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The Pelasgian Pre-Greek Substrate and the Linear A

The Pelasgian Pre-Greek Substrate and the Linear A

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Published by Arnaud Fournet
The document summarizes the main information available on the Pelasgian Pre-Greek substrates
that are known to have existed in Greece's mainland and islands before the Greek language, a
variety of Central Indo-European, became the vernacular. The conclusion is that the Aegean Sea
has always been a purely Indo-European area. The document proposes some emendations to the
current decipherment of Linear A.
The document summarizes the main information available on the Pelasgian Pre-Greek substrates
that are known to have existed in Greece's mainland and islands before the Greek language, a
variety of Central Indo-European, became the vernacular. The conclusion is that the Aegean Sea
has always been a purely Indo-European area. The document proposes some emendations to the
current decipherment of Linear A.

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Categories:Types, Research, Science
Published by: Arnaud Fournet on Jul 10, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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TheTheTheThe Pelasgian PrePelasgian PrePelasgian PrePelasgian Pre----Greek SubstrateGreek SubstrateGreek SubstrateGreek Substrate Arnaud Fournet
The document summarizes the main information available on the Pelasgian Pre-Greek substratesthat are known to have existed in Greece's mainland and islands before the Greek language, avariety of Central Indo-European, became the vernacular. The conclusion is that the Aegean Seahas always been a purely Indo-European area. The document proposes some emendations to thecurrent decipherment of Linear A.
 
The retreat of the Unbeknownst
Not infrequently proto-languages have been located in unfavorable environments : deserts, poles,steppes, mountains, all kinds of areas perfectly unsuitable for the emergence of a huge and developedpopulation, as if homelands of proto-languages were all the more probable because they are as thinlypeople and as undocumented as possible. Hypothesizing whatever sub-branch of X-o-Y-ic in Libya isindeed the cleverest strategy to make sure the idea will not be refuted by adverse traces of humanpresence. On the other end of the spectrum, areas like Ancient Greece and Anatolia were dismissedby the nascent Indo-European scholarship as possible homeland of the PIE language because theywere perceived as harboring brilliant civilizations but of unknown linguistic ethnoculture. As the progress of knowledge has shown for two centuries, Greece and Asia Minor, which werepreviously thought of unknown linguistic origin, have only revealed languages with clear and full-fledged Indo-European origin. There is in fact no place left for any Pelasgo-Etruscomaniac fanciesbecause the area is basically Indo-European. The only residual area of unclear status is Crete with aresisting Linear A script so far. Our conviction is that this resistance will not last for ever.The first advance in the knowledge of this area was the decipherment of cuneiform script and thenthe gradual realization that Hittite and the other western Anatolian languages, Lydian, Lycian, etc.,were Indo-European. This understanding was first suggested at the beginning of the XXth century andwas later established by Bedŕich Hrozný in 1914 and confirmed by Jerzy Kuryłowicz.Map of the Anatolian Indo-European languages
 
The next advance was achieved with the decipherment of Linear B script in 1952 by MichaelVentris with the help of John Chadwick. It became then clear that the Greek Islands, especially Creteand part of the mainland (in blue color below) had been peopled by the speakers of an early Greekdialect : Mycenean Greek. The mystery of a Minoan unknown civilization could then be discarded. Thearea was Greek-speaking as early as -1450 BC.Map of the Greek dialectsThe Greek language, represented by its numerous dialects, is not the first Indo-European languagespoken in Greece. They are plenty of indications, both direct and indirect, that another language wasthere before. Greek came from the North-East of Greece and represents an intrusion of Central Indo-European, which happened sometimes between -2200 and -1500 BC. The previous language, whichwas spoken before Greek prevailed, can be called either Pelasgian or Pre-Greek. It will be called Pre-Greek in the following pages.It has been well-known since Antiquity that an obscure people called Pelasgians by Herodotus andHomer had once inhabited Crete, the Peloponnesus and the Attic peninsula. The linguistic study of thePre-Greek language owes much to the efforts of Kuiper, who wrote a study on Greek substratumwords in 1956, of Furnée who wrote a dissertation on the subject in 1972, and of Beekes, who is theforemost specialist of the Pre-Greek issue, since that time.The document is based on an analysis and assessment of Beekes' current work.
 
 
 
The linguistic features of Pre-Greek
It has become increasingly clear that the substratic Pre-Greek words of the Greek vocabulary arenot an incoherent hotchpotch of words but add up to a language with typical and describable features.The vowels, consonants and lexical morphology can be inferred from the huge set of words that havemade their way from Pre-Greek into Greek. Close to one thousand words are potentially Pre-Greek.The vowel systemContrary to Greek, the phonological system of Pre-Greek was composed of a rather limited number of vowels and these phonemes were precisely not the most frequent vowels inherited by Greek fromCentral IE. The distributional analysis of the suffixes of Pre-Greek shows that only *a / *i / *u exist. For example, the following suffixes can be found in Pre-Greek loanwords :*a amb ant (rare) and anth aŋg*i ind inth iŋg*u umb unt (rare) und unth (rare) uŋgDistribution of the vowels in the Pre-Greek suffixesThe same situation exists with unnasalized suffixed. On the whole, *e and *o are rare in the Pre-Greek loanwords and nearly never found in the suffixes. This feature leads Beekes to conclude thatthe system only included */a/, */i/ and */u/. There is nevertheless a potential counter-argument in thereasoning. If the suffixes were always unstressed, then what we have is a reduced unaccented systembut the accented system may have been richer. The prosody of Pre-Greek remains to be studied butfrom some words,
ábramis 
~
abramís 
,
ákhuros 
~
akhurós 
,
korúdalos 
~
korudallós 
,
síkuos 
~
sikuós 
, itseems that the position of pitch (or accent) in Pre-Greek had no fixed position. This is an argument infavor of the reduced system of vowels.But our opinion is that the limited set of vowels can also be inferred from the graphic structure of Linear B itself and of the cypriot syllabary as well.The graphic internal structure of Linear B A conspicuous feature of Linear B is the massive inadequation of the set of syllables to transcribeGreek. This situation obviously originates in the linguistic differences between Greek and Pre-Greek,for which the system was most probably designed. If the phonemic inventory of Pre-Greek was only*a, *i, *u, we should expect the graphic system to have only three series of syllables and not five : only
ta 
,
ti 
,
tu 
should exist and
te 
,
to 
should not exist. They are nevertheless there.This suggests the hypothesis that
new 
syllables were added to the Pre-Greek system when it gotadapted to write (Mycenean) Greek. As we will see, the symbols to write *e and *o are indeed variants

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