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Pre-Greek substrate: Wikis


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The term Pre-Greek substrate refers to the unknown language or languages that are conjectured to have been spoken in prehistoric Greece before the settlement of Proto-Greek speakers in the area. It is thought possible that Greek took over a large number of words and proper names from such a language (or languages), because a proportion of its vocabulary can't be satisfactorily explained as deriving either from Proto-Indo-European or any known, directly attested languages.


Possible "pre-Greek" loanwords

  1. Personal names (e.g. Οδυσσεύς Odysseus)
  2. Theonyms (e.g. Ερμής Hermes)
  3. Maritime terms, words for the sea, shipping (e.g. θάλασσα thálassa "sea")
  4. Words relating to Mediterranean agriculture, (e.g. ϝἐλαία (w)elaia "olive", άμπελος ampelos "vine")
  5. Words regarding rulers, given by the populace (e.g. Τύραννος Tyrannos "tyrant")
  6. Building technology (e.g. πύργος pyrgos "tower"[1])
  7. Placenames including -nth- (e.g. Κόρινθος Korinthos, Ζάκυνθος Zakynthos), -ss- (e.g. Παρνασσός Parnassos) and -tt- (e.g. Λυκαβηττός Lykabettos)

Substratum theories

Various explanations have been put forward to explain these substrate features. Some[2] of these explanations include:


Anatolian substratum

An Anatolian (perhaps specifically Luwian[3]) substratum has been proposed, on the basis of -ss- and -nd- (corresponding to -ss- and -nth- in mainland Greece) placenames being widespread in Western Anatolia.

Tyrrhenian substratum

On the basis of statements in Thucydides that Tyrrhenian was a former language of Athens and that the Tyrrhenians had been expelled to Lemnos, it has been suggested that the substrate language was related to Lemnian, and thus by association to Etruscan.

Minoan substratum

The existence of a Minoan (Eteocretan) substratum is the view of Arthur Evans who assumed widespread Minoan colonisation of the Aegean, policed by a Minoan thalassocracy.


  1. ^ If the substratum is actually Indo-European, "pyrgos" as well as "Pergamos" might be connected to Proto-Indo-European *bhergh-
  2. ^ Other theories ranging from the mild (e.g. Egyptian) to the extreme (e.g. Proto-Turkic) have been proposed but have been given little (to no) consideration from the academic community and as such are not mentioned in the main body.
  3. ^ Some, such as Leonard Palmer, go so far as to suggest that the language of Linear A might be Luwian, though other Anatolian interpretations have also been offered.


External links

See also


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