Look What The Postman Dragged In—Letters to the Editor Babel Vol I, No 3 Contents Refutation of the OED’s List of Spurious Words—Douglas S. Files

The Dangers of Publishing Preliminary Findings

This paper is a refutation of Mr. Diaz’s “Classifying an Andean Language” which appeared in volume I, number 2 of Babel. I, too have been working for many years with the Quechuan dialects in northwestern Bolivia. Upon hearing of the Tileni language I traveled immediately to the region to gather data from native speakers. Thus I came to two startling conclusions: 1) One can never publish before one is sure of one’s facts, and 2) Mr. Diaz, whose reputation is heralded in the aforementioned issue of Babel, is an impetuous moron with no regard for the rigor of the scientific method.

It is true that the vocabulary of Tileni bears a remarkable resemblance to that of Etruscan. It is true that the origin of this relationship remains shrouded in mystery. However, it is unmistakably false that Tileni preserves the Etruscan inflectional system virtually intact. It is also abominable that Mr. Diaz has spelled the word “especially” with an “x” in the 4th sentence of the 10th paragraph of his article.

The inflectional system of Tileni is nowhere similar to that of Etruscan. Instead, after exhaustive analysis, I have found Tileni to bear striking morphemic and syntactic similarity to Amharic, a Semitic language which is the official language of Ethiopia. This is true in the formation of plurals, passives, and negatives. In addition, Tileni and Amharic share a rare adverbial accusative form, known only in three languages in the world.

In Amharic the plural is formed by adding -w to the last consonant of the singular. In Tileni, the plural is formed by adding -w to the last consonant. (Animate nouns have a plural suffix -al. Because of bizarre religious practices, Tileni priests are not considered animate.)

Amh. byēt (house) byḗtwōč (houses)
Til. netsi (priest) netsw (priests)

Amharic prefixes tḁ- to note the reflexive or passive. Tileni prefixes ta-.

Amh. áṭṭḁbḁ (to wash) tā́ṭṭḁbḁ (to be washed)
Til. lubu (to die) talubu (to be dyed)

Amharic forms the negative with a prefix al- and a suffix -m. Tileni forms the negative with a prefix ar- and a suffix -xxxm. (I admit that the development of the 3.5 second long velar fricative is difficult to explain.)

Amh. lḁ́qqḁmḁ (he picked) allḁ́qqḁmḁm (he did not pick)
Til. pulju (he rambled) arpuljuxxxm (he spoke with some discernible goal)

The adverbial accusative in Tileni is also indicative of Amharic origin. This form is found in intransitive verbs and serves to make the action of the verb more specific. We see this in the following examples:

Amh. állḁqḁ (to come to an end)
yi̥hán wωr yā́lqāl (it will come to an end this month)
Til. estrus (to be warm)
yihán wωr yēstrusāl (I am warm now)

In light of the above evidence, I am forced to conclude that Tileni is not directly descended from Etruscan, but rather from Etruscan and Amharic. Specifically, I believe it is a creole arising from an archaic trading relationship. Creole languages often arise from pidgins used by traders, In this case there is additional evidence of this type of linguistic relationship. There exist Tileni words which are extraordinarily similar to Amharic words which might be in common usage in a trading town:

Amh. amsā́ ṿi̥rr (fifty dollars)
Til. ansá fer (fifty dollars)
syḗṭi̥tun (the woman)
swḗtiduun (the woman)

On the basis of all of the above evidence, I propose that Tileni be considered a creole of basically Etruscan vocabulary and Amharic grammar, arising from a trade relationship between Ethiopia, the Etruscans of ancient Italy, and a remote Andean tribe in northwestern Bolivia.

Pablo Palabras
Universidad de Riberalta

Look What The Postman Dragged InLetters to the Editor
Refutation of the OED’s List of Spurious WordsDouglas S. Files
Babel Vol I, No 3 Contents