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Article

Albio Cesare Cassio

In spite of being spoken in areas so far away from each other, Arcadian (written in the Greek alphabet) and Cypriot (written in a special syllabary) were two closely related ancient Greek dialects, hence the modern appellation “Arcado-Cypriot.” They descended directly from Mycenaean, some archaic vocabulary is unique to Homer, Mycenaean, and Arcado-Cypriot, and various other features set them apart from all the other Greek dialects.Arcado-Cypriot is a modern name used for two ancient Greek dialects, Arcadian and Cypriot, which share in a number of peculiarities—both archaisms and innovations, the latter being of central importance for the reconstruction of an earlier Arcado-Cypriot unity (which was not recognised in antiquity). Obviously, beside numerous similarities, there are remarkable differences between Arcadian and Cypriot.It is likely that both dialects, neither of which seems to have given rise to literary texts, descend directly from Mycenaean, hence the frequently used label of “Achaean” dialects. In archaic and classical times Arcadian was spoken by a population inhabiting central .

Article

Roger Wright

The language of the Roman Empire, spoken and written, was Latin. Like all languages spoken over a wide area for a long time, it varied greatly. Since the arrival of sociolinguistics in the 1960s, it has been accepted that such variation is in no way unnatural or sinister, and the flexibility it implies is often an advantage rather than a problem. But standardization of the Latin language was taken seriously, particularly within the traditions established by Aelius Donatus in the 4th century and Priscian in the 6th, with the result that eventually features of the language that did not accord with the precepts of these authorities were regarded as not just different but wrong. The concept of Vulgar Latin has been defined in a variety of different ways, but József Herman’s definition, as a label for all those features of Latin that we know existed, but which were not recommended by the grammarians, is probably the most useful; its meaning has thus usually been defined in opposition to that of another concept of dubious value, Classical Latin, the Latin of the grammarians (see grammar, grammarians, Latin).

Article

T. G. Wilfong

Coptic is the latest phase of the ancient Egyptian language, written in an alphabet partly derived from Greek and incorporating Greek vocabulary. Strongly associated with Christianity in Egypt, Coptic preserves a wide range of original and translated Christian literature as well as an important body of documentary texts of the later Roman, Byzantine, and early Islamic periods.

Coptic is the latest phase of the ancient Egyptian language, notable for its use of a largely Greek-derived alphabet, its extensive incorporation of Greek vocabulary, and its strong association with Christianity in Egypt. Coptic texts include a wide range of documentary texts of the later Roman, Byzantine, and early Islamic periods; an extensive and rich body of original and translated Christian literature (of particular importance for the early history of Christian monasticism); and unique witnesses to major Gnostic, Manichaean, and Hermetic texts. Coptic was ultimately supplanted by Arabic as the language of daily life in Egypt, but it continues in use to the present as a liturgical language within Christian communities in Egypt (and expatriate Coptic communities across the world).

Article

Philippa M. Steele

Eteocypriot (or Eteocyprian) is a modern term referring to a group of inscriptions written in an unknown language of Iron Age Cyprus (attested 8th–4th centuriesbce). The name was coined by analogy with the ancient term “Eteocretan” on the common assumption that Eteocypriot had survived from the Cypriot Bronze Age (perhaps related to a language written in the undeciphered Cypro-Minoan script); this is still often considered the preferred hypothesis, in the absence of any linguistic features that would point towards a relationship with known Indo-European, Semitic, or other languages. Eteocypriot was written in the deciphered (Classical) Cypriot Syllabic script (see pre-alphabetic scripts, Greek), which was predominantly used to write the Cypriot Greek dialect.In the inscriptions, several features belonging to a single language are well established, including a patronymic formula of uncertain morphological status (-o-ko-o-), a set of nominal endings (most famously, o-ti), the meanings of one or two lexemes (e.g., ke-ra-ke-re-tu-lo-se, probably “well-born” or similar) and a few phonological features.

Article

Rex E. Wallace

The Lemnian language was spoken by the inhabitants of Lemnos, an island in the northern Aegean, in the period before Attic Greek colonization. Lemnian is preserved on sixteen inscriptions dating to the second half of the 6th centurybce. Most inscriptions are single words incised or painted on ceramic vessels.1 Inscriptions on stone monuments provide the bulk of the evidence for the language.

Lemnian inscriptions were written in an alphabet that had its roots in Phrygia, but several letters—theta, phi, and khi—were borrowed from Greek. Other accommodations were made in order to represent more faithfully the Lemnian sound system. The letters for voiced stops and for the vowel ypsilon were eliminated. Words in inscriptions were separated by punctuation in the form of a colon or a tri-colon ⋮. The direction of writing was typically left to right, but lines in longer inscriptions were frequently written in boustrophedon style.

Article

Benjamin Fortson

Old Persian was the Iranian language spoken by the ruling class of the Achaemenid Empire, probably reflecting the Southwest Iranian dialect of Persis (see Persia). It is preserved in documents in a cuneiform script superficially modeled on Mesopotamian (Sumero-Akkadian) writing and first used under Darius I in the late 6th centurybce. As a spoken language, Old Persian was the direct ancestor of Middle Persian and Modern Persian (Farsi). The script was the first cuneiform writing to be deciphered by modern scholars, starting in 1802 with the pioneering work of Georg Grotefend; this laid the basis for the subsequent decipherment of Mesopotamian cuneiform and the languages written in it, one of the most far-reaching achievements of 19th-century science (see cuneiform).Of the two Old Iranian languages that survive in written records (the other being Avestan, the language of the Zoroastrian liturgical texts), only Old Persian is attested to in original documents contemporary with when it was spoken. Most are monumental royal inscriptions, often trilingual (Old Persian, Elamite, Babylonian) in the early period, and have been found primarily in the historical regions of Persis, Elam, and Media. Many of these, most famously the massive trilingual inscribed on a high rock face at Bisotun (Behistun) that records the deeds of Darius I, are of immense value to historians. Though there is evidence of the language throughout the reign of Artaxerxes III (d.

Article

Benjamin Fortson

The Sabellic language (see Sabelli) spoken in central and southern Italy, attested in several hundred inscriptions from the 6th centurybce through the mid-1st centuryce. Specific varieties (e.g., Paelignian, Marrucinian, Vestinian) have been distinguished, though the material is too scanty to glean much information about regional differentiation.Most Oscan inscriptions are written in the native Oscan alphabet; the Greek and Latin alphabets are also found, the former in the south, the latter in some later material. Around the mid-4th centurybce, the Oscan alphabet was modified to indicate more differences among vowels, resulting in the so-called Oscan national alphabet. Few inscriptions postdate the Social War. The material encompasses many genres, including dedicatory inscriptions, epitaphs, leges sacrae, inscriptions on public works, curse tablets, and coin legends. Among the most notable texts are the Tabula Bantina (recording a statute), the Cippus Abellanus (containing an agreement between Abella and Nola concerning a shared sanctuary of Hercules), a lex sacra from Agnone with a lengthy list of deities, various curse tablets from Cumae exhibiting archaic Italic poetic features, the so-called iúvila dedicatory inscriptions from Capua, a lengthy epitaph from Corfinium of both poetic and religious interest, and the eítuns-inscriptions from Pompeii that appear to be military notices put up during the Social War.

Article

Benjamin Fortson

The Punic language was the variety of the Northwest Semitic language Phoenician spoken in Carthage and its colonies in the western Mediterranean basin (see Phoenicians). Remains of the language have been found primarily in North Africa but also in France, Spain, Sicily, Malta, Sardinia, and the Balearic Islands, and date from the 6th centurybce to the 5th centuryce. There is possible evidence that Punic continued to be spoken in North Africa as late as the Arab conquest in the 7th century. Until the fall of Carthage in 146bce, Punic was not distinct from a kind of standard Phoenician in use elsewhere, but after this time, when Carthage’s ties to the Phoenician homeland were severed, it diverged more noticeably, especially in its writing system but also in its phonology and lexicon, the latter affected by loanwords from other North African languages (in particular, Berber) and Latin. Inscriptions up to the fall of Carthage are written in the Phoenician alphabet, after which a cursive form, called Neo-Punic, is generally used instead. A collection of late inscriptions (4th–5th centuryce) from interior Tripolitania are written in the Latin alphabet, sometimes with admixture of Latin; and in a few cases the Greek alphabet was used as well.

Article

Benjamin Fortson

The language of the Elymi in western Sicily, preserved in about 130 mostly fragmentary inscriptions in the Greek alphabet, primarily from Segesta, and dating probably from the 6th and 5th centuriesbce. The language is undeciphered but appears to be Indo-European, with datives in -ai (singular) and -b (plural), as well as a verbal first-person singular emi (“I am”) (unless this is borrowed from Greek).

Article

Benjamin Fortson

South Picene was the Sabellic language spoken in east-central coastal Italy by a people who called themselves Safinús (Sabines, see Sabini). Examples of the language are found on about two dozen inscriptions, which date mostly from the late 6th centurybce, with a few from the 4th. Almost all are funerary texts for warriors on monumental stelae. The South Picene alphabet was not fully deciphered until the mid-1980s by Anna Marinetti. Her work revealed texts of considerable linguistic and cultural interest. Several are poetic, most famously one that reads, postin viam videtas tetis tokam alies esmen vepses vepeten, meaning approximately “along/behind the road you see the toga/covering of Titus Alis, buried (?) in this tomb.” Its bipartite alliterative phrases and its run of three heptasyllables, each structured 2×2×3, are reminiscent of the Saturnian. Given the paucity and often poor preservation of the remains and difficulties with their interpretation, South Picene morphology and syntax can only be sketched, but it appears to be of the typical Sabellic type; noteworthy is a 3rd person plural, perfect ending in -úh, apparently from *-ont.