The Pre-Greek substrate consists of the unknown language or languages spoken in prehistoric Greece before the settlement of Proto-Greek speakers in the area. It is thought possible that Greek took over some thousand words and proper names from such a language (or languages), because some of its vocabulary cannot be satisfactorily explained as deriving either from Proto-Indo-European or from any directly attested languages.
- Personal names (e.g. Ὀδυσσεύς Odysseus)
- Theonyms (e.g. Ἑρμῆς Hermes)
- Maritime vocabulary (e.g. θάλασσα thálassa 'sea')
- Words relating to Mediterranean agriculture (e.g. ελαίϝα elai(w)a 'olive,' ἄμπελος ampelos 'vine')
- Words regarding rulers, given by the populace (e.g. Τύραννος Tyrannos 'tyrant')
- Building technology (e.g. πύργος pyrgos 'tower'1)
- Placenames including -nth- (e.g. Κόρινθος Korinthos, Ζάκυνθος Zakynthos), -ss- (e.g. Παρνασσός Parnassos) and -tt- (e.g. Ὑμηττός Hymettus)
An Anatolian (perhaps specifically Luwian3) substratum has been proposed, on the basis of -ss- and -nd- (corresponding to -ss- and -nth- in mainland Greece) placenames being widespread in Western Anatolia.4
On the basis of statements in Thucydides that Tyrrhenian was a former language of Athens and that the Tyrrhenians had been expelled to Lemnos, it has been suggested that the substrate language was related to Lemnian, and thus by modern association to Etruscan.
- If the substratum is actually Indo-European, pyrgos as well as Pergamos might be connected to Proto-Indo-European *bhergh-.
- Other theories ranging from the mild (e.g. Egyptian) to the extreme (e.g. Proto-Turkic) have been proposed but have been given little to no consideration from the broader academic community and as such are not mentioned in the main body.
- Some, such as Leonard Palmer, go so far as to suggest that the language of Linear A might be Luwian, though other Anatolian interpretations have also been offered.
- Margalit Finkelberg, Greeks and Pre-Greeks: Aegean Prehistory and Greek Heroic Tradition (Cambridge) 2005, esp. 42–64.
- Proto-Greek language
- Etruscan language
- Tyrrhenian languages
- Sicel language
- Substrates of other Indo-European languages
- S. P. Beekes, Robert (January 2007), Pre-Greek: The Pre-Greek Loans in Greek (PDF)
- Heubeck, Alfred. Praegraeca: sprachliche Untersuchungen zum vorgriechisch-indogermanischen Substrat, Erlangen (1961); Review: Beattie, A. J. The Classical Review (1963).