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con-translation (was: Semitic/Celtic Ties)

From:Raymond A. Brown <raybrown@...>
Date:Friday, March 12, 1999, 20:03
At 6:08 pm -0500 8/3/99, Padraic Brown wrote:
>Hey, that's not bad, Ray! I remember seeing one similar where this fellow >ran a Basque shopping list or somesuch through some complex machination >and came up with a Dutch sentence about a squirrel sitting on the roof.
>I rather like the sentence you came up with. Do you still happen to have >the "Celtic" version of it by any chance?
Yes, I do. Sorry about the delay in responding, but I've been very busy in the last few days :=( But here goes. ------------------------------------------------------------------------- BACKGROUND The Psykhro Inscription is thus named because it found near Psykhro on the Lasithi plateau in Crete. It is written in the Ionic alphabet of the 3rd century BC, but beneath the short three-line text are three symbols which look similar to the much more ancient Linear A script of pre-Greek Crete. The part written in the Ionic alphabet does not make sense as Greek. Other inscriptions - alas all too fragmentary - have been found in Crete written in other versions of the Greek alphabet which quite clearly are not Greek. The language has been dubbed 'Eteocretan' ("True Cretan") and is considered to be a survival of some otherwise unknown pre_Greek (and seemingly non-IE & non-Semitic) language. Notwithstanding the shortness of the inscription (which appears complete) some intrepid scholars have "translated" it. For example (the block capitals represent the 'translation' of the three Linear symbols): A Semitic 'translation': "The engraved monument which I set over my resting place in Land of Beauty. THE ENGRAVED MONUMENT.' [Cyrus H. Gordon, Evidence for the Minoan Language, New Jersey, 1966] Another Semitic 'translation': 'The engraved monument which I, Enete son of Sippai, have erected. THE ENGRAVED MONUMENT.' [R.R. Steiglitz, "The Eteocretan inscription from Psychro", Kadmos 15, pp.84-86 1976. Steiglitz notes that the named 'Sippai' occurs in 1 Chronicles, 20, 4 as the name of a Philistine killed at Gezer by one of David's heroes. Not that this Sippai is claimed to be the same guy - merely that the name is actually attested in a Semitic source.] A Nesite (i.e. 'Hittite') 'translation': 'Epioi gives to Zitantas, the goddess, an offering --- TO THE GODDESS'. [S. Davis, The Phaistos Disk and the Eteocretan Inscriptions from Psychro and Praisos, Johannesburg, 1961. Zitantas was, indeed, a Nesite goddess.] ------------------------------------------------------------------------- THE INSCRIPTION For those who would like to find 'proof' that their conlang was actually used in Crete of the 3rd cent. BC - and for others - I give a transliteration of the inscription. Greek eta /e:/ is represented as 'E', theta /th/ by 'T' and phi /ph/ by 'P'. epioi zETanTE par siPai As far as I can manage in ASCII the three Linear symbols are: | | /|\ /\ |_|_| /_|_\ /__\ | | / | \ | | | ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- A LITTLE MORE BACKGROUND Way back in the 1970s when I was researching evidence for pre-Greek speech on Crete, a Celtophile (of the worst sort, I regret, who put mysticism way above inconvenient facts) claimed that the Celtic civilization owed its origin to the Minoan culture of Crete of the first half of the 2nd millennium BC. This suggested to me that I could test just how easy it is to 'translate' short texts like this into whatever language one wants with a bit of imagination - I'd translate it as Celtic :) ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ epioi - difficult to dissociate this from Welsh _pwy_ , Cornish _pyu_ and Breton _piou_ = 'who?'. The initial e- is odd. It is probably a redundant use of an interrogative particle, perhaps cognate with Welsh & Cornish _a_ but, unlike the latter, causing no mutation of the following consonant. zETanTE - i.e. zE-TanTE. The proclitic zE- is to be compared with Cornish _dhesy_, _dhejy_, an emphatic pronoun meaning "thou, thyself" (cf. Welsh: tydi, ythdi, tithau). In this dialect [D] had obviously weakened to [z] and thus the original pronoun would have been [ze:si] <-- [De:si]. As a proclitic, a weakened grade [ze:s] had developed which before a consonant lost the final [s] causing the familiar spirant mutation of that consonant. The verb -TanTE is thus 'tanTE' with initial consonant mutated. This verb is somewhat obscure but is likely to be an archaic form which generally disappeared later but survived in the defective Cornish imperative _tan_ (plural _tanneugh_) = "take!". enetE - i.e. ene-tE. 'ene' is to be compared with Cornish _ena_ , Breton _ene_ = "soul" (cf. Welsh 'enaid'). The enclitic -TE is clearly cognate with the Cornish enclitics -ta, -ty (you/ your [sing.]), Welsh _ti_. In Welsh pronouns are commonly suffixed to possessive forms, thus, e.g. "d'enaid" or "d'enaid ti" - thy soul. In this Cretan dialect the used of the prefixed possessives had died out, possession being shown by suffixed pronouns, thus _ene-TH_ "thy soul". par - cf. Cornish _par_ "as, so". siPai - the stem of this verb, siw-, is cognate with the stem seen in Welsh _safaf_ "I stand", saf- [sa:v] being from ProtoIE *sth@m- an extended form of the root *sth@- (stand). The vocalization of the Cretan form was caused by a following [i] or [j] which disappeared, cf. Welsh _sefyll_, Cornish _sevel_ "to stand", Breton _sevel_ "to raise" <-- *sth@m-ilis. Unlike the Welsh, Cornish & Breton where the verb stem alternates between /sav/ and /sev/, the Cretans made /siw/ standard. The verb is subjunctive, formed by adding -h- to the stem, thus /siw/ + /h/ --> /siph/, cf. Cornish present subjunctive _saffo_, imperfect subjunctive _saffa_ ( /ff/ <-- /v/ + /h/; Modern Welsh has lost the /h/ sound in this position). The ending -ai, however, is a little odd; it looks like an imperfect subjunctive ending, cf. Cornish _saffa_, Welsh _safai_. The Cretan dialect had possibly lost the distinction between the present and imperfect subjunctive, using but one subjunctive tense. RE-A-NJA (the three symbols) - REANJA answers the question. The signs are used to keep the name secret from non-believers. The first two signs are clearly cognate with the Linear B signs for 're' and 'a'. The third is obscure, but must have had a value like 'nja', the name *Reanja being akin to Welsh 'rhiain' (pl. 'rhianedd') "maid", "maiden". Thus the whole text reads: "Ah, who takes for thee thy soul that it may stand [in Paradise]? THE MAIDEN." ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Convinced? Now do better :-) Ray.