Thanatos and Vanth

From: Glen Gordon
Message: 7613
Date: 2001-06-13

Piotr and I duking it out:
>>We don't see this particular compound outside of Hellenic and
>>syllabic *m isn't really attested but rather implied from -a-.
>>Any underlying IE form could just as well have a syllabic *n,
>>*a or *x (*H2).
>Not "just as well", since only *gWm-ti is actually attested in a
>few different branches (Indo-Iranian and Baltic between them rule
>out the rest)

No, I mean in the specific analysis of /basileus/. IE *gWmti is
not in doubt but when deriving an earlier IE or Hellenic form for
/basileus/ we might have *gWati-, *gWnti-, *gWxti- etc. It's all
assumed that it is a compound of IE elements. The first element
could just as well be a loan and mean something different like

>I actually predict that Greek thwanatos (the digamma lived long
>in the non-Attic/Ionic dialects) would have become Etruscan *TvanTe where
>either T = orthographic <t> or <th> -- no less, no
>more. It is a well-constrained down-to-earth prediction, based on
>what is known about the structure of Greek loans in Etruscan.

I know. I'm giving you a hard time. Yet still, you have to admit
that there is a lot of freedom here and a highly expected *t is

>The loss of *t- is not arbitrary or abnormal if Etruscan did not >allow
>initial tv-. Stops are quite commonly lost before sonorants
>by way of cluster simplification -- English kn-, gn- > n-, Latin
>*dj- > j- (as in Iovis, Iuppiter).

This arguement works if we were talking about Latin or English...
but there's no clear evidence of *tv- > v- in Etruscan, unless you
wish to supply such. We see tv- elsewhere but no loss of t-.
Actually, it could have gone the other way too, with an inserted
vowel between t and v as compensation for these phonotactic
constraints (which would be the more likely route anyhow).

>"Weak", yes; but not "just as weak". I agree that it is vulnerable on the
>formal side, but at least I compare like with
>like -- Thanatos and Vanth, two deities with identical functions
>and attributes, and my argument does not require a series of
>conjectural semantic shifts.

Yes, your arguement does require a series of conjectures like
mine. Unsubstantiated sound changes, the assumption that Vanth is
for *Vanathe, the assumption that they are one and the same god
recently borrowed despite the disagreement of sex.

I don't believe the sex change can be explained by grammatical
magic tricks. At the very least, it requires accepting that there
must be more than one god merging together here. But then that
would imply the existence of a native "Vanth" as well, and I
would win. You shouldn't let me win! :)

- gLeN

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