Overall, the structure of Greek differs considerably from what we are entitled to attribute to Indo-European. It is natural to suppose that the transformation is due to a reaction of the languages proper to the peoples with which the carriers of the Indo-European dialect destined to become Greek intermingled; but we know little or nothing about these languages. The numerous inscriptions of the millennium II a. C., discovered in Crete, were not yet deciphered and therefore they can reveal nothing of the language spoken by the pre-Hellenic residents of the great island. Certain much less ancient inscriptions (6th-4th centuries), also found in Crete (Praisós) and in the islands of Lemnos and Cyprus, written in Greek letters and Cypriot characters respectively and therefore legible – but not for this reason intelligible – attest only the survival, in those places,
At the margins of the Greek world, in Asia Minor, we also find the remains of four non-Greek languages - Phrygian, Lycian, Carian, Lydian – consisting mainly of inscriptions, some of which (especially Lycian) very extensive, but interpreted only in part (see Asia Minor, IV, pp. 918-920).
Our information on the languages spoken on the northern borders of Greece is scarcer. In fact, we possess only a brief inscription of the Thracian, some glosses and proper names; of the Illyrian only names. Therefore we can only make assumptions about the influence of the pre-Hellenic substratum on the Greek language. For example A. Meillet (Aperçu, etc., 3rd ed., Paris 1930, p. 71) notes that the Greek substitution of the aspirated deaf ph, th, kh, to the corresponding voiced aspirates bh, dh, gh accords with tendencies of which we have clues for languages spread from the Mediterranean to the Caucasus, and that the development of -σσ- from phonetic links – t(h) j -, – k (h) j – suggests the frequency of outgoing words in -σσπς in the “Aegean” linguistic world.
The surest evidence of a pre-Hellenic substratum are those provided by onomastics, especially geographic. It is mainly due to P. Kretschmer (Einleitung iji die Geschichte d. Griech. Sprache, Gottingen 1896) having shown that the toponyms formed with -νϑ-, frequent in Greece, correspond phonetically to those formed with -νδ- in Asia Minor, and that both, as well as those ending in – (σ) σος (Attic -ττος) and in -σ (σ) α, attest to a linguistic type that is neither Indo-European nor Semitic, whose domain extended from Asia Minor to the Aegean islands and the Greek continent. It is hardly necessary to remember the mount Παρνασσός, and in the Attica the mount ‛Υμηττός and the demo Προβάλινϑος, in the Peloponnese Κόρινϑος, Τίρυνς (-νϑ-) and the mount ‘Ερύμανας ρμανος ρσασος, in Crete Πλοσος ρσανϑσασοσισοσισοσιν in the Peloponnese the demo Κάμυνδος, in Asia Minor ‛Αλικαρνασσός,” Ασπενδος, etc. Naturally the Minoan Λαβύρινϑος falls within this series.
In the Greek lexicon the voices of foreign origin are more numerous than is commonly believed, but it is not always easy to recognize their origin. From the Semitic world, more precisely from the Phoenicians, the Greeks removed, in addition to the signs of the alphabet and the names of the individual letters, a certain number of words such as βύβλος “papyrus”, κάδος “vase, urn”, μνᾶ “mina” (weight and coin), σάκκος “rough cloth, sack”. From the Egyptian derive, partly through the Semitic: ἔβενις “ebony”, νίτρον “nitro”, ὀϑόνη “linen cloth”, ὄασις “oasis”. From the Thracian it is believed that βρῦτον “beer” comes; from the Phrygian σατίνη “war chariot”. The Latin penetration into the Greek lexicon occurs at a later age. Many Greek voices that are not explained by Indo-European etymons are likely to derive from the language (or languages) of the Cretan-Mycenaean civilization, but it cannot be proved due to our ignorance of those languages. Sometimes these are words that also recur in other languages, but with formal differences that do not allow them to be traced back to a common Indo-European basis or to consider them borrowed from one language to the other, so that all that remains is to suppose that they derive from an unknown source. Such are, for example, but with formal differences that do not allow them to be traced back to a common Indo-European basis or to consider them borrowed from one language to the other, so that it remains only to suppose that they derive from an unknown source. Such are, for example, but with formal differences that do not allow them to be traced back to a common Indo-European basis or to consider them borrowed from one language to the other, so that it remains only to suppose that they derive from an unknown source. Such are, for example, F οῖνος lat. v ī num (Umbrian vinu does not allow an italic base * woinom); λείριον lat. lilium ; μίνϑη lat. mentha (the relationship of the vowels is obscure as in κυπάρισσος cupressus); ῥόδον lat. pink ; σῦκον (beot. τῦκον) Armenian thuz Lat. f ī cus. We often find those suffixes -νϑ- and -σ (σ) – which we encountered in the “Aegean” toponymy. So next to κυπάρισσος there are βόρασσος, λέβινϑος, νάρκισσος, ὄλυνϑος, ὑάκινϑος and other names of plants, and then ἀσάμινϑος “tub”, etc. A. Debrunner (in M. Ebert, Reallexikon der Vorgesch., IV, Berlin 1926, pp. 525-527) collected from the glottological literature a long list of words presumed to be of Aegean origin. They are names of plants, animals and minerals, clothing and food; words about music and dance, games, house building and furnishing, navigation and trade, warfare and hunting, political and social institutions, religion. A severe criticism may remove a certain number of words from the list, but others will certainly add a deeper exploration of the Greek vocabulary.