02 July 2014

Furnée and the Pre-Greek substrate (updated)

In order to characterize Pre-Greek loanwords in his own Etymological Dictionary of Greek (2010)1, the Dutch Indo-Europeanist Robert Beekes used his compatriot Edvard Furnee's PhD disertation Die wichtigsten konsonantischen Erscheinungen des Vorgriechischen (1972), a pioneer work later followed by Vorgriechisch-Kartvelisches. Studiem zum ostmediterranen Substrat nebst einem Versuch zu einer neuen pelasgischen Theorie (1979) and Paläokartvelisch-pelasgische Einflüsse in den indogermanischen Sprachen. Nachgewiesen anhand der spätindogermanisch-griechischen Reflexe urkartvelischer Sibilanten und Affrikanten (1986).

In these later works (thoroughly ignored by Beekes2), Furnee develops the theory Pre-Greek/Pelasgian was a Paleo-Kartvelian (an older stage than Proto-Kartvelian) language. For example, Greek kháos 'abyss, chasm'3 < Pre-Greek *kʰáw- can be linked to PK *qew-/*qaw- 'ravine' (Old Georgian qev-i, qev-n-i, Georgian xev-i, Megrel xab-o)4, where PK q ~ Pre-Greek '5.

In my opinion, these and other correspondences between Pre-Greek and Kartvelian would be evidence of language contact rather than a genetic relationship6, as they include borrowings into the opposite direction. For example, although PK *tor- (Georgian tor-i, torn-i 'harness, armour')7 corresponds to Greek thôraks (Ionic thôrēks, Mycenean TO-RA-KE) 'cuirass; trunk, chest'8 < Pre-Greek *tʰur-āk-, it's clear the source can't be Paleo-Kartvelian.

This would be an Eurasiatic root found in Latin corium 'skin, hide, leather', cortex 'bark, shell', Sanskrit cárman-, Avestan čarǝman- < PIE *s-ker- 'bark, skin'9, PK *tser- (Laz cara) 'rough infertile earth', Proto-Uralic *tɕarV 'hard', Proto-Altaic *tSarV 'snow, snow crust', Proto-Dravidian *tSara- 'rough on surface', and whose protoform is reconstructed by Dolgopolsky as *tɕ(ˀ)arV/*tsˀarV 'hard/firm, hardened crust, hard surface' (ND 311). The initial sibilant affricate was centumized into a velar stop10 (palatalized in Indo-Iranian) in IE but it gave a dental stop in Pre-Greek.
1 Which is part of the so-called Indo-European Etymological Dictionaries Online (IEDO) project, a series of etymological dictionaries of IE languages edited by Alexander Lubotsky from Leiden University. Until some years ago, preliminary versions of them were available online for free under the label Indo-European Etymological Dictionary (IEED), but unfortunately now they are of restricted access, as copyright is owned by publisher Brill. 
2 He regards Pre-Greek as a uniform non-IE language "with no recognizable cognates", thus ignoring most recent research on the subject. 
3 On the other hand, the related kháũnos 'slack, porous; vain, frivolous' < Pre-Greek *kʰáw-n-o- derives from a suffixed variant of the same root. Beekes' allusion to a possible parallel in Germanic and Baltic 'palate' is totally ungrounded. See R.S.P. Beekes (2010), op. cit., p. 1614.
4 E.J. Furnée (1979), op. cit., §57.
5 Notice, however, the possible link (already observed in Varro's De lingua latina) between the Greek word and Latin cavus 'hollow' < PIE *kouH-o- by Thurneysen-Havet's Law. See L. Horton-Smith (1895): Establishment and Extension of the Law of Thurneysen and Havet, The American Journal of Philology, 16, pp. 444-467.
6 In fact, the Kartvelianist and Indo-Europeanist Thomas Gamkrelidze accepted some of Furnée's correspondences, relating them to the argonauts. See T.V. Gamkrelidze & V.I. Ivanov (1995): Indo-European and the Indo-Europeans, p. 799-804.
7 E.J. Furnée (1979), op. cit., §16.
8 R.S.P. Beekes (2010), op. cit., p. 569.
9 Please notice Greek kôrykos 'leather sack' is unrelated. See R.S.P. Beekes (2010), op. cit., p. 816.
10 Not *sk- as thought by Nostraticists, because *s- (called "s-mobile" in the literature) is a fossilized prefix.


  1. Hola, Octavia!

    I did not forget about you. Okay, the Kartvelian thing is very interesting. Did the Greeks acquire such adoptions by their well-known contact with the Kartvelians...i.e., Colchis? Did they acquire these adoptions by Greek having passed through Anatolia on it's way to the Balkans (This one I doubt seriously)? Did a Kartvelian language exist in the "Greek" peninsula when the Greeks arrived from the north?

    Some "authorities" connect Hattic with South Caucasian, what is your thought on that? I have been having communication with Mr. Valerio and I asked him his opinion on Pre-Greek. He said that he believes it to be multiple languages Greek has had contact with. This is similar to the Indo-Iranian substrate. One more thing Greek and Indo-Iranian have in common. So, you were right, but don't get cocky, hahaha. :)

    Also, in case you are interested...a talk on Armenian and Greek linguistic connections. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=vDgMTVnUnIU

    1. As regarding Greek and Kartvelian, only the last question can be answered affirmatively. If I understood him well, Furnée's Pelasgian was a Paleo-Kartvelian (an older stage than Proto-Kartvelian) language which became a substrate to Greek. Not only that, but also linguistic data point to prehistoric contacts between Paleo-Kartvelian and Kurganic (the ancestor of Greek and Indo-Iranian spoken by the Steppe People and often mislabelled as "PIE"). For example, Kartvelian *diɣom 'earth' is a straightforward loanword from a Kurganic word conventionally reconstructed as *dhg´hom (you'd better ignore traditional "voiced aspirated", though). However, it looks like most loanwords went the other way around, as in the case of Kartvelian *diqa- 'earth' ~ IE *dheig´h- 'clay' and many others, some of them proposed by Furnée himself.

      Although Paleo-Kartvelian can only account for a rather meagre part of Pre-Greek lexicon (only crackpots such as Beekes can believe it was a single language, hehehe), substrate items from this source can be detected elsewhere in Europe, even in Latin itself.

      To be fair, you should tell Mr. Valério Portuguese silva < *silba has nothing to do with Latin but it's rather a genuine substrate loanword. :-)

      "South Caucasian" is an outdated synonym of Kartvelian, and AFAIK nobody has seriously suggested Hattic could be a relative of it. Surely you'd mean "NW Caucasian" (or simply "West Caucasian") aka Abkhaz-Adyghe (your own first name, haha), a connection which has been supported by scholars such as Viacheslav Chirikba. However, in a recent paper, Alexei Kassian (a disciple of Starostin) suggests Hattic isn't a near relative of Abkhaz-Adyghe but rather both are members of a wider Vasco-/Sino-/Dene-Caucasian phylum. However, you'd better ignore his glottochronologies as well as Bengtson's Basque etymologies.

    2. Hola, Octavia!

      Finally, an explanation out of you about Kurganic. So it is the Proto-language of Greek, Armenian, Phrygian, and Indo-Iranian. By the by, there are Hattic words in both Greek and Armenian and at least one is only shared between Greek and Armenian. That is why I posted that link to you. Greek and Armenian share, between each other, some lexemes from the "Pre-Greek" substrate. Which points to Armenian being intrusive to the Caucasus region. There is more linguistic data beyond that, but that is further substantiation of Armenian having come from the west and by being strongly areally influenced by various non-IE languages in the region, became rather distinct as a branch of IE.

      I will be sure to inform Mr. Valerio as per your request, Octavia, hahaha.

      Ok, I will not use South Caucasian anymore...I will use Kartvelian. Actually, it has been posited that Hattic was related to Kartvelian because of, obviously, shared areal features, but it has been subsequently dismissed. I knew about Hattic not being closely related to NW Caucasian as far as Kassian was concerned. No worries, you have taught me a lesson about Bengtson.

  2. Hola, Octavia!

    There maybe an archaeological culture that ties together contact between Pre-Greek and Proto-Kartvelian. It is called the Trialeti Culture.

    "The Trialeti culture was a second culture to appear in Georgia, after the Shulaveri-Shomu culture which existed from 6000 to 4000 BC.[3] The Trialeti culture shows close ties with the highly developed cultures of the ancient world, particularly with the Aegean,[4] but also with cultures to the south,[5] such as probably the Sumerians and their Akkadian conquerors." ~ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trialeti_culture

    Some of the links within the article are dead. I have known of this culture for some time, but my studies in language and linguistics has been focused elsewhere for a time now, so it did not dawn on me the first time you introduced this post.

    I hope you are well!

    1. Hi, Adyghe!

      I'm not fond of mixing archaelogy and paleo-linguistics, as they work on different (and most often uncorrelated) data, but I think the available evidence suggests Greek didn't originate in Greece but further east or northeast, somewhere along or near the Black Sea, so maybe the Trialeti people was involved, who knows?

      On the other hand, this would explain why a large part of Pre-Greek loanwords aren't from Tyrrhenian, as well as some of them are shared with Armenian.

  3. Hola, Octavia!

    Aren't Greek and Armenian unofficially related in a Graeco-Armenian group? I know they share Pre-Greek and IE isoglosses between each other that are not shared with other IE languages.

    We agree on the origins of Greek. It would appear that Armenian was part of that group like possibly Phrygian, Macedonian, and maybe Thracian(?). The question then becomes did Armenian cross over into Anatolia via the Bosporus or via the Caucasus? There is strong evidence that Armenian was much further west than its current position, but how did it get that far west, did it come from the west or did it move west? Curiouser and curiouser, hahaha.

    1. Properly speaking, only people move, not languages. As for substrate loanwords in Armenian, I'd recommend you take a look to Martirosyan's etymological dictionary (you can find a free PDF copy if you a little research), which gives a comprehensive list in the section 3.11 Mediterranean-Pontic substratum.

  4. You mean this, "Etymological dictionary of the Armenian inherited lexicon"? I have this already.

    Also, if there is a paper you need, do not be afraid to ask for it. If I have access to it, it is yours.

    1. Thank you very much. Recently, I got a scanned copy of Guus Kroonen's Proto-Germanic dictionary. Unfortunately, it's quite disappointing, as most dictionaries of the Brill-Leiden series.

    2. Well, the question, to me, is with software that can help linguists suss out genuine inherited words and words that maybe innovated or acquired by contact...why do more of them not avail themselves of it? Certainly it could help or even be modified to fit the known specifics nearly any language.


    3. I'm afraid there's no computer which could change the mindset or the models used by specialists. Paleolinguistics isn't exactly like chess, you know.