|Extinct||attested 6th century BC|
Location of Lemnos
The Lemnian language was spoken on the island of Lemnos in the second half of the 6th century BC.It is mainly attested by an inscription found on a funerary stele, termed the Lemnos stele, discovered in 1885 near Kaminia. Fragments of inscriptions on local pottery show that it was spoken there by a community. In 2009, a newly discovered inscription was reported from the site of Hephaistia, the principal ancient city of Lemnos. Lemnian is largely accepted as being closely related to Etruscan. After the Athenians conquered the island in the latter half of the 6th century BC, Lemnian was replaced by Attic Greek.
The Lemnian inscriptions are in Western Greek alphabet, also called "red alphabet". The red type is found in most parts of central and northern mainland Greece (Thessaly, Boeotia and most of the Peloponnese), as well as the island of Euboea, and in colonies associated with these places, including most colonies in Italy.The alphabet used for Lemnian inscriptions is similar to an archaic variant used to write the Etruscan language in southern Etruria.
A relationship between Lemnian and Etruscan, as a Tyrsenian language family, has been proposed by German linguist Helmut Rix due to close connections in vocabulary and grammar.For example,
Rix's Tyrsenian family is supported by a number of linguists such as Stefan Schumacher,Carlo De Simone, Norbert Oettinger, Simona Marchesini, or Rex E. Wallace. Common features between Etruscan, Rhaetic, and Lemnian have been observed in morphology, phonology, and syntax. On the other hand, few lexical correspondences are documented, at least partly due to the scanty number of Rhaetic and Lemnian texts and possibly to the early date at which the languages split. The Tyrsenian family (or Common Tyrrhenic) is often considered to be Paleo-European and to predate the arrival of Indo-European languages in southern Europe.
The Lemnian language could have arrived in the Aegean Sea during the Late Bronze Age, when Mycenaean rulers recruited groups of mercenaries from Sicily, Sardinia and various parts of the Italian peninsula.
Like Etruscan, the Lemnian language appears to have had a four-vowel system, consisting of "i", "e", "a" and "u". Other languages in the neighbourhood of the Lemnian area, namely Hittite and Akkadian, had similar four-vowel systems, suggesting early areal influence.
The stele was found built into a church wall in Kaminia and is now at the National Archaeological Museum of Athens. The 6th century date is based on the fact that in 510 BC the Athenian Miltiades invaded Lemnos and Hellenized it.The stele bears a low-relief bust of a man and is inscribed in an alphabet similar to the western ("Chalcidian") Greek alphabet. The inscription is in Boustrophedon style, and has been transliterated but had not been successfully translated until serious linguistic analysis based on comparisons with Etruscan, combined with breakthroughs in Etruscan's own translation started to yield fruit.
The inscription consists of 198 characters forming 33 to 40 words, word separation sometimes indicated with one to three dots. The text consists of three parts, two written vertically and one horizontally. Comprehensible is the phrase aviš sialχviš ('aged sixty', B.3), reminiscent of Etruscan avils maχs śealχisc ('and aged sixty-five').
Another Lemnian inscription was found during excavations at Hephaistia on the island of Lemnos in 2009.The inscription consists of 26 letters arranged in two lines of boustrophedonic script.
Etruscan was the language of the Etruscan civilization, in Italy, in the ancient region of Etruria. Etruscan influenced Latin but eventually was completely superseded by it. The Etruscans left around 13,000 inscriptions that have been found so far, only a small minority of which are of significant length; some bilingual inscriptions with texts also in Latin, Greek, or Phoenician; and a few dozen loanwords. Attested from 700 BC to AD 50, the relation of Etruscan to other languages has been a source of long-running speculation and study, with its being referred to at times as an isolate, one of the Tyrsenian languages, and a number of other less well-known theories.
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The Tyrrhenians or Tyrsenians were a non-Greek people.
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.
Rhaetic or Raetic, also known as Rhaetian, was a language spoken in the ancient region of Rhaetia in the Eastern Alps in pre-Roman and Roman times. It is documented by around 280 texts dated from the 5th up until the 1st century BC, which were found through Northern Italy, Southern Germany, Eastern Switzerland, Slovenia and Western Austria, in two variants of the Old Italic scripts.
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Helmut Rix was a German linguist and professor of the Sprachwissenschaftliches Seminar of Albert-Ludwigs-Universität, Freiburg, Germany.
The Tabula Cortonensis is a 2200-year-old, inscribed bronze tablet of Etruscan origin, discovered in Cortona, Italy. It may record for posterity the details of an ancient legal transaction which took place in the ancient Tuscan city of Cortona, known to the Etruscans as Curtun. Its 40-line, two-sided inscription is the third longest inscription found in the Etruscan language, and the longest discovered in the 20th century. While the discovery was made in October 1992, the contents were not published until seven years later, in 1999. The delay was due to the tablet's having been brought to the police by someone who claimed to have found it at a construction site. When provided to the police, the tablet had been broken into seven fragments, with the original right bottom corner missing. Investigators believed that, if the existence of the tablet were not initially disclosed, it would have been easier to ascertain whether the tablet had really been found at that location and possibly locate the missing portion.
Tyrsenian, named after the Tyrrhenians, is a proposed extinct family of closely related ancient languages put forward by linguist Helmut Rix (1998), which consists of the Etruscan language of northern, central and south-western Italy, and eastern Corsica (France); the Rhaetic language of the Alps, named after the Rhaetian people; and the Lemnian language of the Aegean Sea. Camunic in northern Lombardy, in between Etruscan and Rhaetic, may belong here too, but the material is very scant. The Tyrsenian languages are generally considered Pre-Indo-European (Paleo-European).
North Picene, also known as North Picenian or Northern Picene, is an ancient language, believed to have been spoken in part of central-eastern Italy. The evidence for the language consists of four inscriptions dating from the 1st millennium BC, three of them no more than small broken fragments. It is written in a form of the Old Italic alphabet. While its texts are easily transliterated, none of them have been translated so far. It is not possible to determine whether it is related to any other known language. Despite the use of a similar name, it does not appear that North Picene is closely related to South Picene, and they may not be related at all. The total number of words in the inscriptions is about 60. It is not even certain that the inscriptions are all in one language.
The Pre-Greek substrate consists of the unknown language(s) spoken in prehistoric Greece before the coming of the Proto-Greek language in the area during the Bronze Age. It is possible that Greek acquired some thousand words and proper names from such a language(s), because some of its vocabulary cannot be satisfactorily explained as deriving from Proto-Greek and a Proto-Indo-European reconstruction is almost impossible for such terms.
Etruscan history is the written record of Etruscan civilization compiled mainly by Greek and Roman authors. Apart from their inscriptions, from which information mainly of a sociological character can be extracted, the Etruscans left no surviving history of their own, nor is there any mention in the Roman authors that any was ever written. Remnants of Etruscan writings are almost exclusively concerned with religion.
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Carlo De Simone is an Italian linguist, specializing in Ancient Greek and Latin texts and Etruscan epigraphs. He is best known for his research into Etruscan, Lemnian and Rhaetian languages.
Rex E. Wallace is an American linguist and classical scholar specializing in Etruscan language, languages of ancient Italy, epigraphy, historical linguistics. He served as Professor of Classics at University of Massachusetts Amherst from 1985 until his retirement in 2018.
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