Deutsch and Germans

Gunthard Mueller gm at ANTHOSIMPRINT.COM
Sun Apr 15 23:26:22 UTC 2001

Ooph, too many things to correct--forgive me if I have
to tell you that actually most of the answers will make
people wonder why this is on the indology list.
So let me do it quickly.
(1) Ethnic and linguistic issues are two very different things.
Evidence points to a dishomogeneous ethnic composition of
the speakers of Indo-European languages.
There has been some ground-breaking genetic research
recently, all pointing to a complicated ethnic situation
far beyond our current understanding.
The evidence seems to point to very different ethnic
groups speaking Indo-European languages. The question
as to why can still not be answered.
According to a theory that I currently tend to favour,
the brown-haired/blond-and-blue-eyed lot are actually not
ethnically predominantly Ethnic-Indo-Europeans, but belong to a
*Proto-Siberian group (non-Mongolian) to which also the Finns,
the Samen and some others belong. For cultural or political reasons
beyond our current historical time span, a quantitatively relatively
small ethnic group of Indo-European speakers seem to have
brought in their language(s) very much like they did
in historic times further south. Indo-European language(s) got
adopted mostly, except in some remote northern regions.
The reasons are not known. My own theory -- totally unprovable... --
is that it may have been because of some major cultural advances
that had not been present in Europe before their arrival. I am thinking
of the wheel for example--the Samen to this day don't use wheels much,
also no horses--in their biotope these things are much more
unpractical than the pre-Indo-European toboggan (now the
motorized variety...) and reindeers...
(2) German < ger "spear" + man "man"... Germans
were often named after their weapons, which were
different from mediterranean military gear, and their
encounters with the mediterranean sphere tended to be
very hostile. Germanic tribes seem to sometimes have
had a ritually dedicated lance, similar to the one that
was later carried in front of the emperor. One of them
still exists in a museum.
The roman spears were really not spears but a clever
kind of close-distance fix-and-lever weapon invented
to render the Celtic shield useless.
An East-Germanic sub-tribe that were named after
their weapons were the Lombards < Langobards,
from lang "long" + bard "sword", "the long-swords".
If you want to look at some real ones (swords, I mean...),
there are some wonderful ones in a back room of the
Milan Museo Archeologico (they only show them to
you if you say you know they are there and could they
please show them to you... Then they grudgingly lead
you around the corner...).
A West-Germanic tribe with a similar naming fate
are the Saxons, from sax "spade-like sword".
(3) The Alamannen, or Alemannen, are an ethnic
group (mine...) the name of which probably means "all men".
We normally pronounce it "Allemannen". It seems to mean
simply "all people". There is also an old German battly-cry
"Alle Mann!!!!!" ("all men (to the attack)"), which has
been brought up to explain the name, but the name
is "Alle-Mannen", with the old -n-stem ending that my
dialect still preserves, and that is not the battle cry, which
anyway seems rather far-fetched.
Another theory has it that it means "all men" in the sense
of "all males", i.e. the "army" of sorts. There is also an
implausible theory which derives ala- from Latin ala "spear".
Implausible because Alemannen is actually a German name for
a German ethnic group. The way they dealt with Roman soldiers
and fortifications when they arrived in Southern Germany
was extraordinarily violent and demonstrates a complete
and utter rejection of anything Roman (see the excavations in
Aalen), so it would seem really weird if they had taken on a
Latin name for themselves...
According to some emerging archaeological and genetic
evidence, the Alamannen were not a distinctive Germanic
sub-group before their settling down.
Some current analyses seem to suggest that the same might
be true for many other Germanic tribes.
The evidence seems to suggest that Germanic tribes were
very homogeneous, hardly different from each other, before
they settled down. They then seem to have mixed with
the considerable, possibly much more numerous local
populations, resulting in the known German tribes.
Few people nowadays know that Celtic was spoken in the
Salzburg area well into the eleventh century AD.
(4) The name of the city of Trier is derived from Latin
"Augusta Treverorum", freely translateable as "the Empire
City of the Treveri". The Treveri seem to have been an
ethnically mainly Celtic group, part of the Gallo-Roman
cultural ambitus. Similar such groups were present in
many areas up and down the Rhine and the Danube.
Mainz, for example, is from Mogontiacum, again a
Gallo-Roman Latinized version of a Celtic name.
My own geographic home area is literally covered
with Celtic place names (and tumuli...) --Rhein, Neckar,
Main, Isar, Iller, Kempten, Biberach, Alpen/Alb, I could
go on forever...
(5) Germans in the normal sense are not Semites,
but of course there has long been a considerable
Jewish presence in central Europe. What happened
two generations ago was a catastrophic self-mutilation.
We have just started digitising a beautiful 14th-century
hand-written Hebrew book in the University Library
of Tuebingen. Full of miniatures. It looks so much like
from a twin culture. So German, but everything in Hebrew...
Beautiful miniatures that look as if they were from
a catholic monastery...
In the medieval period, a tiny group of apparently nomadic
"Saracens" (Arabs) is on record in Switzerland.
A fascinating study from the University of Parma
recently seems to show that an ethnic group from
vaguely the Middle East seems to have arrived
in Europe at a relatively late pre-historic point,
but nobody I think has yet been able or daring enough
to qualify this group as Indo-Europeans or Semitic or
something else as far as I know.
(6) Aryan as an ethnic term shows up outside the
Indo-Iranian sphere. "Eire"/Ireland preserves the
root, too--Irish really means "Arish...".
The Finnish word for "stranger/slave" is orya "Aryan"
(I hope I am getting this right--I have it from Parpola).
Aryan as a linguistic term refers to Indo-Iranian
(7) Prussia, Chatti/Hessen etc. are not related
to anything Mesopotamian etc. I skip that
explanation--I am already 300% above the
decency limit again...

Take care,
Gunthard Mueller

"Narayan R.Joshi" wrote:

> It was refreshing to know that the adjective "deutsch" is derived from
> Germanic "thiuda"(people).What is the etymology of the word "German" when
> it was used by Romans to the tribes pouring into Europe from Asia in the
> first and second centuries AD? The search of literature on this subject
> offers contradictory information.Among the most significant of these early
> tribes were Chatti(ancestors of the modern Hessians), Treveri,Tungri,and
> Alammani.Now some relate Chatti to Hatti or Hittites.It appears that the
> label German was originally applied by Romans to the tribe Tungri but
> according to the record of Caesar all 4 tribes were called collectively
> Germani by Romans.There was another tribe by the name Cheruschi led by the
> warrior chieftain and German folk hero, Hermann(Latin:Arminius).It appears
> to me that the name German might be related to the tribal name Cheruschi.I
> may be wrong.Because of the ancient linguistic connection, we have Indo-
> Germanic languages.This connection is used sometimes to show that Germanic
> tribes originated in Central Asia and moved gradually towards the east
> European location over the period of thousand years from 1000 BCE to 1
> AD.On the other hand people of the German city Trier (Treves) boast that
> their city was founded centuries before Rome by Trebeta(REF-BOOK-"In
> deutschen Landen" by Josef K.L.Bihl), the son of famous Assyrian king Ninus
> (Biblical Nimrod). Semiramis was married to Nimrod, the founder of Babylon
> (Genesis-10:8-10). Genesis 10:11 says that Asshur and his descendants went
> out of Babylon(or out of land of Shinar)and constructed Assyrian capital,
> Nineveh. The ancient kings of Assyria called themselves "Khatti-sars".
> Could it mean "Kings of Hatti or kings of Kaldu, the Khaldian people? Is
> the word "Goth" related to the "Guti" people from the ancient MIddle-east
> history? What is the true story?
> Now Biblical scholars have tendency to relate somehow all human races to
> the descendants of Shem, Ham and Japheth(sons of flood famous Noah around
> 4050 BCE). According to Biblical scholars, the children of Shem were
> Elam,Asshur,Arphaxad,Lud and Aram.It is said that Asshur,the son of Shem
> was the father of the white racial strain(fair skin and lighter hair). It
> is said that Abraham the Hebrew (about 2000 BCE) was begotten of the line
> of Arphaxad, the third son of Shem. Are then Germans and Israelites(Hebrews)
> descended from the common ancestor? What is also the origin of the
> word "Prussia?" Is it related to the word Assyrian? Could the earlier
> version of Asshur be Vasshur changing into Prussia(Grimm's rule)? At the
> end of my inquiry I would like add a cautionary note.Efforts by some Indian
> authors of connecting Assyrians to the Asuras of the ancient Indian books
> based only on phonetic similitude were wrong.Connecting the ancient Germans
> to Aryans was also wrong because it was attested several times that the
> word "Aryan" makes sense if any only in the context of the ancient Iranian
> and Indian people.Turkish and Mongolian tribes from the Central Asia were
> not Aryans either.Irish were not Aryans either.Thanks.

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