Umbrian was the language of Sabellic populations in central Italy, including Umbria (see Umbrians) and neighbouring areas to the south that were occupied by the Volsci, Marsi, and Sabini. The bulk of scholarly knowledge of Umbrian comes from the Iguvine Tables (see fig. 1 and TABULAE IGUVINAE).The remaining material consists of about fifty mostly very short inscriptions from the 7th through the 1st centuries bce. A Volscian lex sacra of several lines, found at Velletri but probably stemming from elsewhere, is also noteworthy, as is the extreme age of the so-called Paleo-Umbrian material mostly from the 7th century.Umbrian is distinguished from Oscan, probably its closest relative, by many phonological developments that have, in their aggregate, generally obscured the resemblance of its vocabulary to cognates elsewhere in Italic. Many consonant clusters were simplified; s was rhotacized to r both between vowels and, by the later period, also word-finally after a vowel; diphthongs were monophthongized; intervocalic d was rhotacized to a sound written rs or ř; and initial l- became v-.
Faliscan was the language spoken in the ager Faliscus north of Rome. It is preserved in some 450 mostly very short inscriptions dating from the 6th into the 2nd centurybce primarily from Civita Castellana (Falerii Veteres). An earlier stage of the language is distinguished from a later stage marked by monophthongization of the diphthongs ai and au to e and o, and merger of word-initial f and h as h. A local alphabet used in the early inscriptions gradually gave way to the Latin alphabet but was never fully abandoned.Few inscriptions offer more than onomastic material. Noteworthy is the perhaps proverbial foied vino pipafo (variant pafo) cra carefo = Lat. hodie vinum bibam cras carebo (“Today I shall drink wine, tomorrow I shall do without”), remarkably inscribed on two separate drinking cups (see Faliscan Red Figure kylix depicting Dionysus/Fufluns and Ariadne/Ariatha, Museo Nazionale Etrusco di Villa Giulia, Rome). Of great interest is the “Ceres inscription,” from c.
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.
Sabellic (or Sabellian) is the name given to a group of languages in ancient Italy, including Oscan and Umbrian, that belongs to the Italic branch of Indo-European (see italy, languages of for the use of “Italic” as a label for this group alone). An alternative name, still widely employed, is Osco-Umbrian, but the less cumbersome label Sabellic is increasingly to be found. It is based on what seems to have been the native term for the peoples of this linguistic community (see SABELLI): an element sab-/saf- may be recognized in such names as Samnium (Oscan safinim) and Sabini. (It is clear from recorded glosses and from personal names that the Sabini spoke a form of Sabellic, but there are virtually no inscriptions that can be assigned to them, apart from an unintelligible text on a vase from Poggio Sommavilla.) An older usage, still employed by some scholars, reserves the label Sabellic for the so-called minor dialects, such as Paelignian and Volscian.
There is no evidence for any form of writing in Italy before the arrival of Greek colonists in the 8th century bce. The Euboean alphabet brought by settlers at Pithecusae (mod. Ischia) and Cumae was borrowed by the Etruscans, who acted as intermediaries for the spread of writing throughout much of the peninsula. Only in southern regions adjacent to other Greek settlements was the Greek alphabet again borrowed directly, as in Lucania (for writing Oscan see Sabellic languages) and the Sallentine peninsula (with some modifications, for writing Messapian). Greek cities, of course, continued to write in the Greek alphabet throughout antiquity.An alphabet learnt as such (the theoretical alphabet) may contain more letters than are used in practice. So a number of 7th-century Etruscan abecedaria (written-out alphabets) adhere to the Greek model and include letters such as b, d, or o that are not found in texts: abcdevzhθiklmnsopśqrstuṡφχ.