The Etruscan language has been the hardest language to decipher, among those ancient languages which have been deciphered. Akkadian, Sumerian and Babylonian (cuneiform scripts), Hittite (a syllabic script) the Egyptian Heiroglyphs and the ancient Mycenaean script, Linear "B" all are profound successes in the history of deciphering ancient scripts. Of the latter two scripts, the Egyptian Hieroglyphs were deciphered by a Frenchman named J. F. Champollion. These inscriptions were in great abundance and Champollion was able to use a trilingual inscription, called the Roseta Stone, to break the code and discovered the Egyptian Heiroglyphs were written in a known language still spoken in Egypt. Michael Ventris, following his tracks, attempted to decipher the Etruscan scripts but gave up on them and focused on the more abundant scripts called Linear A and Linear B. He broke the code of Linear B and discovered that it was written in a known language, Greek. Unfortunately, there is no base, a known language, upon which we can use to make an accurate translation of the Etruscan language. Neither is there a bilingual inscription which we can use as Champollion used the Roseta Stone.
For those interested, Etruscan is related to Latin and the other "Romance" languages, but it does have words which don't tie directly to Latin but may tie more directly to French or Italian, even Spanish, as seen in the Index below.
The objective of this site (my original work published in 1981) was to first identify the conjugation and declension patterns (without attempting a translation) and with that now complete, the analysis of the language and its translation can be facilitated. As one will note, it is impossible to fake grammatical patterns. Grammar is like a road map of a language: it has rules and the rules, as rules — as in mathematics — must be consistent wherever a shift takes place, whether it is a verb conjugating or a noun and adjective declining in gender and number. Also the placement of the object of a verb must be consistent. So I presented this site with the objective of displaying the grammatical structure of the Etruscan language as it is found in the various (and few in number) Etruscan scripts. One script is not completely represented on this site, since I have not been able to find a copy of it which I could accurately read. It is the Capua Tile. Once you familiarize yourself with the characters, those of you who know the Romance languages should be able to find phrases or expressions which are familiar to you.
Like Latin Etruscan does not use the definite article and the personal pronoun is not used with the verb; i.e. HV = I have; HE = you have; HA = he/she has. Generally the suffix "v" = "o" indicates the infinitive of the verb and sometimes is first person singular; second person singular is indicated by the suffix "e" and third person singular "a." There is another suffix which is "ia, ie" that appears to be a subjunctive case for the second person singular. The suffix "i" in a verb consistently records a past predicate case in the singular cases. The suffix "en" is first person plural "they." It appears that the Etruscan language is replete with regular verbs and irregular verbs are consistent with irregular verbs in Latin.
I present the evidence that Etruscan is of one language group, related to Latin, Italian and French. This is evident in the Vocabulary/Index below where I have identified root Latin, Italian and French words which are close to Etruscan words. From the Vocabulary I have prepared Table 1, Indo-European words as they relate to Etruscan. The Etruscan Language has nouns and adjectives which decline and verbs which conjugate like Latin, Italian, and French, i.e. the Romance Languages. Since there should be no contest that the Etruscans were in Italy before the Romans, it may be that the unknown languages, of the Rhaetians, Ligurians, and probably those concurrent inhabitants of Spain, are related to the Etruscan/Italic base. There is a script, a lead tablet from La Serreta de Alcoy, dating circa. the sixth century B.C., which has many words which are familiar to the Etruscan vocabulary below, and it is written with Etruscan characters.
It may be, and is probably so, that the first written Italian Language was Etruscan, and it, through its alphabet at least, gave birth to the Latin alphabet. Early Greek writers mentioned the origins of the Etruscans. Dionysius of Halicarnassus, writing during the time of Augustus, in his Roman Antiquities, chapters 25-30, argued that the Etruscans were indiginous to Italy. He refuted earlier arguments that the Etruscans were Pelasgians or from Lydia. He did note that the Etruscans called themselves Rasenna. The Etruscans wrote their name as Rasna (See Vocabulary below). Herodotus earlier recorded that the Etruscans migrated from Lydia to Italy by sea, and they were led by the son of King Atys of Lydia, whose name was Tyrrhenus.
The earliest signs of the Etruscan culture are accounted to the Villanovan Iron Age culture circa 1000 B.C. By 700 B.C. the culture became "Orientalized," carrying similar designs from Anatolia and Egypt. There is a pattern of the prevalance of cremation in the early culture, but the Etruscan Civilization, a Confederacy of 12 City States, adopted both inhumation and cremation as the means of disposing of their dead. Their burials could be in shaft graves, or an urnfield. Their tombs (called tummuli) which mark their civilization and belief in the hereafter, call to mind the story in the Iliad of the burial of Patrocles. Patrocles was a Greek (Mycennean) invader of the Troad and was one of the first Greek warriors killed. He was raised on a bier and then cremated. Over his remains was raised a tumulus, or earth mound, around which the Greek warriors held games for a period of time. It is odd that the Mycennean Greeks on the mainland practiced inhumation, burying their dead in shaft graves, and only at Troy (through the Illiad) do we see the practice of cremation among the Mycennean Greeks! The Trojans left tummuli and urnfields and we can trace the progress of urnfield cultures up the Danube to the Alps.
On the Italian side of the Alps appeared the protovillanovan culture circa. 1,000 B.C. The Villanovans cremated their dead and made urns in many shapes to contain the ashes . The bronze urn below is a sheet-bronze replica of a late Villanovan house (Museo Nazionale di Villa Giulia; photo: Soprintendenza alle Antichà dell'Etruria Meridionale).
The Greek historian, Ephorus, whom Strabo quoted, reported that when the Greeks founded their first colony, Naxos, in Sicily, they were afraid to penetrate further into the Western Meditteranean (called the Tyrrhenian Sea) for fear of the Tyrrhenians. He wrote this around 735 B.C. or earlier. That Etruscan power is reflected in the Etruscan tombs. By 600 B.C. the Etruscan tummuli, such as at Cerveterri, became very elaborate in detail with both painted murals and carved decorations in the walls, replicating an eternal home much in the spirit of an Egyptian tomb. The tombs were rich in artifacts showing a prosperous culture. The Etruscan rock cut tombs, in my opinion, resemble those I visited in Lycia, from the facade, but are much more elaborate inside – again with the idea of creating a home for the departed.
Mapping the Spread of Tummuli
The practice of raising tummuli may have had its origin above the Black Sea. The earliest may have been the Kurgan culture, dating from about 3,500 B.C. Also in the Crimea were the Scythians, who according to Herodotus, were a red haired people who practiced tatooing and buried their kings in elaborate tummuli. First they dug a circular pit and then drove the wagon of the king into the pit. The Scythian king was buried with his body guard and concubines. Each of the calvary of the body guard was placed on stakes piercing their horse and formed a mounted circle around the body of the king.
The tummuli from the Troad, as noted, resemble what is described in the Illiad. From the Troad we can follow tummuli to Tuscany then along the Western coast of Europe: from the Iberian Peninsula to Brittany and on to Britain and in Germany and the Netherlands. In those regions we know them as dolmens, which are a series of large upright stones forming the perimeter of the tomb, and, of course, featuring a main doorway. Over the uprights were placed huge stones to form a roof. Then an earth mound was thrown up over the structure. As with the Etruscan tummuli, the tombs could be family tombs and used over and over. Others might be just for the regent. The dolmons today in Europe, except for a few, have had the soil covering eroded, leaving the bare stones exposed. Over the years some of the stones may have been moved away and used for another purpose.
Coincedent to the pattern of the spread of tummuli in Europe are the legends of the people who built them. The British historian, Bede (born 673 A.D.), records in the first chapter of his History of the English Church and People, the tradition that the British came from Amorica (Brittany). Bede next speaks of the origin of the Picts: after the British began moving northward on the island, he notes, some Picts from Scythia (arriving via Scandinavia) put to sea in a few longships, and were driven by storms around the island to Ireland. They were allowed to settle in Ireland with the permission of the indigenous population, the Scots. Another tradition is that the British are descended from a Trojan leader named Brutus, who led his band after the Trojan War to Britain. Virgil's Aeneid records the settlement of another band of Trojans in Italy, being the founding fathers of the Romans. Julius Caesar took pride in tracing his ancestory back to Troy.
It seems that where the legends speak of Trojan origins, the tummuli are also found. An exception to the rule, perhaps, involves a myth among the French. The tradition traces their origin to another leader of refugees from Troy; of course that leader could have first landed in Brittany and moved on to the Isle de Paris. In any event the Etruscan story of their origin correlates with others who raised tummuli for their dead. In the case of Tuscany, throwing up mounds did not require the placement of huge stones for the framework, as we see in dolmons, but rather cutting into the soft volcanic tuffa. A stone wall was added no doubt to accomodate the weight of the stone vault, and then dirt was thrown over the vault. When the Etruscan civilization ceased to exist two thousand years ago, and the tummuli were abandoned along with their razed cities, the land reclaimed its own and farmers began plowing their fields over the remains. The traces of the circular tummuli can be seen from the air — along with the foundations of their cities — in many a farmer's field.
The Mycenaean Connection
The Egyptians recorded an invasion of Sea Peoples between the years of 1230 and 1170 B.C., under the reign of Rameses III. The Mycennean age ended about 1200 B.C. These invaders include the Pulusti (Palestinians — invaders from Crete who ultimately settled in Palestine), Sicels (people from Sicily), Shardana (Sardinians), Luki (Lycians) Achaeans (Mycenneans), Dardani (Dardanus was the mythical founder of Troy), Danai, and a name suggesting, Tyrisi, for Tyrhhenni. Although Troy was sacked many times during its long history, it suffered a major defeat circa. 1250-1150 B.C. (It is also the time, 1190 B.C., when the Hittite Empire fell). If this is the battle described in the Illiad, called theTrojan War, which lasted ten years, then that war would explain the dispersal of refugees from the Aegean seeking new lands. How in the records of Rameses III the Sardinians and Sikils got involved in raiding Egypt may relate also to what is recorded in the Linear B Writings of the Mycenneans. Many of the Mycennean scripts are messages from one citidal to another warning of invasion. Before their demise the Mycenneans penetrated far into the heartland of France and traded freely in the Western Meditteranean sea and probably traded for tin and amber in Britain. Bede introduces his work with the note that Britain is rich in metals, including copper, iron, lead and silver. They possessed a black jewel (coal) which could be set on fire and, like the Baltic Coast of Europe, they had plenty of amber. Amber jewelry was among the treasures of the Mycenneans.
When the Mycennean civilization was destroyed following on the heals of the Trojan War, no doubt where there was stability, the decline created warring states throughout the mediterranean, thus giving rise to the building of towers and the practice of going on sea raids, much after the manner of the later Vikings. This seems to be the background which led to the appearance of the Villanovan culture in Tuscany which bloomed a few hundred years later as the Etruscan Confederacy, whose power was enough to keep away the Greeks around 800 B.C. How they ended up with the center of their civilization being in an area now called Tuscany (derived from the name, Etruscan, whose land is known as Etruria) is probably by ship. Tuscany was rich in minerals and the Etruscans mined not only their own deposits but also the iron deposits of an island, Elba, offshore. They also traded with the Sardinians.
We know the Etruscans controlled the Western Mediterranean, and since the East Coast of Spain had gold mines, whose people traded with the Phonecians, no doubt the Etruscans were trading or mining there as well. Over the Alps from Tuscany, of course, were cultures who mined. No matter how the Etruscans arrived in Italy (one theory is that they came from the Balkans and crossed the Adriatic Sea, entered Umbria, and moved westward across the Italian Peninsula), it is clear they became traders and imported goods from all over the Mediterranean littoral. They were probably trading iron, copper, lead, tin, etc. It is also reported that they spread colonies from Tuscany eastward to the shores of what was Yugoslavia. The big mystery, of course, is from Lemnos, which the ancient historians recorded was inhabited by Pelasgians. An Etruscan script, called the Lemnos Script, was found there and this script is also discussed on this site.
On Reading the Scripts
As noted a Greek Historian says the Etruscans called themselves, Rasna. As evidenced in this work and its vocabulary, they did call themselves Rasna. They had a melodic language like Italian but did not always write vowels, where the vowels were obvious. When you see a lower case vowel on this site, know that it is an interpolated vowel.
The Etruscan scripts were written and read from right to left. You read in the direction the letters are facing. For the convenience of the reader who is used to reading from left to write I have laid in this work the Etruscan phrases reading from left to right. There are some scripts, like the Capua tile, which read both left to right and right to left, reversing direction.
The words and phrases in the original "catalog" occupied 60 pages of text. These pages were written by hand to reflect the actual Etruscan characters used. The beginning of each phrase, in which a word was used, carried the location of the word/phrase. For instance, the first word listed is CVKV, location N1 (meaning it is the first word in the script I identified as script "N"). This alpha-numeric assignement and the comparative analysis of words and their phrases in the various Etruscan Scripts became the foundation for the Etruscan Vocabulary below. Having established words and how they were used through the Etruscan Phrases work-sheets (see Vocabulary 2.html) I was able to build the Vocabulary and using the Vocabulary I proceeded with the translation of the scripts. Through this process it became evident that all of the scripts represent one language. In particular the conjugation patterns are consistent throughout. The final step in this process is to reconcile the translations with the conclusions of Table 1.
I trust those who are interested in translating the Etruscan language will tolerate the modifications I make as I progress with the translations. To view the Etruscan Alphabet as it is used on this site go to: LemnosScript.html.
One of the texts which is shown in the translations above is from Perugia, called the Perugia Cippus, and it, identified as script "K," carries a list of kings and queens. The word for queen/monarch is "rina" and king/monarch is rendered "rino," and more frequently, "roi." Years after publishing the "catalog" I saw a bronze bust of a beautiful woman in the Etruscan exhibit in the Louvre, Paris, which had Queen Sarina's name inscribed on the forehead. Reading right to left you will see her name as follows:
ANIRAS ANIR = in Etruscan ANIPA ANIO. "O" = "R"; the = "S"; the "P" = "R."
There is some interchange in rendering the "F" and "8" as vowels when used as a suffix of a word. Both letters are used as consonants and vowels. They also used "PH," as in the word, PHARI, PHAREI, which means "beacon/light." The word Viri, Viren is spelled 8IRI, 8IREN. There are two verbs which sound alike: FAR and 8AR. At first I thought the scribes were interchanging F & 8 with respect to the same verb. After working on the Zagreb and the Tavola Eugubine texts I came to better appreciate the consistancy of usage of the F & 8. The "F" as a prefix is an "f" and the "8" as a prefix is a "V" and sometimes a "B." It has a relative in Egyptian Hieroglyphics as three circles stacked one on top of another, rather than two. This interchange between "V" and "B" is also apparent in Latin. The Egyptian value of the "8" is "h."
The letter "M" had an extra stroke on it to differentiate it from the "S." In ancient times the consonant which the Etruscans used as an "S" was derived from a stroke signifying water. They also used another "S."
The consonant "K" was written as a "K" and also as an arrow , which is sometimes "CH," though I have rendered it as a "K." It also refers to a "G" sound in some words where it shifts in the prefix to Italian words. The also appears to be used like a K and is rare, appearing on short scripts on jars and is noted on a an ivory writing tablet from Marsiliana d'Albegna. Its position is between the H and K in the sequence of the alphabet. In a tomb underneath a painting of the god who is the ferryman of Hades, known in Greek as "Charon," is a small phrase beginning with the name, CHARIN. This character, the double barbed spearhead , is also an Egyptian Hieroglyph.
The "C" also appears to be used as a "ch" and in a tomb painting showing the descent of Persephone into Hades she is greeted by an armed guard who has written above his head, CERVN. Also the "K" was written with a "C," as in Latin and English. The "Q" is rare and will be found in the word, QECE.. However the "C" as in Etruscan, CFA, is a "Q" sound, translating in Latin to "quae." The "C" and "K" thus shift between "ch", "k" and "q" sounds, in Etruscan, just as they do in Latin, Italian and in English. The "C" sometimes translates into an "s" as is the case in Latin, French and English. The sound "th" was written as , (the Egyptian Heiroglyph meaning, "sun"), but we see in the scripts (Eugubine) where, in the word "cito," the scribe usually writes CITV; in the same, very often repeated, phrase he used on one ocassion the , citho. Thus, we know that what is probably indicated by this sign is the letter "T." In a more famous inscription this character appears in the following context, from the famous Queen Tanaqil's tomb. Tanaqil was the wife of Tarquin the Great (Lucius Tarquinius Priscus, 5th king of Rome), from the Etruscan city of Tarquinii. See Etruscan Phrases Miscellaneous_Scripts.html for translation.
(Script "A1"): ECA SVTHI (SVI) THANKVILVS (ANKVILVS) MAS NIA Le.
The "ph" sound was written as: Ø, as in Greek. The "F" differs, as in FAR, FAC. The "H" was written as a vertical box with one or two horizontal lines in the rectangle, other times as an H. It is sometimes a substitute for the letter "E." We can see this same shift in the use of the character from Latin to Italian.
Sometimes we see a character which is a "Z," connoting a hard "s" sound. The "V" seems to have doubled in use as a "V" and a vowel, "O" (sometimes "u"). The "O," or Greek omega, is rare and probably so because it competes with the O = R and the D = D (another rare character). Incidentally, the character in Egyptian Hieroglyphs for the "R" is an oval representing the mouth. The "O" also appears as a: . There is an omega like sign in one script, written as: (Cippus Perusinus). this script, it turns out, involved spelling errors since this character is an S and the word before it, AIR, had the A upside down. The gamma occurs as: and also as a Y. Where it is used we use the "Y." However, in revisiting the scripts where it was used it turns out that the character is a "T." The Greek "L," Lambda , occurs in one script where we have read the word, "Lune," "moon." Usually "L" is rendered according to the Roman/English style, but in the instance of a "Roman numeral" LXXXX it appeared upside down. Another character appears which seemed to be used as the gamma, "G." It resembles the Hebrew character, tzadi: . Sometimes it is written upside down: ; appearing like it is another version of the "F" which is written as a . In revisiting the words with the "gamma" it also became recognizable as the "F." Sometimes the lower stem of the "F" is barely visible. It is a spurious character in the other scripts but I found it frequently used in the Zagreb text (script Z) and also in the Tabola Cortonensis (script TC).
There are essentially four ways the "M" is written among the texts. , and in the Capua Tile the . This latter character is normally an "S" which I color green in these works. The is used in the longest extant script, the Zagreb Mummy wrapping. The is used in the Tavola Cortonensis. This character is also used in the Osco-Umbrian scripts. A web site which addresses the Osco-Umbrian scripts is in my links at the top of this page.
Where it is used I always render it in my text as "M." Another, rare way of rendering it is as: . Normally this character is read as an "S" sound (the Novilara Tablet uses this character as an "M" and an "S"). Variations on the "S," as perhaps the Z, SH, C as in "ice," appear as follows: , , and . The bow-like sign, as noted above, was once rendered in a horizontal fashion, following the early use of the letter, as in the Egyptian Hieroglyph originally representing water which carried the value, "n."
Another versions of the "S" is rendered as "S" = . In the Egyptian Hieroglyphs there is a similar character called, the "Pillar," having the value of "dd, djed." The character also means "stability" and may owe its origin to being a symbol of the backbone of Osiris, the Egyptian god. He is known as the great benefactor of the civilization, as he introduced agriculture, writing, etc. He is the symbol of resurrection and the judge of the Dead, whose legend has it that he was an early king of Egypt who was killed by his evil brother Set. Set, being jealous of his brother, chopped up the body of Osiris into a myriad of pieces and placed them in a coffin and threw the coffin into the Nile. It floated to a beach near the king of Tyre's palace (Phoenicia) and was encircled by the trunk of a cedar tree. After awhile the coffin gave off such a wonderful fragrance the king ordered that the tree be chopped down, to be used as a pillar in his palace. When the tree was cut down and moved to the palace the coffin was discovered, and within it was a small child, Osiris. The wife of the king whose name is Ishtar, the Phoenician mother goddess, nourished the child. Reports of the child came to the hearing of Osiris' wife, Isis, the Egyptian mother goddess, who came to the Phoenician court to be the wet nurse of Osiris, nourishing him at her breast. After the child grew up Osiris and Isis were joined back together again. They had a child named Horus, who is pictured as a hawk; and Horus is represented in the legend as the avenger of his father's murder, pursuing Set through the eons. Thus, this may be the background behind the letter "S" which is represented as: . The character sometimes has three cross bars, as in the "pillar" sign of the Egyptian Hieroglyphs.
There is another Egyptian sign like it which is horizontal and is called "the door bolt." The door bolt has the value, "z" and does correspond to the value I have assigned to the character based primarily on the Etruscan god, Tages. His name is spelled in the texts as TAbE(Tages). Another rare and interesting character which I call "the loop" appears in Egyptian Heroglyphics. This character in Egyptian has the value "SHeN." There are two instances where I found it used, one of which is in script PS. It appears to be the vowel, "o."
A trident , Greek "Psi," sign used in the Pyrgi Gold Tablets appears to be a vowel, which I have rendered in that script as an AE. In Lydian scripts (See Lydian.html) it has the value of "i." The Magliano bronze disk, whose characters were written in a spiral (Labyrinth), has other unusual characters, such as the one for "B." This is:. The Magliano disk dates from about 600 B.C. and stands equal in time to the date when the Greek alphabet was created. I identify that script as "M." Later versions of the "B" appear as in the Roman/English style. More often the "B" seems to be represented by the "F" or "P": , since the letter "B" is so rarely used; and from Etruscan to Latin it shifts from "P" to "B" on occasion.
Another peculiarity of the writing style is that the Etruscans often put no spaces dividing words and barely used punctuation marks. The ":" and a dot are the primary punctuation marks. In a tombstone from Lemnos the scribe used three vertically aligned dots. Three vertically aligned dots are also used in the Lydian and Phrygian scripts. The Lemnos script I have identified as script "S" and the Phrygian texts are identified as "X-." Assume that the colon I use in this work, as relating to script "S," is actually three vertical dots, rather than two. In translating the various texts I found that the punctuation marks had two principal functions: (1) to isolate a group of words which belong together (noun and modifiers) to prevent misinterpretation and (2) to prevent a word, which may be an adverb or other form of modifier, from being attached to the following word. I found that one must stay within the punctuation guidelines in order to maintain consistency in translation from one script to another. The punctuation marks, as in English, have a purpose. In the Tavola Eugubine and Zagreb Mummy scripts one can appreciate the use of the punctuation marks, since repeated epithets are manipulated, where words are juxtaposed in phrases to alter the meaning in the repetition. Some of the verses work, as in English poetry, on word-play and double-entendres; i.e., the mean brown dog chased the little white chicken; if you mean the white chicken was afraid of the little brown dog."
I would say that the written Etruscan language is a transitional writing system which not only carries forward within its characters syllabic characters, as in the Cypriotic Scripts, but also sparingly uses vowels in some scripts, particularly the Magliano Script "M." As in Hebrew and other ancient scripts, such as Sanskrit, the Etruscan scribes could no doubt read their script without the vowels. I suspect that the interpolated vowel is the vowel which is used to write a letter. For instance, the letter µ "M "in Greek is spelled, Mu. In the Zagreb script I found the same word/name spelled MvLAK frequently used and in one instance the interpolated vowel , v, was spelled out: MVLAK. This word also appears in the Magliano Script "M." Where a vowel is omitted it is obvious what vowel belongs in the word, such as LTV, which is read, "LeTV." In one case in the same often repeated phrase the scribe inserted the vowel "e" in the word "LETV." In the case of Ce and other instances requiring an interpolated vowel I used an "e" as a default vowel and it appears to have maintained consistency from one script to another. Ce translates to "que." In the case of Le, "there," the "e" is the vowel used to spell the character Lambda = in Etruscan. In Hebrew the "L" is called Lamedh.
As noted above, where I use a lower case letter, it is an "interpolated" vowel, following the criteria I mentioned. I have, of course, separated the words, which in the texts may not be separated. I highlight conjugation/declension shifts in the text of the Translations.
Where the unusual characters are used in the Translations the green color marks the letter which is transcribed, referring back to the Alphabet Tables at the bottom of this page. One of the characteristics of the Indo-European family of languages is their word formation being dependent upon declension. Usually the suffix of a word would be modified to reflect a change in person or new perspective.
The relationships of Etruscan to Latin, Italian and French seem to follow the relationships those languages have to one another. For instance in Latin, curare, "to care for, cure," may not be found as a verb but rather as an ajective or noun in the other languages. In Etruscan I find a word which is represented as a noun or adjective in Latin behaving as a verb. This reflects the borrowing of words from the older, dominant Etruscan culture to the new Roman culture and so on. This kind of borrowing is more evident among the particular Indo-European groups I use in Table 1.
Often older Latin words align with the Etruscan words. This is more readily apparent where one can find three or four synonymous words in Latin and only one of them coincides with Etruscan; and often where the coincidense appears the Latin word may be a noun and/or an adjective. In Etruscan the word may be a richly declining word, with many more forms than the Latin word. As you will see in theVocabulary below, Etruscan is a highly inflected language, and its declension patterns are quite regular. An irregular form compared to the familiar patttern is FAC, FI, FAT. Another irregular verb is "to be," ES, SVM, EST, ESTE, ESTV and ESVNT. The most frequent tenses of verbs follow the pattern of the verb "to like, to love," AMAR. It declines as follows: AM, AMA, AMaPa, AMaPE, AMaPEN, AMAR, AME, AMEM, AMV (amo), AMVR, AMVER. AMVER may be the noun since it is used once in the texts preceded by AME. The declension patterns of nouns are represented by the word for "brother," frater. It declines as f ollows: 8RATA, 8RATER, 8RATeR, 8RATRV, 8RATRVM, 8RATRVS. An unusual word, yet confidently defined, declines in the normal pattern: RVN (ron) RVNA, RVNE, RVNEM, RVNI, RVNIS. I havc translated it as the verb "to watch." It compares to the Italian "ronda, f. rounds, watch patrol" and seems to be used as a verb in that context. Where a word can be defined I have indicated a probable root definition and will refine those instances as I continue.
What the translations are revealing
The relationship of Etruscan to the Indo-European family of languages has far ranging implications. At the outset the shfts in the glottalized stops from Etruscan to the Indo-European root language(s) show an affinity to the Germanic/Italic families but carries an exception where the "b" is surpressed, replaced by the "p." Also, there is a shift in the vocalization of the dentals, "t" and "d," where the "d" is surpressed, replaced by the 't." The use of "c," "k," and "ch" and the suppression of "g" help us better understand the evolution of Italian. The multiple signs for "s" in Etruscan and its use of "z" and the use of "f," "v," "ph," all point to a very early tongue in the Indo-European scheme. While it is too early to address absolute relationships, the pattern between Etruscan and the early Indo-European roots can help us better understand the evolution of the other tongues. This is being more thoroughly investigated in Table 1.
Thomas V. Gamkrelidze and V. V. Ivanov provide a good summary of Indo-European shifts from the parent language. In an article published in the Scientific American, March 1990, replicated on-line at http://www.geocities.com/Paris/LeftBank/6507/chronicle120.html, they say, "According to the scheme we have developed, the corresponding consonants are sounded with a glottalized stop: a closure of the throat at the vocal cords that prevents the outward flow of breath. Here the voiceless labial stop ("p"') appears suppressed, followed by "t"' and "k'." As ("p"') is to ("b"), voiceless and voiced, respectively, so "t"'is to "d" and "k"'is to "g." Glottalized stops occur in many different language families, particularly those of northern Caucasian and southern Caucasian (Kartvelian) provenance. The glottalized stop — which hardens a consonant — tends to weaken and disappear in most languages of the world. So we surmised that — among the labial stops — it was the "p"'rather than the "b" that most likely had been suppressed in the Indo-European proto language."Our so-called Indo-European glottalic system, which has been constructed by comparing the phonology of the living and the historically attested Indo-European languages, appears more probable than the classical one. The near absence of the labial phoneme ("p"') finds a natural phonological explanation in relation to the evolution of the other two glottalized stops and to the entire system of stops shown above.
"In revising the consonant system of the Indo-European protolanguage, we have also called into question the paths of transformation into the historical Indo-European languages. Our reconstruction of the protolanguage's consonants shows them to be closer to those of the Germanic, Armenian and Hittite daughter languages than to Sanskrit. This neatly reverses the classical conception that the former languages had undergone a systematic sound shift, whereas Sanskrit had faithfully conserved the original sound system."
Along with the shifts in vowels and consonants, and in particular, as evidenced in Etruscan, consonant decay, the inflection of a language can provide clues as to its affinity to other languages. A language inflects when words shift in an affix (the beginning, prefix, the middle, infix, or end, suffix). The shift may be used to express agreement in gender and number (nouns and adjectives) or case, as in verbs, where relationship, time or mood need to be expressed. The inflexions may be complex or regular expressions. There are languages which tend to the opposite, such as Chinese, where relationships are expressed by another word. Gamkrelidze and Ivanov continue:
"Experts on the evolution of the Indo-European languages suggest that their evolution involves a progressive decay of inflection. The early Indo-European language, called Proto-Indo-European (PIE) should have been highly inflected, as are Latin, Sanskrit, Avestan, and classical Greek, but perhaps more so."
Modern languages, such as English, French, Italian and Persian, have decayed, as it were, in their declension pattern, having moved toward an analytic system where relationships are expressed by another word, i.e.: prepositional phrases and auxiliary verbs. The decay of inflection over time appears to be a result of the loss of the final syllables (suffix) of many words, so that modern Indo-European words are often much shorter than the ancestral Proto-Indo-European words. In the decay of the inflection, languages developed new forms and grammatical distinctions and the meanings of individual words have been extensive and often complex. We, for instance, may find that in the translation of a word from English to Latin, the Latin version of the "idea" expressed by the English word may have many more meanings, and visa versa.
What is apparent in Etruscan, as relating to modern Romance languages, is that it, like Latin, depends upon a shift (usually in the suffix) to represent a prepositional relationship. Also, the position of a word in a phrase may indicate whether a word is the object, whether the verb is acting to or with the object, etc. Also, the affix of an Etruscan word will denote the number and gender of the noun involved in an action. As in Latin, it, he/she, they and we are usually denoted in the shift of the suffix of a word. Plural relationships are denoted by a suffix "i," "ae," or "es." The suffix, "i" also appears to reflect a past tense, first, second or third person singular. The coincidence of inflection in Etruscan is one of many measures of proving the translation of the language. For inflections involve grammatical rules.
The coincidence in grammatical rules and the application of those rules in translating a document provide the evidence all grammarians share in translating one language to another, and all users of a language hold intractable so to communicate one to another. In short, grammar is sacred. While we know that most school children would agree — working under the threat of their teacher's ruler — that grammar is sacred, it's apparent that there are linguists who are in charge of important relics who don't appreciate the value of their charge.
How sacred grammar can be is evidenced in Latin, how it is used in liturgical expressions, etc. It's a way of keeping true to the ancient word. Sanskrit is another instance of the sacred way a language is preserved. It expresses the ancient pronunciation of the Hindu population that invaded India, leaving their oral tradition, called, Vedic, behind them. Hindus can read the Vedic literature, but the language of that literature hardly resembles their own (there are many languages that branched from Sanskrit).
Etruscan did not share the same prosperity of Sanskrit, and there seems to have been no impulse for the Italians to contiue speaking the language once Rome overthrew the Etruscan city states. Perhaps it was the "superstitious" nature of the Etruscan culture that stopped the practice of the language.