The "Proto-Ionians" are a hypothetical Early Bronze Age Hellenic people, whose existence has been postulated by mathematician and amateur linguist Jean Faucounau.


Mainstream Greek linguistics separates the Greek dialects into two large genetic groups, one including Doric Greek and the other including both Arcadocypriot and Ionic Greek. But alternative approaches proposing three groups are not uncommon; Thumb and Kieckers (1932) propose three groups, classifying Ionic as genetically just as separate from Arcadocypriot as from Doric. Like a few other linguists (Vladimir Georgiev, C. Rhuijgh, P. Léveque, etc.), J. Faucounau considers as wrong the bipartite classification as "Risch-Chadwick Theory", which was named after its two famous proponents, Ernst Risch and John Chadwick.ref|Chadwick Faucounau favours the tripartite classification, and attributes it to three consecutive "waves" of Hellenic immigration into Greece. In Faucounau's view, the first Greek settlers in their historical territory were the (Pelasgic) "proto-Ionians", who were separated around 3000 BC from both the proto-Dorians and the proto-Mycenaeans. Faucounau traces this three-wave model to similar views put forward by Paul Kretschmer in the 1890s and the 1900s (viz., before the decipherment of Linear B), with an important modification: the (proto-Ionic) First wave came by sea, the "Proto-Ionians" settling first in the Cycladic Islands, then in Euboea and Attica. The last two waves are the generally accepted arrival of the Mycenaean Greeks (the linguistic predecessors of the Arcadocypriot speakers) in around 1700 BC and the Dorian invasion around 1100 BC.


Faucounau makes three arguments for the proto-Ionians in "Les Proto-Ioniens" (2001). The first is the explanation of certain Mycenaean forms as loan-words from the proto-Ionians already present in Greece: he asserts that digamma is unexpectedly absent from some Mycenaean words,ref|digamma the occasional resolution of Indo-European vocalic "r" to "-or/ro-" instead of "-ar/ra-"; "torpeza" for τραπεζα,ref|trapeza and the explanation of Mycenaean "pa-da-yeu" as Greek παδαω/πηδαω, "spring leap, bound", which he interprets as both cognate with, and having the same meaning as, English "paddle".ref|paddle He does not explain whu, in recorded Greek, πηδαω is the Ionian form.ref|LSJ

The second argument is a refinement of a long-established argument in archaeoastronomy, developed most recently by Michael Ovenden,ref|Ovenden which considers the motion of the North Pole with respect to the fixed stars, because of the precession of the equinoxes. Ovenden concluded, from the slant of the constellations in the present sky and the hypothesis that Aratus and Hipparchus (insofar as his work survives) correctly and completely represent immemorial tradition, that the constellations we now use had been devised when the Pole was in Draco, about 2800 BC. He also concluded that the inventors probably lived between 34°30' and 37°30' N., north of most ancient civilizations, and so were likely to be the Minoans.

Dr. Crommelin, FRAS, has disputed this latitude, arguing that the constellation makers could only see to 54° S, but that this was compatible with latitudes as low as the 31°N of Alexandria; stars which only skirt the southern horizon by a few degrees are not effectively visible. Assuming a Greek latitude would render Canopus and Fomalhaut invisible. Crommelin estimates the constellators at 2460 BC; R. A. Proctor has estimated 2170 BC. E. W. Maunder 2700 BC.Ref|Crommelin

Faucounau's addition to this is the argument that Crete is also too far south, that the names of the constellations are (Ionic) Greek, not Minoan, and therefore that the constellation makers must be the proto-Ionians in the Cyclades.ref|Crete The south coast of Crete follows 35°N latitude; Syros, which he identifies as a center of proto-Ionian civilization,ref|syros is at 37°20'.ref|Atlas On this basis, he identifies the proto-Ionians with the archaeological Early Cycladic II culture: after all, they made round "frying pans," and one of them with an incised spiral, and the Phaistos Disc is round with an incised spiral.Ref|pan

His third argument depends on Herodotus's somewhat obscure use of the word Pelasgian for various peoples, Greek-speaking and otherwise, around the Aegean basin. Faucounau claims that the word, which he derives idiosyncratically from πελαγος, "sea",ref|pelagos means the descendants of the proto-Ionians. Some of them lost their language because they settled among foreigners; others, such as the Athenians, preserved their language. Attic, apparently, arises from a mixture of proto-Ionian and other dialects. He does not explain why Homer speaks of Dodona, inland in north-western Greece, as Pelasgian (Il, 16,233); nor why no place in historic Ionia is called Pelasgian.

He adds to the above arguments with some archaeological facts. For example, the Treaty of Alaksandu between Wilusa and the Hittite empire bore a Greek name at a time when there was no Mycenaean pottery at Troy. Faucounau considers that all these arguments are an indirect confirmation of his own decipherment claim of the Phaistos Disk as proto-Ionic, although this attempt has not been endorsed in the academic mainstream.

Proto-Ionic dialect

Faucounau's "Proto-Ionic Disk Language" has most of the properties of Homeric Greek, including loss of labiovelars and even of digamma (both are preserved intact in the Mycenaean of the 14th century BC). Digamma, in Faucounau's reading of the Phaistos Disk, has in some instances passed to "y", a sound shift not known from any other Greek dialect, but suspected in Ionic (e.g. Ion. païs v/etym. paus). For Faucounau, the Pelasgians, the Trojans, the Carians and the Philistines are all descended from the Proto-Ionians.


Faucounau's work on this subject has received two scholarly notices. Paul Faure, as below, writes warmly of many parts of the Proto-Ionian theory. He declines to address the decipherment, and omits the Celts; he also dates the Middle Cycladic culture only from 2700 BC, not 2900. Yves Duhoux expresses his disbelief in the decipherment, but does not mention the wider theory, except to deny that the Disc came from Syros. Faucounau's paper on the statistical problem of how many glyphs are likely to be omitted from a short text has never been cited. Most of it addresses the long-solved case in which the glyphs are equally likely. In a less academic mode, the internet troll "grapheus" has advocated Faucounau's theories over Usenet, becoming notorious in the process. Posting from Luxembourg, and admitting to personal acquaintance of Faucounau, he has been suspected to be an alter ego of Faucounau's.


* Jean Faucounau, "Le déchiffrement du Disque de Phaistos", Paris 1999.
* Jean Faucounau, "Les Proto-Ioniens : histoire d'un peuple oublié", Paris 2001. Esp. pp. 33ff, 35ff, 37f, p.57, p.61, p.63 124.
** Review: Paul Faure, "Revue des études grecques" Vol. 15 (2002), p. 424f.
* Jean Faucounau, "Les Peuples de la Mer et leur Histoire", Paris 2003.
* Jean Faucounau, "Les Origines Grecques à l'Age de Bronze", Paris 2005.
* Vladimir Georgiev, in "Proceedings of the Cambridge Colloquium on Mycenaean Studies", Cambridge 1966, p. 104-124.
* Vladimir Georgiev, "Acta Mycenaea", Salamanca 1972, p. 361-379.
* Paul Kretschmer, "Einleitung in die Geschichte der griechischen Sprache" (1896).
* Pierre Lévêque, "L'aventure grecque", p. 16-29.
*Michael W. Ovenden, "The Origin of the Constellations" in"The Philosophical Journal 3" (1966), p. 1-18.
*A. C. D. Crommelin "The ancient Constellation Figures" in "Hutchinson's Splendour of the Heavens" London, 1923 Vol . II pp. 640-669.
* Cornelis J. Ruijgh, in "Les Civilisations égéennes", René Treuil et all edit, (Paris 1989), p. 401-423.
* Cornelis J. Ruijgh, "Sur la position dialectale du Mycénien" in "Atti e Memorie del Secondo Congresso Internazionale di Micenologia" (Roma 1996) p. 115-124.
* A. Thumb, E. Kieckers, "Handbuch der griechischen Dialekte" (1932).
* Liddell, Scott, Jones, "Greek Lexicon", "s.v." [;layout.refembed=2;layout.refwordcount=1;layout.refdoc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0057;layout.reflookup=phda%2Fw;layout.refcit=entry%3Dpa_da%2Fw;doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0057%3Aentry%3D%2382901 πηδαω] .
*"National Geographic Atlas of the World" (1992 ed.) p. 66.

ee also

* Pelasgians
* Proto-Greek
* Greek dialects

External links

* [ Discussion by Faucounau of the "Risch-Chadwick Theory"]

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