The Pre-Greek substrate (or Pre-Greek substratum) consists of the unknown language or languages spoken in prehistoric ancient Greece before the settlement of Proto-Greek speakers in the area. It is possible that Greek took over some thousand words and proper names from such a language (or languages), because some of its vocabulary cannot be satisfactorily explained as deriving from the Proto-Greek language.
- Animals: e.g. βόλινθος/βόνασσος, bólinthos/bónassos, 'wild ox'; κάνθαρος, kántharos, 'beetle'; σμίνθος, smínthos, 'mouse'.
- Architecture: e.g. λαβύρινθος, labýrinthos, 'labyrinth'; πλίνθος, plínthos, 'brick'; πύργος, pýrgos, 'tower'.
- Maritime vocabulary: e.g. θάλασσα, thálassa, 'sea'.
- Musical instruments: e.g. σύριγξ, sýrinx, 'flute'; κίθαρις, kítharis, 'guitar'; σάλπιγξ, sálpinx, 'trumpet'; φόρμιγξ, phórminx, 'lyre'.
- Personal names: e.g. Ὀδυσσεύς, 'Odysseus'.
- Plants: e.g. ἐλαία, elaía, 'olive tree'; κισσός, kissós, 'ivy'; ἄμπελος, ámpelos, 'vine'; σταφυλια,'staphylia, grape
- Metals and metallurgy: κασσίτερος, kassíteros, 'tin'; χαλκός, chalkós, 'bronze'; μόλυβος, mólybos, 'lead'; σίδηρος, sídēros, 'iron'.
- Social institutions: e.g. τύραννος, týrannos, 'absolute ruler'.
- Theonyms: e.g. Ἀπόλλων, Apóllōn 'Apollo'.
- Toponyms (or placenames): -nth- (e.g. Κόρινθος 'Korinthos', Ζάκυνθος 'Zakynthos'), -ss- (e.g. Παρνασσός 'Parnassos') and -tt- (e.g. Ὑμηττός 'Hymettus').
- Use of domestic species: ἔλαιον, élaion, 'olive oil'; λήκυθος, 'lḗkythos, 'oil-flask'; κάνθων, kánthōn, 'pack-ass'.
- Weapons: σιβύνη, síbynē, 'hunting spear'; ὑσσός, hyssós, 'javelin'; θώραξ, thṓrax, 'corselet'.
- Weaving: μύρινθος, mýrinthos, 'cord'; ἀρύβαλλος, arýballos, 'purse'; χίτων, chítōn, 'tunic'.
Various explanations have been put forward for these substrate features. Among these are:
The existence of a Minoan (Eteocretan) substratum is the view of English archaeologist Arthur Evans who assumed widespread Minoan colonisation of the Aegean, policed by a Minoan thalassocracy. However, the Minoan loanwords found in Mycenaean Greek (i.e. words for architecture, metals and metallurgy, music, use of domestic species, social institutions, weapons, weaving) are the result of the socio-cultural and economic interactions between the Minoans and Mycenaeans during the Bronze Age and are therefore part of a linguistic adstrate in Greek rather than a substrate.
Anatolian Indo-European substratum
An Anatolian, perhaps specifically Luwian, substratum has been proposed, on the basis of -ssa- and -nda- (corresponding to -ssos- and -nthos- in mainland Greece) placenames being widespread in Western Anatolia. However, of the few words of secure Anatolian origin, most are cultural items or commodities likely the result of commercial exchange, not of a substratum. Furthermore, the correlations between Anatolian and Greek placenames may in fact represent a common early phase of Indo-European spoken prior to the emergence of Anatolian languages in Asia Minor and Greek in mainland Greece.
- Anatolian loanwords include:
- Apóllōn (Doric: Apéllōn, Cypriot: Apeílōn), from *Apeljōn, as in Hittite Appaliunaš;
- dépas ‘cup; pot, vessel’, Mycenaean di-pa, from Hieroglyphic Luwian ti-pa-s ‘sky; bowl, cup’ (cf. Hittite nēpis ‘sky; cup’);
- eléphās ‘ivory’, from Hittite laḫpa (itself from Mesopotamia; cf. Phoenician ʾlp, Egyptian Ȝbw);
- kýanos ‘dark blue glaze; enamel’, from Hittite kuwannan- ‘copper ore; azurite’ (ultimately from Sumerian kù-an);
- kýmbachos ‘helmet’, from Hittite kupaḫi ‘headgear’;
- kýmbalon ‘cymbal’, from Hittite ḫuḫupal ‘wooden percussion instrument’;
- mólybdos ‘lead’, Mycenaean mo-ri-wo-do, from *morkʷ-io- ‘dark’, as in Lydian mariwda(ś)-k ‘the dark ones’;
- óbryza ‘vessel for refining gold’, from Hittite ḫuprušḫi ‘vessel’;
- tolýpē ‘ball of wool’, from Hittite taluppa ‘lump’ (or Cuneiform Luwian taluppa/i).
A Tyrrhenian/Etruscan substratum was proposed on the basis of (firstly) statements by Thucydides, to the effect that Tyrrhenian was a former language of an area including Athens, before the Tyrrhenians were expelled to the island of Lemnos, and (secondly) the Lemnos funerary stele: four pottery sherds inscribed in Etruscan that were found in 1885 at Ephestia in Lemnos.
However, the Lemnos funerary stele was written in a form of ancient Etruscan, which suggested that the author had emigrated from Etruria in Italy, rather than the Greek sphere, and the Homeric tradition makes no mention of a Tyrrhenian presence on Lemnos.
If Etruscan was spoken in Greece, it must have been effectively a language isolate, with no significant relationship to or interaction with speakers of pre-Greek or ancient Greek, since, in the words of C. De Simone, there are no Etruscan words that can be "etymologically traced back to a single, common ancestral form with a Greek equivalent".
- Proto-Greek language
- Etruscan language
- Tyrrhenian languages
- Sicel language
Substrates of other Indo-European languages
- Renfrew 1998, pp. 244–245 (see Tables 1 and 2 for all loanwords except personal names, toponyms and theonyms).
- If the substratum is actually Indo-European, pyrgos as well as Pergamos might be connected to Proto-Indo-European *bhergh-.
- Beekes 2009, p. 1048.
- Beekes 2003, pp. 1–21.
- Renfrew 1998, pp. 241, 253–254.
- 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 broader academic community and as such are not mentioned in the main body of this article.
- Gere 2006, p. 112: "Arthur Evans would live to repent of his suggestion to the British School that they reopen the excavations at Mycenae. He had expected that his theory of Minoan dominance over the mainland would be borne out, but instead he encountered stout resistance...Evans could never bring himself to believe any story except that of Minoan colonisation of the mainland from the beginning to the end of Mycenaean history."
- Renfrew 1998, pp. 239–264.
- Some scholars, such as Leonard R. Palmer, go so far as to suggest that the language of Linear A might be Luwian, though other Anatolian interpretations have also been offered.
- Finkelberg 2006, pp. 42–64; Renfrew 1998, pp. 253–254.
- Beekes 2009, p. xv.
- Renfrew 1998, pp. 253–254, 256–257.
- Hajnal, Ivo. Graeco-Anatolian Contacts in the Mycenaean Period. Innsbruck: University of Innsbruck. pp. 1–21.
- Thucydides. History of the Peloponnesian War, 4.14.109.
- De Simone 2007, p. 786.
- De Simone 2007, p. 787.
- Beekes, Robert Stephen Paul (2003). "The Origin of Apollo". Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Religions. 3 (1): 1–21. doi:10.1163/1569212031960384.
- Beekes, Robert Stephen Paul (2009). Etymological Dictionary of Greek. Leiden and Boston: Brill. ISBN 978-9-00-417418-4.
- De Simone, C. (2007). "9 Greek and Etruscan". In Christidis, A.-F.; Arapopoulou, Maria; Chritē, Maria. A History of Ancient Greek: From the Beginnings to Late Antiquity. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. pp. 786–791.
- Finkelberg, Margalit (2006). Greeks and Pre-Greeks: Aegean Prehistory and Greek Heroic Tradition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1-13-944836-9.
- Gere, Cathy (2006). The Tomb of Agamemnon. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-67-402170-9.
- Renfrew, Colin (1998). "Word of Minos: The Minoan Contribution to Mycenaean Greek and the Linguistic Geography of the Bronze Age Aegean". Cambridge Archaeological Journal. 8 (2): 239–264. doi:10.1017/S0959774300001852.
- Beattie, A.J. (1963). "Before Greek Alfred Heubeck: Praegraeca: sprachliche Untersuchungen zum vorgriechischindogermanischen Substrat. (Erlanger Forschungen, Reihe A, Band 12.) Pp. 90. Erlangen: Universitätsbibliothek, 1961. Paper". The Classical Review. 13 (2): 177–178. doi:10.2307/706708.
- Brown, Raymond A. (1985). Evidence for Pre-Greek Speech on Crete from Greek Alphabetic Sources. Amsterdam: Adolf M. Hakkert.
- Duhoux, Yves (2007). "Pre-Greek Languages: Indirect Evidence". In Christidis, A.-F. A History of Ancient Greek: From the Beginnings to Late Antiquity. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press. pp. 223–228. ISBN 978-0-52-183307-3.
- Furnée, Edzard Johan (1972). Die wichtigsten konsonantischen Erscheinungen des Vorgriechischen mit einem Appendix über den Vokalismus (in German). The Hague: Mouton.
- Heubeck, Alfred (1961). Praegraeca: sprachliche Untersuchungen zum vorgriechisch-indogermanischen Substrat (in German). Erlangen: Universitätsbund Erlangen.
- Beekes, Roberts S. P. (2010). "Etymological Dictionary of Greek: The Pre-Greek Loanwords in Greek". Brill. (NB: click the "Pre-Greek loanwords in Greek" tab found below the introductory text)