CONSIDERATIONS ON THE TARTESSIAN SCRIPT

by Rainer Ehrhardt September 20th, 2011

Acknowledgements The author would hereby like to express his gratitude to Charles G. Häberl for his feedback and support.

Table of Contents: 1. Introduction 2. On the Tartessian Writing System 2.1 Origin of Tartessian Writing System 2.2 Unambiguous Tartessian Characters 2.3 Ambiguous Tartessian Characters 2.4 Conclusion on the Writing System 3. On the Phonology of Tartessian 3.1 Vowels 3.2 Semi-Vowels 3.3 Vowel Clusters 3.4 Sibilants 3.5 Plosives 3.6 Liquids 3.7 The "Heth" letter 3.8 Conclusion on Phonology 4. On the Classification of Tartessian 5. Conclusion 4 4 4 4 5 10 11 12 12 12 13 13 14 14 14 15 18

1. Introduction The purpose of this document is to provide a new interpretation of the socalled "Tartessian" inscriptions. The term "Tartessian" in general applies to both the city or kingdom of Tartessos and to the so-called "Tartessian" or Southwestern Paleohispanic inscriptions (generally dated to approximately the 7th through 5th centuries BC), even though historically speaking it is not proven that the city/kingdom and the scripture have any connection. Most of these inscriptions have been found in the Algarve region of southern Portugal or western Andalusia in Spain. In contrast, the archaeological culture of Tartessos, as well as the Turdetani tribe (which in Roman times was considered to be the descendants of the ancient Tartessians, Strabo) were centered around the Guadalquivir river region in Andalusia, which is approximately 250 kilometers apart. Since the name "Tartessian" has been established as a geographic designation, it will be used for both the inscriptions and the language in this document. 2. On the Tartessian Writing System 2.1 Origin of the Tartessian writing system The most likely origin of the Tartessian script is the Phoenician script. It is documented that the Phoenicians were present on the Iberian peninsula in the earliest parts of the 1st millennium BC. The founding of Gadir (modernday Cadiz) is just one testament of said presence. By the time the Phoenicians set foot on the peninsula, their writing system was already established. The only other source writing system considered in depth thus far is the Greek alphabet. The fact that the Greeks arrived on the peninsula centuries later than the Phoenicians did, however, is an argument against this interpretation. In addition, the Greek settlements were located in a completely different part of the peninsula (modern-day Catalonia and Valencian Country). Having said this, influence of the Greek alphabet must be assumed to be responsible for the modifications that the later writing systems of the Iberians and Celtiberians had compared to the original Tartessian writing system. 2.2 Unambiguous Tartessian Characters One of the key problems with the Tartessian script is that it cannot be read with any reliability. Any attempt to decipher the language itself would appear to be futile as long as there are characters in the script which are ambiguous or entirely unknown as to their meaning. Below (tables 1 and 2) are tables of those characters in the script that are distinctive in their identification. This is achieved either by overt similarity with Phoenician characters, similarity with Northeastern Iberian characters, their position before vowels in the Tartessian script, or a combination of these factors.

A

E

I

O
(modified Aleph?)

U

G/K before vowel B/P before vowel D/T before vowel

(Aleph)

(Gimmel)
Ga/Ka* in SE/NE-Iberian

Α c

(Ayin)

(Kaph)
Ge/Ke* in SE/NE-Iberian

Ο Κ

(Yodh)

(Qoph)
Gi/Ki in SE-Iberian

Ι Ϙ

ω K

(Waw)

Υ

Go/Ko in SE/NE-Iberian

(Beth)

Φ

Bu in NE-Iberian

(Taw)
Da/Ta in NE-Iberian

Χ

(Teth)
De/Te in NE-Iberian

Θ

Π δ

(Daleth)
Du/Tu in NE-Iberian

Δ

(modified Daleth)

Table 1: Vowels and semi-syllabic characters in the Tartessian script that are consensual in their values. Letters marked with an asterisk (*) have a modified shape in the northeastern Iberian scripts, but nonetheless the same value.

L

N

R

S

Š

(Lamedh)
L in SE-Iberian

Λ

(Nun)
N in SE/NE-Iberian

Ν

(Resh)
R in SE-Iberian

Ρ

(Samekh)
S in SE-Iberian

Ξ

(Shin)
Š in SE/NE-Iberian

Σ

Table 2: consensual non-plosive consonants in the Tartessian script.

As is demonstrated in tables 1 and 2, many letters in the script are unambiguous in their value. The only noteworthy exceptions of the above are Bo/Po and Di/Ti, which have the functions of Bu and De/Te in the Northeastern-Iberian scripts, respectively. However, the value has to be Bo/Po and Di/Ti in Tartessian because the letters are without exception written before "O" and "I", respectively. This leaves a number of ambiguous characters which shall be addressed in the next chapter. 2.3 Ambiguous Tartessian Characters Ba/Pa Both the letters Ga/Ka and Da/Ta are identified, it would be expected that Ba/Pa should be easily identifiable. The question which letter in the Tartessian script represents Ba/Pa remains surprisingly problematic. However, as it turns out there are two characters in the Tartessian script that are written before A, one seemingly derived from Phoenician "He", the

other is a serpentine-shaped character that as a variation of it also exists as a zig-zag shape (compare table 3). The Northeastern Iberian scripts are of no help here, because it would be possible to end up with the shape of Ba (a plain vertical stroke) from both Tartessian characters:

Ε
Tartessian "He"shaped letter

B
"Ba" in NE-Iberian

Μs
Tartessian serpentine letter, including its zigzag variant

Table 3: Possible characters for Ba/Pa in Tartessian.

What offers itself as a possible solution here is the fact that both the Heshaped and the Serpentine letter (or more precisely its zig-zag variant, compare table 3) exists also in the Alphabet of Espanca. It should be noted that the zigzag character is placed there at the position of the letter "Mem" of the Phoenician alphabet. In contrast, the "He"-shaped letter is not at the position that it would be expected in the Phoencian alphabet, and is instead placed as an ex-novo character at the rear part of the alphabet (compare Valerio 2008). It is unknown what kind of connection the Alphabet of Espanca had to the Tartessian inscriptions since it is undated. The alphabet features innovations that are found in the later Paleohispanic scripts, but are absent in Tartessian. It is thus not a logical assumption to make that the Espanca alphabet is older than the Tartessian inscriptions. In addition, a He-shaped letter also exists in the Southeastern Iberian inscription of Mogente, Valencia, where Rodriguez assigns it the value "Be". As a closing argument, evidence against the Serpentine letter may come from the Tartessian inscriptions themselves: in addition to before A, the letter also appears in a few inscriptions before letters other than A, including before E (J.7.8) and even before another consonant (J.52.1). The most plausible conclusion is that the "He"-letter was indeed "B"/"P" before A, whereas the value of /m/ is tentatively assigned to the Serpentine/Zigzag character.

Β
Bi/Pi The character Β, which superficially bears resemblance with the Runic letter "Tiwaz" or /t/ is the most likely candidate for "Bi"/"Pi". However, it is not without controversy because it is not always written before "I": the letter appears in front of A and E in the stelae of Mestras (J.10.1). Valerio (2008) identifies this sign as a possible fricative, pinpointing to a letter of similar shape in the Anatolian hieroglyphs - a connection that would seem unlikely given the geographic and historic distances. However, it should be noted

that a sign of this shape not only appears in Tartessian, but also in the Southern Iberian inscription of Mogente and more importantly in the northern Paleohispanic scripts, where it has the value /u/ or /w/ assigned to it. This is for example visualized in the inscription Botorrita III 1.23 and 3.21 with the Celtiberian surname "TEIUANTIKUM" (ie. "Deiwantikum", from Proto-Celtic *Deiwos, "god"). As a result, it can be speculated that a change in usage in the Iberian writing systems from from /b/ towards /w/ and /u/ in the northern Paleohispanic scripts is more likely than from a third fricative character. This in turn suggests that the function of Bi/Pi (or more accurately B or P before I) in Tartessian is not unlikely.

γ
Bu/Pu or Gu/Ku The letter above is consistently known in Tartessian to be located before U (including for instance the inscription of Mesas do Castelinho), but its exact value is unclear as is visualized in table 4.

ΓK
Tartessian/Iberian "Go/Ko"

γ
Tartessian "Bu/Pu" or "Gu/Ku"

χ
NE-Iberian "Bo"

Table 4: The Tartessian Bu/Pu or Gu/Ku letter in comparison.

It is entirely plausible for the letter to be a modified version of Go/Ko (by turning it by ninety degrees and adding an additional vertical stroke), but it is equally possible that it is a separate, unique character that was the basis of the letter "Bo" in Northeastern Iberian (by turning it by ninety degrees and removing the top and bottom strokes). It was already established earlier that the Tartessian letter Bo/Po has its value changed to Bu in NEIberian, and thus it could be argued that the letters Bo and Bu were swapped in Iberian. Both variants of interpretation for the letter seem plausible, and at this point it is impossible to decide which of the two interpretations is the correct one. Therefore, the bottom line regrettably has to remain that one cannot resolve this issue with any certainty, which constitutes one of the core obstacles in the decipherment of the language.

ηΗħĦ
The Heth-Shaped Letter This letter, which resembles the Phoenician letter "Heth" is most problematic, mainly because of its considerable degree of writing varieties.

The other problematic issue is that it can variably be found in front of every vowel except I. Most interpretations of the Tartessian script (compare Untermann, Rodriguez) consider this letter to hold the value "D/T before E", or that the letter variably yields "D/T before A/E" and "B/P before O/ U" (Rodriguez). The letter appears also in the Southeastern Iberian inscription (ostensibly as "De/Te", according to Rodriguez). The alternative interpretation, given that the Heth-letter also appears in front of A, O and U, is that this wasn't actually a plosive consonant at all, but instead had a fricative value. It is not likely at all that this really was /ħ/ like it presumably was in Phoenician, however. Still, in that case one is left to explain how the character yields De/Te in the (at least Southeastern) Iberian script. If the letter really was "D/T" in Tartessian, one must ask why the apparent redundancy was developed, given how the Tartessian script possessed also letters of D/T before A,O,U (see Table 1 for comparison). Finally, it should be added that the Heth-shaped letter does also occur in the alphabet of Espanca, at the position of an ex-novo character in the latter part of the alphabet, and not at the position of Heth.

đĐ
De/Te This letter appears to be a far more likely candidate for Tartessian De/Te than the Heth-shaped letter. Specifically, although much rarer than the Heth-shaped character, it consistently (compare stelae J.9.1 and J.10.1) appears before the vowel E. Stelae of Alcoutim (J.9.1) *ANANUA?MANETENA* *ΑΝΟđΟΝΑΜ8ΑΥΝΑΝΑ* Staelae of Mestras (J.10.1) [...] OPERTEŔI [...] [...] ΙΖΟĐΡΟΒΩ [...] It is also conceivable to end up with this letter by cutting "De/Te" in half. Indeed, if the Phoenician letters Taw, Teth and Daleth yielded Da/Ta, Di/Ti and Du/Tu, it would make sense for De/Te and Do/To to be variants of Di/Ti and Du/Tu, respectively, simply because E/I and O/U are both front and back vowels, respectively (compare Valerio 2008).

Ζ
Ŕ or Z This is an ex-novo character that is generally thought to represent a second rhotic sound. The identification of such mainly comes from the

Southeastern Iberian script, which appears to use a modified variant (see table 5) of this Tartessian letter to present the second Rhotic sound which is known to have existed in the Iberian language (compare table 5).

Ζ
Tartessian Ŕ (common)
Table 5: The Tartessian Ŕ in comparison.

ζ
SE-Iberian Ŕ

Ϲ
Tartessian Ŕ (rare variant)

However, it should be emphasized that the use of a second rhotic character in Tartessian is by no means certain from this. It is entirely conceivable that this character instead was a third sibilant or possible even an affricate in Tartessian. This possibility can be derived from the fact that in some inscriptions (J.17.2 and J.17.3), the Ŕ-character instead of its normal shape is actually written in the variant (see table 5), which might be derived from the Phoenician letter Zayin by turning it by 90 degrees. The identification that this Zayin-shaped character really is the same as "Ŕ" comes from the fact that in both inscriptions, the letter explicitly occurs in the frequently occurring Tartessian word "NAŔKENTI": Ourique III (J.17.3)

ΟΚϹΑΝΟ

ENAŔKE

Ourique IV (J.17.2) [...] MARE NAŔKENTI ΙΘΝΟΚϹΑΝΟΡΑs
[...]
 One major problem is that this letter does not occur in the alphabet of Espanca (but neither does the letter Resh), so it is impossible to say based on the available data, which of the two interpretations actually applies, but due to the usage in Iberian, it should be noted that the possibility of a second rhotic character certainly remains the more likely one.

Ϡ
Mem or Tsadi before U This character has, so far, remained largely unaddressed even though it appears in several inscriptions. Its shape is superficially resembling the Phoenician letter Mem, and it consistently appears before the vowel U. The existence of this character does present a paradox, since there is already a different character that appears to be derived from the Phoenician Mem. Valerio (2008) suggests a graphic variant of Σ
 for this character, however the fact that it always appears before υ
and always in a similar context

suggests it might have altogether different function. Stelae of Abóbada I (J 12.1) [...] NAŔKENTIMUMAĦ [...] [...] hΑΜΥϠΙΘΝΟΚΖΑΝ
[...]

Stelae of Ameixial I (J 7.8) [...] NAŔKENEMUNTUREAIOMA ΑΜΩΙΑΟΡΥΔΝΥϠΟΝΟΚΖΑΝ[...] One possibility to be considered is that it represented a variant of /m/ before /u/. Another possibility that cannot be discounted out of hand is that the letter is actually derived from Phoenician Tsadi. If this is the case, the letter might alternatively represent an affricate, such as /ts/. An argument in favour of this is that other Phoenician characters (Aleph, Mem, Shin) are rotated by 90 or 180 degrees. Other problematic signs The Tartessian inscriptions feature a number of other problematic signs, many which are often just featured in one inscription. Five of these will be discussed as follows:

Τ
J.1.1 Before Ω

ñ
J.1.1 Before Α

8
J.9.1 Before Μ

!
J.10.1 Before ι

ο
J.18.1 Vowel?

Τ is very likely to be a variant of Do/To, as it appears in front of /o/ in the inscription J.1.1. Specifically it can be achieved by turning δ upside down. Also, both Bo/Po and Go/Ko are ordinarily featured in the inscription, thereby leaving Do/To as the most likely explanation. ñ, which appears in the same inscription, is likely an error, and is either supposed to be ν or Ζ. For the other characters, no purposeful interpretation can be given. Valerio (2008) suggests that ! is the letter presenting Bi/Pi (as opposed to Β ), however given how this sign only appears only in this one inscription, this appears unlikely. ο may be a variant of /e/. 2.4 CONCLUSION ON THE WRITING SYSTEM With the descriptions made above, it is possible to formulate a new interpretation of the Tartessian script which is largely complete in regard for the semi-syllabic characters, with exception of the letter for Bu/Pu (or Gu/Ku). Although it is not entirely clear given the problematic letters described earlier, one can nonetheless assume this to be the complete setup of the script. If that is the case, the Tartessian script would consist of a set of 28 symbols. This would fall perfectly in line with what appears to be a redundant alphabet.

What should be added in regard for the origins of the script is the observation that apparently all Phoenician letters are used except Zayin (likely), Pe and Tsadi (possibly). From the syllabic (or semi-syllabic) nature of the script it is clear that most of the characters have not the same use that they have in Phoenician. A E I O
(modified Aleph?)

U

G/K before vowel B/P before vowel D/T before vowel

(Aleph)

(Gimmel)
Ga/Ka* in SE/NE-Iberian

Α c Ε Χ

(Ayin)

(Kaph)
Ge/Ke* in SE/NE-Iberian

Ο Κ

(Yodh)

(Qoph)
Gi/Ki in SE-Iberian

Ι Ϙ Β

ω KΓ Π

(Waw)

Υ γ

Go/Ko in SE/NE-Iberian

alternatively Bu/Pu Unknown, or see above

(He)
Be? in SE-Iberian

(Beth)

Φ

U in NE-Iberian

Bu in NE-Iberian

đĐ
(modified Teth)

(Taw)
Da/Ta in NE-Iberian

(Teth)

Θ Τδ Δ
(modified Daleth)

(Daleth)
Du/Tu in NE-Iberian

De/Te in NE-Iberian

Table 5: Completed table of Tartessian vowels and stop consonants, based on the discussion above.

L

N

R

Ŕ

(Lamedh)
L in SE-Iberian

Λ
S

(Nun)
N in SE/NE-Iberian

Ν
Š

(Resh)
R in SE-Iberian

Ρ

second Rhotic character (Ŕ in SE-Iberian)

ΖϹ
M
(Mem)

Ħ?
(Heth)
before A,E,O,U De/Te in SE-Iberian

(Samekh)
S in SE-Iberian

Ξ

(Shin)
Š in SE/NE-Iberian

Σ

ηΗ

ΜsϠ

Table 6: Completed table of non-plosive consonants in the Tartessian script.

3. On the Phonology of Tartessian If the model derived in chapter 2 is assumed to be largely accurate, it is possible to make statements on the phonology of the Tartessian language. Even if certain letters remain ambiguous, it is nonetheless possible to make

some general conclusions on the phonology of the language used in the inscriptions. These will be discussed in the following chapters. 3.1 Vowels Front Close Central Back

Ι
/i/

Υ ω
/o/

/u/

Mid

Ο
/e/

Open

Α
/a/

Table 7: tentative interpretation of the Tartessian vowels

While at first glance, this would seem compatible with that an IndoEuropean language (such as the Celtic languages), but it should be pointed out that the AEIOU vowel system is by no means exclusive to the IndoEuropean languages, and for instance can be also found in Basque and Iberian. 3.2 Semi-Vowels It is possible that the Tartessian script did use the letters ι and υ not only for the vowels /i/ and /u/, but also for semi-vowels /j/ and /w/. Such a usage is known from the Celtiberian inscriptions (compare chapter 2.3). There are several examples in Tartessian inscriptions which might be cases of such semi-vowels. Stelae of Ameixial I (J 7.8) [...] NAŔKENEMUNTUREAJOMA ΑΜΩΙΑΟΡΥΔΝΥϠΟΝΟΚΖΑΝ[...] Stelae of Cerros dos Enforscados (J.22.1) WARĦOIIR SARUNEEA ΑΟΟΝΥΡΑΞΡΙΙΩħΡΑΥ ΙΙΝΟΚΖΑΝ
ΟΡΑΜ MARE NAŔKENII 3.3 Vowel Clusters One aspect that requires a closer look in Tartessian is the occurrence of vowel clusters, in particular digraphs, i.e. AA, EE, II, OO and UU. These occur very frequently. For instance, "II" occurs four times in the inscription J.1.1 (Fonte Velha). The actual interpretation of these is uncertain. One

explanation for the clusters II and UU is that they represent the combination of a vowel and a semi-vowel, ie JI or WU. However, this leaves the clusters AA, EE and OO unexplained and must be considered unlikely for this reason. A far more likely interpretation is that these clusters represent vowel length, perhaps long vowels, ie. the sounds aː, eː, iː, oː and uː, respectively. This, however is not the only possible interpretation here. Specifically, it should be noted that this convention of vowel duplication, assuming it was really used for expressing vowel length, is not found in any of the later Paleohispanic scripts, which raises the question why this innovation was dropped by the Iberians and Celtiberians. One possibility is that the Iberian language made no meaningful distinction between short and long vowels. Alternatively, this suggests the possibility that these vowel duplications in Tartessian did in fact not express vowel length, but had an entirely different function, such as the indication of a hiatus between the vowels. In this case, one can conceive Tartessian to have sounded akin to Polynesian languages, such as Hawaiian. To demonstrate this, the word "PEĦASIIOONII" (Bensanfrim, J.1.1) would be rendered as "PEĦASIʾIOʾONIʾI". 3.4 Sibilants The Tartessian writing system possesses two sibilants Ξ and Σ, derived from the Phoenician letters Samekh and Shin, respectively. In Phoenician, these letters represent /s/ and /ʃ/, however the value of these sibilants in Tartessian is unknown. It is known that the Southeastern Iberian writing system uses the same letters, and that the Northern Paleohispanic writing systems also make use of two sibilants, although with changed appearance. Because it is known that Σ represents /s/ in Celtiberian, it is impossible to tell which value the sibilant letters had in Tartessian. The only conclusion that can be made with certainty is that they represented two distinct sibilants in Tartessian. 3.5 Plosives A unique feature about all the Paleohispanic writing system is the treatment of plosives as a series of syllabic characters. Looking at the perspective of their origin, it makes more sense to regard these signs as redundant letters of an alphabet, basically using different signs depending on the vowel value following it. In the context of the later Paleohispanic scripts, it makes more sense to think of them as a redundant syllabics, where the vowel value is redundantly written behind it. In these later scripts, we are dealing with three series of signs (labial, coronal, dorsal) that represent plosive sounds. It should however be considered that this rigid system as we witness it in the later Paleohispanic scripts was not necessarily conceived as such in Tartessian. One possibility that will be elaborated on here is that the syllabic characters had no vowel value of their own if followed by the corresponding vowel, but gained a CV value if followed by a non-corresponding vowel. This system would for instance

explain cases like the occurrence of Β
in J.10.1. Staelae of Mestras (J.10.1) (read right to left)

ΟΣΙΘΑcΑΒΙΝΩ [...] [...] ΙΖΟĐΡΟΒΩ

[...] ONIPiAKATIŠE OPiETEŔI [...]

In any case, it stands to reason that the Tartessian language did not make any distinction between voiced and unvoiced plosives, and that the plosives were likely either all voiced (b, d, g) or unvoiced (p, t, k). Comparable languages where such an inventory is found would be Etruscan and Hurrian, even though it should be added that Etruscan is a poor comparison because the Etruscan language did make a distinction between unaspirated and aspirated non-voiced plosives. 3.6 Liquids Tartessian possessed a lateral sound (represented by λ) and a rhotic sound (represented by ρ ). In addition, it also possessed the letter Ζ which likely represents a third liquid, which will be addressed in detail in chapter 4. The letter most often appears in the frequently-occurring Tartessian word "Naŕke-". 3.7 The "Heth" Letter This letter, which resembles the Phoenician letter "Heth" is very problematic because of its great variability, and also because it appears throughout the Tartessian inscriptions before every vowel except /i/. In most interpretations of the Tartessian script (compare Untermann, Rodriguez), this letter is considered to hold the value /d/ or /t/ before /e/, or even that the letter has some kind of a "joker" function, variably yielding /d/ or /t/ before /a/ or /e/, and /b/ or /p/ before /o/ or /u/. The first interpretation has also been suggested for the Heth-shaped letter found in the Southeastern Iberian inscription of Mogente. The alternative interpretation is that this wasn't a plosive consonant at all, but instead might have beared a fricative value, much like the letter in Phoenician from which it was derived. It is unlikely that this really was /ħ/ like it presumed to have been in Phoenician, because this sound is crosslinguistically rare outside of the Semitic languages. In any case, one still has to explain how the character yields De/Te in the Southeastern Iberian script. And if the letter really had the value "D/T" in Tartessian, one must ask why the apparent redundancy, given how the Tartessian script also possessed other letters for D/T before A,O,U (see Table 1 for comparison). Thus there is the possibility that the letter represented a phoneme not found in either Phoenician or Iberian, one which had the additional constraint that it could not appear before /i/ in Tartessian. 3.8 Conclusion on Phonology One issue that can be concluded regarding the Tartessian language is that

it apparently had a fairly small sound inventory. If we compare the inventory of the Tartessian script with that of the Phoenician script, it is clear that the innovations of the Tartessian script can be only explained by a very different and also sizably smaller phonemic inventory. Labials Nasals Plosives Approx. Fricatives Liquids Coronals Dorsals Unknown

Μs
/m/

Ν
/n/

Ϡ
/m/? /ts/?

ΕΦΒΠ?
/b/ or /p/

ΧđΘδΔ
/d/ or /t/

cΚϘK?
/g/ or /k/

Υ
/w/

Ι
/j/

Ξ
/s/

Σ
/š/

ηΗħĦ
/ħ/?

Λ
/l/

Ρ
/r/

Ζ
/ŕ/

Table 8: tentative interpretation of the Tartessian consonants

4. On the classification of the Tartessian language Koch (2009) classifies Tartessian as a Celtic language, however multiple arguments can be made to unambiguously demonstrate that the Tartessian language was not a Celtic or otherwise Indo-European language. In addition, arguments can be made to argue that Tartessian was also unrelated to the other non-Indo-European languages of the Iberian peninsula. No distinction between voiced and unvoiced plosives. This feature of the Tartessian language must be assumed since the writing system does not distinguish between voiced and unvoiced stop consonants, whereas the origin script (the Phoenician alphabet) does, as do the later languages that use Paleohispanic scripts (Iberian and Celtiberian). Hence, the innovation in the Tartessian script to not distinguish between voiced and unvoiced plosives really only makes sense if the language for which the script was devised did not make such a distinction. In contrast, although the Proto-Indo-European phoneme /p/ is famously lost in Proto-Celtic, all of the Celtic languages distinguished between voiced and unvoiced stop consonants. A solution is that one conceives a language that completely merges voiced and unvoiced series, a feature not found in any Celtic language. As an alternative, one could assume that the Tartessian script was devised for another, even earlier language, but this is a possibility that can be excluded by the fact that the Tartessian script is the oldest paleohispanic script. Furthermore, it should be pointed out that for the same reasons, a connection between Tartessian and the Iberian language (as well as Basque) would seem equally unlikely, since these languages, just like the Celtic languages, distinguish between voiced and unvoiced plosives.

Two rhotic sounds. The Tartessian script possesses two rhotic letters, one (transliterated as R) is derived from the Phoenician letter Resh, the other appears to be an exnovo creation (transliterated as Ŕ) which is also found in the southern Iberian script used in the inscription of Mogente. Since the Phoenician language possessed only one Rhotic sound/letter, this is an innovation that only seems sensible if the Tartessian language distinguished between two different Rhotic sounds. In contrast, although some of the modern Celtic languages possess more than one Rhotic sound, it is clear that these are modern innovations which correspond to one Rhotic sound which is found in Proto-Celtic. In particular, the Celtiberian language should be mentioned here, since it was the only Celtic language that was actually written with a Paleohispanic script, and it evidently used only one of the two available rhotic letters. While this decisively excludes the identification of Tartessian as a Celtic language, the possibility of a relationship with Iberian or Basque cannot be dismissed without further considerations. Specifically, the correspondence of the two rhotic sounds in Tartessian with those in Iberian and/or Basque would imply a genetic relationship of some sort with either of the languages. Low consonant cluster fequency. One distinct feature of the Tartessian language which accounts for many of the unique features of the writing system is the low frequency of consonant clusters, in particular because certain consonant clusters are not permitted in Tartessian. It would appear that plosives always had to be followed by vowels in Tartessian. As observed by Valerio (2008), the Iberians and Celtiberians could only improperly represent their languages with a Paleohispanic writing system. This can be demonstrated clearly by the treatment of the frequently-occurring element "-briga" or "-brix" in Celtic town names. Names which include this element can be found across the Celtic-speaking world and are found in particular on the Iberian peninsula (Ptolemy's Geography). In Celtiberian orthography, this name element is usually rendered as "-birike" or "-bis", out of the fact that consonant clusters which were frequent in a Celtic language could not be rendered in a Paleohispanic script. Obstruent clusters were generally not permitted in Tartessian, with the exception of sibilants followed by plosives. Sonorant + obstruent clusters were permitted, as was a sonorant followed by the Heth-letter regardless of its function in Tartessian. What should be added is that otherwise /l/ on several occurs before the Heth-shaped letter: Mesas do Castelinho ΟΑΧΙΙΝΑΙΟ**ΥΙΛ [...] [...] LIU**EIANIʾITAE ANIRAKALĦETAO [...] [...] ΩΑΧΟηΛΑcΑΡΙΝΑ

Stelae of Fonte Velha (J.1.1) [...] IKALĦELOKO [...] [...] ΩKΩΛΟħΛΑcΙ [...] Stelae of Abóbada I (J.12.1) [...] EROMAREBATANELĦE [...] ΟρΩμαρΟεαΧανΟλhΟ In contrast to this, Ζ never appears before a Heth-shaped letter. Although plosives generally had to be followed by vowels, sibilants were actually permitted in Tartessian to appear at the end of a word, such as in the inscription of Almoroqui, Câceres (J.56.1) "AKoOLIOŠ NAŔKeENTiI". The Case for an Agglutinative Language The final argument which can be made against Tartessian as a Celtic or any kind of otherwise Indo-European language is the agglutinative nature that becomes apparent when taking a closer look at the way that frequently reoccurring Tartessian words such as "mare" and "naŕke-" are arranged. Stelae of Nobres (J.16.1)

ΙΘΝΟΚΖΑΝΑΜΟΡΑΜΟhΝΑΜΡΑΜΡΑΞΡΥΥ
UʾURSARMARMAN-ĦE MARE-MA NAŔKENTI Stelae of Fonte Velha (J.1.1)

ΙΙΣΙϘΑñΟ
ΖΑΝΟΝΑΝΩKΩΛΟħΛΑcΙΑΙΑΖΑΩΤΩΠΑΡΙΙΝΩΠΩKΩΛ ΙΙΝΩΩΙΙΞΑħΟΦΟΡΑΜΩΡΟħΙΙΩΠΩΛΩKΥ
LOKOPONIʾIRAPOTOARAJAIKAL-ĦE LOKONANENAŔEŔAKIŠIʾI UKOLOBOIʾI ĦERO MARE PEĦASIʾIOʾONIʾI Stelae Abóbada I (J.12.1)

hΑΜΥϠΙΘΝΟΚΖΑΝΛΟΙΞΥhΛΑΥΡΙ ΟρΩμαρΟεαΧανΟλhΟ
IRUALĦUSIEL NAŔKENTIMU-MA ĦERO MARE PATANEL-ĦE Stelae of Mealha Nova I (J.18.1)

ΙΘΝΟΚΖΑΝΑΜΟΡΑΜΟηΑΜΩΡΩδΡΟΚΑΝΑοΙΘΩΠ
POTIEANAKERTOROMA-ĦE MARE-MA NAŔKENTI Stelae of Fonte Santa I (J.16.3) ΣιΘιαρhΟραν
*
υ
*
α
***
ρΩμαρΟμαναΖκΟνΘι ŠITIARĦERAN * U * A *** RO MARE-MA NAŔKENTI It should be noted that due to the identical positioning in the stelae J.16.1, J.16.3 and J.18.1 the possibility arises that -ħe and -ma are grammatical particles (ostensibly identified as suffixes) in the Tartessian language.

Should this be taken as valid, it will be further possible to identify more Tartessian words. 5. Conclusion From the evidence described above one can conclude that the language found in the "Tartessian" inscriptions, regardless from their relationship with the city/kingdom of Tartessos was a highly distinct language that was nowhere closely related with any of the other languages found on the Iberian peninsula in Antiquity. From the perspective of decipherment, this poses a significant problem since one must face the reality of a language with a very small corpus with no known relatives. However, that being the case, the foremost course of action should be looking for scanty evidence provided by the language itself, rather than attempting to fit the language into the scheme of any other languages.

Literature Reference A. Guerra; 2009; Novidades no âmbito da epigrafia pré-romana do Sudoeste hispânico; Acta Paleohispanica X; Paleohispanica 9; pp. 323-338 J. T. Koch; 2009; A case for Tartessian as a Celtic language; Acta Paleohispanica X; Paleohispanica 9; pp. 339-351 Ptolemy; Geographike Hyphegesis J. Rodríguez Ramos; 2002; Las inscripciones sudlusitano-tartesias: su función, lengua y contexto socio-económico, Complutum 13; pp. 85-95. Strabo; Geographika J. Untermann, D. S. Wodtko; 1997; Monumenta Linguarum Hispanicarum 4, Wiesbaden. M. Valerio; 2008; Origin and development of the Paleohispanic scripts: the orthography and phonology of the Southwestern alphabet; Revista Portuguesa de Arqueologia; volume 11, numero 2; pp. 107-138

Rainer Ehrhardt Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn independent.academia.edu/RainerEhrhardt

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful