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Article

Stephanie Dalley

(1) Term used until 1869 for the language now known as *Sumerian. (2) Term used since 1869 for the East Semitic language that is also known by its northern and southern dialects as Assyrian and Babylonian. The language is first attested from personal names of the mid-3rd millennium when it began to supersede Sumerian. It was written on clay, stone, and waxed writing boards in *cuneiform script.

Article

John William Pirie, Lilian Hamilton Jeffery, and Alan Johnston

In early Greece various forms of alphabet were current but all derived from a *Phoenician (Semitic) source, which must have reached the Aegean by the earlier 8th cent. (before our earliest Greek examples of c.760). Recent arguments dating the transfer much earlier are not supported by any material evidence. The alphabet was taken in the order of the Semitic model: ΑΒΓΔΕϝZΗΘΙΚΛΜΝΞΟΠΜΦϘΡΣΤ; not all states used all letters, but all probably retained them in the mechanically repeated order. Certain states found no use for ϝ (‘vau’, ṷ), others for Ξ (properly, perhaps, a more complicated sibilant than is implied by our x), or Ϙ (‘qoppa’, the k before o and u); and for s some used Σ, but others preferred Μ (‘san’, perhaps corresponding to the English pronunciation of z). The most striking feature in the Greek adaptation of the Phoenician model is that by altering (consciously or unconsciously) the original significance of ΑΕΙΟ and adding Υ Greek, unlike Phoenician, achieved an independent representation of vowel-sounds.

Article

John Penney

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.

Article

R. H. Robins

Analogy and anomaly were the titles of two themes in the investigation of the Greek and Latin languages in the classical era. They turned on the question, to what extent can regularity (analogia, analogy) be recognized in rules and classes (e.g. scribo:scribens (I write, writing); lego:legens (I read, reading); equus (one horse), equi (more than one)) and how far must exceptions (anomalia, anomaly) be accepted (e.g. bonus, melior, optimus (good, better, best); Zeús, Zēnós (Zeus, of Zeus); Athēnai, formally plural, the city of Athens). In part this related to the contemporaneous discussion on the natural or the conventional origin of language.The topic arose in the Greek world in Hellenistic times, and was part of the context in which grammatical science itself developed. The Stoics (see stoicism), especially *Chrysippus and *Crates (3), favoured anomaly, and the Alexandrian scholars argued for analogy in the establishing of correct texts in the Homeric poems and in the teaching of Greek. Only on the evidence of analogies could the apparent disorderliness of language be brought into order. In an early statement on the objectives of grammar (c.

Article

Anna Morpurgo Davies

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.

Article

Aramaic  

J. F. Healey

Aramaic, a *Semitic language, was used in the ancient near east from early in the 1st millennium bce and through the Roman period. Originating in upper Mesopotamia, it is first known through royal inscriptions from Syria and was used widely by the Assyrian and Persian administrations (note the *Elephantine papyri). After the fall of the Persian empire Aramaic continued to be used in the Hellenizing cities (see hellenism) of *Palmyra, *Edessa, *Petra, etc. , as well as in the *Parthian east (see hatra). There are many Greek–Aramaic bilingual inscriptions, the best known being the long Palmyrene Tariff. The Edessan dialect of Aramaic, later called Syriac, became the main language of the Christian Church of the middle east. Another late dialect of Aramaic, Mandaic, was used for the sacred writings of the Gnostic pagan sect of the Mandaeans or Sabians in southern Iraq. Modern dialects survive in southeast Turkey/northern Iraq and north of Damascus.

Article

Leofranc Holford-Strevens

Archaism is the employment of obsolete or obsolescent diction intended as such (not the conservative retention of the language with which one grew up, nor the colloquial preservation of expressions eliminated from literary use). Its normal tendency, reinforced by Roman respect for antiquity, was to impart solemnity, even when the usage had not been solemn while still current: characteristic of epic diction ever since Livius Andronicus admitted to his Odyssia forms not found in his dramatic fragments (e.g., -ās gen., topper ‘thereupon’), it also expressed the mock-grandeur of the Plautine slave (see plautus), and became a feature of historical prose in Coelius Antipater.During the late republic, educated speech evolved so fast that the early writers’ language seemed markedly old-fashioned. The purism of Caesar and the mature Cicero excludes obsolescent usages along with the poetic or informal. This did not exclude the judicious use of an occasional archaism to confer solemnity (Cic. De or.

Article

Rosalind Thomas

Widespread bilingualism at some level was characteristic of the ancient world, whether we look for(a) bilingual communities, in which two languages are in use (e.g. official and popular languages, written and non-written, formal and informal), or(b) bilingual individuals who know two languages at some level. Perfect capacity in two languages, a modern ideal, was probably both rare and unnecessary, and, despite Herodotus 8. 144 on Greek (see greek language), the close modern identity of language and nation seems to have been relatively unimportant. But bilingualism implies language choice: according to context, the associations of each language, or social ambition. Latin and especially Greek were the languages of culture and education (in the Roman empire, Latin was the language of law and army), as well as power, so that while many other languages coexisted alongside Latin and Greek, neither Greeks nor Romans ever had to impose their language on others. Greek and Roman writers tended to be uninterested in other languages, or they were never written down, so our evidence (written) is slight and misleading (e.g. we learn about Getic in *Tomis from *Ovid's complaints (e.

Article

Benjamin Fortson

The Latin spoken in the British Isles during and shortly after the Roman occupation (43–410ce). It left numerous traces in loanwords into British Celtic (spoken by the indigenous Celtic population of England and ancestral to Welsh, Cornish, and Breton) and early Anglo-Saxon (Old English). It is probable that British Latin over time developed differently from the Latin spoken on the Continent, but scholars do not agree on what its distinctive features were. This is in spite of the dramatic discoveries starting in the late 20th century (e.g., the Vindolanda tablets) that have greatly augmented the documentation of British Latin. Unlike on the Continent, Latin in Britain did not live on past the Roman occupation, and no Romance language grew out of it; the reasons for this have also been the subject of debate.

Article

Anna Morpurgo Davies

Direct evidence for the Carian language (see caria) is limited to approximately 30 inscriptions from Caria proper and well above 200 inscriptions (some still unedited) written by Carian speakers in Egypt (from the 7th cent. bce). There are also miscellaneous short texts from other sites and two short texts from Greece (6th and 5th cent. bce). The alphabet, which in Caria shows a great deal of variation, is clearly derived from the Greek alphabet with some additions but a number of letters have different values from those of the equivalent Greek letters. The brilliant decipherment started by the English Egyptologist John Ray in the 1980s and then completed by the Spanish scholar Ignacio Adiego and the German scholar Diether Schürr from the 1990s has shown that all earlier readings (partly based on the assumption that the script was half syllabic, half alphabetic) were misguided. The recent discovery of a short Greek–Carian bilingual from Kaunos (late 4th cent. bce) has confirmed the new values.

Article

John Penney

The Celtic branch of Indo-European is traditionally divided into Insular Celtic and Continental Celtic. The records of the Continental Celtic languages consist of names, occurring in profusion in Greek and Roman sources, and epigraphic remains from the Classical period; none of these languages can be shown to have survived beyond imperial times. The best known is Gaulish: in the Greek alphabet (borrowed from Massalia), there are funerary and votive inscriptions on stone, mainly from Gallia Narbonensis (c.200–50bce; see Gaul, transalpine) but also from central Gaul (c.100 bce–50ce), as well as graffiti on pottery. In the Latin alphabet, from the mid-1st century bce onward, from most parts of Gaul, there are inscriptions on stone and a range of other texts, including substantial fragments of a late 2nd-century bronze calendar from Coligny, a sizeable corpus of graffiti in cursive script on pottery from La Graufesenque (c.

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

Benjamin Fortson

Cuneiform denotes any of at least three writing systems of ancient Mesopotamia and the surrounding areas. It is characterized in its classical form by signs consisting of one or more wedge-shaped strokes (cf. Latin cuneus, “wedge”). The first such script to emerge, and the one most widely used, was Sumero-Akkadian cuneiform, which developed in what is now southern Iraq in the late 4th millennium bce. Its antecedents were more primitive methods of mercantile record-keeping using pictograms and tally marks. The earliest stages of the script contained patently pictographic signs drawn in clay with a pointed stylus. A later shift to the use of a reed with the end cut at an oblique angle produced the classic wedge-shaped impressions. The breaking-up of images into sets of wedges together with a gradual reduction in the number of strokes plus a ninety-degree rotation of the signs increased their abstractness and elevated the wedges (initially just an accidental byproduct of the writing technology) to an important design element. It became aesthetically prized in its own right and was carried over onto other media such as stone. The wedges were also imitated in the two other unrelated scripts that are also called cuneiform: Old Persian and Ugaritic.

Article

Anna Morpurgo Davies

In the first half of the first millennium bce each Greek region and indeed each Greek city spoke and sometimes wrote its own dialect (see Greek language). The Greeks themselves mentioned four ethnic groups, Athenians, *Ionians, *Dorians, and Aeolians (see Aeolis), characterized by different dialects, though other classifications were also in use. On the basis of shared linguistic features modern scholars classify the dialects into five groups: Attic-Ionic (in Attica, the Ionic islands of the Aegean, and Asia Minor), Doric (in the Peloponnese, the Doric islands of the Aegean, and Asia Minor), North-West Greek (in the northern part of mainland Greece), Aeolic (in *Boeotia, *Thessaly, and part of Asia Minor including *Lesbos) and Arcado-Cypriot (in *Arcadia and *Cyprus, with possible links to *Pamphylia). It is disputed whether the *Mycenaean language, attested in the second millennium bce, belongs to any of these groups, though it has close links with Arcado-Cypriot.

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

Jean Turfa

The study of the inscriptions written in the Etruscan language and alphabet, usually texts incised on stone, pottery, or metal objects, or occasionally on more fragile media such as ink-on-cloth. Dipinti (painted inscriptions) appear on vases and frescoes, especially from tombs at Tarquinia, Chiusi, and Vulci. The unique characteristics of the non-Indo-European Etruscan language and its seminal place in transmission of the “Roman” alphabet and numerals make it impractical to divorce linguistic, historical, and social considerations from the study of Etruscan epigraphy. The gradual replacement of Etruscan with Latin characters and language may serve as an index of the political and social domination of the Roman state.The alphabet reached Etruria during the 8th centurybce; the earliest exemplar is a set of rocchetti (spools/tablet-weaving weights) incised with the letter A, in a woman’s burial at Veii, implying the involvement of women weavers in its dissemination.1 Early examples (7th-century, especially abecedaria or sample alphabets) retain letter forms developed in western Greek colonies such as Pithekoussai, including letters not used in the pronunciation of Etruscan.

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

This article describes the current state of our knowledge of the Etruscan language. The presentation covers language relationships, approaches to interpretation, alphabet and phonology, morphology and syntax, and the lexicon. Illustrative examples of Etruscan inscriptions complement the linguistic description.Contemporary views about the Etruscan language vary dramatically. Some scholars regard the language as obscure and mysterious; others believe the longest and most complicated texts can be translated. The truth lies somewhere between these extremes. Our knowledge of the structure of the language is much richer than it was fifty years ago, but large gaps remain in our understanding of the grammar, lexicon, and texts—larger than is the case with other languages of comparable attestation.Access to Etruscan is made more difficult by its genetic isolation, which was already recognized by Dionysius of Halicarnassus (Ant. Rom. 1.30.2). The only languages that have so far been shown to be related to Etruscan—that is, to be descended from a common source (referred to now as Proto-Tyrrhenian)—are (a) .

Article

Robert Maltby

Etymology in the ancient world was always closely connected with questions concerning the ultimate origin of language. Was the sound of a word merely a matter of convention (the theory of nomos), or was there some natural relationship between the sign and the thing signified (the theory of physis)? In general the latter view prevailed. The popular assumption that the study of a name could reveal τῸ ἔτυμον, ‘the truth’, about the thing accounts for the importance attached to etymology in ancient thought and literature. But as the ancients had little understanding of comparative philology, in practice their etymologies never attained any degree of accuracy.Etymology based on the belief in the significance of names begins with the poets. So *Homer associates the name of *Odysseus with ὀδύρομαι, ‘to grieve’ (Od. 1. 55), and ὀδύσσομαι, ‘to hate’ (Od. 1. 62), and plays on the literal meanings of such compound names as *Astyanax and *Telemachus.

Article

Benjamin Fortson

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.