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The Etruscan Language: An Introduction, Revised Editon Paperback – 1 May 2003
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About the Author
Giuliano Bonfante is Professor Emeritus of Linguistics at the University of Turin, and member of the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincie, Rome. Larissa Bonfante is Professor of Classics at New York University
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When I got interested in the subject I searched the Web and watched videos that present a lot of fiction as facts about the Etruscans, and frankly I am really aggravated that this stuff is even out there. Theories about the Etruscans coming from Armenia and such.
Pallottino makes the case, studying the Etruscans' burial methods, that they were a pre-Indoeuropean people (who therefore preceded the arrival of the Latins) with their distinct customs. Just like the Basques of Northern Spain, which display a very distinct language from the rest of Spain. Whether they came from Lydia, as Herodotus describes in his Histories, has been long a subject of debate (resulting even in DNA studies). The fact remains that there were "Proto-Etruscan" people in the Italian peninsula documented from at least 1100 B.C., at a time when they did not write, so we don't know what their language looked like then. Writing resulted about four hundred years later, through contact with Greek settlers on the southern Italian coast.
The language issue has long been the subject of much debate. Growing up in Italy, I remember distinctly documentaries on TV saying the Etruscan language was a mystery. This book is very much proof to the contrary. It's short and to the point.
The book is divided into three parts. First comes the historical background, i.e. who the Etruscan people were. The discussion of the language itself comes in the second part, a meagre grammar with most of the phonology and morphology that can be discerned from available evidence. The third part, "Study aids", has sample inscriptions and texts and glossaries.
I imagine that this book will be most useful to archaeologists and historians who need some basic understanding of the language. Comparative linguists will want to look elsewhere.