A. Ambrožič: Komentar o Pääbovi knjigi o venetsščini
Author: Igor Pirnovar
Uvod avtorja spleta    
 
Commentary on Andres Pääbo's Internet Publication Of
"The Veneti Language" by Anthony Ambrozic
   
Qualifier Words qwords
The Suebic Language
Valid, Empirical, Scientific Methodology
The Canevoi Inscription
Approaching the inscriptions as an 'unknown language'?
Palatalization
Meanings Revealed By Objects and Surrounding Details
Grammar
Destinations in the Heavens
Styluses and Tablets - Cremation Urns
Harnessing the Power of Intuition
The Breton of Brittany

 


 

Uvod avtorja spleta

V svetu kjer je Internet postalo zbirališče vseh, ki imajo kakršnekoli pomisleke glede verodostojnosti in zanesljivosti akademskih krogov, kjer lahko nemoteno objavljajo kakršne koli pripombe, alternativne poglede in kritike, je postalo vedno teže ločiti zrnje od plevela. Očitno se za resnico ne borita več samo dve strani, na eni strani tista, ki prisega v resničnost in na drugi tista, ki trdi obratno, ampak se je na sceni pojavila še tretja po gorečnosti in vnemi povsem enakovredna stran, ki namensko širi "napačno informacijo". Kar še dodatno zakomplicira stvari, je velika verjetnost, da se ta zadnja kategorija, ki širi "lažne informacije" najverjetneje pojavlja dvakrat, prvič na strani z argumenti in drugič na strani s protiargumenti. Čeprav to na videz zmanjšuje običajno ravnovesje med obema stranema "za" in "proti", iz tradicionalnega pojmovanja o enakovrednih možnostih ali pravičnosti, kjer smo običajno v procentih to izrazili kot "50-50", na "25-75 ali 75-25", to ni nič novega in le nazorno kaže večjo težo na strani "resnice in kvalitete", kot je teža neresnice in kvantitete. Tudi med temi kategorijami je mogoče čisto intuitivno videti našo staro znanko, ki smo jo spoznali v uvodu v teorijo o organizaciji jezikov, namreč relacijo ortogonalnosti, kar pomeni, da ob zamenjavi strani vse polarnosti dobijo drugo orientacijo ali po starem predznak - kvaliteta namreč preide v kvantiteto ter obratno in resnica preide v laž ter seveda tudi obratno.

Vendar pa se na zadovoljstvo uradne zgodovine in jezikoslovja, ki jima je delo nekompromitiranih slovenskih venetologov že dolgo trn v peti, vedno bolj širijo tudi povsem nevzdržne in prav smešne "kvazi" jezikovne teorije o venetskem jeziku. Vse kaže da, tudi zadnja knjiga, ki govori o venetskem jeziku, z naslovom "The Venetic Language", ki jo je leta 2006, izdal Andres Pääbo, predvsem iz stališča jezikoslovja spada v to zadnjo kategorijo. Ni presenetljivo, da so za "vrhunske evropske akademske elite" v jezikoslovnih in zgodovinskih institucijah, pravi diletanti kot je Andres Pääbo, ki se ponujajo kot neka alternativa "neoporečnemu slovanskemu krilu venetske teorije" dobrodošli pojav. V na novo nastalem vzdušju proti vsakršnim institucijam in predvsem v širjenju nezaupanja v njihove izsledke in pravila, ki vlada na internetu, ni pričakovati, da se bo kje pojavila kaka pomoč pri iskanju resnice. Potrebno je poznati slabosti in dobre strani nove tehnologije in vselej uporabljati lastno presojo, ali je informaciji vredno zaupati.

Resnični ali "pravi venetski časi" segajo zelo daleč v preteklost, vendar pa so tudi trajali dosti daljši čas kot smo navajeni, z izjemo starih Egipčanov in njihovih faraonov, za večino poznanih zgodovinskih obdobij. Je pa ironično, da vemo o Venetih več iz časov po njihovem obdobju, ko so dobesedno vladali svetu. Za nekatere je to dovolj močan razlog, da prej omenjenemu "pravemu venetskemu času" ne posvečajo nobene pozornosti ali pa ga celo popolnoma ignorirajo. Vendar pa kot vemo, nam pri Venetih običajno pomaga iz zagate venetski jezik, ki nas s pomočjo preko dveh kontinentov segajočega jezikovnega odtisa, povsem neoporečno prepriča, da teh jezikovnih dokazov ni mogoče razložiti na drugačen način, kot s tem, da so bili fizično prisotni na teh tako široko raztegnjenih zemljepisnih področjih!

Dejstvo, da med jezikom Venetov slovanskimi jeziki in sanskrtom povsem neoporečno obstajajo tako trdne jezikovne vezi je torej razlog, da je v povezavi z evropsko prazgodovino in v povezavi z Veneti jezikoslovje pomembno ne le za "prepričane", ampak tudi za skeptike, ki se na vse načine trudijo, iskati jezikovne razlage, ki bi demantirale slovansko vez. Najbolj aktivni v tej "jezikovni vojni" so etruskologi, o čemer se lahko prepričate v skoraj vsakem članku v temi "Etruščani (Raseni)::Jezik", recimo: Etruščanske besede: "clan"="človek" - I del. (se odpre v novem oknu).

Ali ni zanimivo, da tisti, ki trdijo, da venetski jezik ni podoben nobenemu poznanemu jeziku, tudi uporabljajo nek nepoznan jezik kot svoj primerjalni jezik na katerega se neprestano sklicujejo v svoji raziskavi. Tako recimo nas skuša Pääbo prepričati v povezavo med venetskim, estonskim in finskim jezikom preko neobstoječega seubejskega (suebic) jezika. Šokantno, sploh pa ne presenetljivo, pa je dejstvo, da poleg nekaj venetologov kot je recimo Anton Ambrožič, nihče iz kroga akademikov ni javno komentiral Pääbovega dela. Seveda, priznani in dobro poznani akademiki, ne želijo kompromitirati svojega ugleda na nečem kar komajda poznajo. To najbrž ni najbolj zgovorni dokaz o kompetentnosti ali pa strokovnosti velikega dela zahodnih jezikoslovcev in seveda tudi zgodovinarjev. Vsi po vrsti se enostavno skrivajo za neprebojno barikado ki jih ločuje od t.i. diletantov, za katere ni vredno izgubljati dragocenega akademskega časa.

Vsi, ki bi se radi v naprej prepričali o smiselnosti branja Pääbovega dela, ali pa rabite dodatno bodrilo, da bi se lotili njegove knjige, je komentar g. Antona Ambrožiča obvezno čtivo in ga seveda iskreno priporočam!

 

Commentary on Andres Pääbo's Internet publication of
The Veneti Language

by: Anthony Ambrozic

(For the book by A. Pääbo, The Veneti language. An ancient language from a new perspective. Apsley 2006, look at: www.paabo.ca/veneti ).

 

Qualifier Words

Pääbo starts his work by a disclaimer. He will communicate with the reader by the use of qualifier words. To quote him - "Qualifier Words are used to let the reader track the level of probability of data (in my intuitive evaluation) that is (sic) presented or results derived. This means that the results are not equal."

Who is to be the sole judge of such evaluation? Pääbo's intuition. With such a disclaimer foisted on the reader already on page 6 of Pääbo's work of 425 pages, one should be prepared for quite a journey. Pääbo does not disappoint. He wastes no time by putting the reader on notice that he is carving for himself quite a liberal latitude of scope in his investigation.

Again, to quote him - lest any "unscientific laypeople are fooled", "scientifically minded people will quickly realize that the following work is of high scientific quality because it is approached with a high degree of caution against author's bias. I generally allow the data to pull me along, than to push it (sic) according to preconceived notions" (p. 6).

Thus, due to his "intuitive evaluation", he touts his work, even before presenting it, as "scientific" and done "with a high degree of caution against author's bias." He also helps the readers decide, right at the outset, that they had better be in the category of "the scientifically minded people" and not of the "fooled unscientific laypeople".

When in the latitude of the journey he compares Inuit to Sumerian (pp. 63-64), one really begins to perceive also the longitude of his pursuit.

The "scientifically minded people" are then treated to such gems as: "Indeed there are strong similarities between Inuit and ancient languages like Sumerian, even though the latter existed some 8,000 years ago!!" (pp. 63-64) or on page 153- "To summarize (sic) Venetic and Suebic speakers had a tongue that kept pushing sounds upward, sometimes into higher vowels and sometimes into palatalizations. It should be easy to reconstruct the way western Venetic sounded." (All this in spite of an "absence of a surviving 'West Finnic' language" (p. 101) and the vanished Suebic language "being known only from names ... of the Jutland Peninsula" (p. 101).

And lest they revert to the category of "the fooled unscientific laypeople", the "scientifically minded people" are kept on side by conclusions such as "that Venetic originated from ancient Suebic, that Estonian is a cousin of Suebic, and Suebic is in the substratum of English" (p. 352). Needless to say, no examples of the Suebic words that are "in the substratum of English" are given, "since there are no records of the Suebic language" (p. 429) nor is there a "modern descendant of Suebic" (p. 433) but "Estonian is the next best choice, especially since it is possible Estonian was strongly influenced from Suebic refugees in the first millenium." Here Pääbo does not volunteer what percentages his "laws of probability" assign to the words "possible" and "strongly", the untrustworthiness of the first being immediately superseded by the superlative certitude of the second in the same clause.

 

The Suebic Language

Pääbo's desperation to somehow tie the will-o'-the-wisp Suebic language to Estonian (and thereby by Finno-Ugric relationship to Finnish) is apparent from the start. He admits that " no descendant language of the original Suebic exists ..." (p. 26) and further states that "unfortunately no examples of Suebic sentences were ever recorded ..." (p. 36). Yet, he plods on by concluding that "Suebic words and grammar would mix into the original ancient Estonian (which was the original Venedic). It is possible that modern Estonian is 70% of the language of the original coastal Venedi and 30% Suebic, mixed up" (p. 24).

Naturally, anything is possible, but how can he cite above percentages, if he has no evidence of Suebic "words, grammar or sentences"? His sole refuge appears to be "history" which "has at least provided place and tribe names which presumably are examples of Suebic, although distorted a little by Latin interpretation" (p. 36).

On such silt-laden quicksand Pääbo insists building his theory of Suebic having been a Finno-Ugric and not a Germanic language. And further that it was similar to Aestic (presumably a precursor of present-day Estonian), and that thereby Suebic was Finnic. In aid of this quest, he proceeds to draw in Tacitus.

As a lead-in to the historian's Germania (ch. 45), Pääbo, in spite of having already acknowledged that no Suebic "sentences" were ever recorded, poses the following question: "Are there any passages in Suebic that we can try to interpret from a Finnic point of view to prove it was Finnic and not Germanic? Tacitus' implication that Aestic was similar to Suebic, and the view that Estonian descends from Aestic, suggests Suebic was Finnic ..." (p. 36).

Let us see what Tacitus really said - "... However, to the right shore of the Suebic sea, we find it washing the Aestii nations who have religious observance and demeanor of the Suebi, but language more like that of Britain." (Tacitus, Germania, ch. 45).

So, Tacitus says just the opposite of what Pääbo claims. He is clear in stating that the language of the Aestii nations was more like that of Britain. According to Tacitus, the one thing Aestii and Suebi had in common, was demeanor and religious observance but not language.

And yet, in spite of the above, Pääbo concludes - "In general Tacitus essentially says that Aestic, Suebic and Britannic were all similar. This could be true if they were all Finnic trade languages, lingua franca's" (p. 35).

Here Pääbo's desperation resurfaces. He is putting words in Tacitus' mouth to get the answer he seeks. In spite of it, he merrily goes on and states that "Tacitus knew what Celtic was like; and as the son-in-law of Britain's first Roman Governor Agricola, he knew the native British language well" (p. 35).

Pääbo fails to ask himself the most basic question in this regard. Where did Britain and Caesar's Britannia get their name if not from the Celtic Britannic language spoken there since pre-Roman times?

His utter lack of consistency is underscored when we see him admit that "the Celtae were clear Indo-Europeans" (p. 28) and "their language Celtic and Indo-European" (p. 29). Why, then, was the native Britannic of Britain not also?

It would be trite to pursue the matter further. All one has to do is ask the one million speakers of Breton in Brittany. There is not a single scholar of linguistics that would accord even the faintest trace of Finno-Ugric to Breton.

If Pääbo's misconception of what Tacitus said (namely, Pääbo's conclusion "that Aestic, Suebic, and Britannic were all similar) is correct, then the inevitable conclusion that he is faced with, by his line of reasoning, is that Aestic is not Uralic or Finno-Ugric but Indo-European and Celtic, to boot.

In the effort of the burdensome conundrum of establishing a nexus between 1. Suebic and Finnic, 2. Suebic and Aestic, 3. Aestic and Estonian, and 4. Finnic and Venetic, Pääbo does not even succeed in passing over the first hurdle.

Any Southern or Western Slav, to whom the somewhat pejorative moniker of "Švabski" represents the very quintessence of anything Germanic, could have at the outset informed Pääbo that his fifty-page effort at connecting Suebic to Finnic would end in dismal failure.

 

Valid, Empirical, Scientific Methodology

Pääbo starts the chapter with the obvious, time-tested argument that "if two languages are related", a meaningful interpretation of a sentence in one is more readily forthcoming in the other. And then, the obverse (of them not being related) causing "possible strained interpretation" is presented as his original idea. He concludes that "the process could form a valid empirical scientific methodology if handled properly" (p. 104). This sounds impressive.

Let us now examine how he handles the "valid empirical scientific methodology". He presents a Swedish sentence of seven words as an example: "Vär är bussen, som går till centrum."

He states that a speaker of English could correctly make out two main points in the sentence, namely, "where are busses" and "until the centre", strictly on account of the fact that Swedish and English are related languages.

At first blush this sounds quite convincing. But what words has the English-speaking traveller really picked out as understandable - "bussen" and "centrum". These two words are not exclusively Swedish nor English, but of Latin derivation from "omnibus" and "centrum", and borrowed by every language between Moscow and Lisbon. On the basis of Pääbo's argument, the above result would be the same if the traveller in question had been Russian, Spanish, Polish, or Rumanian. Can we truly trust his methodology?

If this is a cornerstone example of his "valid empirical scientific methodology" its pretentious, self-styled veneer of erudition will not sway even "the fooled unscientific laypeople".

 

The Canevoi Inscription

It is well to keep these shortcomings in mind when it comes to his treatment of Venetic inscriptions. Pääbo's first victim is the Canevoi-"bucket" inscription from the Upper Piave River (Italy), which had been treated by Matej Bor in Die Veneter, 1988 (and translated into English under Veneti, Editiones Veneti, A-1080 Wien, Bennogasse 21, Austria, 1996). Pääbo dismisses Bor's translation of "And now drunk as you are, have fear, have fear even of children around you, when you travel" (pp. 246-250) as "totally absurd !!!!!" (sic). Yet, Pääbo's own version by means of the Estonian ends up with a talking horse saying to the rider: "My thirst you have aided. Onto-the-back (sic). Onto-the-back (sic). Thankful (is the) horse. On-with-the-journey" (sic).

We have already seen how untenable his choice of Estonian as the vehicle of translation was when even the connection between Suebic and Finnic failed to materialize from Pääbo's fifty-pages failed attempt (pp. 20-70); let alone any relation between (according to Tacitus) the Britannic-sounding Aestic and the Finno-Ugric Estonian.

In spite of this, for the word ECUPETARIS in the inscription Pääbo offers a discussion - terminating Estonian "jäägu nii" as an abbreviated "jäägu(nii)! pida reisi!" meaning "on-with-the-journey" (sic).

On page 110, he states that his "first reaction to the Canevoi text was to note that it had something to do with a horse, because the ending piece ECUPETARIS appears in several other inscriptions at the end of the sentence, seeming to function something like a 'farewell' or 'bon voyage'. The repeated appearance of horses in images on the stone of these inscriptions, (sic) connect the word readily to a horse-journey. Thus at least the presence of the word suggests a sentence involving a horse."

Unsure of his linguistics, Pääbo flails about for interpretation he hopes to garner from "any source, not just linguistics. For example (sic) if the inscription is on a cremation urn, the message has to be some kind of sendoff, some kind of farewell to the deceased. Because the number of Venetic inscriptions are so few (and many are short and repetitive) we must draw our supportive data and arguments from everywhere we can, just like a lawyer trying to prove a case in court. According to the laws of probability, the more data we can find that points (sic) to the same conclusion, the greater the probability of being correct. This probability, moreover, rises exponentially with each additional and independent supporting item" (p. 117).

In his admission of being stymied by the inscription's linguistics, which should at all times be his primary pursuit, Pääbo yields such primacy to secondary data, which, while on occasion significant, are the purview of the archaeologist and historian. The extraneous factors can, however, be of use as confirmatory evidence of correctness, once the translation is done.

In the Canevoi text he shows us how very much at sea he is. He puts faith in extraneous information to the point of obtaining meaning from a horse's mouth rather than from linguistic examination of the passage in front of him.

As a result, he fails to notice the obvious onomatopoeial nature of ECUPETARIS, which is clearly a clip-clop, clippety-clop 'peketati' (Slovene) imitation of horses' hoofs at gallop. Instead, Pääbo serves us with what "a group of Estonian-speaking men would terminate a discussion with". But, perhaps we forgot, his is a different kind of a horse - it is a talking horse and its hoofs not important.

So much, indeed, is Pääbo into pictographs that when he sees the "bucket's" handle, he calls it, and the writing on it, a "handle". On page 112, he makes the following observation: "What else could a single word on the handle mean, other than "handle!!" (sic).

In the claim that the tankard-sized "buckets" were used to water horses, Bor also may have been hasty. The locale's name of Canevoi (from Slovene dialectal kàn - literary konj - horse and voj - army troop unit) is a clarion call to us from across the centuries that the inscription was a warning to the soldiery of the "cavalry garrison" (as the name indicates) to be mindful of children, especially when drinking. Especially in view of the fact that the same inscription has been found on other similar tankards, it is likely that the artefact was used to "water" the troops rather than horses.

 

Approaching the inscriptions as an 'unknown language'?

Under the above heading, Pääbo sets out the approach to be used "in the methodology of always selecting the most probable of all possibilities" (p. 138) in four steps: "1. Recording the Language Phonetically, 2. Discovering Meanings by Observation of Its use, 3. Discovering Words and Grammar by Analysis, and 4. Cross-referencing the Hypotheses, Assuring Consistency."

After arguing and speculating back and forth for twenty pages, he concludes - "nothing presented here is absolutely true" (sic). Again, a display of grandiloquent firepower fizzles out in a disclaimer of nonconfidence.

As an example of the proposed step 3 - "discovering words and grammar by analysis", Pääbo presents inscription LLV-Es 11 - VA.N.T.S..A.V.I.RO.I. (p. 127). On account of the words VAN - heaven, ROI - paradise, Tә - to you, I - and, and SAV - all having already been encountered in several other Venetic inscriptions (translated by means of Old Slavic), he should have given it as a perfect specimen for step 4: "cross-referencing the hypotheses, assuring consistency", rather than step 3.

 

Palatalization

Palatalization, Pääbo claims, is "at the roots of the use of the dots" (p. 144). The dots were also "an all-purpose marker for pauses, emphasis, length, etc." and "punctuation" (p. 142). Quite a mix of reasons! The "etc." especially tells us a lot.

But let us take Pääbo at his word. He argues that since Venetic "was highly palatalized and Etruscan wasn't; thus Venetic needed to start adding the dots after they (sic) adopted the Etruscan alphabet" (p. 144). Since Pääbo in several places claims for Etruscan to have been of Finnic provenance, and therefore non-Indo-European, one would presume that on account of its heavy palatalization, Venetic was not in the same category. On page 149, at the end of his presentation, Pääbo admits that Estonian may not have developed palatalization to the same degree as Venetic. He states - "Thus the locations of the dots, as indicators of palatalization, are consistent with their positions for similar situations in Estonian. But it appears that Venetic, like Livonian, intensified the palatalizations perhaps as a result of influences from Indo-European languages (Celtic?)".

Pääbo admits that palatalization is basically an Indo-European trait and yet in the same breath continues to interpret Venetic by means of the non-Indo-European Estonian to the point of stating that ".E..N.NONNIA we think is the Venetic way of identifying Venetia" (p. 146).

If any Indo-European group is known for palatalization, it is the Slavic, much more than Celtic. Could it be that we are witnessing a Freudian slip in Pääbo's questioning reference to Celtic? Does he subconsciously remember that his favorite historian, Tacitus, called Aestic (which Pääbo so strenuously tries to connect with Estonian) Britannic, which is Celtic?

 

Meanings Revealed By Objects and Surrounding Details

Under above caption Pääbo places the principal clues to meaning of an inscription not on linguistics but on the object on which the inscription is found and surrounding circumstances. The method he advocates is to decide on the main theme first and only then proceed to flesh out the linguistics of the inscription on the skeleton data garnered from the object. By stressing the external factors as primary, he relegates the search for linguistic support to a subordinate status. Linguistics becomes virtually incidental to the exercise, of use merely as confirmatory support for the initial surmise having been correct.

His methodology certainly breeds all sorts of strange animals. In the Canevoi inscription he ended up with a talking horse. Here, he places the cart in front of the horse.

That language is not his point of entry is clear from the start and repeated time and again by his qualified disclaimers. And yet, all of this in spite of the title to his work being "The Veneti Language".

The wide-ranging latitude that he allows himself ends up in far-fetched statements, such as: "Given that English has a substratum of pre-Indo-European words from the Venetic period, finding parallels in English helps to reaffirm our choices. Also Estonian has KLUMP meaning round flower bed. Note we are not concerned with the ultimate origins of the word, only that it was contemporary with Venetic and could have existed in Venetic" (p. 162).

The English word referred to as parallel to the Estonian KLUMP is CLUTCH, which the Random House Dictionary of the English Language states as having derived from the Old Norse KLEKJA - to hatch. Therefore, hardly pre-Indo-European.

In a similar vein, on page 168, Pääbo expands on the theme, this time for "RAKO - 'drake, duck' Est. no parallel. This is purely an educated guess. Because there are a few instances in which Venetic words have parallels in English (which English could have obtained from pre-Indo-European substrata underneath Germanic), we can allow that this word has a relationship to the origins of the English drake. Perhaps it exists in Etruscan."

Again, the disclaimer, and again an unsupported claim negated by The Random House Dictionary showing drake originating in Old High German antraho, anutreho - male duck.

On the same theme, Pääbo gives us the example of O.U.PEIO [which to him] seems closer to English open than Estonian õu'e" (p. 349). Similarly, we get the lowdown on HO.S.TI by him stating that "the final word on HO.S.TI is the English hoist" and suggests "that although the Finnic word for lift, hoist has the same origins, the word evolved into different dialectic forms on the east and west ends of the Baltic. Venetic, of course, used the western form" (p. 349). Here again, Pääbo is unaware of the "sound-psychology" (Pääbo's definition) of linguistics, namely, the onomatopoeial nature of hoist, whose archaic form of hoise derives from hissa (also huzza), a cry used in hauling.

Not at all feeling restricted by what he said about ECUPETARIS earlier, he now translates the Estonian JÄÄGU NII, PIDAME REISI as "Let remain to hold (sic), carry-on (sic) the journey" and for the entire passage LLV Pa 1 as "To the Elder let remain a duck-sobeit (sic) carry on the journey" (p. 169). This, indeed, sounds a lot like pre-Indo-European English!

Not to be outdone by the above translation, Pääbo concludes from it, on page 170, that "the people who used ECUPETARIS were horsemen, trailmen, who travelled over mountain trails." Naturally, that they were horsemen is obvious, but that they were also trailmen, who, in addition "travelled over mountain trails" is a completely unwarranted conclusion. Yet Pääbo reaches it "because he approached it with a high degree of caution against author's bias."

 

Grammar

From the outline on Finnic grammar (pp.177-190) major differences to Venetic become readily evident. Finnic has no noun genders. It differs from Venetic in respect to agglutination, and noun declension generally. Except for the nominative, genetive, accusative, and ablative, Venetic has no partitive, progressive, essive, inessive, translative, illative, elative, adessive, allative, iiative, terminative, abessive, or comitative. Pääbo has difficulty finding Venetic pronouns in the inscriptions. Regarding verbs, he states that "Indeed (sic) most of the inscriptions as best seen as statements, declarations, with verb implied." (p. 187). He cannot find verb conjugations other than the Present Indicative. In sum, the two languages could not be more different.

By coincidence, Pääbo treats the inscription MU.S.TA.I. (LLV Pa 10, p. 174) found on a small, round porphyry stone as a message from a grieving survivor to a deceased by means of the Estonian and the best he can do is that the writing means either remembrance, towards remembrance or some remembrance from the Estonian muiste - legend, myth, ancient lure. He justifies it by stating "since legends and myths are collective remembrances" and concluding "As we can see, the requirement that the stone had to express sentiments suitable for being left at the bottom of a tomb, (sic) is our best guide as to interpretation. Although no attempt was made to force any particular interpretation, all our results are surprisingly good for their purpose." (p. 346).

In light of the fact that Pääbo gives us the Estonian infinitive mäleta as meaning to remember on page 398, one wonders why a noun counterpart to express remembrance would not have been more definitive on the stone.

In any event, had Pääbo done the translation by means of the Slovene language, he would have found both a pronoun in mә (dialectal for mi - to me, for me) and a verb in the imperative mood, rather than the indicative only, in ustai (dialectal for the literary vstaj - rise, the stem of vstaj-enje - resurrection). Simply put, what the inscription says is - come back to me!

 

Destinations in the Heavens

On pages 217-254 Pääbo again places the cart before the horse by imposing on the Adriatic Veneti a 'Finnic realm' for the "sentiments, attitudes, and world view (sic) that one could expect among men who were nearly always on the road, much like shippers and truckers of the modern world". He then proceeds to ascribe "northern aboriginal Uralic beliefs" regarding the "soul" and "spirit" to the Veneti, as if his earlier expounding had really established such a clear nexus (p. 218). In his attempt to put linguistic flesh on these theosophic excursions, he starts out with the Latin-alphabet inscription LLV Es XXIX:

MOLTISA
CANTA - PAPHIA - C- [ ]NI - VXOR
For an inscription that, except for possibly MOLTISA, is clearly Latin, with PAPHIA being a Grecian female given name (she being the UXOR - wife of the partly obliterated C - [ ]NI - masc. gen.) Pääbo states the following: "It seems to say 'Into the earth, to carry, (the persons). Paphia is probably 'pappa' and the remainder his relations (?)".

To compound the gaffe, he proceeds to link a Britanny inscription of MELITA, again an obviously Latin female given name (from 'mel' - honey) as an Estonian reflection on 'Moltisa' (p. 220). In regard to MELITA he states that "there is a possibility that the word is actually descended from original British, and is not necessarily Venetic, if original British is taken to be more like Finnic ..." and then concludes - "thus (sic) if the original British was Finnic in character, and not Celtic, then MELITU is not necessarily Brittany Venetic, but more broadly Finnic, some dialect spoken in the Wales area, before the Celts arrived. Thereafter the original inhabitants of southwest Britain became mixed with Celtic immigrants only from about the mid Roman (sic) Age ..." (p. 398).

If Pääbo's methodology is guided by such nonstarters as the two above, we can hardly put much faith in the linguistic gymnastics that ensue for the next thirty-odd pages, nor the three-letter syllable VII excursion that follows them for another thirty pages. Neither does Pääbo himself. At the end, the oft-repeated disclaimer of nothing being certain again touts the seemingly only firmly espoused standard for his methodology - that of the translation not being ridiculous (or absurd, as he so often states elsewhere). We see him concluding - "In the preceding interpretations there was (sic) certainly many that are probably off in terms of nuances of meaning and grammar. But as we discovered in chapter 5, the fact that the interpretations are not ridiculous, means there is some more that is correct in the interpretations than incorrect" (p. 286).

 

Styluses and Tablets - Cremation Urns

Under the above caption Pääbo's complete abandon to phantasy, to the point of not heeding even the most basic philological facts, comes to the fore on page 295.

Every fifth-grader in every English-speaking country knows that words ending in -tor, let alone -or came into the English language from Latin through the agency of the Norman Conquest and the medieval officialdom, civil and ecclesiastical, using Latin as the language of learning, the courts, records, and ritual. Thus, we have a plethora of the most frequently used words, such as actor, factor, doctor, victor, tractor. The list is endless. In the gamut between concatenator and convocator alone, we have no fewer than 63. All from Latin.

Yet, in treating inscription LLV-Es 28, Pääbo asks "whether we could express -tor via Estonian" and concludes that "this inscription introduced something that posed some difficulty, a word ending in -tor. This kind of ending begins to resemble Germanic (such as Swedish plural or the ending-or In English). Such a linkage to Germanic is not a major issue, since in our theory, Venetic originated from the language of the Suebi, which then assimilated into Germanic, and left many original Finnic-Suebic words in the English language."

To Pääbo "such linkage to Germanic", rather than Latin, "is not a major issue". For him, with the flick of a finger, presto, all at once we have an "easy" translation of -tor "via Estonian", -tor also "resembling Germanic", "such linkage to Germanic not being a major issue", and then the "assimilated Germanic Suebic-Venetic" leaving "many original Finnic-Suebic words in the English language". All as easy as the one-week journeys from Jutland to the Adriatic. All wherever fancy takes us.

 

Harnessing the Power of Intuition

Under the above heading Pääbo reiterates the faulty investigation he started with in chapter 5. There, he used the words bus and centrum to establish similarity between Swedish and English. Since he continues to proffer the conclusions he reached there as the cornerstone outcome of his examination, the reader is hardly endeared to his findings under such subheadings as "1. Clear Interpretation, 2. Some Uncertainty, 3. More Uncertainty, 4. Longer sentence", and "5. Difficult Due to a Word with no Parallel". This is especially so in view of the fact that he, time and again, touts "the object and surrounding details" and "the outcome not being absurd" as conjoining pillars to his theory.

It is, therefore, surprising for the reader to be suddenly confronted with an entirely different tack in Pääbo's method of decipherment. Even more surprising is the fact that the full details of such new system are disclosed only now, at the very end of Pääbo's work on page 414, almost as an afterthought.

Let us look at the system, which Pääbo states to be quite "simply" as follows:

  1. "Establish at least one proven word. That gives two word boundaries ..." and as a corollary
  2. "Add another and another based on other word stems found elsewhere".

It is out of character for Pääbo all of a sudden to be using the word "proven". Especially, when from inception he has been telling the reader that his work was an examination of the "possible" governed by the "laws of probability". Moreover, since he has been "harnessing the power of intuition" and his "intuitive evaluation" must be taken as entirely subjective, it is difficult for the reader suddenly to be expected to grasp Pääbo's booklong relativism in terms of absolutes.

Step "3. If the word stem is unknown, the case endings may be familiar. Put a word break at the end of the case ending."

In so many words - in case of uncertainty, opt for more uncertainty. To the 17 cases that, according to Pääbo, Estonian contains add the "about 50 frequently used suffixes" (p. 178), "static and progressive forms in case endings" (p. 184), "postpositions" (p. 185) and the Estonian propensity for agglutination and one ends up with more uncertainty than begun with. Making a conclusive judgement from such a smorgasbord of options would surely place one on a very slippery slope.

Pääbo acknowledges this, but is not deterred by the proliferation of alternative possibilities confronting him. As an apparent amplification of Step 3., he continues with step "4. Knowing the Finnic patterns of adding case ending in accumulative fashion, and what some are, allows one to identify the stems, and then to pursue the meanings of the stems".

He does, however, make a concession in what one could call step 5. "So the main hurdle remains word stems. For that task the most important requirement is the nature of the object, and how it was used".

So, we are back to square one. The newly revealed methodology is not so different at all. All it does is to force him into a corner, where all he is left with is the "nature of the object" as before. This causes him to flail about for a will-o'-the-wisp nexus between an unrecorded Suebic and a non-Indo-European Finnic. It compels him to juggle, however unconvincingly, all sorts of languages, both ancient and modern, into an incomprehensible jumble.

True to form, for the sources of meanings, on page 414, he cites "Estonian - but then check Finnish for Finnish meanings to find the most likely ancient meaning, Etruscan for Venetic inscriptions made in early times in the Este area where there was contact with Etruscans, and Latin for the Roman period, and deriving meaning from more basic words and elements, including getting insights from sound-psychology."

We have already seen how justifiable his reliance on Estonian, Finnish, Finnic, or Finno-Ugric is. How dependable his reliance on the inscrutable Etruscan is can be gathered from the fact that the language has for the most part stumped all scholarly efforts at decipherment. How well one can trust Pääbo's judgement in respect to even the minimal impartiality in respect to the Latin in the inscriptions can be seen in his treatment of the PAPHIA and MELITA epitaphs. It is unclear what exactly is meant by "more basic words and elements", and how these should be determined. What is more obvious is Pääbo's tin ear when it comes to "sound-psychology". His acute lack of aural sensitivity to the onomatopoeial nature of ECUPETARIS and HOIST confirms it.

 

The Breton of Brittany

A prime example of how Pääbo twists even the most fundamental historical facts to fit his theorizing is his treatment of Breton in Brittany. Not only does he ignore factors that might militate against him, as he does so often, but here, in addition, he invents events totally without foundation. On page 393, he states that what "made Brittany extremely Celtic" was the "Celtic refugees pushing into the northwest" in the aftermath of the Roman conquest of Gaul. There is no mention of the fact that Breton, still now spoken by a million persons in Brittany, was introduced into northwestern France in the 5th and 6th centuries AD by Brythonic Celtic refugees displaced from southern England by the influx of Anglo-Saxons. In fact, the Celtic Breton language, closely related to Cornish and Welsh, gave Brittany its name. Having completely ignored this fact, he then proceeds to have Celtic not only "survive in Brittany" without any mention of the Breton language as the contributing factor but, in addition, to have Celtic "expand from Brittany to Ireland in the post-Roman period" (p. 393).

We are privileged to be the first ones to hear that the Breton still spoken today in Brittany is actually the rump Gaulish, extant on account of "Celtic refugees pushing into the northwest" in the aftermath of the Roman conquest of Gaul. Let it be known by all and sundry that with the advent of Pääbo's epiphany, we are witness to a reverse flow of Celtic migration, from Brittany to Ireland, and that such expansion took place only in the post-Roman period, to boot.

And just in case we did not hear right and may have misunderstood him, let us look more closely at his analysis of MELITA and MELITU (of obvious Latin derivation). On page 398, he states that "There is a possibility that they are actually descended from original British, and are not necessarily Venetic, if original British is taken more like Finnic. We recall in chapter 1, how Roman historican (sic) Tacitus, described the Aestii language to be 'close to that of British'. Thus if the original British was Finnic in character, and not Celtic, then MELITU is not necessarily Brittany Venetic, but more broadly Finnic, some dialect spoken in the Wales area before the Celts arrived. Thereafter the original inhabitants of southwest Britain became mixed with Celtic immigrants only from about the mid Roman Age."

Yes, definitely, according to Pääbo, the Celts arrived in southwest Britain only in "about the mid Roman Age" and in Ireland, from Brittany "in the post-Roman period."

And finally, lest we forget the astounding news about "inscriptions from the Roman era in Brittany and Wales, which seemed to all have a single sentiment expressed by MELITA, Pääbo in a parting salvo reassures us: "This seems like the Estonian mäleta 'to remember'. It would agree with a tradition on gravestones of the sentiment, which expressed in Latin as 'in memorium' (sic). Of course (sic) the word could also be some other Finnic language alive in Roman times, such as native British. Tacitus, we recall, said the Aestii spoke a language 'closer to' that of the native British."

From these firm grounds, Pääbo takes us to Llanaelhaiarn in Caernavonshire and Llandrudian Farm in Pembrokeshire, Wales, where he examines an even more shortened inscription of MEL-. All of this in quest of the Golden Fleece for traces of Uralic.

Or, is it for the vanished Suebic, which is "in the pre-Indo-European substratum of English", or perhaps Aestic, which was "close to that of British" and thereby partly Estonian, but "not necessarily Brittany Venetic or (Celtic?)" but rather "more broadly Finnic". We will never know. By his juggling act, Pääbo keeps us guessing.

Still entirely at sea after the long voyage, we leave him rummaging among the gravestones in the churchyard of St. Nicholas, deep in the Welsh hinterland. But do not be despondent. From this graveyard we are comforted by the offing of another instalment of Pääbo's argonautics that may yet some day lead us through another maze of make-believe prisms to the promised Land of Oz.

Anthony Ambrozic
Toronto January, 2007.