29 December 2010

A confusion of rhotics

Most personal names and theonyms found in Latin inscriptions from the old region of Aquitaine correspond to an early form of Basque commonly referred as Proto-Basque by Vascologists. However, some of these names have been wrongly interpreted due to an imperfect reading of rhotics: while the flap /r/ <r> is usually written as RH, the trill /ŕ/ <rr> can be either R or RR. Thus reading R as /r/ instead of the actual /ŕ/ is a mistake many Vascologists have made.

For example, the Aquitanian theonym HERAVSCORRITSEHE, usually interpreted as containing a first member herauś corresponding to modern Basque herauts 'boar', but this is inexact. Firstly, this word is actually one of the variants of a word *enauś(i), *inauś(i) whose meaning is 'heat of sow' or 'sow/female boar in heat' and whose modern forms1 display two alternative results from a former *n2. The correct reading is heŕaus, which corresponds to modern Basque errauts 'ash' (a compound of erre 'to burn' and hauts 'dust')3.

Another example is the anthroponym LAVRCO, whose first element4 is commonly interpreted as the numeral lau(r) '4' (with a flap /r/), when it's actually lauŕ (with a trill /ŕ/). This corresponds to modern Basque labur 'short'5, so in this case the Aquitanian form corresponds to Iberian and not to Proto-Basque6. 
1 herause, eresu, (h)erüsi, heusi, iñaus, iraus, i(h)ausi, irausi, irusi.
2 According to our own interpretation, the regular shift -n- > -0- in Basque (as well as in Gascon and Portuguese) is consequence of an adstrate influence, while the comparatively rare -n- > -r- is part of its own Iberian pedigree.
3 This was first proposed by Hugo  Schuchardt.
4 Also found in Iberian anthroponyms. The second element is the diminutive suffix -ko.
5 The form laur is only found in the Baztanese dialect.
6 Iberian has *bu > u while Basque has *bo > o.