Who the heck were the Etruscans?

They spoke a Tyrsenian language.  The Tyrsenian languages include Etruscan of modern Italy, Lemnian of modern Greece and Raetic of modern Switzerland.  All these langauges are dead, leaving only a bunch of inscriptions on graves and other short pieces of writing.  They wrote with the Phonecian alphabet they learned from the Greeks.

There isn’t enough text to decipher the language or even relate the Tyrsenian languages to any other known languages.  From studies of Indo-European the broad story of the languages of Europe was that Basque, Uralic and Kartvelian hunter and gathers lived throughout Europe.  A wave of Afroasiatic speakers migrated in to form the first farming society, the Old Europe culture.  Both the hunter and gathers’ and farmers’ societies disappeared as the horse-riding Indo-Europeans spread their pastoral culture and language from the Ukraine as far west as Ireland and and far east as the China.  The Basques, Uralic Tribes and Kartvelians tribes shrunk and continued to survive as distinct cultures in pockets and on the periphery.  The Afroasiatic languages and Old European society appears to have entirely disappeared.

So where must the Etruscans have fit into this?  Already there were IE Celts to the north, IE Greeks to the eat and IE italic tribes on the way.   It seems to me the odds of them being somehow related to the IE culture seems high.

It’s also possible that they are an isolate, which would mean they arrived really early, say 50,000 years ago, long enough for any relationship betwixt their language and others to have been washed out five times over.  That, I fear is a question for the geneticists and the archeologist to decide.

And this amateur linguist is off to bed.  Good night.

Star Wars Names- Language riddles?

Darth Vader = (Dark) Weather (Swedish)  I’m not sure about the roots of Darth, but it looks like a variation of Dark.

Han Solo = He Alone (Swedish/Spanish)

Luke Skywalker = English, duh.

Ben Obiwan Kenobi = Been (as in a has-been) … Cannot be

Obiwan is probably OB1, the same sort of play on letter and number sounds and 3Po/Threpio or R2/Artoo.

Obviously George Lucas stopped this naming system.  Earth common names like Leia disappear from the rest of the movie.

Language textbooks not keeping up with the times

Most foreign language text books will give you the words for husband, wife, child, son, daughter, etc, but don’t give you the correct words for ex-spouse, ex-wife, ex-husband, live in boyfriend, live in girlfriend, etc.  This is interesting because some of the ways one could say ex-spouse might imply they are dead.

When language hobbists and ethnocentrists collide

Actually not too often, but it has happened once.  I am currently studying too many languages again: Icelandic, Swedish, Norwegian, Mongolian and Danish in that order of intensity.  And it is an exponential curve, too, lots of effort expended on Icelandic, I’m still in the materials gathering stage for Mongolian and Danish.

A popular question at meetups is, “Why study language X?”  Icelandic is nice because it is closer to English than it looks, I’m more likely to succeed in learning it, it should take less time.  Having a healthy pop music industry, comic books, pop literature help too.  I like Mongolian because I’d like to learn a non-Indo European language before I die.  Mongolian dairy cuisine is a good reason to study Mongolian, too.

What is not a good reason to study any of these languages? National pride and xeno-animosity.  A person or two has joined my meetups looking to study a language because it isn’t a langauge of US minorities.  Aside from being reprehensible, it is ironically not true.  People studying Swedish in the US reflect the typical demographics of the US and of Sweden, which is now a multi-ethnic society.

Ethnocentrists can take their retroactive ideology and language purity conlang projects and stay at home.