Etruscan language

Etruscan was a language spoken and written in the ancient region of Etruria (current Tuscany in Italy). However, Latin completely superseded Etruscan, leaving only a few documents and a few loanwords in Latin (e.g. persona from Etruscan phersu), and some place-names, like Parma.

Although some scholars claim that Etruscan is distantly related to Indo-European, and others that it is part of some theoretical super-family like Nostratic, there is no conclusive evidence of either. Etruscan is thought to be related to Rhaetic and Camunic, two ancient but minor languages of northern Italy. Also, two inscribed stelae found on the island of Lemnos are written in a tongue much akin to Etruscan, though their relation is yet unknown.

Due to its isolation, no significant certain translations from Etruscan into modern languages have been produced yet, however we can be fairly certain of how the language was pronounced as the Etruscan speakers wrote using a variant of the Greek alphabet.

Helmut Rix, Etruskische Texte, 2 vols. (1991) works as a kind of incomplete thesaurus, a main key to studying the Etruscan language.

First of all Rix and his collaborators present the only two unified ()though fragmentary) texts available in Etruscan: the Liber Linteus used for mummy wrappings (now at Zagreb, Croatia) and the Tabula Capuana (the inscribed tablet from Capua).

All the rest of the recovered inscriptions follow, grouped according to the localities in which they were found: Campania, Latium, Falerii and Ager Faliscus, Veii, Caere, Tarquinia, Ager Tarquinensis, Ager Hortanus, and finally, outside Italy, in Gallia Narbonensis, in Corsica and in north Africa. (Two inscriptions from Sardinia, published in 1935, escaped Rix.)

Less precisely identified inscriptions follow, and finally inscriptions on small movable objects: bronze mirrors and cistae (boxes), on gems and coins.

Archeological inscriptions in Etruscan include inner walls and doors of tombs, engraved stele, ossuaries, mirrors and votive gifts.

Inscriptions are highly abbreviated and often casually formed, so that many individual letters are in doubt among the specialists.

The reconstructed phonemes of Etruscan:

/a/ letter: A

/e/ letter: E

/i/ letter: I

/u/ letter: V

/w/ letter: F

/h/ letter: H

/p, p_j/ /p_j/ is /p_h/ according to some scholars, the same applies to /t_j/ and /k_j/ letters: P, Phi

/t, t_j/ letters: T, Theta

/k, k_j/ letters: K, Khi

/ts/ letter: Z

/s/ letter: S

/S/ letter: San

/f/ letter: 8, FH

/l/ letter: L

/r/ letter: R

/m/ M

/n/ N

Rix (see Refs.) also postulates several syllabic consonants, namely /l, r, m, n/ and palatal /l, r, n/ as well as a labiovelar spirant. The palatal series may be somehow connected to the palatalization so typical of Romance languages.

See also: Etruscan civilization, 'Liber Linteus'

External links


Mauro Cristofani, et al. Gli Etruschi: una nuova immagine (Firenze, Giunti Martello 1984)

Helmut Rix, Etruskische Texte 2 vols, 1991.

copyright 2004