|Region of Illyria, Southeast Europe|
(Modern Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia)
|Linguistic classification|| Indo-European |
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The Illyrian language ( // ) was a language or group of languages spoken in the western Balkans in Southeast Europe during antiquity. The language is unattested with the exception of personal names and placenames. Just enough information can be drawn from these to allow the conclusion that it belonged to the Indo-European language family.
In ancient sources, the term "Illyrian" is applied to a wide range of tribes settling in a large area of South-Eastern Europe, including Ardiaei, Delmatae, Pannonii, Autariates, Taulantii and others (see list of ancient tribes in Illyria). It is not known to what extent all of these tribes formed a homogeneous linguistic group, but the study of the attested eponyms has led to the identification of a linguistic core area in the south of this zone, roughly around what is now Albania and Montenegro, where Illyrian proper is believed to have been spoken.
Little is known about the relationships beteween Illyrian and its neighboring languages. For lack of more information, Illyrian is typically described as occupying its own branch in the Indo-European family tree. A close relationship with Messapic, once spoken in southern Italy, has been suggested but remains unproven. A relationship with Venetic and Liburnian has also been discussed but is now rejected by most scholars. Among modern languages, Albanian is often conjectured to be a surviving descendant of Illyrian, although this too remains unproven.
In the early modern era and up to the 19th century, the term "Illyrian" was also applied to the modern Southern Slavic language of Dalmatia, today identified as Serbo-Croatian. This language is unrelated to ancient Illyrian.
Illyrian was part of the Indo-European language family. Its relation to other Indo-European languages—ancient and modern—is poorly understood due to the paucity of data and is still being examined. Today, the main source of authoritative information about the Illyrian language consists of a handful of Illyrian words cited in classical sources, and numerous examples of Illyrian anthroponyms, ethnonyms, toponyms and hydronyms. Given the scarcity of the data it is difficult to identify the sound changes that have taken place in Illyrian; the most widely accepted one is that the Indo-European voiced aspirates /bʰ/, /dʰ/, /ɡʰ/ became voiced consonants /b/, /d/, /ɡ/.
A grouping of Illyrian with the Messapian language has been proposed for about a century, and reintroduced recently by Joachim Matzinger.The theory is based on classical sources, archaeology and onomastics. The material culture of the Messapians bears a number of similarities to Illyrian material culture. Some Messapian anthroponyms have close Illyrian equivalents. Another grouping with the Venetic language and Liburnian language, once spoken in northeastern Italy and Liburnia, respectively, has also been proposed. The consensus now is that Illyrian was quite distinct from both.
In the absence of sufficient lexical data and texts written in Illyrian, the theories supporting the centum character of the Illyrian language have been based mainly on the centum character of the Venetic language, which was thought to be related to Illyrian, in particular regarding Illyrian toponyms and names such as Vescleves, Acrabanus, Gentius, Clausal etc.The relation between Venetic and Illyrian was later discredited and they are no longer considered closely related. Scholars supporting the satem character of Illyrian highlight particular toponyms and personal names such as Asamum, Birzinimum, Zanatis etc. in which these scholars see satem-type reflexes of Indo-European roots. They also point to other toponyms including Osseriates derived from /*eghero/ (lake) or Birziminium from PIE /*bherǵh/ or Asamum from PIE /*aḱ-mo/ (sharp).
Even if the above-mentioned Venetic toponyms and personal names are accepted as Illyrian in origin, it is not clear that they originated in a centum language. Vescleves, Acrabanus, Gentius and Clausal are explained by proponents of the hypothesis that Illyrian had a centum character, through comparison with IE languages such as Sanskrit or Ancient Greek, or reconstructed PIE. For example, Vescleves has been explained as PIE *wesu-ḱlewes (of good fame).Also, the name Acrabanus as a compound name has been compared with Ancient Greek /akros/ with no signs of palatalization, or Clausal has been related to /*klew/ (wash, rinse). In all these cases the supporters of the centum character of the Illyrian language consider PIE *ḱ > /*k/ or PIE *ǵ > /*g/ followed by an /l/ or /r/ to be evidence of a centum character of the Illyrian language. However, it has been shown that even in Albanian and Balto-Slavic, which are satem languages (with some uncertainty surrounding Albanian), the palatovelars have been generally depalatized (the depalatization of PIE *ḱ > *k and *ǵ > *g before /r/ and /l/ regularly in Albanian) in this phonetical position. The name Gentius or Genthius does not help either as there are two Illyrian forms for it, Genthius and Zanatis. If Gentius or Genthius derives from *ǵen- ("to be born"), this is proof of a centum language, but if the name Zanatis is similarly generated (or from *ǵen-, "know") then Illyrian is a satem language. Another problem related to the name Gentius is that it cannot be stated whether the initial /g/ of the sources was a palatovelar or a labiovelar.
Taking into account the absence of sufficient data and sometimes the dual nature of their interpretation, the centum/satem character of the Illyrian language is still uncertain and requires more evidence.
The Greeks were the first literate people to come into frequent contact with Illyrian speakers. Their conception of "Illyrioi", however, differed from what the Romans would later call "Illyricum". The Greek term encompassed only the peoples who lived on the borders of Macedonia and Epirus. Pliny the Elder, in his work Natural History, still applies a stricter usage of the term Illyrii when speaking of Illyrii proprie dicti ("Illyrians properly so-called") among the native communities in the south of Roman Dalmatia.
For a couple of centuries before and after the Roman conquest in the late 1st century BC, the concept of Illyricum expanded towards the west and north. Finally it encompassed all native peoples from the Adriatic to the Danube, inhabiting the Roman provinces of Dalmatia, Pannonia and Moesia, regardless of their ethnic and cultural differences.
An extensive study of Illyrian names and territory was undertaken by Hans Krahe in the first decades of the twentieth century. He and other scholars argued for a broad distribution of Illyrian peoples considerably beyond the Balkans,though in his later work, Krahe curbed his view of the extent of Illyrian settlement.
The further refinements of Illyrian onomastic provinces for that Illyrian area included in the later Roman province were proposed by Géza Alföldy.He identified five principal groups: (1) "real Illyrians" south of the river Neretva and extending south of the provincial boundary with Macedonia at the river Drin to include the Illyris of north and central Albania; (2) the Delmatae who occupied the middle Adriatic coast between the "real Illyrians" and the Liburni; (3) the Venetic Liburni of the northeast Adriatic; (4) the Japodes who dwelt north of the Delmatae and beyond the Liburni, where names reveal a mixture of Venetic, Celtic and Illyrian; and (5) the Pannonian people north in Bosnia, Northern Montenegro, and western Serbia.
These identifications were later challenged by Radoslav Katičićwho on the basis of personal names which occur commonly in Illyricum distinguished three onomastic areas: (1) South-Eastern Illyrian, extending southwards from the southern part of Montenegro and including most of Albania west of the river Drin, though its demarcation to the south remains uncertain; (2) Central Illyrian consisting of most of ex-Yugoslavia, north of southern Montenegro to the west of Morava, excepting ancient Liburnia in the northwest, but perhaps extending into Pannonia in the north; (3) Liburnian, whose names resemble those of the Venetic territory to the northeast.
The onomastic differences between the South-Eastern and Central areas are not sufficient to show that two clearly differentiated dialects of Illyrian were in use in these areas.However, as Katičić has argued, the core onomastic area of Illyrian proper is to be located in the southeast of that Balkan region, traditionally associated with the Illyrians (centered in modern Albania).
Traditionally Illyrian has referred to any non-Celtic language in the northwestern Balkans. Recent scholarship from the 1960s and on tends to agree that the region inhabited by Illyrian tribes can be divided into three distinct linguistic and cultural areas, of which only one can be properly termed "Illyrian".No written texts regarding self-identification exist from the Illyrians and no inscriptions in Illyrian exist, with the only linguistic remains being place names (toponyms) and some glosses.
Since there are no Illyrian texts, sources for identifying Illyrian words have been identified by Hans Kraheas being of four kinds: inscriptions, glosses of Illyrian words in classical texts, names—including proper names (mostly inscribed on tombstones), toponyms and river names—and Illyrian loanwords in other languages. The last category has proven particularly contentious. The names occur in sources that range over more than a millennium, including numismatic evidence, as well as posited original forms of placenames. There are no Illyrian inscriptions (Messapian inscriptions are treated separately, and there is no consensus that they are to be reckoned as Illyrian). The spearhead found at Kovel and thought by some to be Illyrian is considered by the majority of runologists to be Eastern Germanic, and most likely Gothic, while a votive inscription on a ring found near Shkodër which was initially interpreted as Illyrian was shown to actually be Byzantine Greek.
Illyrian proper went extinct between the 2nd and 6th centuries AD,with the possible exception of a branch that may have survived and developed into Albanian.
It has also been posited that Illyrian was preserved and spoken in the countryside, as attested in the 4th-5th century testimonies of St. Jerome.
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The Indo-European languages are a language family native to western and southern Eurasia. It comprises most of the languages of Europe together with those of the northern Indian subcontinent and the Iranian Plateau. A few of these languages, such as English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish, have expanded through colonialism in the modern period and are now spoken across several continents. The Indo-European family is divided into several branches or sub-families, of which there are 8 groups with languages alive today: Albanian, Armenian, Balto-Slavic, Celtic, Germanic, Hellenic, Indo-Iranian and Italic and 7 extinct subdivisions.
In classical antiquity, Illyria was a region in the western part of the Balkan Peninsula inhabited by numerous tribes of people collectively known as the Illyrians. Illyrians spoke the Illyrian language, a Indo-European language, which in ancient times perhaps also had speakers in some parts in Southern Italy. The geographical term Illyris was sometimes used to define approximately the area of northern and central Albania down to the Aoös valley, including in most periods much of the lakeland area. In Roman times the terms Illyria / Illyris / Illyricum were extended from the territory that was roughly located in the area of the south-eastern Adriatic coast and its hinterland, to a broader region stretching between the Adriatic Sea and the Danube, and from the upper reaches of the Adriatic down to the Ardiaei. From about mid 1st century BC the term Illyricum was used by the Romans for the province of the Empire that stretched along the eastern Adriatic coast north of the Drin river, south of which the Roman province of Maceodnia began.
The Veneti were an Indo-European people who inhabited northeastern Italy, in an area corresponding to the modern-day region of Veneto.
Dacian is an extinct language, generally believed to be Indo-European, that was spoken in the Carpathian region in antiquity. In the 1st century, it was probably the predominant language of the ancient regions of Dacia and Moesia and possibly of some surrounding regions. The language was probably extinct by the 7th century AD.
The Illyrians were a group of Indo-European speaking tribes, who inhabited the western Balkan Peninsula in ancient times. They constituted one of the three main Paleo-Balkan populations in the Balkans, along with the Thracians and Greeks.
The Thracian language is an extinct and poorly attested language, spoken in ancient times in Southeast Europe by the Thracians. The linguistic affinities of the Thracian language are poorly understood, but it is generally agreed that it was an Indo-European language with satem features.
Messapic is an extinct Indo-European language of the southeastern Italian Peninsula, once spoken in Apulia by the three Iapygian tribes of the region: the Messapians, the Peucetians and the Daunians. Messapic became extinct following the Roman conquest of the region. It has been preserved in about 600 inscriptions written in an alphabet derived from a Western Greek model and dating from the mid-6th to at least the 2nd century BC.
Venetic is an extinct Indo-European language, usually classified into the Italic subgroup, that was spoken by the Veneti people in ancient times in northeast Italy and part of modern Slovenia, between the Po River delta and the southern fringe of the Alps.
The origin of the Albanians has long been a matter of debate within scholarship. The Albanians first appear in the historical record in Byzantine sources of the 11th century. At this point, they were already fully Christianized. The Albanian language forms a separate branch of Indo-European, first attested in the 15th century, and is considered to have evolved from one of the Paleo-Balkan languages of antiquity. The surviving pre-Christian Albanian culture shows that Albanian mythology and folklore are of Paleo-Balkanic origin and that almost all of their elements are pagan.
The Paleo-Balkan languages or Palaeo-Balkan languages is a grouping of various extinct Indo-European languages that were spoken in the Balkans and surrounding areas in ancient times.
The Histri were an ancient people inhabiting the Istrian peninsula, to which they gave the name. Their territory stretched to the neighbouring Gulf of Trieste and bordered the Iapydes in the hinterland of Tarsatica. The Histri formed a kingdom.
The Liburnian language is an extinct language which was spoken by the ancient Liburnians, who occupied Liburnia, a variously defined region in modern southwestern Croatia, in classical times. Classification of the Liburnian language is not clearly established; it is reckoned as an Indo-European language with a significant proportion of the Pre-Indo-European elements from the wider area of the ancient Mediterranean.
Thraco-Illyrian is a hypothesis that the Daco-Thracian and Illyrian languages comprise a distinct branch of Indo-European. Thraco-Illyrian is also used as a term merely implying a Thracian-Illyrian interference, mixture or sprachbund, or as a shorthand way of saying that it is not determined whether a subject is to be considered as pertaining to Thracian or Illyrian. Downgraded to a geo-linguistic concept, these languages are referred to as Paleo-Balkan.
The linguistic classification of the ancient Thracian language has long been a matter of contention and uncertainty, and there are widely varying hypotheses regarding its position among other Paleo-Balkan languages. It is not contested, however, that the Thracian languages were Indo-European languages which had acquired satem characteristics by the time they are attested.
Hans Krahe was a German philologist and linguist, specializing over many decades in the Illyrian languages. He was born at Gelsenkirchen.
Illyrian religion refers to the religious beliefs and practices of the Illyrian peoples, a group of tribes who spoke the Illyrian languages and inhabited part of the western Balkan Peninsula since at least the 8th century BC and until the 7th century AD. The available written sources are very tenuous. They consist largely of personal and place names, and a few glosses from Classical sources.
Albanian is an Indo-European language spoken by the Albanians in the Balkans and the Albanian diaspora in the Americas, Europe and Oceania. With about 7.5 million speakers, it comprises an independent branch within the Indo-European languages and is not closely related to any other language.
Languages of the Indo-European family are classified as either centum languages or satem languages according to how the dorsal consonants of the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European language (PIE) developed. An example of the different developments is provided by the words for "hundred" found in the early attested Indo-European languages. In centum languages, they typically began with a sound, but in satem languages, they often began with.
Pan-Illyrian theories were proposed in the first half the twentieth century by philologists who thought that traces of Illyrian languages could be found in several parts of Europe, outside the Balkan area.
This article contains information about Illyrian vocabulary. No Illyrian texts survive, so sources for identifying Illyrian words have been identified by Hans Krahe as being of four kinds: inscriptions, glosses of Illyrian words in classical texts, names—including proper names, toponyms and river names—and Illyrian loanwords in other languages. The last category has proven particularly contentious. The names occur in sources that range over more than a millennium, including numismatic evidence, as well as posited original forms of placenames. The Messapian language, which may or may not be related, does have a small attested corpus, but it is not in this page's scope due to the uncertainty about its relationship to Illyrian.