-. According to Beekes: 

The definition is ‘initial vowel that is present or absent in (nearly) identical forms’; we cannot say whether the vowel disappeared or was added under certain circumstances; still another possibility is that it represents a kind of laryngeal sound, that was sometimes heard as a vowel and sometimes not. The vowel is in most cases an ἀ-”.

It is the case of ἀκορνοί ~ κόρνοψ ‘locust’ within Pre-Greek. Once again, the same Rule is ἀ- observed in diachronic system. A sample of that is:

ἄχυρον ‘chaff’, Hurrian ḫarw-/ ḫarb- ‘chaff’
ἀπέλλαι ‘assembly’, Urartian u̯eli ‘people, crowd’
ἀγάλλω ‘to exhult in’, Hurrian ḫela ‘glory, glorify’

It is quite evident how apocope affected both, synchrony and diachrony, therefore it should not be ignored. Even with the North Caucasian languages comparison, this rule is unchanged. The theonym ἀκακαλίς, according to R. A. Brown:

ἀκακαλίς of the oriental tamarisk (Dsk. 1, 89)’.
ἀκακαλλίς ‘narcissus (Eumakh. ap. Ath. 15, 681e)’.
ἀκακαλίς ‘juniper (Ps. - Dsk. 1, 75)’.
κακαλίς = ‘νάρκισσος (H., κ 292)’.

This word has no known etymology. The sequence -κ-__-κ- is a clear pointer of its non-Indo-European origin, as is also the fluctuation between -λίς, -λλίς and the prothesis and/or aphesis of initial α-. In mythology Akakallis is one of Pasiphæs’s daughters, thus indicating the strong links between this word and Crete9. In the Daghestanian area, almost all languages have a similar word for it, especially Tsez and Hinuq gagali ‘flower’. Two facts are relevant:

  1. Voiced ~ voiceless opposition is ignored in any form, both in δεύω and in ἀκακαλίς.
  2. In the case of ἀκακαλίς, ἄχυρον, ἀπέλλαι and ἀγάλλω, vocalic apocope is applied in full.
As seen, the rules are unchanged and there is strong suspicion of a common heritage, a proto-language, or, in the worst scenario, close areal contacts. Despite that, some problems may arise when rules are becoming unbearable, like in ἄχνη ‘straw’. Words with syllabic structure VC¹C²V, once apocope is applied to, a problem may arise. In this case, another option must be taken into consideration: Metathesis. In Linguistics, metathesis is seen as a mispronunciation or a misunderstanding of the correct spelling. Recent research, conducted by E. Hume (1998), Blevins & Garrett (1998; 2004), and some others on different languages, show how metathesis works; and it is not due to ‘casual speech’, it is a reassessment of syllabic structure instead. It is the case of ἄχνη ‘straw’, which has a perfect counterpart with Daghestanian languages, such as:

Avar: náku
Andi: niku
Akhwakh: níxo
Khinalug: nuk
Udi: neq ‘chaff’,
Bezhta: naχo, naχu ‘straw’

There are no rules violated here. Apocope of ἄ- is regarded in full, and the syllabic structure working in metathesis.

Pre-Greek: VC¹C²V
Daghestanian languages: C²VC¹V

The second system (C²VC¹V) is more archaic, and from this point of view, Pre-Greek might have elaborate a metathesis form. Words must be distinguished and classified by set, such phonological feature is very relevant, in order to allocate and correctly classify every single word. In Beekes’ Pre-Greek description, vowels aspect shows a poor system, it is based only on three main vowels: a, i, u. This short-listed numbers are typical of North Caucasian languages. However, one aspect is deeply neglected for this kind of languages: Consonants co-articulation. Even with a limited number of vowels, co-articulation increase their combination. As result, it also, is possible to trace it back their original syllabic set. The most relevant aspect are theonyms. It is true that, Greeks absorbed quite a few deities of Pre-Greek origin; some others were replaced or abandoned. The case of Akakallis is not isolated, another goddess bear a Pre-Greek name, ῾Ρέα (῾Ρῆ, ῾Ρέιη). She was Chrono’s sister and spouse, and this is a strong indication of her name; because in some Daghestanian languages, season names are:

Andi: rejba
Akhwakh: riʔibo
Chamalal: réːbu
Tindi: reːb ‘springtime’
Avar: riʔí ‘summer’

Working with a lot of material, it is symptomatic that languages offered reciprocal solution; like in the Urartian pantheon, whose main goddess, Waruba(i)ne, she had an unexplained theonym. Her status of Ḫaldi’s wife may be part of the theonym. Two Daghestanian languages are very good candidate, Tsez and Hinukh baru ‘wife’; much more the same as Pre-Greek ὄαρ (<* ϝοάρ) ‘wife’. Based on this data, the Urartian theonym should be re-interpreted as ‘the consort’. Considering Daghestanian mythology, like Kazh, the good spirit in Avar mythology, the guardian of the hearth, family and well-being; it has the appearance of a white snake. People believe that it has the property to thrive plants. It is called Kini in Lak [language], Kine in Tsezi and Kune in Dargwa, but Tuʃedrɨʃba in Rutul, as patron of the hearth, it is invisible and celebrated on friday. According to legends, Laks has Kini, a snake with golden horns; a man is destined to happiness. According to Dargwa, Kine is represented by a tall woman with large breasts and long red hair; if she leaves the house, trouble occurs; then, it is difficult to keep it apart from Pre-Greek κινώπετον ‘venomous beast (especially serpent)’. To resume those three (or more) theonyms, it put in evidence how words from common roots are mutually intelligible, or they show traceable lexemes, whatever the direction it was. Theoretically, languages of the same family must share different aspects, that is include grammar. It is very common among languages that an original lexeme could be preserved as grammatical element; like Pre-Greek μῡρίος ‘countless, immense, infinite’ (> μυριάς ‘10.000’), Archi -mur, -wur PLUR. It is not always the case, in spite of 100 words of Swadesh’s list still are considered a basic in linguistics, any language can abandon or change any original word and replace it with a superstrata element. Access and settlement in a mountainous environment is difficult, but it does not mean – in any form – that it’s impossible. Anatolia has no less than six strata of population:
  1. Pre-Indo-European
  2. Indo-European
  3. Turkic
  4. Semitic
  5. Kartvelian
  6. North Caucasian
Historically, even the Caucasian area was affected from invasions. For this reason, part of the original North Caucasian lexicon was lost. To restore the whole original family, is not an easy task. In this way, the Pre-Greek language also shows agreement with the eastern side, that is to say the supposed Hattic and Western Caucasian languages. It is the case of ἀχαίνη ‘loaf’, much more the same as Hattic ḫana ‘meal, food’; then Chechen-Ingush ken ‘oats’, both them related to Hurrian gangaduḫḫi (<*gan-gad-uḫḫi) ‘a kind of food’. It is easy to presume that ‘oats’ was the main element, and from there, ‘bread’ or any other ‘meal’ was made out. The same process is seen with Western Caucasian languages, like ἀσπάλαθος ‘name of several types of thorn bush’, and παλίουρος ‘plant name, Christ’s thorn, Paliurus australis’; even synchronic analyses led to ἀσ- > Ø-, then the common root probably was *πάλV-; such form is found in:

Abaza: pale
Adyghe: bala ‘shrub’

The rules are unchanged, both synchronically and diachronically. Despite that, there is not a secure explanation for ἀ(C¹)- > Ø-. However, two interpretations are possible:

  1. An apocope related to time (ancient vs. innovative) or space (vernacular).
  2. Grammatical purpose. In this case it works like a- [Determinative/article] in Abkhaz.
Last, but not least, the most interesting and conservative element that enduring from antiquity: geographical names. Those names have had the long-lasting words record. A clear sample is Αχέρων or Αχερούσιος, a well-known river name, because one of the five rivers of the Greek mythology. Hence, when its rule is applied to, ἀ- > *Ø- (like in ἀπέλλαι, ἀγάλλω, etc.), its counterpart is found in Tsez with keru, kero ‘brook, ravine’.

Similar ideas

As already mentioned, the idea to look eastwards for the origins of Pre-Greek is not new. Aside from the Luwian and Semitic hypothesis only few have named alternative affinities of Pre-Greek. Specifically, Schrijver (2007, 2011) has mentioned the possible relation of the Minoan language to Hattic. Kroonen (2012) seems to align with this hypothesis, but focuses mainly on some pre-Indo-European agricultural terms in Germanic languages and Greek. He makes a very good point on the non-Indo-European loan *arwīt- ‘pea’ in Proto-Germanic, which he compares with the pre-Greek ἐρέβινϑος and ὄροβος. To this we will cautiously10 add the Cappadocian Greek άβαρα, which may come from a central Anatolian source (Hattic?). Davis (2013: 39) notes that the type of verbal morphology found in the Minoan libation formula is especially well attested in indigenous North American languages and Hattic. McCall and Fleming (2012: 237) argues that the native population of Crete shows enough biological affinities to Turkey to bolster a theory of Hattic-like speaking Minoans. However, their speculation, as they say, was based on strategic reasoning rather than on inference from specific language evidence. Petit (1995; 1997) believes that the pre-Greek language of Cyprus has Hurrian affinities, a view that is compatible with the current hypothesis and makes sense in terms of geography, but that is in need of more material. We’re not aware of any other mention of Hurrian in relation to pre-Greek in the field of linguistics11. For N. Caucasian, there is a list of lemmata compared to Pre-Greek by Nikolaev (1985). We also cited Beekes (2014) and Palmer (1963) who seem to have thought about it. Stephens (1978: 281) made a comment on the Minoan stops:

Furthermore, injective glottalized stops tend to be phonetically voiced and are always lax. Thus, the phonetic nature of such sounds would motivate their association with the lenis Greek stops, and this, of course, agrees with the use of special signs for /d/ and /b/ or /ph/. A labialized counterpart of a glottalized dental stop, to account for the d plus w signs, presents no typological difficulties, as labialization and glottalization frequently co-exist. Such phonemes occur in a number of North West Caucasian languages, such as Abkhaz, Ubykh, and Adyghe, and are also found in other areas of the world. In the Bzyb dialect of Abkhaz one even finds that the features of labialization and pharyngealization co-occur on uvulars.

Most of the above statements on North Caucasian do not qualify as an ideological alignment, but rather as observations. 

Challenges

There’s no reason to pretend that there are no challenges in this study. For North Caucasian languages, there is no written record prior to Russian occupation, and the Proto-North-Caucasian reconstruction is very poor. Furthermore, their relation to known ancient languages is disputed. Material for languages such as Hattic and Urartian is limited to few hundred words, leaving us with a very poor understanding of them. None of the ancient languages have anything close to a complete Swadesh list. The most complete is Hurrian, while Pre-Greek with its relatively large inventory, has only few words that qualify into a 200-item Swadesh. There is no Rosetta stone from Mycenaean Greece combining Linear A and B or any other known language. There are bilingual inscriptions (Eteocypriot - Greek) from Cyprus, but our understanding of the native Cypriot language is so poor that it is limited to a handful of words12 whose meanings are not safely established. We're dealing with many unknown factors and a considerable time depth. Some similarities might be coincidental and conventional reconstruction methods are not easily applied under these conditions. 

Exclusion

We have not explored connections west of Greece and east of Turkey. We are aware that there are studies dealing with possible connections, such as Kassian (2014) who compares Hurro-Urartian with Sumerian. There are other Basque, Sardinian and Etruscan Mediterranean hypothesis, but we prefer to focus on languages that have more than lexical comparison to offer.

Conclusion

Both archaeology and genetics point to an agrarian migration to Greece, originating from central/western Anatolia and the fertile crescent. Several millennia later, we find Hattic spoken in central Anatolia, while Hurrian was spoken within a large part of the fertile crescent13. Caucasus is nearby and is therefore a possible refuge of people akin to these early farming societies. Linguistic data seem to incline towards the conclusions made by geneticists and archaeologists. The aforementioned migrational model can explain why Pre-Greek words have counterparts in Hattic, Hurro-Urartian and North Caucasian languages. After the Indo-European and Afro-Asiatic linguistic families’ reconstructions, a third big family might emerge from this research. The goal is to restore common roots between those languages. Thus, any finding must be within a framework of rules, the conventional Neogrammarian method that is universally accepted. Rules appear to be static and precise, any Pre-Greek word could have a counterpart with Hattic and/or Hurro-Urartian and/or North Caucasian languages; in all respect, ἀ- > *Ø- is seen in all occasions. There are more rules and lexical data, but they are not mentioned in this paper. This is a proposal for further investigation in Languages and Linguistics, from Bronze Age to present in the region between Asia and Europe.


Map showing the initial expansion of farming and some important sites related to this research.


The same map with languages related to this research and their geographical position.

Footnotes

  1. According to Colledge et al (2004), in the Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene Anatolia, hunter-gatherers were too, largely absent or present in only small numbers.
  2. It should be noted that the relationship between hunter-gatherers and farming communities on the mainland is controversial (see Halstead 1996, Tringham 2000) therefore it will not be analysed here.
  3. It should be noted that Renfrew considers those pre-Greek words to be loans from Minoan, not an earlier language spoken in the mainland.
  4. Those are a minority, unrelated to what we typically call pre-Greek.
  5. Those are often based on imprecise sound laws or false etymologies.
  6. Also, the possibly related Kaskian language.
  7. Petit (1995; 1997) suspects a Hurrian language or similar being spoken in pre-Greek Cyprus.
  8. γέφυρα, ξίφος, τιτάν, πελώριος to name a few.
  9. Brown, op. cit., pp. 26-27.
  10. The attestation of the Cappadocian word is recent (19th century) and does not allow safe conclusions about its origins. There are no known cognates in other languages of the near east.
  11. Comparisons of Greek literature and it’s parallels in Hurrian mythology exist; see e.g. Güterbock (1948) and Campbell (2013).
  12. Those are: ke-ra-ke-se-tu-lo-se “well born”, -o-ko-o “patronymic suffix”, pa-po-no “ethnonym/Paphian”, e-ro-ko-ro “king”, ma-to-ri “city”, o-i-te “and, or”, a-na “this”.
  13. Frahm, E.E., 2010 has a very good summary of the different hypothesis on the Hurrian homeland. 

Bibliography

Beekes, R., 2014. Pre-Greek: phonology, morphology, lexicon. Brill.

Bennett, Emmett L., and Cyrus H. Gordon. "Evidence for the Minoan Language." (1968): 110-118.

Blevins, J. and Garrett, A., 2004. The evolution of metathesis. Phonetically based phonology, pp.117-156.

Blevins, J. and Garrett, A., 1998. The origins of consonant-vowel metathesis. Language, pp.508-556.

Brown, R.A., 1985. Evidence for pre-Greek speech on Crete from Greek alphabetic sources. AM Hakkert.

Campbell, L., 2015. Do Languages and Genes Correlate?, Language Dynamics and Change, 5(2), pp.202-226.

Campbell, D.R., 2013. On the Theogonies of Hesiod and the Hurrians: An Exploration of the Dual Natures of Teššub and Kumarbi in: R. Creation and Chaos: A reconsideration of Hermann Gunkel’s Chaos Kampf Hypothesis, Winona Lake, Indiana, pp.26-43.

Chadwick, J., 1969. Greek and pre-Greek. Transactions of the Philological Society, 68(1), pp.80-98.

Çilingiroğlu, Ç. and Çakırlar, C., 2013. Towards configuring the neolithisation of Aegean Turkey. Documenta Praehistorica, 40, pp.21-29.

Colledge, S., Conolly, J., Shennan, S., Bellwood, P., Bouby, L., Hansen, J., Harris, D., Kotsakis, K., Özdogan, M., Peltenburg, E. and Willcox, G., 2004. Archaeobotanical Evidence for the Spread of Farming in the Eastern Mediterranean 1. Current anthropology, 45(S4), pp.S35-S58.
Davis, B., 2013. Syntax in Linear A: The Word-Order of the ‘Libation Formula’. Kadmos, 52(1), pp.35-52.

Dietrich, B.C., 1967. Some light from the east on Cretan cult practice. Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte, (H. 4), pp.385-413.

Fernández, E., Pérez-Pérez, A., Gamba, C., Prats, E., Cuesta, P., Anfruns, J., Molist, M., Arroyo-Pardo, E. and Turbón, D., 2014. Ancient DNA analysis of 8000 BC near eastern farmers supports an early neolithic pioneer maritime colonization of Mainland Europe through Cyprus and the Aegean Islands. PLoS Genet, 10(6), p.e1004401.

Frahm, E.E., 2010. The Bronze-Age obsidian industry at Tell Mozan (Ancient Urkesh), Syria: redeveloping electron microprobe analysis for 21st-Century sourcing research and the implications for obsidian use and exchange in Northern Mesopotamia after the neolithic.

Furnée, E.J., 1972. Die wichtigsten konsonantischen Erscheinungen des Vorgriechischen: mit einem Appendix über den Vokalismus. Mouton.

Georgiev, V. I. 1966. Introduzione alla storia delle lingue indeuropee (Vol. 9). Ed. dell'Ateneo.

Georgiev, V. 1966. Was stellt die Pelasgertheorie dar?, Lingua 16:263-273

Goldberg, A., Günther, T., Rosenberg, N.A. and Jakobsson, M., 2017. Ancient X chromosomes reveal contrasting sex bias in Neolithic and Bronze Age Eurasian migrations. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, p.201616392.

Gordon, C.H., 1957. Notes on Minoan Linear A. Antiquity, 31(123), pp.124-130.

Güterbock, H.G., 1948. The Hittite version of the Hurrian Kumarbi myths: oriental forerunners of Hesiod. American Journal of Archaeology, 52(1), pp.123-134.

Halstead 1996. “The development of agriculture and pastoralism in Greece: When, how, who, and what?” in “The origins and spread of agriculture and pastoralism in Eurasia”. Edited by D.
R. Harris, pp. 296–309. London: UCL Press.

Hester, D.A., 1964. “Pelasgian”—A new Indo-European language?, Lingua, 13, pp.335-384.

Hofmanová, Z., Kreutzer, S., Hellenthal, G., Sell, C., Diekmann, Y., Díez-del-Molino, D., van Dorp, L., López, S., Kousathanas, A., Link, V. and Kirsanow, K., 2016. Early farmers from across Europe directly descended from Neolithic Aegeans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, p.201523951.

Hume, E., 1998. The role of perceptibility in consonant/consonant metathesis. In Proceedings of West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics (Vol. 17, No. 1998, pp. 293-307).

Kassian, A., 2014. Lexical matches between Sumerian and Hurro-Urartian: possible historical scenarios. Cuneiform Digital Library Journal, 4, pp.1-23.

Kretschmer, P., 1896. Einleitung in die Geschichte der griechischen Sprache. Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht.

Kretschmer, P., 1940-1943. Die vorgriechischen Sprach-und Volksschichten. Glotta, 28(3./4. H), pp.231-278.

Kroonen, G., 2012. Non-Indo-European root nouns in Germanic: evidence in support of the Agricultural Substrate Hypothesis. A linguistic map of prehistoric Northern Europe, pp.239-260.

Kroonen, G.J., 2012. On the etymology of Greek ἄγλῑς and γέλγις 'garlic': an Akkadian loanword in Pre-Greek. Journal of Indo-European Studies, 40(3/4), p.289.

McCall, D. and Fleming, H.C., 2012. The pre-Classical circum-Mediterranean world: who spoke which languages?, Archaeology and Language III: Artefacts, Languages and Texts, 1, p.231.

Mellaart, J., 1963. Excavations at Çatal Hüyük, 1962: second preliminary report. Anatolian Studies, pp.43-103.

Nikolaev, S. L., 1985, Severokavkazskie zaimstvovaniya v hettskom i drevenegrečeskom, Drevnyaya Anatoliya 60-73, Moskva.

Palmer, L.R., 1958. Luvian and Linear A. Transactions of the Philological Society, 57(1), pp.75-100.

Palmer, L.R., 1963. The Interpretation of Mycenaean Greek Texts.(Illustr.). At the Clarendon Press.

Paschou, P., Drineas, P., Yannaki, E., Razou, A., Kanaki, K., Tsetsos, F., Padmanabhuni, S.S., Michalodimitrakis, M., Renda, M.C., Pavlovic, S. and Anagnostopoulos, A., 2014. Maritime route of colonization of Europe. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(25), pp.9211-9216.

Petit, T., 1995. Amathous (autochthones eisin). De l'identité amathousienne à l'époque des royaumes (Vlll-IV" siècles), Sources. Travaux historiques, pp.43-44.

Petit, T., 1997. La langue étéocypriote ou l '"amathousien": Essai d'interprétation grammaticale. Archiv für Orientforschung, pp.244-271.

Pinhasi, R., Pluciennik, M., Bentley, A., Bocquet Appel, J., Bulbeck, D., Perls, C., Zilho, J., Pinhasi, R. and Pluciennik, M., 2004. A Regional Biological Approach to the Spread of Farming in Europe: Anatolia, the Levant, SouthEastern Europe, and the Mediterranean 1. Current Anthropology, 45(S4), pp.S59-S82.

Pinhasi, R., Fort, J. and Ammerman, A.J., 2005. Tracing the origin and spread of agriculture in Europe. PLoS Biol, 3(12), p.e410.

Renfrew, C., 1998. Word of Minos: the Minoan contribution to Mycenaean Greek and the linguistic geography of the Bronze Age Aegean. Cambridge Archaeological Journal, 8(02), pp.239-264.

Schrijver, P.C.H., 2011. 'La langue hattique et sa pertinence possible pour les contacts linguistiques préhistoriques en Europe occidentale'. Contacts linguistiques dans l’Occident méditerranéen antique, pp.241-255.

Schrijver, P.C.H., 2007. Keltisch en de buren: 9000 jaar taalcontact (pp. 1-32). Utrecht University.

Stephens, L. and Justeson, J.S., 1978. Reconstructing "Minoan" Phonology: The Approach from Universals of Language and Universals of Writing Systems. Transactions of the American Philological Association (1974-), 108, pp.271-284.

Tringham, R. 2000. “Southeastern Europe in the transition to agriculture in Europe: Bridge, buffer, or mosaic” in Europe’s first farmers. Edited by D. Price, pp. 19–56. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Van Andel, T.H. and Runnels, C.N., 1995. The earliest farmers in Europe. Antiquity, 69(264), pp.481-500.

Yakubovič, I.S., 2008. Sociolinguistics of the Luvian language. ProQuest.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Ehe śoṣi! Hello world! The Tocharian A dictionary is now public!

Tocharian A dictionary
We have just added a Tocharian A dictionary in the languages section. It is fully browsable and material additions/updates are ongoing!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Language and genes: Let's think twice about it

We live in a period of time where information about anything is available to anyone. That includes papers in linguistics and genetics. Just because a person can read them, doesn’t mean that he/she can fully comprehend, process and evaluate the information given. Both linguistics and genetics are advanced sciences that require special studies and great commitment, it is not just something one can pick up in no time. They are also relatively new sciences, which means that there has been a period where those two fields have been maturing and are still maturing allowing views that were later found to be obsolete. Does that ring a bell? Maybe that many things in those fields are still open to everyone’s interpretation/selection?

You’ve definitely come across many blog/forum posts regarding languages and genes. With the rise of nationalism in our times, many have attempted to relate ethnic groups with each other, based on scarce linguistic or genetic data. Sometimes we know close to nothing about the language of a population, yet a common gene from a very small sample size is enough to make dithyrambic statements about it.

Even in the academic world the eagerness of explaining the relationship between languages and genes is a fact. For example, Cavalli-Sforza et al.’s (1992: 5620) concluded that “events responsible for genetic differentiation are very likely to determine linguistic diversification as well”. This view is not shared by most historical linguists for two reasons:

  1. A person has only one set of genes, while that person (or a population) can be multilingual, representing multiple languages.
  2. Individuals or whole communities can abandon one language and adopt another. People cannot abandon their genes nor adopt new ones.
Language shift (replacement) is common and there is no deterministic connection between languages and gene pools. Languages become extinct in populations that survive genetically while language replacement and extinction are frequent. Let’s have a look at some examples from both linguistics and genetics. A typical example of language adaptation/abandonment is seen in the near east. Many populations dropped their mother tongue for Arabic. Az-Zubayr ibn Al-Awam conquered Egypt with just 12000 men around 640 CE. The numbers of an invading army are in most cases not comparable to the local population. It is questionable if all those Arabs stayed in Egypt, but even if that is the case they were a tiny minority compared to the native Egyptian population, whose descendants today speak Arabic. The regions where Hurrian and Urartian were spoken are today inhabited by people who speak languages belonging to 3 different language families (Indo-European, Turkic and Semitic). On the reverse the same region exhibits some interesting cases. The J2 Y-haplogroup has a high frequency (and is even dominant) in populations speaking languages belonging to 5 different language families namely: Indo-European (Greeks/Cypriots, Italians, Albanians, Armenians, Kurds, Aromanian/Vlachs, Ossetians), North-East Caucasian (Ingush, Chechen), South Caucasian (Georgians, Laz), Semitic (Lebanese, Syrians, Palestinians, Jews) and Turkic (Anatolian Turks, Azeri, Kumyks). The original bearers of this haplogroup spoke a language predating all the above and in most cases unrelated to any of those families. The genetic lineage of a population, exceeds the life-time of a language. The vast majority of populations that once spoke a dead language did not die out, but rather shifted to other languages. While the current Greek speaking Cretans of the Lasithi plateau are genetically identical to their Minoan ancestors, the Minoan language is long gone along with any unknown to us related languages. On the reverse again, Saami people, despite having parallels with Siberian peoples in mythology, dermatoglyphics and some cultural features, show almost no genetic relations to Siberian populations. The examples are so many, ranging from the notorious “Hungarian case” to the current language situation in the Americas. We can practically go on forever!

Nevertheless, all the examples above do not prohibit a relation between languages and genes. Significant contributions from linguistic-genetic collaboration are possible. Territories sparsely inhabited can be settled by a large number of newcomers. Although this does not happen too often, a group of people may come to uninhabited territories and nobody else comes there after them. Such events occurred way back in human history, while their frequency was reduced after the adoption of an agricultural lifestyle which in turn lead to permanent settlement and population growth.

One thing is certain and that is the fact that both linguistics and genetics will continue to intrigue people. They are going to talk about it and spread their interpretation and understanding, even when they do not master any of these sciences.

Further reading/listening

Cavalli-Sforza, Luigi Luca, Eric Minch, and J. L. Mountain. "Coevolution of genes and languages revisited." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 89.12 (1992): 5620-5624.

Campbell, Lyle. "Do Languages and Genes Correlate?." Language Dynamics and Change 5.2 (2015): 202-226.

Burlak, Svetlana. "Languages, DNA, relationship and contacts." Вестник Российского государственного гуманитарного университета 5 (106) (2013).

Klein W., “Language and Genetics”, Research Perspectives of the Max Planck Society (2010)

Mallory J.P., "Indo-European Dispersals and the Eurasian Steppe", Penn Museum Silk Road Symposium, March 2011, retrieved January 5 2017

Language and genes

Can you guess the mother tongue of these people and the language their ancestors were speaking 80 generations back?

Language and genes

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Major update in the Proto-Indo-European dictionary

Proto-Indo-European roots and their outcome in various languages
We've made a major update to the Proto-Indo-European dictionary. More than 250 roots have been updated/revised, while ~ 2100 new roots have been introduced. There might be few duplicates, but we're going to merge them soon.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

The Urartian dictionary is available!

As promised, a browsable Uratian dictionary is now available in the public dictionaries section. We have collected a huge number of sources making this dictionary the most complete you will find online. We still have work to do regarding the commentary, the Hurrian equivalents, the loans from and to Armenian, personal names, toponyms and the affixes.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Palaeolexicon version 3 is here!

We have a new website which will improve your overall experience, especially on small devices! Be sure to check the following new features:

  • Optimized for better mobile and tablet experience.
  • Improved search engine looking for relevant terms e.g. wife > married woman.
  • Reversed meaning - word index.
  • Heurestics AI helping you to spot fast related words across languages. Read more about it here.
  • A table of (macro-) Altaic phonology was added.
  • New languages layout allowing you to switch from grid and tree view.
  • Updates on some of the language articles. 
  • The result grids can now be controlled with the keyboard (Arrow buttons and ENTER).
Last but not least we have posted a new article called: Pre-Pre-Greek: Traces of a hunter gatherer substrate in Greek.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Pre-Pre-Greek: Traces of a hunter-gatherer substrate in Greek

The Greek language is a gold mine of substrate words, consisting of  > 1000 non-Indo-European words. Among those there are two large distinct groups: a) Pre-Greek1 words that are restricted to Greece proper and the Aegean (incl. Asia Minor), b) Mediterranean words that are shared with Latin, Armenian, Akkadian and other languages of the near east. There is however one more small group of words that have been marked by Furnée, Beekes and others as ‘European’. Those have no Indo-European root, but do occasionally appear in other Indo-European languages2. What is striking about those words is that they could belong to the vocabulary of a hunter-gatherer.



Let us have a look on few examples:

  • βάσκιοι ‘bundles of firewood
  • βόνασος ‘aurochs
  • γλοιός  ‘glutinous substance, gum’, CS glěnъ ‘slime’, OHG klenan ‘stick, smear’, Latin glittus ‘sticky
  • γράβιον ‘torch, oak-wood’, Ru. grab ‘horn-beam’, OPr. wosigrabis
  • γῡ́πη  ‘cavity in the earth, den, corner’, γύπας/γύψ  ‘hut, den, nest of young birds, a habitation below the earth, caverns’, connected with a Gm. word for ‘room, cave, etc’ ON kofi , OE cofa, MoHG koben, etc.
  • τρύφ-/θρυπ- ‘fragment, softness, wantonness’, Latv. drubaža ‘piece, fragment’, OIr. drucht ‘drop’, ON drjupa ‘to drip
  • καμασήν ‘name of a fish’, Lith. šãmas ‘sheatfish’, Latv. sams
  • καπνός ‘smoke, steam’, Lith. kvãpas ‘breath, smell’, Goth. af-ƕapnan ‘to extinguish’ - could however be Pre-Greek and not European.
  • καρβάτιναι ‘shoes of unprepared leather’, Lith. kùrpė ‘shoe’, Cz. krpě, ON hriflingr, OE hrifeling, OIr. cairem ‘shoe maker
  • καρπός ‘fruit, fruits of the earth, corn, yields’, Latin carpo ‘to pluck (off)’, Lith. kerpu ‘to cut with scissors’, OHG herbist ‘autumn’ < *karpistrobest time to pluck
  • κλαγγή ‘(shrill) sound, cry of an animal’, ON hlakka ‘to cry’, Latin clango
  • κρόμμυον ‘onion, Allium Cepa’, MIr. crim, OE hramsan, MoHG rams, Lith kermùšė ‘wild garlic’, Ru.čeremšá ‘Allium ursinum
  • σκάπτω ‘to dig, dig out, work the earth’, scabō ‘to scratch’, OHG ‘scaban’, Lith. skabiu ‘to scoop out with a chisel
  • τραπέω ‘to tread’, ἀτραπός ‘foot-path’, PGrm *trappon, MLG trappen ‘to stamp

Footnotes

  1. By the term Pre-Greek we refer to a substrate of one or more non-Indo-European languages spoken before the arrival of the first proto-Indo-European speakers to Greece. This substrate might be a so called agricultural substratum, carried by the first farmers who settled in Greece approximately 9000 years ago. Pre-Pre-Greek as the title reads would be the language spoken before what we refer to as Pre-Greek.
  2. The fact that a word appears in several Indo-European languages does not make it Indo-European, as it might not fit the Proto-Indo-European phonology and morphology.

Further reading

Beekes, Robert Stephen Paul, and Lucien Van Beek., Etymological dictionary of Greek. Leiden: Brill, 2010.
Furnée, Edzard J.  Die wichtigsten konsonantischen Erscheinungen des Vorgriechischen: mit einem Appendix über den Vokalismus. Mouton, 1972.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Alexarchos of Macedon, the word maker (350-290 BC)

If you think that spending hours for language studies constitutes a modern priviledge/habit, you're wrong! Apparently there were lunatics like you (and all of us) in the ancient world. One of them was Alexarchos of Macedon, a scholar and (unfortunately) an officer. Worst of all, he was son of Antipater and brother of Cassander, the king of Macedon. Why is that so bad you will ask? Well, you're about to find out.

According to Athenaeus (3.54) citing Herakleides Lembos, this guy was very keen on creating his own words and ways of speech. Here's exactly what he says:

Such a man was Alexarchos, the brother of Cassander, who was king of Macedonia and who built the city called Ouranopolis. Heracleides Lembos speaks concerning him in the seventh book of his Histories, and says “Alexarchus, who founded the city Ouranopolis, imported many peculiar words and forms of speaking into the language: calling a cock ὀρθροβόας (he that crows in the morn/right time),  and a barber βροτοκέρτης (one who cuts men) and a drachma he called ἀργυρὶς (a piece of silver) and a chœnix he called ἡμεροτροφὶς (what feeds a man for a day) and a herald he called ἀπύτης (someone with a loud voice). Once he wrote a letter to the magistrates of the Cassandrians in this form: αλέξαρχος ὁ μάρμων πρόμοις γαθεῖν. τοὺς ἡλιοκρεῖς οἰῶν οἶδα λιποῦσα θεωτῶν ἔργων κρατήτορας μορσίμῳ τύχᾳ κεκυρωμένας θεοῦ πόγαις χυτλώσαντες αὐτοὺς, καὶ φύλακας ὀριγένεις.” But what that letter means think that even the Pythian Apollo himself could hardly tell. 

Now imagine; an ambitious man, brother of your king, whose dialect was only surpassed in horridness by Eleian and Pamphylian, sends you a letter with his own language "innovations", that YOU have to answer or comment on.

Good luck - have fun!

PS: Alexarchos words are nevertheless included in the database. It is the least we can do for him today.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Let the Hittites and the Luwians speak!


We're so excited to announce that the Hittite and Luwian dictionaries are now available for browsing! For starters we provide you the basic vocabulary (with cuneiform representations), but as time passes the dictionaries will be enriched with more words. You will find the dictionaries in the "Languages" page, under Indo-European/Anatolian. 

Friday, July 31, 2015

Summer update

There are some nice updates and news available this for you week:

  1. There's a new article about the biblical Goliath and the etymology of his name. Was he a Carian?
  2. We've got a new, very useful tool available that will help you with the basic sound correspondences between major Indo-European groups.
  3. We're working on some new dictionaries, specifically cuneiform Luwian, Hittite and Ancient Macedonian. 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Was Goliath a Carian?

That's a bold title isn't it? It doesn't matter. Let's start with the basics: Who was Goliath? Don't take it for granted that everyone knows.

Old testament, book of Samuel, chapter 17

και συνάγουσιν οι αλλόφυλοι τας παρεμβολάς αυτών εις πόλεμον και συνάγονται εις Σοχώ της Ιουδαίας και παρεμβάλλουσιν αναμέσον Σοχώ και αναμέσον Αζηκά εν Αφεσδομίν και Σαούλ και οι άνδρες Ισραήλ συνάγονται και παρεμβάλλουσιν εν τη κοιλάδι της τερεβίνθου ούτοι και ούτοι και παρατάσσονται εις πόλεμον εξεναντίας των αλλοφύλων και αλλόφυλοι ίστανται επί του όρους ενταύθα και Ισραήλ ίσταται επί του όρους ενταύθα και ο αυλών αναμέσον αυτών και εξήλθεν ανήρ δυνατός εκ της παρατάξεως των αλλοφύλων Γολιάθ ην όνομα αυτώ εκ Γεθ ύψος αυτού τεσσάρων πηχέων και σπιθαμής και περικεφαλαία χαλκή επί της κεφαλής αυτού και θώρακα αλυσιδωτόν αυτός ενδεδυκώς και ο σταθμός του θώρακος αυτού πέντε χιλιάδες σίκλων χαλκού και σιδήρου και αι κνημίδες αυτού χαλκαί επί των σκελών αυτού και ασπίς χαλκή αναμέσον των ώμων αυτού και ο κοντός του δόρατος αυτού ωσεί μεσάντιον υφαινόντων και η λόγχη αυτού εξακοσίων σίκλων σιδήρου και ο αίρων τα όπλα αυτού προεπορεύετο αυτού και έστη και ανεβόησεν εις την παράταξιν Ισραήλ και είπεν αυτοίς ινατί εκπορεύεσθε παρατάξασθαι εις πόλεμον εξεναντίας ημών ουκ εγώ ειμι αλλοφύλος και υμείς Εβραίοι του Σαούλ εκλέξασθε εαυτοίς άνδρα και καταβήτω προς με και εάν δυνηθή πολεμήσαι μετ΄ εμού και πατάξη με και εσόμεθα υμίν εις δούλους εάν δε εγώ καταδυναστεύσω αυτού και πατάξω αυτόν έσεσθε ημίν εις δούλους και δουλεύσετε ημίν και είπεν ο αλλόφυλος ιδού εγώ ωνείδισα την παράταξιν Ισραήλ σήμερον εν τη ημέρα ταύτη δότε μοι άνδρα και μονομαχήσομεν αμφότεροι και ήκουσε Σαούλ και πας Ισραήλ τα ρήματα του αλλοφύλου ταύτα και εξέστησαν και εφοβήθησαν σφόδρα.

The foreigners (Philistines) gathered their army for battle. They collected at Socho in Judea. They piched camp at Aphes Dammin, between Sokoh and Azekah. Saul and the men of Israel gathered and camped in the valley of Terebinthos and drew up their battle line to meet the foreigners (Philistines). The foreigners (Philistines) occupied one hill and the Israelites another, with the canyon between them. Then a strong man came out of the camp of the foreigners (Philistines), named Goliath, of Gath. Goliath was enormous in size, over three meters (nine feet) tall, and wore a bronze helmet and a coat of scale armour of bronze and iron weighing 60 kg (132 lbs). On his legs he wore bronze greaves and between his shoulders a bronze javelin. His spear shaft was like a weaver’s rod, and its iron point weighed 7 kg (15 lbs). His shield bearer went ahead of him. Goliath shouted to the Israelite battle lines “Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a foreigner (Philistine) and are you not the Hebrews of Saul? Choose yourselves a man and have him come down to me. If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us”. Then the Philistine said, “This day I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” When Saul and his Israelites heard this they were dismayed and terrified.


Does this sound familiar so far? If not then lets make a long story short... David from the Israelite side accepted the challenge and killed the enormous Goliath with a single sling shot. 


The point of this article though is not to narrate you a story with a happy ending. David is not our man in this case. Goliath is. He bears a name that is definitely not Semitic. The Philistines, his people, are believed to belong to the so called “sea people”. The sea people are believed to have come from the Aegean region, but their ethnicity is a matter of discussion. Most probably, they consisted of a number of ethnic groups. Goliath might have belonged to one of them.

Few years ago, a late Iron Age I/early Iron Age II Old Canaanite inscription was found in Tell es-Safi/Gath (where Goliath came from). The inscription derives from a clear archaeological context and is written on a fragment of a chronologically indicative, red-slipped and hand-burnished ceramic bowl. 


The inscription contains two personal names ʾalwt and wlt. Those names were reminiscent of Lydian names such as Alyattes as well as Hittite names ending in -wattas, although objections were raised in regard to the phonology. Few years after the discovery of the Gath ostracon, some Carian inscriptions from Thessaloniki, Greece came into light.


In one of them the name wljat appears. This name has a perfect match with the Carian names rendered in Greek Ολιατος / Υλιατος. So we have Carian wjliat and Canaanite wlt. That's a good match, but it is still not Goliath. How does the initial /g/ (gimel) in Hebrew explain its presence? Ancient Hebrew does have a /w/, but one does not find words beginning with /w/, because proto-Semitic *w became *j in this language. Therefore, a substitution of the Carian /w/ with a gimel is fully possible. Such a substitution is far from unique e.g. English William → French Guillaume.

There you go... The non-Semitic name Goliath, was most probably a Carian name. That of course doesn't make all the Philistines Carians. Carians used to fight for foreign powers as mercenaries e.g. in Egypt. The person who inscribed the name 'wlt' was apparently not the mythical Goliath, but most probably a Carian soldier spending some time inscribing his name on ceramics.

Regarding the etymology of the name W(u)ljat / W(o)ljat, it probably comes from a PIE verbal root which means ‘to be strong’ (*ṷelH-) and in this sense would fit very well with the strength of the giant who is described in the Greek text of Samuel as ανήρ δυνατός 'strong man'.


Further reading

Aren M. Maeir, Stefan J. Wimmer, Alexander Zukerman and Aaron Demsky, "A Late Iron Age I/Early Iron Age II Old Canaanite Inscription from Tell eṣ-Ṣâfī/Gath, Israel: Palaeography, Dating, and Historical-Cultural Significance", Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, No. 351 (Aug., 2008), pp. 39-71

Mariona Vernet Pons, "The etymology of Goliath in the light of Carian pn Wljat/Wliat: a new proposal", Kadmos Bd. 51, S. 143–164© WALTER DE GRUYTER 2012

Ignacio J. Adiego - Michalis Tiverios - Eleni Manakidou - Despoina Tsiafakis, "Two Carian Inscriptions from Karabournaki / Thessaloniki, Greece", Stephanèphoros de l’économie antique à l’asie mineure, Bordeaux 2012

Image sources

David and Goliath - By Jack Hayes
Defiance of Goliath James by Tissot (1836-1902) Jewish Museum, New York

Friday, May 1, 2015

The pre-Celtic substratum.

The Celtic languages were spread in a vast area of western and central Europe. There's no doubt that these regions, had been settled by humans for many millennia before any speakers of Celtic languages could have arrived there. With exception to few known languages (e.g Basque, Rhaetic), there is no attested documentation of these pre-Celtic languages. Some scholars have attempted to identify evidence for their survival into the first millennium CE via the examination of lexical items which bear phonological features which, they argue, cannot be Celtic, in fact not even Indo-European.

In the beginning of the 20th century, Morris Jones was the first to focus on a number of syntactic
parallels between Welsh and Egyptian (also Berber to some extent). He did not propose that an Afro-Asiatic substratum was necessary to explain the insular Celtic features, but he did raise the question. Many followed this idea for several decades, including Hewitt (2009) who listed 39 features which have been proposed as diagnostic of contact between proto-insular Celtic and a language of Afro-Asiatic type. In 1949, Julius Pokorny saw parallels not only from Afro-Asiatic languages, but also from Bantu, Basque, Caucasian, Finno-Ugric, and Eskimo-Aleut. Heinrich Wagner (1959) followed Pokornys steps, but focused mainly on the verbal system which is of Afro-Asiatic typology, but not necessarily Afro-Asiatic genetically. It would be wise to keep Wagner's conclusion in mind.

In general the Afro-Asiatic substratum theory, although enjoying some popularity, has never found much favor with scholars of the Celtic languages. Graham Isaac (2007) for instance was very critical and attacked this substratum theory. He noted, just like Hewitt, that many of the proposed parallels with Afro-Asiatic are common cross-linguistically. T. A. Mikhailova (2007) calls those theories (including Basque, Uralic, Altaic, Kartvelian, Hamito-Semitic etc) "fantastic speculations" and that the problem itself has become a perpetuum mobile of Celtic and Germanic studies. Of course, Basque cannot be denied as a substratum in continental Celtic, but we cannot speak of Basque substratum wherever Celtic was spoken.

Many of these theories focus mainly on insular Celtic. The number of languages that were spoken in the continental region is unknown. The same is true for the British isles. Whenever the Celtic speakers arrived there, they were probably not numerous (in comparison to the local population) — there is hardly any archaeological evidence for large-scale migrations into Britain or Ireland in the Bronze Age. Most probably there were many substratum languages when the Celts entered the British isles, and the languages of those Celts were already differentiated by that time. The same can be seen in the Italian penisnsula, where Picene and Etruscan were unrelated to each other. Then we have the migrations of the early farmers into Europe. They in turn must have been speaking a language totally different from any of the aforementioned language groups of this article (a language related to Hattic, to Urartian or another unknown language?) and possibly made some contribution to the development of Celtic in the central European regions.

So, what is the deal with pre-Celtic? We do not attempt to reach a conclusion on this article, other than the substrata influence on Celtic may have had numerous sources.

Further reading

Hildegard L.C. Tristram (ed.),  ʻThe Celtic Languages in Contactʼ, 2007 Potsdam University Press
S. Hewitt, ʻRemarks on the Insular Celtic / Hamito-Semitic questionʼ, 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd
R. Matasović, ʻThe substratum in Insular Celticʼ, 2012 Journal of Language Relationship
J.F Eska, ʻContact and the Celtic Languagesʼ in "The Handbook of Language Contact", 2010 Willey - Blackwell

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Safaitic is the first Semitic language to enter the list of public dictionaries!

The first Semitic language to have a public dictionary is Safaitic, an ancient north Arabic dialect. There was not even a font for it, so we had to create one from scratch. It's not a beauty, but we will improve it by time. When it is good enough, we will release it for free.

As for the dictionary, it is by no means complete. It is more or less the basic vocabulary.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Vikings are here!

It took some time, but it is finaly here! A browsable old Norse dictionary including the runes is available under the languages section. On top of that you get a proto-Kartvelian word list as a bonus. Meanwhile a massive update with a browsable Tocharian B dictionary is on the way.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Eteocypriot dictionary!

A new dictionary is available under the Aegean-Anatolian branch of the language tree called Eteocypriot. Eteocypriot is an unknown language (or languages) that appears in various Cypriot documents. Even though it is possible to read it, the language(s) is not understood and therefore the "dictionary" (it is more of a word index actually) has no meanings attached to its words. Basic commentary regarding the inscriptions is available, but work is still in progress.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The black sea deluge, the Samothracian language and a new ancient Macedonian inscription

There are new articles available on the articles section:
  1. The great deluge - a pre-Abrahamic version of the flood as told by the people of Samothrace
  2. One more ancient Macedonian inscription?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

One more ancient Macedonian inscription? - updated 2014-07-20

(this article has received an update, presented below the original post from the 2014-07-15, on the 2014-07-20)

Since 1930 thousands oracular lamellae inscriptions have been found in Dodona. Most of them are very short and fragmented. However some are complete and since the visitors usually wrote the questions in their own dialect (or asked local writers to do it for them), they offer a great opportunity for studying those ancient Greek dialects. The northwestern Greek dialect is dominating, since Dodona is located in the region it was spoken, however there are several inscriptions that are of special interest. One of them took the attention of Julian Mendez Dosuna, who released a monograph about the Dodonean lamellae few years ago. The inscription reads:
Ζεῦ καί Διώνα ᾖ ἔσσονται παῖ-
δες ἐκ τᾶς γυναικός Κεβαλίωι
τᾶς νῦν ἔχει κ[α]ι ζώσοντι;
Translation
Zeus and Dione,
will Kebalios have children from his current wife? Will they live?
Now this inscription is full of peculiarities: a) it is not Attic-Ionic (e.g. ζώσοντι instead of ζώσουντι, Διώνα / τᾶς instead of Διώνη / τῆς), b) it is not Doric (ἔσσονται / ζώσοντι instead of ἐσσέονται / ζωσέοντι), c) it is not Boeotian (for a number of reasons like for example Zeus would be written Δεῦ, ἔσσονται / ζώσοντι would be ἔσσονθη / ζώσονθι) and d) it is most probably not Thessalian (for a number of reasons again, one of them being the dative Κεβαλίωι instead Κεβαλίου).

So what is it? Dosuna says that those peculiarities are to be found as exceptions in Thessalian inscriptions, but there are good reasons to believe the inscription is not Thessalian, but Macedonian. There is no doubt that the name Κεβάλιος is a dialectal form of a name deriving from κεφαλή “head”. Hesychius equates the orphan κεβαλή with κεφαλή in his dictionary. The use of β in the place of φ is a typical characteristic of Macedonian.

Dosuna underlines that a single anthroponym cannot be a definite criterion for the dialectical classification of an inscription, but all those peculiarities together speak strongly for a distinct Greek dialect - possibly Macedonian. If that is the case, this would be the third longer Macedonian text (the other two being the Pella katadesmos and the Arethousa text) available to us. Dialectical inscriptions from Macedonia exist, however their small length does not allow any safe conclusions.

The inscription is unfortunately not widely known. Until recently the inscription was still unpublished and it's current status remains unknown. In the beginning of the year the library of the archaeological institute in Athens published two volumes called «Τα χρηστήρια ελάσματα της Δωδώνης των ανασκαφών Δ. Ευαγγελίδη» which should contain the inscription. We don't have it in our hands yet, but if anything new comes up, you'll know it immediately.

Source: Julián Víctor Méndez Dosuna - Παρατηρήσεις στις νέες πινακίδες της Δωδώνης, Studies in Greek Linguistics 27, 2007


UPDATE 2014-07-20

Apparently the inscription is now published (Dakaris, Vokotopoulou & Christidis, No2493A, Dodona Museum, 871) and is dated to the 4th century BC. It is presented by J. M. Dosuna (2012) as a dialectal inscription that might represent written Macedonian.

The name Κεβαλινός, that is essential in the context, enjoyed a certain popularity during the Hellenistic period all over Greece. Emilio Crespo (2012) makes some very important comment on the name regarding it's phonology. He considers it to be a hybrid, that is to say it mixes together a Greek and a Brygian¹ treatment of the inherited aspirates. Below you'll find his analysis:

Κεβαλῖνος derives from the root *gʰebʰ(e)l- witnessed in OHG gebal ‘skull’ (see Chan traine, DELG s.v. κεφαλή). The first plosive in Κεβαλῖνος is in keeping with what is expected in Greek, but its second consonant presents the characteristic Macedonian voiced plosive instead of the expected voiceless aspirate of other Greek dialects. The regular phonetic outcome would be Κεφαλῖνος in Greek and *Γεβαλῖνος in the supposed Brygian. Κεβαλῖνος is not a borrowing from Brygian *Γεβαλῖνος, but the result of a partial phonetic interference on Greek Κεφαλῖνος. In other words, we can recon struct the following sequence of changes for Greek:

  1. inherited form: *ghebʰ(e)l-;
  2. pre-Mycenaean devoicing of inherited voiced aspirates: kʰepʰal-;
  3. post-Mycenaean dissimilation of aspirates (Grassmann ’s Law): kepʰal-;
  4. partial phonetic interference caused by a non-Greek Indo-European language in which the inherited aspirate plosives lost their aspiration: kebal(īnos).

If this chronological sequence of changes holds, the conclusion to be drawn is that the influence of the supposed non-Greek language on the Macedonian dialect of Greek is post-Mycenaean. It should be noted that Κεφαλῖνος  is not the Brygian outcome, but a hybrid that mixes together a Greek and a Brygian treatment of the inherited aspirates. This means that Κεβαλῖνος is not a lexical item borrowed as such by Greek, but a Greek word that underwent the transfer of a plosive as a result of the phonetic interference caused by the consonant that the same word had in another language spoken in the same community. 

1. Brygian is the hypothetical language spoken by the remaining Phrygian population in the Balkans. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The great deluge - a pre-Abrahamic version of the flood as told by the people of Samothrace

Today we're going to talk about another flood story, not widely known to the public. Most of you probably know there are about 200 flood stories out there including Noah, Gilgamesh, Manu, Deucalion and so on. This one is different for a number of reasons. Let us explain:

  • It claims it predates the other floods that hit other people.
  • The flood is not initiated by some god for punishing humanity, instead the victims are asking the help of their gods.
  • It narrates more or less the flood known among geologists as the Black Sea deluge.
  • It mentions an unknown pre-historic language.

So, who tells us about it? It is the people of the island of Samothrace, through the narrations of Diodorus Siculus



Greek English (by C. Oldfather)
Περὶ δὲ τῶν κατὰ τὴν Ἑλλάδα καὶ τὸ Αἰγαῖον πέλαγος κειμένων νῦν διέξιμεν, τὴν ἀρχὴν ἀπὸ τῆς Σαμοθρᾴκης ποιησάμενοι.

ταύτην γὰρ τὴν νῆσον ἔνιοι μέν φασι τὸ παλαιὸν Σάμον ὀνομασθῆναι, τῆς δὲ νῦν Σάμου κτισθείσης διὰ τὴν ὁμωνυμίαν ἀπὸ τῆς παρακειμένης τῇ παλαιᾷ Σάμῳ Θρᾴκης Σαμοθρᾴκην ὀνομασθῆναι.


ᾤκησαν δ´ αὐτὴν αὐτόχθονες ἄνθρωποι· διὸ καὶ περὶ τῶν πρώτων γενομένων παρ´ αὐτοῖς ἀνθρώπων καὶ ἡγεμόνων οὐδεὶς παραδέδοται λόγος.


ἔνιοι δέ φασι τὸ παλαιὸν Σαόννησον καλουμένην διὰ τοὺς ἀποικισθέντας ἔκ τε Σάμου καὶ Θρᾴκης Σαμοθρᾴκην ὀνομασθῆναι.


ἐσχήκασι δὲ παλαιὰν ἰδίαν διάλεκτον οἱ αὐτόχθονες, ἧς πολλὰ ἐν ταῖς θυσίαις μέχρι τοῦ νῦν τηρεῖται.


οἱ δὲ Σαμόθρᾳκες ἱστοροῦσι πρὸ τῶν παρὰ τοῖς ἄλλοις γενομένων κατακλυσμῶν ἕτερον ἐκεῖ μέγαν γενέσθαι, τὸ μὲν πρῶτον τοῦ περὶ τὰς Κυανέας στόματος ῥαγέντος, μετὰ δὲ ταῦτα τοῦ Ἑλλησπόντου.


τὸ γὰρ ἐν τῷ Πόντῳ πέλαγος λίμνης ἔχον τάξιν μέχρι τοσούτου πεπληρῶσθαι διὰ τῶν εἰσρεόντων ποταμῶν, μέχρι ὅτου διὰ τὸ πλῆθος παρεκχυθὲν τὸ ῥεῦμα λάβρως ἐξέπεσεν εἰς τὸν Ἑλλήσποντον καὶ πολλὴν μὲν τῆς Ἀσίας τῆς παρὰ θάλατταν ἐπέκλυσεν, οὐκ ὀλίγην δὲ καὶ τῆς ἐπιπέδου γῆς ἐν τῇ Σαμοθρᾴκῃ θάλατταν ἐποίησε·

καὶ διὰ τοῦτ´ ἐν τοῖς μεταγενεστέροις καιροῖς ἐνίους τῶν ἁλιέων ἀνεσπακέναι τοῖς δικτύοις λίθινα κιονόκρανα, ὡς καὶ πόλεων κατακεκλυσμένων.


τοὺς δὲ περιληφθέντας προσαναδραμεῖν εἰς τοὺς ὑψηλοτέρους τῆς νήσου τόπους· τῆς δὲ θαλάττης ἀναβαινούσης ἀεὶ μᾶλλον, εὔξασθαι τοῖς θεοῖς τοὺς ἐγχωρίους, καὶ διασωθέντας κύκλῳ περὶ ὅλην τὴν νῆσον ὅρους θέσθαι τῆς σωτηρίας, καὶ βωμοὺς ἱδρύσασθαι, ἐφ´ ὧν μέχρι τοῦ νῦν θύειν· ὥστ´ εἶναι φανερὸν ὅτι πρὸ τοῦ κατακλυσμοῦ κατῴκουν τὴν Σαμοθρᾴκην.
We shall now give an account of the islands which lie in the neighbourhood of Greece and in the Aegean Sea, beginning with Samothrace.

This island, according to some, was called Samos in ancient times, but when the island now known as Samos came to be settled, because the names were the same, the ancient Samos came to be called Samothrace from the land of Thrace which lies opposite it.

It was settled by men who were sprung from the soil itself; consequently no tradition has been handed down regarding who were the first men and leaders on the island.

But some say that in ancient days it was called Saonnesus and that it received the name of Samothrace because of the settlers who emigrated to it from both Samos and Thrace.

The first and original inhabitants used an ancient language which was peculiar to them and of which many words are preserved to this day in the ritual of their sacrifices.

And the Samothracians have a story that, before the floods which befell other peoples, a great one took place among them, in the course of which the outlet at the Cyanean Rocks was first rent asunder and then the Hellespont.

For the Pontus, which had at the time the form of a lake, was so swollen by the rivers which flow into it, that, because of the great flood which had poured into it, its waters burst forth violently into the Hellespont and flooded a large part of the coast of Asia and made no small amount of the level part of the island of Samothrace into a sea;

and this is the reason, we are told, why in later times fishermen have now and then brought up in their nets the stone capitals of columns, since even cities were covered by the inundation.

The inhabitants who had been caught by the flood, the account continues, ran up to the higher regions of the island; and when the sea kept rising higher and higher, they prayed to the native gods, and since their lives were spared, to commemorate their rescue they set up boundary stones about the entire circuit of the island and dedicated altars upon which they offer sacrifices even to the present day. For these reasons it is patent that they inhabited Samothrace before the flood.


Note that Pontus refers to the Black sea. Another interesting detail is the pre-Greek/pre-Thracian language of the island, whose words apparently partially survived until Diodorus time. We don't get any information about them, but it is worth to mention that one of their gods was called Kasmilos, a name that bears a striking similarity with the Anatolian (Hattic specifically) god  Ḫasammil. Beekes (2004) dedicates a whole article on the Kabeiroi making the following statements in his abstract.

R.S.P Beekes -  ‟The origin of the Kabeiroiˮ, 2004 Leiden
It is argued that Kadmilos, one of the Kabeiroi, has a typical (non-IE) Anatolian name. And further that the name Kabeiroi itself is a variant of Kabarn-oi. New insight in Pre-Greek shows that this word is a typical Pre-Greek name, and that the original form is *Kabar(y)-. This shows that the old connection with Semitic (kabìr- ‘great’) must be definitely given up.'

Of course, the Kabeiroi might have been gods that were imported by the Anatolian farmers, who in turn started to move because of this flood. We can't really know.

Now, in case you wonder when this event took place, geologists date it around 7500 B.P or 5500 B.C. The hypothesis on this event was first published on New York Times, the 17th of December 1996. You can read the article here: http://www.nytimes.com/1996/12/17/science/geologists-link-black-sea-deluge-to-farming-s-rise.html