Re: [tied] Re: Athene

From: Piotr Gasiorowski
Message: 3338
Date: 2000-08-21

----- Original Message -----
From: Dennis Poulter
Sent: Monday, August 21, 2000 6:41 AM
Subject: Re: [tied] Re: Athene

It has taken some 200 years of intensive research to arrive at "true etymology" for IE, and there are still areas of contention. It also had its birth in "eye-catching" similarities between German, Greek and Sanskrit that have only been systematised by dint of a lot of hard work. The question is, is there enough prima facie evidence to undertake this kind of research with Egyptian/Greek?
Dennis, it took a couple of decades of accelerated progress, more or less 1860-1880, for linguists to refine the notion of phonological regularity, and for etymology to reach the degree of rigour which allows a specialist to distinguish a viable etymology from eye-catching rubbish and to work both with inherited words and with loans. Of course there remain hopeless and debatable cases, but we don't have to invent new methodology for studying Afroasiatic/Greek connections. In fact, many such connections have already been discovered, and even among Bernal's etymologies there are several good ones. The problem is that his approach makes them indistinguishable from spurious similarities. And his showcases like Athena and parthenon are among the latter.
The rejection of Thebes/Tebah based on Lin.B teqa presupposes that Lin.B is an accurate reflection of the pronunciation. There are instances of hesitation in Lin.B between q/p, for example hippos is normally rendered iqo, but there is a "ipopoqoi" interpreted as "hippophorgwoihi", as well as alternate forms pereqota/qereqota and opeqa/oqeqa, and q/k qoukoro = gwoukolos < gwoukwolos, or kunaja=gunaia, alongside qouqota, suqota, ouqe. There are various explanations of these anomalies, but it is also possible that the sound changes that produced the complete elimination of labiovelars by the earliest alphabetic texts, were taking place during late Mycenean times, and this produced a certain amount of hesitation in the spelling. So teqa could even be a hypercorrection, a phenomenon that can be observed in late and medieval Latin.
Now you're replacing the most parsimonious explanation with a more complicated and less likely one (first, there is no *te-pa-/te-qa- variation in the known texts; secondly, such variation is normally due to dissimilation, for which tH..gW.. isn't the expected environment). In other ways, you seem ready to propose an otherwise unmotivated interpretation of the Linear B material on an ad hoc basis ONLY in order to save Bernal's hypothesis.
If we must observe a strict one-to-one relationship in the phones of borrowed words, how would one explain such English borrowings from French as cavalry/chivalry, guard/ward, push/dress? Obviously, the answer is that they were borrowed at different times or from different dialects. I have read that the radical sound changes of Late Egyptian compared with classical Middle Egyptian of the hieroglyphs was due to a different dialect coming to prominence in the New Kingdom. So, can't this same process be applied to Egyptian and Greek?
Push/dress?? They have nothing in common. Push < pousser < pulsare, and dress < drecier < dirigere. You could use dress/direct instead.
Of course Ancient Egyptian is stratified historically and shows some regional and social variation in each period. But this is surely no excuse for relaxing the usual principles and using may-have-beens instead. Quite the oposite, an etymologist is obliged to make it clear from which dialect and which period the putative loanword is supposed to come -- to reconstruct its etymological "trajectory" as precisely as possible. If you simply say "Regular substitutions don't work here anyway, so I'm not going to bother myself about them", you automatically lose all credibility as an etymologist.
Piotr, I can't see how you can put "Ne Boh odno Tsar" in the same category as the very real possibility of Egyptian loans into Greek.
No, sorry, I just meant to show how easy it is to give a string of sounds a desired interpretation. Unfortunately, what distinguishes many of Bernal's etymologies from "Ne-boh-odno-tzar" is ONLY their greater historical plausibility. He offers them as supportive evidence for his historical thesis, just as the Romantic poet I mentioned (may he rest in peace) amassed a lot of "eye-catchers" to prove the great antiquity of Slavic and its impact on the civilisations of the Near East. Bernal's theories make much more sense than those extravagancies, of course, but whatever their historical merits, his LINGUISTIC "evidence" only infuriates linguists and makes him an easy target for criticism. Which he, in turn, interprets as political persecution or just refuses to understand (cf. his dismissive response to Arno Egberts's "Consonants in collision: Neith and Athena reconsidered"; Egberts is an Egyptologist and it's difficult to accuse him of anti-Egyptian bias).
But I would like to ask you, in all seriousness as a professional linguist, why is the sequence a:nai/a:na extracted from Muka:nai and Atha:naia better explained as a unitary suffix?  Are there any other examples of this suffix?
There are a number of examples, as a matter of fact, e.g. in Pall-ene, Mytil-ene, Pri-ene. Mind you, if I say that I don't know what the suffix means or what's the "true" etymology of Athena, it's only because I prefer to refrain from wild speculation. It would be easy enough to invent any number of pseudo-etymologies. Want to connect Greek city names with Thracian (e.g. in order to prove that Pelasgian was a Thraco-Armenian language)? OK, let's see what can be done. Atho:n and Mukko:n are AUTHENTIC Thracian names (no kidding so far). Now maybe there was a related language in which /o:/ was unrounded (as in Slavic, for example, and cf. Albanian e < *o:), so that the names in question were pronounced Atha:n- and Muka:n- ... HEUREKA!
So, all in all, we are no further forward. We still have no idea where the name Athene comes from.
Maybe we don't, but a pseudo-explanation is NOT better than nothing.