The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Where the West was born

Go check out Ilya Yakubovich, Phoenician and Luwian in Early Iron Age Cilicia, published last year.

Over the past fifteen years (very recent!) several bilingual inscriptions in north Canaanite ("Phoenician" - basically, old Hebrew) and in Hieroglyphic-Luwian have been found along the Anatolian / Jazira frontier. They have since been transcribed and/or published with commentary. This region turns out to be the place where old Anatolians, Greeks, Canaanites, and Aramaeans all met.

One J. D. Hawkins did do a rebuttal, but only against part of it (whether or not there's a mention of "Ahhiyawa" this late, I think). Yakubovich has addressed this quibble - sort of. My takeaway is that Hawkins couldn't find anything worse in the rest of it, the parts with actual import. We can therefore accept Yakubovich (2015) as consensus.

That consensus is - oh man. Where to begin.

Mainly, Yakubovich gives a full commentary of the Luwian part of the "ÇİNEKÖY" inscription. This turns out - says Yakubovich - to be secondary, based on the Canaanite; like Pococke's translations of Bar Hebraeus into standard school Latin. Yakubovich further sees the same pattern in the other bilinguals. But the kings weren't Canaanite themselves, or at least didn't ever take on Canaanite names. Some were Luwian and others were Aramaean - the latter is admittedly Semitic, but even so, rarely confoundable with Canaanite. And then there are kings like "Awarku" and "Waraika", none of the above. So what's up with all that Punic Fruit?

Yakubovich believes that Awarku, especially, was indeed none of the above. His name would correspond best with Cypriote "Euarkhos" that is - he was from the Arkado-Cypriot strain of Greek. Waraika for its part might correspond with Cypriote "Wroikos". Cypriotes themselves did own a script, a syllabary based on the Linear B, but it was a clunky thing that nobody else remembered, and the Anatolian Greeks were no exception. Yakubovich draws parallels with later Turks in Central Asia, illiterate themselves, who chose to communicate in Sogdian, the Silk Roads' trade language. Canaanite during the Iron Age was nothing if not a Mediterranean trade language. Aramaic and Greek came later.

On topic of "Greek came later", Yakubovich believes that these Canaanite bilinguals were, exactly, that intermediate stage. The Greeks (and Phrygians) couldn't yet write, at least not well - their languages are not Semitic and are more jealous of their vowels. For them to write in alphabet, someone first had to invent the Indo-European vowel-sign. Until that happened, and while east-Greek and Phrygian rulers were stuck lording over a literate Anatolian aristocracy, the Greeks at least differentiated themselves by means of the common-tongue of the day, which was Canaanite. And then they re-translated their edicts into the local script.

Yakubovich doesn't get into this, but it would seem that when the east-Greeks learnt to vowel, suddenly all the Greeks (re)discovered their kin around the Mediterranean. It might even have sparked the famed Greek intellectual revolution. (Although some Greeks, like the Philistines and the elites of Que, by then had gone too native.) The Cypriotes as mentioned had a script already, so were slow to join that bandwagon, but eventually they went with the flow.

Postscript - The Anatolians would give up on their pretty pictures and go alphabetic too. Carian is so far best-attested of these, mainly because of the graffiti their mercs did all over Egypt. But Carian didn't ever get to become a classical language. A pity, perhaps.

posted by Zimri on 17:58 | link | 0 comments

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