18 May 2016

Snake eyes (updated)

The Etruscan numeral zal1, es(a)l '2' is attested in dice -Etruscans were affectionate of gambling- and inscriptions, and it's also part of esl-em zaθrum '18' (lit. '2 from 20'), where za-θ-r-um '20' can be analized as the concatenation of '2' with locative, plural and collective suffixes, i.e. 'collection of things in twos'2.

Although some amateur linguists have proposed links to either East Caucasian (Nakh-Daghestanian) or Hurrian, there're no obvious parallels elsewhere. However, Etruscan ci '3' is related (most likely due to borrowing) to Hurrian kig '3', a Hurro-Urartian isogloss shared with Nakh *qo-, with an optional suffix used for sheep counting. This is particulary interesting because this numeral strongly resembles Daghestanian and West Caucasian (Abkhaz-Adyghe) '2' (NCED 2315)3, while at the same time both Hurro-Urartian and Nakh borrowed their numeral '2' from Semitic4.

As it happens, numerals aren't too much old (Neolithic at the most) and in many cases they're loanwords or even Wanderwórter4, so they're of little value for establishing distant language relationships.
1 Etruscan z stands for an affricate /ts/.
2 E. Robertson (2006): Etruscan's Genealogical Linguistic Relationship with Nakh-Daghestanian: A Preliminary Evaluation.
3 IE *dwo '2' is a loanword from West Caucasian.
4 Some Semitic numerals, namely '7', spread as Wanderwörter to IE and other language families.