2014-07-15 - One more ancient Macedonian inscription? - updated 2014-07-20
(this article has received an update, presented below the original post from the 2014-07-15, on the 2014-07-20)

Since 1930 thousands oracular lamellae inscriptions have been found in Dodona. Most of them are very short and fragmented. However some are complete and since the visitors usually wrote the questions in their own dialect (or asked local writers to do it for them), they offer a great opportunity for studying those ancient Greek dialects. The northwestern Greek dialect is dominating, since Dodona is located in the region it was spoken, however there are several inscriptions that are of special interest. One of them took the attention of Julian Mendez Dosuna, who released a monograph about the Dodonean lamellae few years ago. The inscription reads:
Ζεῦ καί Διώνα ᾖ ἔσσονται παῖ-
δες ἐκ τᾶς γυναικός Κεβαλίωι
τᾶς νῦν ἔχει κ[α]ι ζώσοντι;
Zeus and Dione,
will Kebalios have children from his current wife? Will they live?
Now this inscription is full of peculiarities: a) it is not Attic-Ionic (e.g. ζώσοντι instead of ζώσουντι, Διώνα / τᾶς instead of Διώνη / τῆς), b) it is not Doric (ἔσσονται / ζώσοντι instead of ἐσσέονται / ζωσέοντι), c) it is not Boeotian (for a number of reasons like for example Zeus would be written Δεῦ, ἔσσονται / ζώσοντι would be ἔσσονθη / ζώσονθι) and d) it is most probably not Thessalian (for a number of reasons again, one of them being the dative Κεβαλίωι instead Κεβαλίου).

So what is it? Dosuna says that those peculiarities are to be found as exceptions in Thessalian inscriptions, but there are good reasons to believe the inscription is not Thessalian, but Macedonian. There is no doubt that the name Κεβάλιος is a dialectal form of a name deriving from κεφαλή “head”. Hesychius equates the orphan κεβαλή with κεφαλή in his dictionary. The use of β in the place of φ is a typical characteristic of Macedonian.

Dosuna underlines that a single anthroponym cannot be a definite criterion for the dialectical classification of an inscription, but all those peculiarities together speak strongly for a distinct Greek dialect - possibly Macedonian. If that is the case, this would be the third longer Macedonian text (the other two being the Pella katadesmos and the Arethousa text) available to us. Dialectical inscriptions from Macedonia exist, however their small length does not allow any safe conclusions.

The inscription is unfortunately not widely known. Until recently the inscription was still unpublished and it's current status remains unknown. In the beginning of the year the library of the archaeological institute in Athens published two volumes called «Τα χρηστήρια ελάσματα της Δωδώνης των ανασκαφών Δ. Ευαγγελίδη» which should contain the inscription. We don't have it in our hands yet, but if anything new comes up, you'll know it immediately.

Source: Julián Víctor Méndez Dosuna - Παρατηρήσεις στις νέες πινακίδες της Δωδώνης, Studies in Greek Linguistics 27, 2007

UPDATE 2014-07-20

Apparently the inscription is now published (Dakaris, Vokotopoulou & Christidis, No2493A, Dodona Museum, 871) and is dated to the 4th century BC. It is presented by J. M. Dosuna (2012) as a dialectal inscription that might represent written Macedonian.

The name Κεβαλινός, that is essential in the context, enjoyed a certain popularity during the Hellenistic period all over Greece. Emilio Crespo (2012) makes some very important comment on the name regarding it's phonology. He considers it to be a hybrid, that is to say it mixes together a Greek and a Brygian¹ treatment of the inherited aspirates. Below you'll find his analysis:

Κεβαλῖνος derives from the root *gʰebʰ(e)l- witnessed in OHG gebal ‘skull’ (see Chan traine, DELG s.v. κεφαλή). The first plosive in Κεβαλῖνος is in keeping with what is expected in Greek, but its second consonant presents the characteristic Macedonian voiced plosive instead of the expected voiceless aspirate of other Greek dialects. The regular phonetic outcome would be Κεφαλῖνος in Greek and *Γεβαλῖνος in the supposed Brygian. Κεβαλῖνος is not a borrowing from Brygian *Γεβαλῖνος, but the result of a partial phonetic interference on Greek Κεφαλῖνος. In other words, we can recon struct the following sequence of changes for Greek:

  1. inherited form: *ghebʰ(e)l-;
  2. pre-Mycenaean devoicing of inherited voiced aspirates: kʰepʰal-;
  3. post-Mycenaean dissimilation of aspirates (Grassmann ’s Law): kepʰal-;
  4. partial phonetic interference caused by a non-Greek Indo-European language in which the inherited aspirate plosives lost their aspiration: kebal(īnos).

If this chronological sequence of changes holds, the conclusion to be drawn is that the influence of the supposed non-Greek language on the Macedonian dialect of Greek is post-Mycenaean. It should be noted that Κεφαλῖνος  is not the Brygian outcome, but a hybrid that mixes together a Greek and a Brygian treatment of the inherited aspirates. This means that Κεβαλῖνος is not a lexical item borrowed as such by Greek, but a Greek word that underwent the transfer of a plosive as a result of the phonetic interference caused by the consonant that the same word had in another language spoken in the same community. 

1. Brygian is the hypothetical language spoken by the remaining Phrygian population in the Balkans.