Friday, November 9, 2018


Fred C. Woudhuizen, Indo-Europeanization in the Mediterranean, with Particular Attention to the Fragmentary Languages. Papers in intercultural philosophy and transcontinental comparative studies, 16. Shikanda Press, 2018. Pp. 313. ISBN 9789078382287. $69.63.

Reviewed by José Miguel Jiménez Delgado, Universidad de Sevilla (

Version at BMCR home site

The search for the Indo-European homeland or Urheimat, the source of the expansion of the IE languages, has intrigued linguists and archaeologists since the 19th century. This book belongs to this tradition and consists of two parts. In the first one, the author gathers an impressive host of archaeological, linguistic and mythological data to try to demonstrate that IE languages came to the Mediterranean basin from the north in four main periods: dated 3100-2300, 2300-2000, 1720-1650 and 1200-700 BC respectively. The second part is a collection of texts written in different fragmentary languages, not all of them IE, including an analysis aimed to incorporate such languages within the IE phylum.

The first part (Part A: Indo-Europeanization in the Mediterranean) contains nine chapters. In the first eight, Woudhuizen advances his theory on the Indo-Europeanization of the north Mediterranean peninsulas (Iberia, Italy, Greece and Anatolia). This conjecture is fairly complex and is supported by both linguistic and archeological data; Woudhuizen sets up a new dialectal distribution of IE linguistic families, combining what he calls archaic or innovative features with the traditional division between centum / satem languages and geographical distribution. This results in five groups, spreading from West to East: (i) Balto-Slavic, Germanic, Celtic, Italic (conservative); (ii) Greek, Phrygian, Thracian, Armenian, Illyrian (innovative); (iii) Hittite, Luwian, Palaic (conservative); (iv) Iranian, Indic (innovative); (v) Tocharian (conservative).

According to the author, the chronological development of these groups can be traced across different phenomena: 1) the first phenomenon is the radiation of the labiovelar development (1200-700 BC), that is, the evolution of these sounds into labial or dental stops. This would have originated in Central Europe and would date the arrival of Celtiberian to the Iberian Peninsula at the beginning of the Bronze Age, before this development took place, whereas the appearance of Oscan and Umbrian in Italy would have occurred at the end of this period, after this linguistic change had been completed. 2) The dispersal of chariot-warfare from the Pontic-Caspian steppes would place the development of palato-velars, characteristic of satem languages, between 1720 and 1650 BC. However, this did not affect the north Mediterranean peninsulas nor the Balkans—according to Woudhuizen, Thracian is a centum language. 3) Another phenomenon is the arrival of immigrants (2300-2000 BC) in Greece, i.e. Phrygians and Thracians—Woudhuizen believes the Greek language to have arrived later, c. 1600 BC. In Western Anatolia migrants arrived from the Balkans, i.e. the Luwians; in Eastern Anatolia from beyond the Caucasus, i.e. the Hittites. 4) Finally, the first arrival of IE immigrants in the Mediterranean from the north is dated 3100-2300 BC. These immigrants would have spoken Proto-Celtic. Lusitanian, Ligurian and Pelasgian are taken to be remnants of this early layer.

Although this book is mainly devoted to the arrival of IE languages in the north Mediterranean peninsulas, one of its most important conclusions is that the Indo-Europeanization of Asia Minor took place in two phases. The first phase corresponds to Krahe's Alteuropäisch 1 and preceded the arrival of Anatolian languages. According to the author, this supports one of the main theories regarding the Urheimat, which locates it in the steppes north of the Black Sea, and contradicts Colin Renfrew's theory regarding the diffusion of IE languages, alongside the Neolithic revolution, from Asia Minor to the rest of the Mediterranean and Europe. 2

The ninth chapter, devoted to the Dumézilian trifunctional ideology, stands somewhat isolated in Woudhuizen's line of argumentation. According to the author, this ideology can be traced back to the mythological system reflected by some of the oldest IE languages and some archaeological items with which they are associated. Indeed, the author's contention is that this ideology can be encountered in the pantheons of those who spoke IE languages in the north-Mediterranean peninsulas, including triads such as Luw. Tarḫunt + Santas + Kubaba, Celt. Lugus—Vellaunos / Esus + Taranis + Kernunnos—Teutates and Lat. Jupiter + Mars + Quirinus. This would be another piece of evidence supporting the author's Indo-Europeanization model for these regions.

The second part (Part B: Selected Texts) contains new readings and interpretations of several inscriptions in fragmentary languages. The purpose of this section is to reverse the marginal treatment of these languages in IE studies. These languages include Iberian (Lusitanian, Celtiberian and Tartessian), Italic (Old Latin, Old Faliscan, Sabellic and Messapic), Thracian, Phrygian and what Woudhuizen calls Luwian (Luwian proper, Lycian, Lydian, Cretan Hieroglyphic, Cypro-Minoan and Eteo-Cypriot). His contention is that all these languages are IE, thus supporting his model of Mediterranean Indo-Europeanization. Note that most experts consider Tartessian, Cretan Hieroglyphic, Cypro-Minoan and Eteo-Cypriot to be non-IE.

One must note that this book is not for beginners. Apart from the complexity of the proposed theory, someone unfamiliar with IE linguistics could get the impression that some of the biggest questions regarding Europe's linguistic prehistory have been solved. However, before a "paradigm shift"—as explicitly claimed on the back cover—is confirmed, its principles should be tested. The evaluation of the archaeological data does not correspond to my expertise as a linguist, nor am I going to discuss the mythological hints produced as evidence supporting the author's contentions—Greek mythology is a discipline in and of itself. I will limit myself to explain the main flaws in the interpretation of the linguistic data.

Firstly, when one tries to determine the origins of a particular term, the historical linguistic method must be applied in a consistent manner. To exemplify this, I will pick out one inspiring case, the etymological interpretation of Wilusa, probably the Anatolian pendant of Greek (W)ílios, an alternative name for Troy. Woudhuizen as well as other scholars have analysed the place name Wilusa as a cognate of Hittite welluš 'meadow'. However, this relation is far from certain, since the Hittite noun stems from IE *u̯elnu- and exhibits a geminate resulting from -ln-, 3 thus signalling a different root for Wilusa.

Secondly, this book has a ubiquitous problem with anachronisms. The author makes great efforts to unify, in a comprehensive manner, phenomena that are not always contemporary or linked. One such case is the evolution of labiovelars in centum languages which preserved them after the split of PIE. According to Woudhuizen, the evolution of labiovelars into labial or dental stops in these languages originated in Central Europe between 1200-700 BC and expanded into the north-Mediterranean peninsulas. Only Iberia and some isolated regions like Ireland, Veneto or Latium remained unaffected. The picture in reality is far more complicated: the evolution of labiovelars in centum languages is neither uniform in results nor in chronology. Suffice it to note that labiovelars developed in all Greek dialects after the Mycenaean period between 1200-1000 BC, yet remained unaffected in part of the Celtic family where the first documents attesting continental P-Celtic are Lepontic (early VI-I BC).

Finally, one must note that the way in which original texts are interpreted in the second part of the book is somewhat unconventional. The author tends to elaborate his own readings and draw conclusions from those personal readings, resulting in rather idiosyncratic interpretations. See, for instance, the interpretation of the Cypro-Minoan clay tablet from Enkomi (inv. no. 1687): the author determines the phonetic values of all the signs by comparison to Linear A—from which the Cypro-Minoan scripts stem—and the Cypriot syllabary—which continues the Cypro-Minoan writing system in the first millennium —, as well as by using "internal evidence in the form of devices used by the scribes to create new signs after the pattern of already existing ones". Thus, he concludes that the language is a form of Luwian and that the tablet is a letter in which a commander from Milyas, on the continent, proclaims his military operations and international relations, mentioning, in order of appearance, a Canaanite king, the city of Kameiros on Rhodes, the great Hittite king, the island of Samos and the Trojan hero Akamas (Hom. Il. 2.823, 14.476, 16.342). Even if one accepts the phonetic values prescribed to the signs, equations such as Kalipinu- (in the dat. case ka-li-pi-ni) = Luw. Ḫalpazitis illustrate the a priori assumptions needed to support these interpretations. This equation implies the rendering of the laryngeal with a syllabogram denoting a velar stop, the substitution of the Luwian term zitis 'man, lower official' by Semitic binu- 'son, representative' and the shortening of the first compound member from Ḫalpa- to Kali-. Note that Kalipinu- / Ḫalpazitis is identified with the king of Aleppo—a semitic city—during the reign of the Hittite king Ḫattusilis III (1265-1239 BC).

Woudhuizen is a luwologist examining texts written in an array of very different fragmentary languages, sometimes completely unrelated. When conducting this analysis, he dispenses with some of the specialists' most recent approaches and editions. 4 Regardless, the decipherment of a fragmentary language is an extremely difficult task, and those interested in these languages ought to approach such decipherments with utmost caution. 5


1.   H. Krahe, 1963, Die Struktur der alteuropäische Hydronymie. Wiesbaden: Steiner; and 1964, Unsere ältesten Fluβnamen. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.
2.   A. C. Renfrew, 1987, Archaeology and Language: The Puzzle of Indo-European Origins. London: Pimlico.
3.   See A. Kloekhorst, 2008, Etymological Dictionary of the Hittite Inherited Lexicon. Leiden: Brill.
4.   Regarding the Cypriot inscriptions, for instance, see J.-P. Olivier & F. Vandenabeele, 2007, Édition holistique des textes chypro-minoens. Pisa/Rome: F. Serra; S. Ferrara, 2012, Cypro-Minoan Inscriptions. Vol. I: Analysis. Vol. II: Corpus. Oxford: Oxford University Press; and P. Steele, 2013, A Linguistic History of Ancient Cyprus. The Non-Greek Languages and their Relations with Greek. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
5.   Another example is Koch's decipherment of Tartessian, which is taken for granted in the book. On the underlying problems of this decipherment, see J. Eska, 2014, "Comments on John T. Koch's Tartessian-as-Celtic Enterprise", JIES 42, 428-438; M. Valério, 2014, "The Interpretative Limits of the Southwestern Script", JIES 42, 439-467; and B. M. Prósper, 2014, "Some Observations on the Classification of Tartessian as a Celtic Language", JIES 42, 468-486. Koch's response can be found in the same volume, cf. J. T. Koch, 2014, "A Decipherment Interrupted: Proceeding from Valério, Eska, and Prósper", JIES 42, 487-524.

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