Determined from Latin
In northern Italy we find several hundred short examples of writing by
an ancient people the Romans called Veneti and Greeks Eneti. Written
mostly in several centuries after 500BC, these inscriptions borrow the
Etruscan alphabet, but use it to write continuously, and with dots
inserted into the text in a frequent manner that does not represent
word boundaries like dots did in Etruscan and Latin.
Figure 1.1 shows a very good example of Venetic writing. In small case
Roman text below it we see the text transformed to a form we can read,
using Roman alphabet phonetics.
at LLV Es64] (MLV and LLV references indicate
their locations in the cataloguing books – see endnotes )
text is read in the direction the characters are pointing, in this case
right to left. When it gets to the end of the line it goes to the next,
starting at the right again. In other inscriptions the letters may
simply turn and come back – one follows the direction the letters (such
as the E) are pointing. The convention of writing down Venetic text in
Roman alphabet is to write them in Roman alphabet small case,in the
modern left-to-right, adding the dots in their proper places. New
lines, changes in direction, continuation on the other side are shown
with a vertical line. In reality these new lines or changes in
direction mean nothing. It is done purely from the scribe running
out of space. Mostly they are irrelevant to reading the script. Often
they do not even respect word boundaries – as if the scribe did not
even have a concept of word boundaries but wrote what he heard – which
sometimes resulted in variations in spelling and dot-handling. Note in
the above example the dots appear almost like short I’s and that may be
how the practice got started – trying to write palatalizations with
The Ancient Veneti borrowed the Etruscan alphabet for their writing and
then modified it – mostly from introducting dots. From the relationship
between Etruscan and Roman Latin in the same area, and other factors,
the sounds of the Etruscan alphabet are quite reliably understood, and
we can assume that when Veneti adopted the Etruscan alphabet they also
adopted its sounds. But in my new view of the matter, they then
modified those sounds by adding dots before and after some letters as
We cannot argue too much against how Venetologists in the past have
decided on the sounds of the Venetic alphabet. I only found a couple of
issues. Therefore other than offering my summary of the most
common Venetic letters in figure 1.1, we need not discuss the phonetics
of the Venetic alphabet further.
THE BASIC VENETIC PHONETIC ALPHABET
WITH ROMAN EQUIVALENTS
(with small modifications from current
ABOUT SMALL ISSUES
1 - The X-like character is most common, but in the round
of Padua, the T is represented by a circle with a dot inside.
2- The L- character we think sometimes has a form that can
be confused with one of the P- characters. Watch for two possibilities
in some inscriptions.
3 – Traditional Venetic interpetations have assumed that the I with the
dots on both sides is an “H”. This is correct only if the H has a high
tongue, as it is an ‘over-high’ “I”. It actually sounds either like a
“J”(=”Y”) or an “H” depending on surrounding phonetics.
4 – I believe that the big M-like character is probably an “ISS” as in
English “hiss”, and not really the “SH” (š)that has been assumed. We
show it when transcribed into Roman small caps form with $
The main purpose of this paper is to solve the mystery of the dots
found in the Ancient Venetic inscriptions.
1.2 The Mystery
of the Dots in Ancient
Traditional studies of the inscriptions have regarded the dots as
some kind of syllabic punctuation, and the explanation of how they work
is not believable because human nature requires that this dot
punctuation be as easy or easier to handle than the word boundary
marking of Etruscan, of which the Venetic must have been aware.
Originally ancient writing by Etruscans and Veneti were written
continuously without any punctuation, but that made it difficult to
read. You had to sound out the letters and then try to recognize the
words. The Etruscans solved the problem by using dots to show the
word boundaries. Romans followed the practice, and then the dots
disappeared and there were spaces. However, for some mysterious reason,
the Veneti did not try to explicitly show word boundaries. They began
putting dots on either side of a letter.
Through the years academics attempting to interpret the Venetic
inscriptions puzzled over these dots. According to the accepted
explanation, the dots were used to separate the final consonants from
preceding phonological units, but was not present between a consonant
or a consonant (obstruent+sonorant) group and a following vowel
(monophthong or dipthong), giving a syllabic form C(C)V(C) which then
underwent changes due to weakening and loss of h- (*ho.s.ti.s. >
*.o..s.ti.s.) and syncope of i preceding a final fricative
(*.o..s.ti.s. > *.o..s.t.s.). As nice as it may be to pretend
to understand the linguistic shifts in a language, we must not forget
that the number of instances of Venetic inscriptions is limited. It is
not enough to identify a few ‘proofs’ of a theory, as that can simply
be an arrangement of a few instances of coincidences that seem to
demonstrate a pattern. But let us be realistic. Let us imagine the
language being in actual use, and being spoken in many dialects and
being interpreted in writing in different ways. For example, how do we
know that .o..s.t.s. came from .o..s.ti.s. Maybe it did, but
maybe .o..s.t.s. was simply from laziness. Consider your modern
language. How often do you see vowels or consonants dropped by
different speakers. For example someone says “DIFFRENT” instead of
“DIFFERENT”. Venetic suffers in this way, from having been
written continuously and there being so few examples (less than 100
complete sentences, not fragments)
The overly intellectualized assumptions of linguistic shifts and
patterns come from imagining that Venetic writing was highly
standardized and formalized so that everyone spoke it in exactly the
same way or wrote it in exactly the same way. But is that assumption
realistic? We have to allow for the more natural interpretation as
suggested from the use of writing in Greece and elsewhere – that it was
not exclusive to some priestly class but something that inspired
everyone. Even if writing was only available to the educated, even
among the educated dialects varied.
Thus if we take the more realistic view, that Venetic writing
developed, as it did elsewhere, as a popular fad – something that
preserved sentences or made objects speak – then we have to approach
the entire subject of the Venetic inscriptions from the point of view
of it being something easy to master. You had your basic sounds –
the natural vowels and consonants formed by the mouth in the most
natural positions – and then you had to modify it here and there with
intonations, stresses, pauses, and other effects such as
palatalization, trills, etc. One way of identifying the departure from
the most natural human sounds, is by adding punctuation. Imagine a
modern linguist trying to record a language he does not know. He will
write down the sounds in phonetic writing, and add punctuations for
stress, length, etc. It seems to me that if this approach of
capturing the sound of speech is so obvious today, that it would be
obvious in ancient times. Identifying word boundaries like we do
today, helps us read because all languages have consistent patterns for
word units. For example, stress may always be on the first syllable on
a word. There may be standard length and pause features too. But in
order to read writing that only shows word boundaries, you have to
already know the language. Phonetic writing simply reproduces the
speech, and the writer does not need to know the language at all.
Thus what if the Venetic dots represent phonetic punctuation?
Yes, even if the linguists’ observations about many of the dots
locations are correct, their explanations are merely a byproduct of the
way the language is spoken. Let’s say that Venetic always palatalized
an “S” sound before a “T” as in dona.s.to
Then the dots obviously
have a relationship to sounds before and/or after. But it is
absurd to imagine that the purpose of the dots are to identify the word
boundaries indirectly. It makes more sense that dots were added around
an “S” in that environment simply because that was how they spoke
it. There is a similar word
that shows it again.
Certainly we can find some examples in which a pattern is repeated. But
it is much much more realistic to imagine a word of Venetic speakers
whose only aim was to reproduce the sound of sentences they spoke, and
they knew nothing about word boundaries, case endings, syllables etc.
They were simply aware that the alphabet represented sounds, and the
dots were a phonetic punctuation device.
Note that even today, you can ask a child who has only learned the
sounds of Roman letters, to write a sentence he has never written
before. He will sound it out and it will be readable, even if it did
not follow the conventional spellings that have developed in the modern
language. The phonetic writing explanation for the dots is so natural,
that already it is convincing even before looking at examples.
If the Veneti were long distance traders – as suggested by their being
agents of northern amber and having colonies at the ends of Europe –
then here is a practical reason for phonetic writing. They could record
important phrases of customers without knowing anything about the
words and grammar. Phoenicians are known to have created such
phrasebooks, and if Veneti were traders in the north and major rivers,
they would have sought the same power, except using the Etruscan
writing in thier case, and then deciding it would be improved by adding
the dots for phonetic punctuation. It is known that the dot punctuation
appeared from about 300BC, but that is about the time the Veneti
reached their zenith with the colony at Brittany, and their role in
carrying tin from the British Isles.
Phonetic Writing vs.
Ancient peoples generally wrote down sounds in order to reproduce what
was spoken as closely as possible. In the beginning – as seen even in
early Etruscan – there was nothing else than a string of letters
representing sounds. But, given the variation in any language of
stress, emphasis, length, pause, etc that was not enough. For example
Obviously if you know the language, you
can read the string out loud and recognize the words: how should we
And that was the case with early Etruscan, and some
Venetic too. A continuous sting of letters was not enough. One had to
read it out loud over and over before one realized what it was saying.
Thus there was wisdom in adding something to the string of sounds in
order to give the reader some guidance.
One way was to mark every sound feature – pauses, intonations,
etc. Raw phonetic writing.
The other way, was to use the trick with which we are familiar today,
to show word boundaries. Identifying word boundaries exploited
the fact that in language words are spoken in consistent ways. For
example the language may always emphasize the first syllable. Thus if
you knew the word boundaries, when you read it, you would emphasize the
first syllable, and the sentence would be read correctly; but you had
to already know the language. There are rules that speakers know well,
and when words are identified, they know how to read the writing.
Let us look at each approach in more detail.
Phonetic writing, thus began in the raw form that recorded everything,
Like the modern electronic recorder does, it doing nothing to simplify
the text and the reading of it. The earliest phonetic writing was
purely recording what the spoken language sounded like. Phoenician and
other trader peoples, recorded common phrases in the language of their
customers in a raw phonetic fashion so that when needed they could read
it back. They did not have to know anything more about the language.
Similarly, a modern linguist who does not know a language will write it
down in a raw phonetic fashion too, exactly what he hears, using the
modern standard phonetic alphabet. Not knowing where the word
boundaries are, they will add marks to indicate length, pauses,
emphasis, etc. This is raw phonetic transcription.
Other than the few inscriptions done in the Roman alphabet following
Roman conventions (like the Canevoi bucket inscription), Venetic
writing, has the hallmarks of raw phonetic transcription: It is written
continuously and filled with dots that seem to function like the
markings a linguist makes when transcribing speech phonetically.
Thus Venetic inscriptions
can be viewed as transcription of what is
actually spoken, using the dots as an all-purpose marker for pauses,
emphasis, length, etc
. Because the written Venetic
not standardized, this dot-device must have been a very simple
intuitive tool. I believe the rule was that dots were applied where
some kind of tongue-related feature (mainly palatalization) was applied
in the speech. Such a simple concept – a dot-marker serving many
purposes – was something
that could easily be applied and
understood by anyone.
One may wonder why the Venetic writing was written in this way, when
the option of marking word boundaries would have made it easier.
I suggest that perhaps Venetic was so highly palatalized that the
Veneti wanted to mark those palatalizations even if it was not
necessary to do so. But there is another explanation. If the
Veneti originated as traders, then it was very important to
record the languages of customers. The problem with word boundary
writing is that it relies on the reader already knowing how the foreign
language was spoken – where the inflections, stresses, lengthenings,
palatalizations, etc were applied. For example while Latin was used
throughout the Roman Empire we have no idea from Roman texts how it
actually sounded when spoken in different places and times in history.
Like English today, there could have been many accents/dialects. Word
boundary writing does not capture the sound of the actual
Word boundary writing is fine if you already knew the language, but if
you needed phrasebooks to use in foriegn markets, you needed to record
a whole phrase (such as ‘Would you like to buy this beautiful
necklace?’) without needing to know how it broke down into words. In
that case, the phrase had to be written down completely phonetically –
a continuous string of sounds, with marks used to indicate pauses,
Perhaps the dots in the Venetic writing, were such phonetic markers,
which became guides to how to speak the whole sentence, without having
any idea about what were the words and grammatical elements within it.
If writing was used by traders, it did not have to be carved in stone
or bronze. Thus. the writings archeology has found on stone, bronze and
ceramics in the earth may thus be only the tip of the iceberg.
How much more is there that has disappeared because it was written on
paper or other soft media? For example Phoenician practices included
not just writing on paper, but also on wax tablets that could be melted
of Phoenician writing tablets which originally contained wax and
was written upon by styluses. Note it has a hinge in the middle, and
the user could fold it up and slip it into his pocket. If the
Veneti used such wax tablets, a great deal of writing may have been
done that has been lost.
Writing on wax, paper and other perishable media would not have
survived for archeologists to find. We do not have here a situation
such as existed in ancient Sumeria, where all everyday writing by
everyone was done onto flattened pieces of clay, resulting in the
survival in the earth of many thousands of cuneiform clay tablets of
usually mundane content, such as inventories of goods and shopping
Word-Boundary (Rationalized) Phonetic Writing
While we write texts (like this sentence) with blank spaces between
words – and Romans and Etruscans used dots – in speech these spaces do
not appear as pauses. They are there mainly to assist the person who
knows the language in reading it, without the need for detailed
phonetic punctuation. If we know what the word is, then from our
familiarity with the systematic characteristics of the language, we
place all the stress, emphasis, etc in the right places automatically
It simplifies the phonetic writing. Furthermore, with word
boundary shown, the readers could also view the word as a graphic
symbol. The only drawback of writing using word boundaries, is that the
reader has to already know the language to reproduce it properly,
whereas raw phonetic writing could be read as it sounded by any reader.
Among the Venetic inscriptions, the Canevoi bucket example given
earlier, is a rare instance where Venetic was written in the Roman
fashion, with dots serving as word boundaries in the Roman fashion,
rather than indicating phonetic features. Note that when the Venetic
was written in the Roman fashion, there was no more need for the dots
This helps confirm that the dots were phonetic pronunciation guides
when written continuously, and were no longer necessary for those who
knew the language, once word boundries were defined.
2. VENETIC DOT-PUNCTUATION TO
Evidence Venetic was
There is some periferal evidence that Venetic was highly
palatalized. There exists a basic truth that when a people begin
speaking a new language, they will speak it in the manner of their
original language. We call this an “accent”. In our theory, the
Veneti were long distance traders, and the Veneti of Brittany were part
of their trade system. With the rise of the Roman Empire, this trade
system collapsed and different parts of the system assimilated into
their surrounding peoples. At Brittany the Veneti assimilated into
Celtic. If their original Venetic language was palatalized, then their
Celtic would also be palatalized. Without having another standard to
emulate, this accented manner of speaking Celtic would be passed down
from generation to generation. Called the Vannetais
dialect of Celtic,
it stands out from its neighbouring Celtic dialects from having
much more extensive palatalization.
Another example would be at the north end of the strong trade route
between the Adriatic and the Jutland Peninsula. Today, at the Jutland
Peninsula we find Danish. Danish is a highly palatalized German. Was
the original language highly palatalized, and was the palatalization
transferred when the people assimilated into the Germanic of their
military conquerors? Without the accent being corrected, this manner of
speaking was transferred to their children, and continued to modern
Dot-punctuation – Invented to
Venetic writing borrowed the Etruscan letters, but did not acquire the
Etruscan method (later used by Romans too) of using dots to mark word
boundaries. Instead, Venetic writing simply wrote sentences
continuously and began to add dots in seemingly mysterious locations.
These dots have puzzled analysts of Venetic for centuries. They
realized that it was a scheme to make the continous text easier to read
than continuous writing without any spaces or markings, and proposed it
was a “syllabic punctuation” and that the reader determined the word
boundaries from it. On the other hand there are also analysts who –
failing to figure it out – like Slovenian analysts, claim that the dots
were all decorative and meaningless. From the point of view of the
probability bell curve, such a claim, although possible is not
probable. In our methodology everything has to be very realistic,
natural, and acceptable, and bizarre interpretations – according to the
bell curve – have to be so rare they are negligble. The most natural
answer, the most probable answer, is that the markings were intended to
mark something strongly evident in Venetic, but absent in Etruscan.
I realized it had to be something very simple, not requiring special
education for either reading it or writing it. But it could not be mere
decoration either. That would be utterly silly as decorations are an
aesthetic matter and if it were true then every scribe would put the
dots in slightly different locations for the same word, and even employ
other decorations too. This did not happen. For example dona.s.to
always had the dots around the .s. and the n never had dots for this
word but it appeared in other words – the dots were clearly purposeful.
But they had to be practical and easy to apply. They had to be at least
as easy to apply as the word-boundary dots they saw in their
It is obvious how in Etruscan and Roman texts the dots were word
boundaries which the scribe could easily insert from either small
pauses in actual speech, or an understanding of where words began and
ended. But what simple feature could the dots in Venetic represent?
What could there be that any writer or reader could understand almost
intuitively without any major formula needing to be applied? And why
dots? What would dots represent? Maybe they were not dots initially but
small “I”s. A good way of indicating palatalization might be to
put small “I”s at front and back of a sound. For example N >
I noted that the dots in the inscription reproduced above in Figure 1.1
look like short “I”s. Looking at the real world of languages, I noted
the differences between written Estonian and Livonian. Livonian is
probably descended from the same east Baltic coast lingua franca of a
millenium or two ago, but Livonian has been subjected to influence from
the Indo-European Latvian language for the last half millenium or
more. I noticed that while Livonian had words similar to
Estonian, they were more extremely palatalized. The extreme
palatalization has prompted the written Livonian to develop a host
of letters officially described as palatalized. (In Estonian
palatalization is not explicitly marked but is still there – although
the palatalization is not strong.
Was that the simple answer? Was Venetic highly palatalized like
Livonian was? This palalatization would be caused by considerable
contact with Indo-European languages that were spoken with tigher
mouths. The action also resulted in vowels sounding higher (which we
can roughly express by U>O,
or ’ break
The palatalization in Venetic, I proposed, was indicated by dots on
both sides of the normal letter, the most important being the “I” where
.i. would sound either like “J” (=”Y”) or “H” with palatalized tongue.
But then I saw the dot to be more widely applied serving as an
all-purpose phonetic marker. It could alter any alphabetical sound in
which the tongue played a role. It could indicate sounds like “SH” and
a trilled R, and indirectly even mark a pause or an emphasis or
This theory made the dots very important to the project. It meant we
cannot simply go by the Roman alphabet equivalents. We also have to
know how the dots alter the sound.
If the use of dots lasted for centuries and was even used by ordinary
people writing graffiti, then it had to be a very simple concept – not
some complicated formula.
For an English speaker, our best example of palatalization is the ñ in
Spanish, but weak palatalization is not uncommon in all languages. Most
sounds made by the human mouth can be found in all languages to some
degree, even if the language does not explicitly recognize it. For
example, although Estonian, unlike Livonian, does not explicitly define
palatalized letters, there is weak palatalization where Livonian has
strong palalatization. Estonian does not indicate the palatalizations,
and any student of Estonian has to learn these.
Another modern example of a language that is weakly palatalized in one
and strongly in another is Swedish versus Danish. Swedish has the
rounded mouth (like Estonian) while Danish is strongly palatalized
When Venetic was next written in the Roman alphabet for a while, with
word boundaries shown, all these dots were abandoned.. If the reader
knew the word boundaries, they could insert the proper pronunciation –
the palatalizations, etc – from their knowledge of the language.
Once I had made the discovery, and knew most of the dots marked
palatalization, I began to take notice of the dots around letters which
we do not normally palatalize. I discovered that in all instances there
was some kind of significance of the tongue. For example .r. was a
3. CATEGORIZATION OF DOT USE IN
The secret of the dots cannot be solved independently of the rest, and
the following conclusions were arrived at piece by piece throughout the
project of deciphering Venetic, as outlined in THE VENETIC
LANGUAGE: An Ancient Language from a New Perspective: FINAL.
(see endnotes for a link to download this
document in pdf form
) This paper
on the Venetic dots is also decribed in its Chapter 4. However they
only affect how the Venetic sentences were pronounced and we can
describe it independently here, to give the reader an idea of
prounciation right off and then not have to deal with them further. As
I already said I made a hypothesis that the dots were phonetic markers,
and subsequently the hypothesis was proved correct. The most obvious
use was to mark palatalization, but it marked more.
The dots, mainly served to indicate the common palatalizations we know
well today in languages like Spanish, or more extensively in Livonian
and Danish, appeared to have been applied to all circumstances of the
tongue and palette being applied. It took me a long time to realize
that past analysts have been wrong in claiming the Venetic character
that looks like an “M” was a “SH” sound. The “SH” sound obviously has
to come from a ‘palatalized’ S. As you will see, I interpret the
sound of the character that looks like an “M” as a long hissing
S, possibly with an “I” at the start. Thus, once one grasps that the
dots mark any intrusion of the tongue in the souind, questions about
the correctness of past interpretations are resolved.
3.2 The “I”
with dots on both
sides - .i.
The modern custom in showing Venetic writing is to convert the Venetic
letters to small case Roman and then to add the dots as well with
periods. We begin by considering dots on both sides of the “I”
character. According to the bronze sheets that repeat oeka
over, with each of the Venetic letters attached to the end, the dotted
“I” was so common, the Veneti actually recognized it as one of the
basic alphabet letters. As I mentioned, traditional scholars of Venetic
inscriptions have decided from various evidence, that this new
character of the “I” with two short lines on both sides, represented
some sound akin to an “H”. A few analysts have proposed a “J”
sound. Since some early inscriptions show the dots as short lines,
almost like small “I”s there is merit in considering the dots to
represent tiny short I’s. (see Figure 1.1) The purpose of that, before
and after a sound, in my view is to show palatalization. These short
lines then developed into dots. This truth can be realized when
comparing the location of some of the palatalized letters in Venetic
with locations in other languages. Human speech psychology and
physiology is a constant and that means the same phonetic changes can
occur in any language independently.
If we put small faint I’s around an “I” sound we tend to arrive at the
“J” which is the same as the sound of “Y” in English usage – short and
consonantal. The new character, the Venetic .i., was therefore actually
an ‘overhigh’ “I”. Overall increased palatalization in a language
can be caused simply by a general shifting, in the manner of speaking,
of all vowels “upward” (such as U>A, A>E,
If we explain the .i. in terms of palatalizing the “I” we can see that
it can result in a “Y/J”sound in one environment and an “H” sound in
another environment. Palatalizing the “I” sound will demonstrate the
resulting sound is a “J”, but following a consonant like “V” it sounds
like an “H” too – but an “H” produced at the front of the mouth,
not back . Traditional analysis of the Venetic writing has decided
(LeJeune) that the v.i.
is an “F” sound and v.i. has been
rewritten as vh (which occurs elsewhere in that form). While it may be
true that v.i. sound might sound like vh, I disagree with the Venetic
v.i. always being rewritten today as vh and assumed to sound like
“F”. It was certainly similar, but one must not forget the origins of
v.i.r in the palatalization of “VIR” (as I will propose). I think it is
wise to leave the .i. alone, write it exactly as written, and not
convert in the small case Roman representation into an “H”. Don’t
arbitrarily alter what Veneti wrote. If the v.i. sometimes was
written with a new character assumed an “H” and later as Roman “F” well
we may be dealing with slight variations in dialect, or the scribe’s
habits. In other words the “F” sound could have developed in the
dialect from an earlier “VJ” (“VY”) sound – especially when the
people began to adopt Latin which had no “VJ”(“VY”) sound.
The simple idea behind putting dots on both sides of letters that
everyone could quickly understand was that wherever short I’s on dots
were placed on both sides of a letter, the reader simply pushed up the
tongue to the “I” position ahead of the sound, and the sound of the
letter was altered accordingly, it becoming “J” (“Y”) or “H” according
to its environment.
3.3 Dots around
the “E” - .e.
The word .e.kupetaris allows us an opportunity to prove the above
theory that the dots recorded palatalization. The effect of dots
appears to be explicitly demonstrated in IAEEQVPETARS
following inscription (When we show Roman capitals, it means the
original is in the Roman alphabet)
The word appearing as .e.kupetaris in inscriptions in the Venetic
alphabet is shown here as IAEEQVPETARS
It is clear that .e.ku sounded
like “IAEEQU” as given via Roman alphabet phonetics. Here we see
both the palatalization suggested by the “I” and also a lengthening of
the vowel. It demonstrates that the all-purpose dot could indirectly
mark vowel palatalization but it could mark other modifications in the
flow of sound as well such as lengthening or pause.
Note in the illustration the IAEEQVPETARS
down the right side in
smaller letters suggests it is an added tag-line. This has helped
us conclude that the word means something like ‘goodbye’ ‘have a good
See the word IAEQVPETARS down the
right side. Note too how it seems
added as a tag, one of the reasons for interpreting it as a ‘happy
journey’, ‘bon voyage’, etc.
around Initial Vowels –
The above example showed the dots around the intial vowel E
proving the palatalization.. Similar effects can be expected on the
other vowels. We begin with the basic I with dots also discussed
earlier. The phonetic representations use Roman pronunciation (J
= English Y).
Perhaps Venetic put the stress strongly on the first syllable, and this
feature may be the result of needing to ‘launch’ the initial vowel
strongly. Such a need would produce a consonantal feature at the
start – a J/Y or H. This could simply have been a feature arising from
the manner of speech, accent, etc, a para-linguistic feature not part
of the language itself; but if it was strong, the phonetic writing
needed to record it. A good modern example would be that if we found a
dialect of English in which all E sounds were pronounced “I”, a writer
might want to show it explicitly – especially if writing dialogue
– instead of normal writing. For example if there were people who
spoke “Hippy Dey ti yeh”
a writer transcribing this might want
to write it phonetically as I just did (or in other phonetic writing)
instead of writing “Happy Day to you” . Early phonetic writing was not
aware how languages only need certain sounds called “phonemes” in order
for the text to represent the language, and therefore early phonetic
writing tended towards being
literally phonetic, capturing even strong
paralinguistic sounds even if they were not part of the language
Furthermore, if ancient scribes used too few characters for the sounds,
a reader who knew the language was still able to read the text.
Consider the Livonian language. Linguists have identified many
palatalized sounds, and determined that many of them are phonemic; but
if Livonian were written without the identified palatalized letters, a
Livonian would still be able to identify the words. They might however
read it more like Estonian where palatalization is weaker and needs not
be marked. The reason Livonian has been assigned many additional
palatalized letters is largely because of the influence of linguists.
In the actual history of written language the written language
naturally reduces to a form that is readable, regardless of whether is
agrees with linguistic representations. English is a good example – it
is filled with letters wherein we cannot tell the sound without looking
at the whole word. For example, we can only tell that the word “where”
is pronounced with the final e silent, only by recognizing the whole
word. Thus the more history there is in a phonetically written
language, the more it departs from strict phonetic representation, and
the more the reader determines words from experience with the full
words: the more the words become their own graphics.
To summarize, early phonetically written language like Venetic, naively
tries to record the actual spoken language and captures many
features which may not really need to be written down. Conversely there
have been many written languages that minimized the alphabet, and the
actual sound of the language has been lost. Too much information makes
it possible to reproduced the sentences without knowing the language,
and too little information requires the reader know the language well
enough to identify the intended words even with a lack of information.
In the case of Venetic, therefore, we must recognize that, since the
Venetic writing had very little history, for the most part, it is
highly phonetic. It is valid to read Venetic phonetically, following
the Roman alphabet equivalents, and expect it to quite closely reflect
how it was actually spoken. At the height of the Roman Empire it is
certain that the way Latin was spoken varied from one region to another
while the written language remained unchanged. In other words, the
Latin spoken by common folk in Britain would have sounded different
from the Latin spoken in Gaul, or Spain. But the Latin would be written
the same way. A good example is modern English. English is spoken in
many different ways, many different dialects – compare accents in
America vs. Britain vs. Australia vs. India etc. All use the same
written language. If we were to write English truly phonetically, there
would be a hundred or so written forms of English.
If Venetic writing tried to reproduce its language explictly then we
can expect dialectic variations will appear in the writing. But what is
most intriguing is that by adding the dots – serving not just mostly
palalization and similar tongue-produced effects but (see later)
situations with lengthening (of either sound or silence) – allows us to
reproduce Venetic quite accurately. Even if all the dots were not
necessary and word boundary writing could have been used, the Veneti
thought that it was important to mark the palatalizations explicitly,
maybe thinking that if they didn’t it would be read like Etruscan.
While the dots strictly speaking are not needed for someone who knew
the language, and a Venetic reader could do just as well with dots only
marking word boundaries, if we initially know no Venetic at all, the
dots certainly give us a vivid idea of how the Venetic sounded. Perhaps
it sounded like Danish relative to German, or Livonian relative to
Estonian. It is a blessing in disguise!! Furthermore as the dialects
changed, the scribes who recorded it, captured significant changes in
pronunciation. That is why we will see variations on some words, and
especially with the application of the dots.
If we regard the Venetic writing as extremely phonetic because of all
the dots, we cannot view the variations as erroneous, but that some
words were spoken a little differently between two locations and two
periods in time. For example if there is an inscription that shows
.e.petars instead of .e.kupetari.s. that does not mean the scribe
made a mistake. It simply means that, just like in English good-bye
, so too a
commonly used .e.cupetari.s.
could reduce to
When Venetic at the beginning of Roman times was written with Roman
alphabet letters, the dots vanished, confirming that the original
Venetic written language was more a phonetic recording of actual speech
than its Roman alphabet form. We also have to bear in mind the fact
that Romans explicitly showed word boundaries, which reduced the need
for additional phonetic punctuation.
ENONI . ONTEI .
APPIOI . SSELBOI SSELBOI . ANDETIC OBOSECUPETARIS
- MLV 236, LLV B-1]
is one of the few inscriptions (other than Roman writing inscriptions
on urns) where Roman letters are used, and the Roman convention of
simply using dots to separate words. The dots around letters are
missing. This tends to prove that strictly speaking the
dot-punctuation was not necessary to read the text. But without the
dots, someone who does not know Venetic will read it like reading
Latin, and the palatalizations, etc. that reproduce how it was really
spoken is lost.
Throughout the investigations of the Venetic writing, investigators
have wondered why the word “Veneti” does not appear (other than in one
instance Venetkens, which
could simply be a borrowing from
Latin.) But we must bear in mind both that ancient Latin spoke
the V as a “W” and Greeks called them “Eneti” (or “Henetoi”) both of
which suggests the word was introduced with a palatalized initial “E”.
In my analysis of the Venetic inscriptions I came to the conclusion
that in the inscriptions the word is represented in the stem .e..n.no-.
For example it appears as .e..n.noniia.
The iia ending suggests the
Venetic way of saying the Roman “Venetia”
[urn- MLV 91, LLV-Pa90]
Instead of showing any V-character (=W-sound), it shows the E
surrounded by dots. The actual Venetic pronunciation of .e..n.noniia
may have sounded something like (playing on the phonetics of the Roman
This helps us reproduce the sound of other Venetic words that
begins with dotted vowels. For example there is one sentence in which
the scribe has added plenty of dots - .e..i.k. It
must have sounded very unusual, such as WHEIHK, YEIHK, etc.
Note that the above discussion is a good example of determining the
meaning of the dots through looking at evidence, starting from our
first observation that showed .e.ku
sounded like “IAEEQU”. It
puzzles me how earlier studies of Venetic writing failed to identify
the dots as punctuation that modified normal Etruscan letter sounds,
and that it has nothing to do with syllables (which someone proposed.)
It is nothing more than added information on pronunciation. The fact
that it was added is evidence the Venetic language was pronounced with
extreme palatalization – maybe like how Danish or southern Swedish
speaks its Germanic language today – and the Venetic scribes were
motivated to introduce the dots simply because their language was
extremely different from the pure round sounds of neighbouring Etruscan
We will look at the effect of the dots on consonants in the next
sections. But first, for comparison, let us look at something similar
with respect to intial vowel treatments in Estonian versus Livonian,
were Estonian has weak palatalization and rounder sounds like in Latin,
while Livonian is extremely palatalized like Danish.
Palatalization on Initial Vowels in Livonian and Estonian
To illustrate the above phenomenon of consonantal features
appearing with intial vowels in a language in which there is stress on
the initial vowel, we can look to some examples in Livonian, a Finnic
language that was located on the coast south of the related language of
Estonian. Perhaps you know of other languages to observe. One might for
example look at highly palatalized Danish versus standard Swedish, for
example. I use these examples that compare Livonian and Estonian, since
my own greatest familiarity is with Finnic languages.
Since Livonian is highly palatalized and Estonian considerably
less, it is possible to compare Livonian words with Estonian
equivalents, and then compare what we witness with the above described
circumstances visible in Venetic initial vowels with dots.
While Estonian does have palatalization it is mild and not
explicitly noted in the written language. However, in Livonian, as I
say, palatalization is strong and significant. Livonian explicitly
shows the palatalization with diacritical marks. However, this applies
only to situations commonly viewed as ‘palatalization’. As I
indicate here, the Venetic use of dots seems more broadly applied
to all situations in which the tongue modified a sound, and even side
effects like length or pause.
Let us see what we can discover from Livonian compared to Estonian.
Estonian like Finnish, in putting stress on the first syllable,
commonly adds some consonantal feature at the start that helps launch
the initial vowel. Note it is impossible not to have something
consonantal on an initial vowel, in any language – but usually it is so
weak it can be ignored in languages that do not put a stress or
emphasis on the first syllable. For example in English, stress is
applied later in the word. For example English people will mistakenedly
pronounce Helsinki with “HelSINKi” instead of the Finnish “HEL-sinki”.
In fact this is a good example of a word in which the initial H
probably appeared as a result of the emphasis on the first syllable in
Finnish. There are other words in Estonian and Finnish where an “H” or
“J/Y” has been explicitly recognized. But the consonantal sound
launching an initial consonant is there, and its strength will vary
with the dialect. In the following, we see some examples in which the
Livonian is shown with an explicit J at the start, where it is not
explicitly noted in written Estonian:
(J follows the convention of pronouncing it like English “Y”)
What can we derive from this? It
suggests that in pronouncing Venetic too, we should place the emphasis
on the first syllable, and this will help us understand the reasons for
the Venetic employment of the dots in various locations. Having
observed similarities with Finnic intial vowels, we will continue to
make reference to other coincidences with Finnic languages.
The reader is always welcome to advance examples of other languages
with emphasis on the first syllable. It is possible that a consonantal
launch for initial vowels, is quite common for all languages – not just
Finnic – that place the emphasis on initial syllables. The observations
in the following sections will probably be found in those as well. The
reader is welcome to investigate other languages. Our discussion merely
observes phonetic parallels with Finnic purely as examples.
Palatalization of Consonants.
Besides the vowels, the Venetic inscriptions are also liberally
sprinkled with dots on both sides of consonants. On sounded consonants,
the resulting sounds are our familiar consonant palatalizations such as
the Spanish palatalization of the N written as Ñ. In Livonian the
palatalization of sounded consonants L and N involve the use of
diacritical marks in the form of a cedilla underneath. Livonian
palatalizes the D and T and R and shows it in this way as well, with
the cedilla underneath. Other written languages that actually show
palatalization, may have other markers. If palatalization is weak and
not linguistically significant, it will not be shown. For example
Estonian has palatalization in places similar to Livonian, but they are
weaker, and so not explicitly indicated.
But there is more to the Venetic dots than simply the common
palatalizations of consonants we know in modern languages. They appear
to have a broader more general application than what is meant by the
modern conventional idea of ‘palatalization’
Dots around the Venetic N and L have easy comparison to modern
Spanish or Livonian. And dots around Venetic D and T are analogous to
those in Livonian. But there are other applications of dots in Venetic.
After completing my project, it was very clear that the dots marked all situations in which the
forward, upward, tongue modified a letter sound from its normal
And that results in the dots marking consonants in other ways than what
we might normally consider palatalization. We already saw how the dots
modified vowels – introducing a J or H sound. That too is not what we
normally associate with the term ‘palatalization’. The scheme of
dot addition in general makes things very easy. It is also the
reason the dots were even used – it was a scheme that any writer
could understand: For any tongue action up to to the top of the
mouth, add a dot!!
! Let us explore additional application
From all the evidence so far, if the dots in the Venetic writing
surround a consonant like an “S” we should discover its sound
very simply by adding our faint “J” (=”Y”), where the dot appears, and
interpret the result. For example .s.
sounding like “JS” can be considered the sound of the ss
in English issue
. In modern languages this
sound is represented in many ways, beginning with the “SH
”, which is described in other
languages with “Š
Currently a Venetic character that looks like an M
is assumed to be “SH” but
this dot scheme suggests the current view about the M
is wrong and that the “SH
” is the dotted S as in .s.
What then should the M
be? I will give the
argument later, but for now I believe it to be an unpalatalized “(I)SS
” as in English hiss
. I therefore represent
the character in the transcriptions to Roman alphabet with $
The following table shows some palatalized consonants, and Venetic
examples. In addition, I selected some Estonian words that are similar
to the Venetic, where Estonian has palatalization in the same
locations. Livonian will have similar examples. A more comprehensive
study might also look for parallels in other palatalized languages,
like Danish. The reader is invited to investigate if these locations of
palatalization are more or less universal, and a function of preceding
and following sounds.
PALATALIZATION OF CONSONANTS COMPARISON
|Compare with palatalization
in Estonian words like this
kanti 'into the
The table shows another consonant
that we would not normally consider a palatalized consonsant. I propose
dots around the Venetic R represent a trilled R. The R with dots does
not appear often in Venetic, but there is an inscription in which a
trilled and non-trilled R appear together - .a.tra.e.s. te.r.mon.io.s.
The R in the first word, by out theory, is not trilled and in the
second it is trilled. We can find that in languages that have the
trilled R, the trilling strength is also dependent on its situation
within the word – the letters preceding and following. For
example, Estonian uses trilling, and we can find that a word like adra produces the R in a weak
position that does not have to be trilled, while on the other hand, tarvis
places the R in a stronger position that promotes strong
trilling. Estonian will, like Venetic, similarly strongly trill the
loanword terminus (is it from
Greek?) which is similar to the Venetic te.r.min.io.s.
I believe that for a person who already knew the language, the dots as
representations of all tongue-effects was enough for the reader to
recognize what sound was intended. The dot
was an all-purpose phonetic marker, but mostly marked palatalization
and other tongue-modifications of pure sounds
3.6 Dots in
Venetic Around Silent Consonants Representing a Stød?
Let us consider now, what happens if we “palatalize” a silent consonant
(if dots surround a silent consonant). That would be represented in
Livonian explicitly with the D or T with the cedilla mark beneath it.
But in Venetic we see it also around other silent consonants, such as G
). How can silence be
palatalized? The true palatalizing of a silent consonant should
result in more silence, and that would be represented by the break in
tone called “stød”. Represented by a mark similar to an
apostrophe, stød is found today in the highly palatalized
langugages of Danish and Livonian. Stød can be viewed as palatalization
on a high vowel so that the high vowel disappears from being ultra
high. For example “I” > “J/Y”. Indeed the Venetic dotted “I” is an
overhigh “I” that becomes silent while the tongue positions are the
same as with “I”. Normally it appears as the “J/Y” or a frontal “H”.
But what if we have “MIN”? Then raising the “I” in this case becomes
“MJN” or “M’N”. This is in Danish called “stød”
In Livonian an example of a word with stød would be jo’g
‘river’ where ’ marks the
stød. Estonian, without the stød would say it jõgi
. Based on our view of the
Venetic dots, if we used Venetic writing to write the Livonian it would
probably look like jo.g.
except that Venetic “j” would be written .i.
(palatalized “I”) so it would
or simply .o.g
Another example in Livonian would be le’t
‘leaf’. If we wrote it in Venetic writing, by our theory, it
would be le.t.
case the Estonian equivalent without the stød would be leht
and the Finnish would be lehti.
Another Livonian example would be
‘to do’. The Estonian equivalent would add the H here as
well – teha
. In Finnish tehdä
Perhaps one can find similar situations when comparing Danish words and
equivalent words in related standard Swedish or Norwegian which are not
highly palatalized. It appears that palatalization arises from the
general movement of a language upward towards tighter mouth and more
involvement of the tongue on the palate.
The addition of the H by Estonian suggests the Livonian stød can
be seen as an ‘extreme palatalization’ of an original more
Estonian-like language. If a culture in general develops a
dialect in which they push all vowels upward (which means pushing
vowels forward-upward while tightening the mouth) then we get a general
shift that can roughly
be described by U>O
O>A A>E E>I
about the I? What is higher than the I
? Obviously it is the “J/Y
”. But then
what happens with the “H
” or “J/Y
That is when the stød appears. Already silent, where can it go?
The only direction it has would be to create a break, a
stop. Thus, to continue the shift we would have I > H
(tongue in “J”
position) and then H,J
. If we start with a word like SOMAN
it can evolve as the speaker’s
tongue grows. Follow the rise in vowels: SOMAN > SAMEN > SEMIN > SIMHN>
Thus in general palatalization and upward shifts of vowels are related
to the same shift in speech. It follows that highly palatalized
languages also display upward shifts of lower vowels too. For example
Livonian presents the suffix for agency as –ji
while Estonian and Finnish use –ja
. It may explain the name Roman
historian Tacitus used for the nations along the southeast Baltic coast
in the first century – “Aestii
If these people were ancient Estonians, and the reason Estonians have
always been called Eesti
then maybe if the word was highly palatalized, we could rewrite it
(imitating Livonian) as ESTJI
which when lowered becomes OSTJA
of low palatalized Estonian and Finnish, which means ‘buyer’, ie
‘merchant’, which is how surrounding peoples would have viewed the
managers of the market port near the Vistula mouth. (Given the
Ptolemy does not mention Aestii
like Tacitus does but gives an Ossi
to the market location, suggests the original may have actually been OSTE
, which in a Suebic dialects
Note this transformation is not a hard rule. Some crutial features,
such as grammatical endings, may resist being changed. The changes will
mostly manifest in the word stems.
In Venetic, in the available Venetic inscriptions, this shifting of
vowels ‘upward’ described above, can explain words in which no vowels
are shown between consonants where one would expect it. In the body of
inscriptions we see vda.n.
above is true of Venetic then we can expect that earlier vda.n.
may have been vhda.n
. or v.i.dan
and before that vida.n.
may originated from m.n.os
and before that mino.s.
In other words the progressions are v.i.dan
> v.d.a.n. > vda.n.
> m.n.o.s. > mno.s.
We have possible proof of this in the Venetic inscriptions, where a
word written several times as vo.l.tiiomno.i.
appears in another dialect .
thus revealing the original “I” between M and N. (One of the advantages
of Venetic writing is that the scribe actually records actual dialect
and in this case, a less palatalized one! We can sometimes actually see
the older forms recorded) The occurrence of two vowels together
as in vda.n.
was rare in Venetic as these
are the only two occurrences in the body of under 100 complete
Sometimes dots appeared only once, not around a letter. Solitary dots
probably are to be interpreted in the following manner: After a silent consonant they
could produce a pause. After a vowel they could lengthen the vowel.
We have to use common sense and put ourselves into the mind of the
scribe. The writing system has no other way of indicating length or
Sometimes scribes treated each palatalized character with a dot on
either side, but if there were two palatalized characterized in a row,
often the dot between them was shared. In our arbitrary division of the
continuous Venetic writing with spaces to show word boundaries, a
shared dot can become separated from one of the adjacent characters
using it. Bear this in mind when I break up a continuous Venetic
inscription with word boundaries to make our analysis simpler.
4. ANCIENT PHONETIC CONNECTIONS?
VENETIC AND DANISH
4.1 Venetic at
the South End of the Jutland Amber Route Implications on Danish
All in all, from the use of the phonetics of regular words (which we
assume were pronounced like Latin) plus the additional effects
indicated by the dots, we can sense how the Venetic actually sounded –
As already mentioned, two languages with strong palatalization
and stød are Danish and Livonian. Livonian lies south of Estonia
and was dominated by Latvian (an Indo-European language that is a
cousin of Slavic languages) and therefore we might propose that
Livonian palatalization arose from the influence of Latvian. Another
possibility is that Livonian was actually strongly influenced by
traders from the west Baltic who spoke in a palatalized way who
regularly accessed the trade river known in Livonian as Vaina, but
today as Daugava.
But let us look at Danish, because Danish is today spoken by
descendants of peoples who lay at the north end of the trade route that
reached down to northern Italy where the Venetic inscriptions we are
studying have been found. Both ancient historical texts and archeology
has demonstrated that the Veneti were agents of amber from the north.
There were two northern sources of amber – the southeast Baltic, and
the Jutland Peninsula. Most of the amber to the Venetic regions at the
north end of the Adriatic Sea came from the Jutland Peninsula. The
amber from the other source, the southeast Baltic, coming down via the
Vistula and Oder, went mostly directly to Greece. With the rise of the
Romans, there appears to have been a detour of the Vistula trade path
westward however, coming down the Piave River Valley. But inscriptions
from the Piave Valley and eastward are few, and the body of Venetic
inscriptions that archeology has uncovered, mainly represents
language of the peoples who recieved amber from the Jutland Peninsula
route. Most of the inscriptions, thus, have the high palatalized
dialect, and it is likely it was also found at the Jutland Peninsula
source of amber, which we can perhaps identify with the language
of independent peoples Roman identified as “Suebi” who we will here say
As we have already noted, archeology is clear about the intimate
connection between the Adriatic Veneti in the region of most of the
inscriptions, and the Jutland Peninsula.
According to Grahame Clark (World
Cambridge Univ Press) based on the archeological data, the early amber
route went up the Elbe, then made its way south by using both the
Saale and upper Elbe to start. But then, ...
in the second phase of the central European Bronze Age, a
distinctive bronze industry, associated with tumulus burial, arose
among descendants of Corded-ware folk
to the Celts or Germans] occupying
the highlands of south-west Germany...
These are identifiable
in my view with the true Germans - those Tacitus (see his Germania
98AD) calls Chatti
. They were
sedentary farming and pastoral peoples and hence customers for traders.
Thus their growth caused the traders from Jutland to develop in their
route an additional westward detour or loop to that area.
Then, after that, another center of industry developed east of the
Saale River by people of the same Corded-ware origins (Germanic).
The growth of the Germanic culture in central Germany is evident, which
in turn promoted traders to create markets for them. The impact
of this on the traders is that the trader colonies at the terminuses in
northern Italy and the Jutland Peninsula developed as well. As Clarke
indicates: Another distinctive
industry developed in Northern Italy adjacent to the south end of the
overland route, and at its northern end the Danes ....were importing
bronze manufactures both from central and also from western Europe
This information affirms the connection between activity in northern
Italy and Jutland Peninsula. The “Danes” were recieving bronze
wares in exchange for their supplying amber to the southern
civilizations. The "Danes" at this time were not Germanic. In
amber route formed a veritable hub around which the Early Bronze Age
industry of much of Europe revolved
It is thus clear that the Danes of ancient times spoke another
language, one that may even have been analogous to Venetic, and there
is a distinct possibility that their trader peoples were the initiator
of Venetic colonies to serve a newly opened up way around 1000BC of
carrying Jutland amber south to Mediterranean civilization. Then when
the Jutland tribes were conquered by the German-speaking Goths (Chatti, Göta
since Roman times, some centuries later, they adopted the Germanic
language of their conquerors, but spoke it in their original highly
palatalized fashion. A new language is initially always spoken in the
accent of the old. If one does not experience an environment of
‘correct’ speakers, one will continue to speak it with the accent, and
transfer the accent to subsequent generations. Danish can be seen that
way – as an accent originating from Suebic of the Roman era, carried
down through the generations.
Southern Sweden (Skåne) has a highly palatalized dialect as well, and
it indicates that the palatalized Suebic language was found also in
Little is known about the Suebic language other than from what is
implied in ancient writings. According to Tacitus’ Germania
it seems the Suebic language covered a vast part of the geographical
region of Germania, like a trade language. Some have been tempted to
see it as some early form of Germanic, but we cannot forget that the
region the Romans called “Germania
was purely a geographic region, and could have contained many languages
Tacitus wrote in his Germania
that the Aestii were like the Suebi, but their language was ‘closer to’
(not ‘different’!!) to that of native Britain, thus tending to point to
a possible interpretation that there were Finnic-like trade languages
across the northern seas in the Pre-Roman period. The
Finnic languages would have been aboriginal in origins, arising
ultimately from the dugout-canoe hunter-gatherers the archeologists
have identified as the “Maglemose” culture. It is very believable that
before the developments and movements of the farming peoples of
continental Europe, the unfarmable marshy and cold Scandinavia and
south Baltic was the abode of descendants of these aboriginal peoples –
except that those towards the south in contact with farmers found a
role to play for the static farming settlements by serving as
professional long distance traders. These trader tribes could also
adopt some innovations from the farming cultures, and even change
genetically from intermarriage, but retain their language..
Amber routes to the Adriatic circa
early Roman era with tribe names from Tacitus’ work “Germania”,
surperimposed. Note Tacitus’ “Chatti” and neighbours would be the true
Germanic speakers, the “Goths” and had only begun their military
conquests in Tacitus’ time, meaning the expansions of Germanic Goths
from the interior of Germany occurred only from about 0 AD
Roman historian Tacitus appeared to have personally approached the
south Baltic coast by sea – he also wrote a biography of Agricola,
first governor of Roman Britain and could have secured passage on a
long distance traders ship. Accordingly, in his geography “Germania”
Tacitus primarily encountered the boat peoples – the Suebi
tribes who interracted with each other via waterways. Once I discovered
that if Suebic tribe names were assumed to have raised vowels and
lowered the vowels, the resulting words were meaningful descriptions
via Estonian. For example Suebi
as SUO-ABA meant ‘bay, estuary of the marsh’ which might refer to the
region at the mouth of the Oder. There was probably a market there.
(See elsewhere for the whole analysis of names.)
Thus, after an analysis of Suebic tribe names, it appeared to me
that even if the interior farmable parts of Germania
had Germanic/Indo-European farmers, the unfarmable coastal areas,
lowlands, marshes, still retained descendants of the original
“Maglemose” Finnic culture. Thus in conclusion it appeared to me that
Suebic was a Finnic language that seemed to have raised vowels and
palatalization, and therefore was consistent with the people speaking
the same way when in the subsequent expansion of the Göta (Chatti, Goths) they began
speaking the Germanic language of their military conquerors in the
early centuries AD.
In other words, in the early centuries AD, after being conquered by
the Germanic Goths, they spoke the introduced Germanic language with
their highly palatalized Suebic accent, and if that is not corrected,
it is passed down from generation to generation ultimately resulting in
the highly palatalized Danish language of today. We can conclude
that the original language of the Jutland Peninsula when it was in
close trade contact with northern Italy, was highly palatalized, and
that highly palatalized language was carried down to northern Italy.
This suggests that the language in the Venetic inscriptions, as it
sounds when the dots are interpreted as palatalization markers, was in
fact a dialect of Suebic.
The connections between what is now northern Italy, and the Jutland
Peninsula are very significant in arguing that the Veneti colonies were
initiated by amber trader tribes/families attempting to establish an
alternative route to access the Mediterranean markets. We will
not only find evidence of similar palatalization and vowel raising, but
also a religious connection in terms of the worship of the goddess Rhea (The subject of a separate
We know now where the strong palatalization in Venetic came from –
it came from the Jutland Peninsula. Supporting this is archeological
determinations that the north Italic area developed gradually from
about 1000BC, from northern influences.
Amber Routes, Two Finnic Dialects from the North.
Traditional thinking has been that the traders at the sources of
amber were “Balt” (ie like Lithuanians) or Germanic. And yet, both are
rooted in agriculture. Finnic peoples arose from the northern
aboriginals. Archeology has found their environment filled with adzes
for making dugout canoes and harpooning and fishing gear for harvesting
lakes, rivers, and seas. If early trade went by water, then the
probability that the sea-traders across the northern seas, and river
traders travelling up and down the major river, were derived from these
aboriginal boat-using cultures, should be greater than the notion
farming peoples took to boats.
There are other coincidences that cannot be ignored – such as the
peoples along the southeast Baltic amber coast Tacitus called Aestii, had a name that has endured
among Estonians as Eesti,
for as long as there has been historical proof of it in Latin
texts. It is therefore more probable that the Aestii spoke an
ancient Finnic, and that their dialect travelled south with the amber
from the southeast Baltic source.
While most of the inscriptions in our project were found at the
south end of the amber route from the Jutland Peninsula, during the
rise of Rome, Rome became a consumer of amber, and I believe the
eastern amber route that came down from the southeast Baltic, which
originally continued south along the east coast of the Adriatic, turned
westward, and descended the Piave River to more easily access Roman
Not very many inscriptions have been found in the Piave River
valley, but those that do have a remarkably strong resonance with
Estonian. If the Aestii at
the southeast Baltic were ancestral to Estonians, this would not be a
But most of the inscriptions come from the south terminus of the
western amber trade route that came from the Jutland Peninsula. The
inscriptions at the south terminus from the west Baltic area will have
the higher vowels and palatalization, and the few inscriptions at the
south terminus of the route from the southeast Baltic region will not
have the raised vowel dialect nor the strong palatalization. They
represent dialectic difference between east and west Baltic. Yet the
two trader peoples – east vs west Baltic – are connected by a common
way of life. We will later find them to also be connected via the
FURTHER NOTES ABOUT PHONETICS
Alphabet Sounds vs Roman
The previous sections have focused on the mystery of the dots, and we
have in doing so so far implied the sounds of the Venetic characters
through the representation of the Venetic with Roman alphabet
characters. For more about these investigations into interpreting the
original Venetic character sounds see MLV and LLV.(see
references in endnotes) Bear in mind, that these books do not know that
the dots marked palatalization, etc. and there may be some
misinterpretations. The Roman equivalent to Venetic characters have
generally been determined by scholars over the decades, from former
interpretations of the sounds of the Etruscan alphabet. The Roman
alphabet was born from the Etruscan so that Latin phonetics is close
too. Since in Roman times some Venetic words are given in Roman
characters, it is possible to compare the Roman characters with the
Venetic in the same words from earlier writing. However one has to be
cognizant of a general degeneration of Venetic through Roman times. It
seems reasonable to believe that Venetic sounds moved closer to Roman
in those times, such as losing the original palatalization. It is one
of the reasons we do not pay too much attention to the Venetic
inscriptions written in Roman times in Roman characters before Venetic
is completely replaced by Latin.
While sometimes the Venetic dots produced peculiar sounds, as
demonstrated in the example given earlier to assess the sound of
an initial .e., it appears
from the better Roman alphabet inscriptions that the dots lost their
role once the sentences were divided in Roman fashion, explicitly
showing word boundaries. As I stated earlier, when a speaker of a
language knows the word boundaries in their language, they will
naturally apply the phonetic features correctly. The palatalizations,
etc, may still be there, but no longer need to be explicitly marked
when there are word boundary divisions. But of course the reader must
already know the language to place the phonetic features correctly. The
following, a long inscription, if not the longest, is one example of
how Venetic looks when written in Roman fashion where the dots give
word boundaries and the Venetic pronunciation dots are absent, and
presumably no longer needed to comprehend the text.
Figure 5.1 was shown earlier in figure 3.4 and we will speak more
about it here. The drawing was made from the original object
which was lost. Note the dots, plus a small space between ANDETIC and
OBOSECUPETARIS where there must have been a dot. It follows the Roman
convention of actually showing word boundaries with dots. I separate
the SSELBOI’s arbitrarily. The result, divided into words, is already
given in the Roman style original.
ENONI . ONTEI . APPIOI . SSELBOI SSELBOI . ANDETIC
If written in Venetic script with added dots, it would
probably look approximately something like this (This is my own
guesswork based on other inscriptions and must not be taken as factual,
since no Venetic alphabet version actually exists) (Note I use the $ as
a character representing a long S as in English “hiss” compared to a
regular S or a dotted S (.s.) sounding as in English “show”):
Because the original Venetic writing showed the actual pronunciation,
it picked up the actual accents and dialects that were in use in the
environment of the writer. In the past, as we see in MLV,
when the analysts of the recent century saw a particular word written
in a slightly different way, they presumptuously add a “[sic]” which
implies the scribe made an error. No, he may not have made an error but
phonetically recorded the way people said a particular word in his
region. For example vo.l.tiiomno.i.
in .e.go vo.l.tiiomno.i. iuva.n.t iio.i [obelisque- MLV-59 LLV-Es4]
appears alternatively as vo.l.tiio.m.minna.i.
in e.go v.i.u.k.s. siia.i. vo.l.tiio.m.minna.i.
[obelisque- MLV-57 LLV-Es2] .
The latter sentence shows other differences from most inscriptions of a
similar nature like v.i.u.k.s.
and siia.i. It is not wrongly
written but records another dialect!!
If a language has not developed literature, has not developed
standards, then we cannot presume that there is a particularly
universal correct way of writing a Venetic word. If it was a trade
language then it had many dialectic versions – different in each
significant trade route and region. The situation is not unlike
where in one part of the English speaking world Mother sounds
like “mah-thah” and an
and it sounds still different in Australia. Venetic writing is
purely phonetic and that will show differences like this
explicitly. There could therefore be many written Venetic languages,
which are yet the same language spoken with different accents and which
are, in actual use, mutually understandable It would
be similar to how an English-speaking person will be able to understand
English spoken in an extreme accent (such as Cockney English or
Southern drawl of America). Venetic was not like Latin or Greek, which
developed standards of both speaking and writing it. Latin eventually
was written more or less the same throughout the Roman Empire
because of standardization from widespread and constant use including
literature. In practice, there may have been different dialects in
different parts of the Roman Empire, but all following the written
standard. Venetic never reached the stage of a written standard. It
remained a quite adaptable phonetic writing.
Implications of the Dot –Palatalization Markers on How Venetic is
Transcribed to Roman Alphabet.
I follow the form employed in MLV
with modifications as described in the notes given under Figure
1.1 Because the dots now have a significance, I feel it is
important not to tamper with them. For example an .i. should not be rewritten as an h. Nor should a later h, be converted back to .i. either.
Leave the Venetic way of writing it, as is. These differences could
actually reflect, for example a shift from the ‘J’(=’Y’) sound of .i.
to a frontal ‘H” that can develop from increased palatalization in the
In the body of Venetic inscriptions we see the introduction of an
“H” character. With some words an initial v.i. represented with vh, and then in Roman alphabet as F. But this does not mean .i. = h. It may simply be that the dialect
shifted from originally a “VJ” sound written v.i. to saying “F” sound written vh . Leave it as it is written, and
don’t arbitrarily change vh to
v.i. or even to F.
Leave it as written. They could actually reflect small changes in
dialect, and they are not necessarily all equivalent.
In addition, I have a disagreement with the assumption that the Venetic
character that looks like an M,
be interpreted as an “SH” (š).
This character that looks like an M,
came with the Etruscan alphabet, so the Veneti
did not invent it. But, whoever invented it, it raises the question –
why is a character whose sound is in the S-family, written in a fashion
that resembles their M-character? Shouldn’t the “SH” character be
derived from the S-character? The following illustrates the
But perhaps the SH-character was indeed developed from the S-character.
The following shows how a rough M-like character can be formed by
combining the I- and S-characters, tilting the S a little. We have
presented it right to left because it was common for Etruscan/Veneti
writing to flow from right to left.
If this theory is correct then the sound represented by the M-like
character is not “SH” as has been traditionally assumed but “ISS” (not
Estonian provides a good example of an intense emphasis of this
kind, that rarely occurs. It is in the word issand, an intensification of isand ‘fatherly entity’. The
emphasized form issand is
translated in the modern day as ‘lord, master’. This sound is not
palatalized, but is like in English hiss.
(by contast, the Venetic S with dots – .s.
– is palatalized as in English issue)
We note that in the Venetic inscriptions the M-like character is also
rare, and the most common location is found in apparently votive texts,
in a word in front of a seeming goddess “reitia” or “trumusia” which
academics have interpreted as Venetic deities. We saw it
for example in the inscription given above. Read left to right we
rewrite it in Roman alphabet as $(=M)a.i.nate.i.
If the M-like character is to be taken as an ISS-sound (as in English hiss), it would parallel the
Estonian traditions of saying ‘Lord’ or ‘Master’ to a lordly figure,
using issand. We will
discuss this later in interpreting (M)a.i.nate.i.
To conclude, the M-like character is essentially a very strong
plain S with a faint I at front. But the faint I at front probably
disappeared with the rise in vowel tone, which caused high vowels to
disappear into H’s or sound breaks. ISSA- >
SSA- The upward shift of tone is discussed next.
Summary: two forms of “SH” as
presented in this study:
.s. - palatalized as in
English issue or Estonian uss (‘snake’)
$ (Venetic M) - NON-palatalized as in English hiss or Estonian issand
We have already shown in this chapter on the phonetics of Venetic, some
many strange coincidences in terms palatalizations in Venetic also
appearing in Estonian words, about the addition of H for the
Estonian parallel when dots surround a consonant, about the addition of
a J (=Y) in the Estonian and Livonian parallel when dots surround an
initial vowel, and more.
In the final results we discovered remarkable parallels between
some Venetic words and Estonian, especially in regards to how Estonian
words wrote the locations where the Venetic had dots.
The following table illustrates some Estonian words that are
quite parallel to Venetic words, with the Estonian showing an H, in
locations where the Venetic shows dots.
This repetition of the same pattern is very revealing, and evidence
that by the laws of probability these are not likely to be pure
Earlier I gave some examples of how palatalization could introduce
the J sound (=Y) where otherwise it was too weak to palatalize. Such as
between highly palatalized Livonian and mildly palatalized Estonian.
I have bolded the H or J on the Estonian side.
are a few examples. There are others within the inscriptions
studied. Estonian does not mark its normal palatalizations.
But if Estonian were written out phonetically we would find the more
common palatalization parallels too . See examples in Table 5.3
where the Estonian palatalizations are not marked, but we point them
out by underlining the letter.
Palatalization can be viewed as pushing sounds upward with the
tongue. We have already noted that the ancient northern language called
Suebic did it as well. This upward shifting of sounds would be a
dialectic event, much like someone in English saying “HIV EH HIPPY
DEY!” for “have a happy day!” These observations of higher vowels
relative to Estonian words that appear similar, of course must be done
in conjunction with interpreting the sentences, since we also have to
ascertain the meanings of our words first, before we look for parallels
in known languages, as discussed in the next chapter.
How Venetic Sounded
In looking at examples of dots in Venetic as indicators of
palatalization, stød, and other effects caused by the forward tongue,
we must first find word boundaries in order to relate the Venetic
text to our familiar modern word-boundary writing. It is important for
us to know the word boundaries, otherwise we cannot even discover
similar palatalization in known languages like Livonian or Estonian
since palatalization is dependent on location in a word.
Once we have identified the words, we can then observe other
languages for examples of the sounds occurring at the location of the
dots. To use an example, let us assume we have separated an inscription
into words as follows vda.n. vo.l.tii
mno.s. dona.s.to ke la.g.s.to
Let us explore how it sounds, when we intepret the sound modifications
created by the dots. While the sounds can be found in various
languages, we will refer mostly to Estonian for no other reason than
that is is familiar to me.
The first word vda.n. shows
a palatalization of N at the end. Can we find such palatalization of N
in the final position in Estonian? Yes, for example in vann
‘bath’. By comparison – for demonstration of an example other
languages – English does not have such palatalization in a final
position. French on the other hand has this, as in gagne.
Next, the word vo.l.tii shows
palatalization at LT
that exists in Estonian. For example tuld
‘fire (Partitive)’. English for example does not have it. Its LT is not palatalized.
Next we see .s. in mno.s. Does Estonian have
palatalization situations for a final s? Yes, it occurs. Estonian uss ‘snake’. This palatalization of
a final S is not very common in languages.
Next we have the .s. inside,
preceding a T, in dona.s.to and
la.g.s.to. Once again Estonian
provides a good sound parallel in hästi ‘well’.
Next we see .g. in la.g.s.to.
This presents the dots on a silent consonant, which in actual speech,
probably presents itself as stød as described above, and which written
in Livonian fashion would appear as LA’GSTO but, - to follow the
patterns described here with words like le’t vs leht –
with the Estonian adding the H (or Livonian losing the H for a stød)
would if expressed in Estonian, sound like LAHGSTO perhaps somewhat
like Estonian says lahkust
These examples and others show that Estonian has phonetics that
parallels the phonetics indicated by the dots. Here are my rough
suggestions (representing the sounds with Latin and English phonetics)
Table 5.4 SUGGESTED SOUNDS WHEN DOTS ADDED
(The first interpretation if at
of syllable and second if
*invented English representations to mimic sound not naturally in
= “A” as in “father”
e =”E” as in “essence”
i =“I” as in “illness”
o= “O” as in “old”
u=”U” as in “moon”
l= “L” as in “land”
s= “S” as in “see”
$= “ISS” as in “hiss”
r= “R” as in “are”
m= “M” as in “me”
n= “N” as in “no
v= “V” as in “very”
t= “T” as in “too”
p=”P” as in “pat”
k=”K” as in “cut”
d= “D” as in “do”
h= “H” as in “hold”
b= “B” as in “bat”
g= “G” as in “got”
= “JA” “AH” as in “cough”, “ahk”*
.e. = “JE” “EH, as in
.i. = “J”(=”Y”) as in
.o. = “JO” “OH” as
in “joh”* “oh”
.u. = “JU” “UH” as
in “you”, “pooh”
.l.= “LJH”, “HL” as in
.s.= “SJH” , “HS”, as in
Dotted one not found (?)
.r.= “RJH”, “HR”, as in
.v.= “VJH”, “HV” as in
.t.= “TJH”, “HT”, as in
.p.= “PJH”, “HP” as in
.k.=”KJH”, “HK” as in
.d.= “DJH”, “HD” as in
No dotted - h is derived from .i.
.b.= “BJH”, “HB” as in
.g.= “GJH”, “HG” as in
|These are relatively accurate Venetic
existed into the beginning of Roman alphabet use
and there exists Venetic
written in the Roman alphabet
|These are rough guesses. It is possiblefor linguistics to study the final resultsmore carefully and with additionalComparisons with Danish andLivonian discover precise phonetic rules.
If we are searching for a known language that is related to Venetic,
then a study to find parallels to palatalization, will be very
Linguistics also says that grammar changes more slowly than words.
This is understandable – grammar is like the structure of a building.
While one can change the cladding of a building easily, it is difficult
to change the structure itself. But at this stage we have not
identified any grammar which we can compare against the grammar of a
known language. We will do it later.
The survival of phonetic and grammatical features should be
stronger than lexical features. The reality is that words can be easily
changed during usage, or borrowed from other languages, and a language
can become filled with foreign words. But grammar – the structure of
the language – cannot be borrowed.
Phonetics is analogous to accent. It is preserved unconsciously and
is unconsciously transferred to another language. Others percieve it as
a ‘foreign accent’. For example immigrants to North America will speak
English with an accent, and if they maintain a community among
themselves in which they preserve their original language, they may
continue to speak with that accent for several generations.
Danish, I believe represents the preservation of an accent from their
previous language, that was carried over when the people adopted
Germanic language; and from that we can conclude that the original
language of the Jutland Peninsula was just as palatalized as Danish.
Amazingly, with the dots as phonetic markers we can reasonably
easily reproduce how the language sounded. The reader, with reference
to the sounds in Danish or Livonian, can explore how Venetic actually
sounded. It is a side project best done in a sound medium rather than
in written form
5.5 Conclusions: An Efficient
Alternative Writing System
Past thinking about the dots has
ranged from ignoring them and considering them as decorative, to
viewing them as a syllabic punctuation with mysterious rules requiring
scribes to be educated to their use. But both these extremes are
ridiculous. There are many Venetic inscriptions on ordinary objects
obviously not requiring any priestly scribe.
The Venetic scheme of using dots, is an
ingenious way of writing a language phonetically while using only one
phonetic marker – a dot.
And it was simple. The writer
would have become accustomed to simply throw in a dot wherever the
speech pushed the tongue up for whatever reason. This gives us our
required simplicity that permitted the dots to be understood and used
by anyone. It was so simple and intuitive that there is no evidence of
any Venetic writing copying the late Etruscan or early Roman use of
word boundaries, until Roman times.
While many inscriptions were made
formally for memorials and urns, the body of inscriptions offers some
evidence of ordinary people writing texts when at a sanctuary to the
Goddess, or writing text on round river stones, or in some examples on
everyday objects like a stick or hunting horn. Venetic writing was not
anything restricted to a priestly class. Anyone could master it
quickly, and did. One simply sounded out one’s sentence and wrote down
the letters, adding dots whenever the tongue pressed up to the palate,
for whatever reason.
e f e r e n c e s
Andres Pääbo, 2002-2014,
THE VENETIC LANGUAGE An Ancient
Language from a New Perspective: FINAL*
downloadable at www.paabo.ca: http://www.paabo.ca/uirala/ veneti/venetimenu.html
or at academia.edu
S. Berneco, 2003
, A Closer
Look at Livonian Stød,
Fenno-Ugristica 25, Tartu.
, World Prehistory
, Cambridge Univ
LLV = G.B. Pellegrini & A.L.
Prosdocimi, 1964 La Lingua
MLV = M. Lejeune, 1974
. Manuel de la Langue Vénète,
r t h e r S t u d i e s
FOR MORE VENETIC
LANGUAGE DOCUMENTS AND PDF DOCUMENTS SEE
Author's Page at Academia.edu
Author's website page on Venetic