I try not to make too many posts about individual words, but this particular word is significant enough that I believe it deserves a special explanation. The equation for boat is as follows:

Boat/Ark = Venho, Vene<*Veneh; Vanas<*Vënës (Sami) = Venos/Vene = βῆνος/βῆνε (vocative)

This word has taken me a long time to find: I searched through English and Greek wiktionaries, as well as lsj.gr (A very useful site on Ancient Greek), unable to find a semantic comparison for ‘boat’ that was a convincing phonological source. However, upon discovering the majesty that is Hesychius of Alexandria’s “Alphabetical Collection of All Words“, I now have open-source access to a treasure trove of obscure Greek words, many of which have fallen out of use.

Βῆνος/Bênos (defined by Hesychius as “κιβωτός”, meaning ‘ark’ [like Noah’s ark]), which would be pronounced in modern Greek as Vinos, is one of the aforementioned obscure words, and thus must be learned for the modern Greek speaker. However, its phonology is quite regular.

Of the reconstructions, Proto-Samic *Vënës is the most accurate, showing the preservation of final nominative (presumably masculine) -s. In Finnish Venho, the -s may have metathesized with penultimate -o- (a relatively regular occurrence: Compare Laakso = Λάκκος; Urho<Uros = Ούρος, etc.). In addition, this now penultimate -s- has debuccalized into -h- in the presence of -n-, likely resulting in the shift: Benos>Venso>Venho. My proposal of Proto-Finnic *Venso is meant to serve as a simplification of the currently reconstructed *Veneh, due to the likelihood that the final -e in Finnish (i.e. Vene) is actually a preserved vocative form: Βῆνε. In Finnish, vocative masculine -e is preserved as /e/ from Greek. The case of the Finnic reflexes Veneh/Venhe may be due to contamination from the original forms of Venos/Vene (Compare the Eastern Samic reflexes Vens [Kildin] and Vâns [Ter], which show the -ns- cluster).

In the case of Samic vowel reflexes such as Northern Sami Vanas, there may be two separate situations occurring: A regular opening of -os to -as; and either a raising of -e- to -a-, or a preservation of an original Doric form of Βῆνος, which would be Βᾶνος/Banos>Vanas.

As the reconstruction of these terms in Uralic appears restricted to Finno-Samic, it is conceivable that areal contact between the diverging and diverged dialects resulted in a series of cross-contaminations, explaining the unique correspondences across the aforementioned languages.

The significance of Venos/Vene (the Finngreek forms) is that it provides a written attestation for the potential of sea travel – although an intermediate land route would still be necessary – during the period of Uralo-Hellenic contact, which has always been significant to the Finno-Samic and Hellenic peoples. This reconstruction expands on the geography where interaction would have taken place, which had until now been obscured by the inheritance of a non-Greek IE term (*meri) to describe the sea in Finno-Samic.

(Featured image: The Finnish pollution control vessel Louhi)

The ancient Venos, of the hypothetical Finngreek times, is a legacy that could live on today in the maritime nations of Finland and Greece. Greece is the largest shipowning nation in the world, with a history of maritime trade extending to at least the Mycenaean period (~1600 BC onward); and Finland is world-renowned for its shipbuilding industry, including some of the largest passenger vessels having been built in the southwestern city of Turku – not to mention being home to one of the world’s oldest fishing nets, from 8,540 BC, thousands of years before Helleno-Uralic contact occurred.

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