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Anatolian languages

In the course of the 20th cent. new evidence emerged for a family of closely related languages attested in Anatolia (Turkey) from the 16th cent. bce and indirectly known two or three centuries earlier; the evidence for the group spans two millennia and ends with the Roman empire. The best attested language is Hittite, which was spoken by a dynasty which moved from Neša ( = Kaneš = mod. Kültepe in central Anatolia, north-east of Kayseri) to Hattuša, modern Boğazköy or Boğazkale (east of Ankara), the future capital of the Hittite empire, which eventually dominated most of Anatolia and part of Syria (see hittites). The word nešili, literally ‘in the language of Neša’, means ‘in Hittite’, while Hittite (our term is based on a biblical form) was originally derived from the name of the previous non-Indo-European inhabitants of the area, the Hatti. The Boğazköy archives yielded a very large number of cuneiform tablets with texts (historical, religious, etc. ) which we can now classify as Old Hittite (c.1570–1450) or Middle Hittite (c.1450–1380) or Neo-Hittite (c.1380–1220); after B. Hrozný in 1915 argued that Hittite was Indo-European, the grammar and lexicon have become quite well known and we now understand most texts. The same archives also provided cuneiform evidence for two other related languages, introduced in the Hittite texts by the words palaumnili ‘in Palaic’ and luwili ‘in Luwian’. Palaic is the language of the Pāla territory, located in north-western Anatolia. Probably it died before the Neo-Hittite period; there are only a few imperfectly understood texts, but the affiliation of the language is not in doubt. Cuneiform Luwian, also attested on clay tablets mostly of religious nature, is slightly better known and was probably the language of the southern and western part of Anatolia. It survived longer than Palaic and had strong influence on Hittite, especially in the later period, as shown by the numerous lexical borrowings. In the first millennium the family is best represented by Hieroglyphic Luwian (also called Hieroglyphic Hittite), a Luwian dialect, written in a special syllabic script, rich in logograms, which was developed in the second millennium, possibly for monumental purposes. Most of the inscriptions were set up by the kings of the small states of south Anatolia and Syria which in the first millennium bce survived the collapse of the Hittite empire, until at the end of the 8th cent. they were defeated by the Assyrians. The youngest known members of the Anatolian family are Lycian and Lydian, two languages written in an alphabet derived from Greek, mostly in the 5th and 4th cent. bce. In addition three poorly attested languages, all written alphabetically, probably belong to the family: Carian (see caria) has recently been deciphered and has a slightly higher number of texts from both Caria and Egypt dating from the 7th to the 4th cent. bce; Sidetic (named from Side) is documented by a very few inscriptions from Pamphylia (3rd cent. bce), and Pisidian has some inscriptions (mostly names) from the 3rd cent. ce. (See pisidia.)

The languages listed above, all of which must derive from a non-attested Proto-Anatolian, show regular correspondences with the ancient Indo-European languages. Part of the lexicon (here exemplified from Hittite) can be easily etymologized: cf. watar ‘water’ (Gr. ὕδωρ‎), genu ‘knee’ (Lat. genu), newa- ‘new’ (Gr. νέϝος‎), wett- ‘year’ (Gr. ϝέτος‎), ed- ‘eat’ (Lat. edō), and see also paradigms like ešmi ‘I am' ešši ‘you are (sing.)’, ešzi ‘he/she/it is' vs. Greek εἰμί‎ (〈†esmi), ἐσσί, ἐστί‎ or Skt. ásmi, ási, ásti, etc. Hittite, Palaic, and Cuneiform Luwian have a where reconstructed Indo-European has o and use -- or -ḫḫ- in correspondence with one or two of the Indo-European ‘laryngeals’, which were later lost in all Indo-European languages. It is now clear that the original Anatolian language had an accent distribution similar to that of Indo-European. Morphologically the most striking features are the conservativism of the case system (seven or perhaps eight cases in Old Hittite), but also the absence of a contrast between masculine and feminine (there is a neuter and a common gender) and the organization of the verbal system based on two conjugations with contrasts of past and present marked by different sets of endings. There are only two tenses (no imperfect and future, no aspectual distinction of aorist and perfect) and two moods (indicative and imperative, but no subjunctive and optative). The syntax is characterized by long chains of enclitic particles which follow the first word of the sentence and by the final position of the verb. The problem arises whether Proto-Anatolian is simply a branch, however early, of the Indo-European family which has lost some of the original categories, or is a sister rather than a daughter of Indo-European. This last view was supported by the American scholar Edgar Sturtevant, who spoke of an Indo-Hittite protolanguage; his demonstration is no longer accepted, but recent contributions are moving in the same direction though more on the basis of morphology and syntax than on that of phonology.


O. R. Gurney, The Hittites, 2nd edn. (1990).Find this resource:

    T. Bryce, The Kingdom of the Hittites (2005).Find this resource:

      A. Kammenhuber, Hethitisch, Paläisch, Luwisch und Hieroglyphenluwisch (1969), 119–357.Find this resource:

        H. C. Melchert, Anatolian Phonology (1995).Find this resource:

          H. C. Melchert (ed.), The Luwians (2003).Find this resource:

            H. A. Hoffner and H. C. Melchert, A Grammar of the Hittite Language (2008).Find this resource:

              H. G. Güterbock and H. A. Hoffner (eds.), The Hittite Dictionary of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago (1980– ).Find this resource:

                J. Puhvel, Hittite Etymological Dictionary (1984– ).Find this resource:

                  A. Kloekhorst, Etymological Dictionary of the Hittite Inherited Lexicon (2008).Find this resource:

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