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Article

Oswald John Louis Szmerenyi and Anna Morpurgo Davies

Historical linguistics studies how language develops in time; comparative linguistics (or comparative philology) uses linguistic comparison to establish that two or more languages are genetically related and descend from an earlier language which may or may not be attested. We know that the Romance languages (French, Italian, Spanish, etc.) are related and descend from a form of Latin, but we can also show that languages like Latin, Greek, Sanskrit, Armenian, English, etc. descend from an unattested parent language. We can reconstruct the main features of this language which we call conventionally Proto-Indo-European (PIE) or simply *Indo-European (IE), and which must have been spoken before writing was developed. Similar techniques allow us to reconstruct Proto-*Semitic, the parent language of Hebrew, Arabic, *Akkadian, etc. or Proto-Algonquian from which a number of Amerindian languages in NE and central North America derive, etc. The question whether all languages descend from one language or many remains open. Within each family we can also establish different degrees of relationship. Greek, Latin, French, English, German are all Indo-European, but Greek and Latin belong to separate branches, English and German to the same branch (Germanic), while French descends from Latin. In general, comparative linguistics may provide evidence for prehistoric events such as the origin or movement of peoples but it also lengthens the history of the languages studied and throws light onto their features. We should not confuse this comparative linguistics, which aims at identifying genetic relationship, with the homonymous discipline which compares different languages (mostly unrelated) in order to establish language types and general features of language.

Article

Luwian  

Anna Morpurgo Davies

Is a branch of the Anatolian family of Indo-European languages. The Hittite archives include clay tablets with rituals written in the so called cuneiform Luwian; the texts date from the 16th to the 13th cents. bce. It is also clear that the Hittite language was strongly influenced by Luwian. A different script, the so called Hieroglyphic Luwian, which is in fact a syllabic script rich in logograms, was devised in the second millennium bce for a closely related language or dialect. We have a few difficult inscriptions in the 14th and 13th cents., but most of the texts (rock inscriptions, stelae, lead letters, etc. ) belong to the 10th-7th cents. bce and were written by the small states which survived the fall of the Hittite Empire in Central and South Anatolia. Cuneiform and Hieroglyphic Luwian are very close but not identical. It is often assumed that *Lycian belongs to the same group but this is not certain. It is also likely that at some stage Luwian was spoken on the south and west coast of Anatolia. See anatolian languages.

Article

H. C. Melchert

The Lycian language is documented in somewhat fewer than 200 inscriptions on stone and in several dozen very short imprints on coins, the latter consisting only of personal and place names, often abbreviated. These texts start with the 6th cent. but most of them date from the 5th and 4th cents. bce. They are written in an alphabet derived from or closely related to that of Greek. All but a handful of the stone inscriptions are funerary texts with highly stereotyped contents. One important exception is the ‘inscribed pillar’ of *Xanthus. Much of this lengthy text remains obscure, owing to problems of vocabulary, but it is clear that it describes the military exploits of a particular dynastic family and the establishment of various cultic centres. Invaluable for understanding the Lycian language is the ‘Letoon trilingual’, which describes in parallel Lycian, Greek, and *Aramaic versions the establishment of a cult of King Caunius (a cult name evidently connected with *Caunus; see H.

Article

H. C. Melchert

Evidence for the Lydian language consists of more than 100 inscriptions, mostly discovered at the site of the ancient capital *Sardis. Only some two dozen of these are long enough and complete enough to be significant in elucidating the language. Aside from a few short imprints on coins, some of which may be as old as the 8th cent. bce, all the texts date from the 5th and 4th cent. bce. Lydian is written in an alphabet related to or derived from that of Greek.

The texts vary in content: many are tomb inscriptions, others appear to be decrees of various kinds. Remarkably, some are in verse, with an accent-based metre and vowel assonance in the last words of each line.

Not all texts found at Sardis are in Lydian. Besides a few graffiti in Carian (see caria), there is the ‘synagogue inscription’, discovered in 1963. It is written in an alphabetic script, but not even the values of the letters, much less the language, have yet been determined.

Article

Olivier Masson and Anna Morpurgo Davies

The problem of the nature and origin of the Macedonian language is still disputed by modern scholars, but does not seem to have been raised among the ancients. We have a rare adverb μακεδονιστί (important passages in *Plutarch, Alex.51 and Eum.14), but the meaning of this form is ambiguous. The adverb cannot tell us whether Plutarch had in mind a language different from Greek (cf. φοινικιστί, ‘in Phoenician’), or a dialect (cf. μεγαριστί, ‘in Megarian’), or a way of speaking (cf. ἀττικιστί). We have some ‘Macedonian’ glosses, particularly in *Hesychius' lexicon, but they are mostly disputed and some were corrupted in the transmission. Thus ἀβροῦτες, ‘eyebrows’ probably must be read as ἀβροῦϝες (with τ which renders a digamma). If so, it is a Greek dialect form; yet others (e.g. A. Meillet) see the dental as authentic and think that the word belongs to an *Indo-European language different from Greek.

Article

Carlo de Simone

The term Messapic refers to the pre-Roman language attested in some 600 inscriptions, mostly funerary, found in the second Augustan district (regio) of Italy, Apulia et Calabria. See Italy; Messapii. The Messapic inscriptions are written in two similar alphabets, both of Greek origin. Given the present state of knowledge, it is wise to speak of Messapic only for the inscriptions of the modern Sallentine peninsula (*Calabria), including also some epigraphic evidence from Monopoli, Caglie, and Brindisi. The name Messapii is also used as quasi-synonymous of Iapyges, Sal(l)entini, and Calabri (cf. e.g. Strabo 6. 277), but in origin Iapygia indicated the Sallentine peninsula; thus we have no evidence that the Greeks called Messapic the local language of Daunia (see Daunians) and Peucetia. There may have been a local unitary language spoken in an area which went from Gargano to the Capo di Leuca, but so far this can only be a hypothesis. It would also be possible to think of some form of linguistic unity subsuming a number of dialects and one could compare e.g. the position of *Oscan in Campania as contrasted with that of Umbrian in the *tabulae Iguvinae.

Article

Heleen Sancisi-Weerdenburg and Josef Wiesehöfer

Old Persian (abbr. OP), an *Indo-European language of western Iran (first millennium bce). The identification of an administrative document written in OP among the texts in the Persepolis Fortification Archive indicates that, contrary to previous orthodoxy, the written language was not limited to royal inscriptions. The syllabic script has only 44 signs. The oldest extant and largest inscription is that of *Bisitun. It is debated whether the script was invented by *Darius I or had predecessors in western Iran. The majority of texts dates from the reigns of Darius and *Xerxes I. Thereafter texts are scarcer and contain more errors. OP was the first *cuneiform script to be deciphered (Grotefend, Rawlinson).

Article

Michel Lejeune

Phrygian is known mainly from inscriptions, both at an early (Old Phrygian) and at a later (New Phrygian) stage. At some time in the 8th cent. bce, the Phrygians devised an alphabet adapted from Greek and Semitic models. In this are written some 250 Old Phrygian texts (mostly short, but with a few of reasonable length) ranging from the second half of the 8th cent. to the second half of the 3rd cent. bce, the majority belonging to the pre-*Achaemenid period (8th–6th cents. bce). They include monumental rock inscriptions, e.g. ates…midai lavagtaei vanaktei edaes, lit. ‘Ates…to Midas chief [and] king has dedicated’. During the Hellenistic and early Roman periods, Phrygian must have been reduced to use as a spoken vernacular, but from the 1st to the 3rd cents. ce it turns up again in written form, in the Greek alphabet. We have over 100 short New Phrygian inscriptions, most of them consisting of curse formulae, often added to epitaphs that are otherwise in Greek; e.g. iosni semoun knoumanei kakon abberet etitetikmenos eitou, lit.

Article

John Chadwick and Anna Morpurgo Davies

Writing in the Aegean area appears to be a native growth, although no doubt inspired by earlier scripts used in Anatolia and Egypt. Apart from an isolated case, it seems that all pre-alphabetic Aegean scripts are related, probably originate from Crete, and are syllabic. Except for Linear B and Classical Cypriot they are undeciphered and the names are purely conventional.The so-called hieroglyphic script was used in Crete mostly on seals and sealings but also on vases, clay tablets, and stone dating from the 18th and 17th cents. bce. Isolated seals were found in *Cythera and *Samothracia. There are some 350 (very short) documents; the script has between 90 and 100 different syllabic signs and a number of ideographic signs. The Arkhanes seals which date from 2100–1900 bce may belong here or with Linear A.The Linear A script is related but we do not know whether it derives from Hieroglyphic Cretan or a common source; it was widely used in Crete from the 19th to the 14th cents. bce and has been found in Minoan settlements in the islands of *Thera, *Melos, *Ceos, Cythera, Samothrace and most recently at *Miletus on the coast of Asia Minor (other find-places are controversial).

Article

John Chadwick

The Greek language is known to have been well established in mainland Greece and *Crete by the 13th cent. bce. But the presence of an earlier language in this area can be inferred from the classical place names, the majority of which are without meaning in Greek. In a few cases the resemblance to a Greek word may be fortuitous or the result of deliberate adaptation (e.g. Σπάρτη, Ῥόδος, Ναυπλία); most inhabited sites with Greek names are foundations of historical date (e.g. Ναύπακτος, Μεγαλόπολις). The elements used in the pre-Greek names can only be reliably identified if of sufficient length. The best examples are: (1) -ινθος, -υνθος as in Κόρινθος, Ζάκυνθος); since this suffix is absent from Asia Minor, but -ανδα is common there, it has been suggested that these have a common origin, but this cannot be proved.(2) -σσος (Attic and Boeotian -ττος) as Παρνασσός, Ἁλικαρνασσός (Λυκαβηττός, Γαργηττός); this should be distinguished from -σος (which is also Attic) as in Κηφισός, Πάμισος, often river names, but in Crete settlements such as Κνωσός, Ἀμνισός, Τυλισός.