The Pre-Greek loans in Greek

1. The phonemic system of Pre-Greek
2. Characteristic sound(group)s


3. Prothetic vowel
4. s mobile
5. Variations: consonants
5.1. Voiceless / voiced / aspirated stop
5.2. Prenasalization
5.3. Nasalization
5.4. Labial, m and  image


5.5. Stops / image

5.6. Velar / labial / dental: labio-velars
5.7. Dentals / liquids image

5.8. Simple / geminate

5.9. image / zero, (before consonant and) before vowel
5.10. K-, T- / zero
5.11. image / zero
5.12. Metathesis, and aspiration shift
5.13. Secondary phonetic developments
5.14. Other variations
6. Variations: vowels
6.1. Single vowels, timbre
6.2. Long / short
6.3. Single / diphthong
6.4. Rising diphthongs?
6.5. Secondary vowels (or syncope)

1. Reduplication
2. Suffixes


3. Word end


[I am indebted to professors Melchert and Ruijgh for their comments.]


In 1956, Kuiper wrote a study on Greek substratum words which opened a new chapter in
the study of the field. Furnee then wrote a dissertation on the subject (1972), in which he
presented twenty years of research and which is up to now the handbook for the subject. As
Kuiper was also my promotor, I knew the book from the beginning (see my review in Lingua 36,
1975). The short overview which follows here is based on Furnee’s material and on my own
research, during thirty years.
Furnee’s book met with fierce criticism and was largely neglected. [An exception is R.A.
Brown’s Pre-Greek Speech on Crete, 1985.] That was a major mistake. Pre-Greek words often
show variations which are not found in inherited words. It is obvious to study these variations.
That is what Furnee did. It appeared, as Kuiper had shown, that these variations show certain
patterns, so that they can be used to recognize Pre-Greek elements. Two points of criticism on
Furnee are possible. One is that he considered almost all variations as expressive, which is
certainly wrong. It is evident that the variants are due to the adaptation of words of a foreign
language to Greek. We shall see below that in this perspect many variations can be understood.
The second objection to Furnee is that he suggested several etymological connections between
Greek words, as variants of a Pre-Greek word. When several possible variants are used, many
combinations become possible, and here Furnee has gone too far in a number of cases. Here he
made some ingenious suggestion (e.g. image ). We can hardly reproach the author in these
cases, however, as he was exploring new ground: it is only to be expected that in such a situation
one goes sometimes too far. Several scholars were baffled by these proposals and so rejected the
whole book. The method, however, was correct; what we have to do, as always in the case of
etymology, is to see which suggestions are probable and which are not. Of course, in many cases
we cannot reach certainty, but this is no objection. On the whole, Furnee’s material is indeed
Pre-Greek (a very few cases excepted), and so we have a large corpus of material. His index
gives 4400 words; as many derivatives and variants are given (and a few Indo-European words
that were discussed in the text), I guess that it contains some 1000 Pre-Greek etyma. Also,
Furnee often adduces new material, which is (even now) not mentioned in the etymological
dictionaries (mostly glosses from Hesychius).
I have in general given only a few names, and no material from outside Greece and Asia
Minor. 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. My suggestions for reconstructions are not essential. One may ignore them and just
consider the variations themselves. Often these variations are explained as incidental phenomena
(assimilations, influence of other words, etc.), and such explanations may be correct in some
cases. But if we know which variations frequently occur, we are warned to consider Pre-Greek
origin if we find them. The existing etymological dictionaries often seem to `avoid’ the
conclusion that a word is a substratum element. It is remarkable that Chantraine was quite aware  of the question in his Formation, but has very often withdrawn his – in my view correct – evaluation in his dictionary. It seems as if substratum elements were not welcome.
A question that is a real problem, is that a word is often called a loan from an Anatolian
language, while it may be just as well be a word from the substratum in Greece. It is generally
accepted, on the basis of the place names, that the same language was once spoken in Greece and
in (western) Asia Minor. [A point for further study is to establish how far to the east such related
names are found. It is my impression that such forms are found in the south as far as Cilicia. See
F.] But it is mostly impossible to distinguish between substratum words and – (mostly) later –
loans from Asia Minor. A word may have been taken over through commerce etc., as happens
between two neighbouring countries, or since the time when Greeks settled in Asia Minor, which
happened probably as early as in the 14th century. I think that, from a methodological point, it is
better to consider such words as Pre-Greek, and only to take them as – normal – loan words when
there is reason to do so, but it is clear that here we may often make mistakes. A good example is
image `clew, ball of wool ready for spinning’. The word is clearly related with Luw., Hitt.
talupa/i- `lump, clod’. The Greek word is typical for Pre-Greek words: CaC-up- (with a = o
before u); there is no IE etymology (Melchert, Orpheus 8 (1998) 47-51 does not convince). So it
is Pre-Greek / Anatolian. Also, `clew…’ is not a word that you bring home from overseas; it is an
everyday word, which the Greeks took up at home. I completely agree with Furnee’s
interpretation (35 n. 33) that the word was brought to Greece by the settlers from Anatolia who
brought their language, which, from another perspective, we call Pre-Greek to Greece. So it is a
loan fron an Anatolian language, but from the one that was also spoken in Greece before the
Indo-European speaking Greeks arrived there.
The essential point is that it should be recognized that substratum words are a frequent
phenomenon. One may regret this, for example because Indo-European words can be much
better explained, but this is irrelevant; it is simply a fact that has to be accepted. My approach is
rather that it is fascinating that in this way we can learn something about the old languages of
Anatolia, and of the role of Anatolia in early history. And, of course, it is part of the oldest
history of Greece.
As to `Pelasgian’ and related theories which assume an Indo-European substratum in
Greece, these theories have failed, and I no longer mention them (in my etymological
dictionary). The theory has been extensively discussed by Furnee (37-68). `Pelasgian’ has done
much harm, and it is time to definitely reject it. The latest attempt was Heubeck’s `Minoisch-
Mykenische’ (discussed by Furnee 55- 66), where the material was reduced to some ten words;
the theory has been tacitly abandoned, I think. (Another matter is the problem of    image   and
the image , for which Ruijgh assumes an Indo-European para-stratum. Here the evidence seems so
clear that an explanation of this kind may have to be assumed.)



third version jan. 2007
(second version, November 2003)
To the memory of Edzard Johan Furnee

SOURCE  http://www.ieed.nl

About sooteris kyritsis

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