Venetic language

Last updated
Native to Italy
Region Veneto
Ethnicity Adriatic Veneti
Eraattested 6th–1st century BCE [1]
Old Italic (Venetic alphabet)
Language codes
ISO 639-3 xve
Glottolog vene1257
Linguistic groups around the Italian peninsula during the Iron Age. Venetic is in brown. Iron Age Italy.svg
Linguistic groups around the Italian peninsula during the Iron Age. Venetic is in brown.

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 (Veneto and Friuli) and part of modern Slovenia, between the Po River delta and the southern fringe of the Alps. [2] [1] [3]


The language is attested by over 300 short inscriptions dating from the 6th to the 1st century BCE. Its speakers are identified with the ancient people called Veneti by the Romans and Enetoi by the Greeks. It became extinct around the 1st century when the local inhabitants assimilated into the Roman sphere. Inscriptions dedicating offerings to Reitia are one of the chief sources of knowledge of the Venetic language. [4]

Linguistic classification

Venetic alphabet Venetico.png
Venetic alphabet

Venetic is a centum language. The inscriptions use a variety of the Northern Italic alphabet, similar to the Etruscan alphabet.

The exact relationship of Venetic to other Indo-European languages is still being investigated, but the majority of scholars agree that Venetic, aside from Liburnian, shared some similarities with the Italic languages and so is sometimes classified as Italic. However, since it also shared similarities with other Western Indo-European branches (particularly Celtic languages and Germanic languages), some linguists prefer to consider it an independent Indo-European language. Venetic may also have been related to the Illyrian languages once spoken in the western Balkans, though the theory that Illyrian and Venetic were closely related is debated by current scholarship.

While some scholars consider Venetic plainly an Italic language, more closely related to the Osco-Umbrian languages than to Latin, many authorities suggest, in view of the divergent verbal system, that Venetic was not part of Italic proper, but split off from the core of Italic early. [5]

Recent research has concluded that Venetic was a relatively archaic language significantly similar to Celtic, on the basis of morphology, while it occupied an intermediate position between Celtic and Italic, on the basis phonology. However these phonological similarities may have arisen as an areal phenomenon. [6] Phonological similarities to Rhaetian have also been pointed out. [7]


During the period of Latin-Venetic bilingual inscriptions in the Roman script, i.e. 150–50 BCE, Venetic became flooded with Latin loanwords. The shift from Venetic to Latin resulting in language death is thought by scholarship to have already been well under way by that time. [8]


Venetic had about six, possibly seven, noun cases and four conjugations (similar to Latin). About 60 words are known, but some were borrowed from Latin (liber.tos. < libertus) or Etruscan. Many of them show a clear Indo-European origin, such as vhraterei < PIE *bʰréh₂trey = to the brother.


In Venetic, PIE stops *bʰ, *dʰ and *gʰ developed to /f/, /f/ and /h/, respectively, in word-initial position (as in Latin and Osco-Umbrian), but to /b/, /d/ and /g/, respectively, in word-internal intervowel position (as in Latin). For Venetic, at least the developments of *bʰ and *dʰ are clearly attested. Faliscan and Osco-Umbrian have /f/, /f/ and /h/ internally as well.

There are also indications of the developments of PIE *kʷ > kv, *gʷ- > w- and PIE *gʷʰ- > f- in Venetic, the latter two being parallel to Latin; as well as the regressive assimilation of the PIE sequence *p...kʷ... > *kʷ...kʷ..., a feature also found in Italic and Celtic. [9] :p.141

Language sample

A sample inscription in Venetic, found on a bronze nail at Este (Es 45): [2] :

VeneticMego donasto śainatei Reitiiai porai Egeotora Aimoi ke louderobos
Latin (literal)Me donavit sanatrici Reitiae bonae Egetora [pro] Aemo liberis-que
EnglishEgetora gave me to Good Reitia the Healer on behalf of Aemus and the children

Another inscription, found on a situla (vessel such as an urn or bucket) at Cadore (Ca 4 Valle): [2] :

Veneticeik Goltanos doto louderai Kanei
Latin (literal)hoc Goltanus dedit liberae Cani
EnglishGoltanus sacrificed this for the free Kanis


The most prominent scholars who have deciphered Venetic inscriptions or otherwise contributed to the knowledge of the Venetic language are Pauli, [10] Krahe, [11] Pellegrini, [2] Prosdocimi, [2] [12] [13] and Lejeune. [9] Recent contributors include Capuis [14] and Bianchi. [15]

See also

Related Research Articles

Italic languages Subfamily of the Indo-European language family spoken by Italic peoples

The Italic languages form a branch of the Indo-European language family, whose earliest known members were spoken in the Italian Peninsula in the first millennium BC. The best known of them is Latin, the official language of ancient Rome, which conquered the other Italic peoples before the common era. The other Italic languages became extinct in the first centuries AD as their speakers were assimilated into the Roman Empire and shifted to some form of Latin. Between the third and eighth centuries AD, Vulgar Latin diversified into the Romance languages, which are the only Italic languages natively spoken today.

Indo-European languages Large language family originating in Eurasia

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.

The Old Italic scripts are a number of similar ancient writing systems used in the Italian Peninsula between about 700 and 100 BC, for various languages spoken in that time and place. The most notable member is the Etruscan alphabet, which was the immediate ancestor of the Latin alphabet currently used by English and many other languages of the world. The runic alphabets used in northern Europe are believed to have been separately derived from one of these alphabets by the 2nd century AD.

Oscan language Extinct language of southern Italy

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Adriatic Veneti

The Veneti were an Indo-European people who inhabited northeastern Italy, in an area corresponding to the modern-day region of Veneto.

The Ligurian language was spoken in pre-Roman times and into the Roman era by an ancient people of north-western Italy and current south-eastern France known as the Ligures.

Lepontic language Ancient Celtic language

Lepontic is an ancient Alpine Celtic language that was spoken in parts of Rhaetia and Cisalpine Gaul between 550 and 100 BC. Lepontic is attested in inscriptions found in an area centered on Lugano, Switzerland, and including the Lake Como and Lake Maggiore areas of Italy.

Rhaetic Extinct ancient language of the Eastern Alps

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.

Celtiberian language

Celtiberian or Northeastern Hispano-Celtic is an extinct Indo-European language of the Celtic branch spoken by the Celtiberians in an area of the Iberian Peninsula between the headwaters of the Douro, Tagus, Júcar and Turia rivers and the Ebro river. This language is directly attested in nearly 200 inscriptions dated to the 2nd and 1st centuries BC, mainly in Celtiberian script, a direct adaptation of the northeastern Iberian script, but also in the Latin alphabet. The longest extant Celtiberian inscriptions are those on three Botorrita plaques, bronze plaques from Botorrita near Zaragoza, dating to the early 1st century BC, labelled Botorrita I, III and IV. In the northwest was another Celtic language, Gallaecian, that was closely related to Celtiberian.

Paleo-Balkan languages Geographical grouping of Indo-European languages

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.

Osco-Umbrian languages

The Osco-Umbrian, Sabellic or Sabellian languages are a group of Italic languages, the Indo-European languages that were spoken in Central and Southern Italy by the Osco-Umbrians before being replaced by Latin, as the power of Ancient Rome expanded. They developed from the middle of the 1st millennium BC to the early centuries of the 1st millennium AD. The languages are known almost exclusively from inscriptions, principally of Oscan and Umbrian, but there are also some Osco-Umbrian loanwords in Latin.

Latino-Faliscan languages Language family

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In historical linguistics, Italo-Celtic is a grouping of the Italic and Celtic branches of the Indo-European language family on the basis of features shared by these two branches and no others. There is controversy about the causes of these similarities. They are usually considered to be innovations, likely to have developed after the breakup of the Proto-Indo-European language. It is also possible that some of these are not innovations, but shared conservative features, i.e. original Indo-European language features which have disappeared in all other language groups. What is commonly accepted is that the shared features may usefully be thought of as Italo-Celtic forms, as they are certainly shared by the two families and are almost certainly not coincidental.

The Italic peoples were an ethnolinguistic group identified by their use of Italic languages a branch of the Indo-European language family.

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Hans Krahe

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Illyrian language Ancient language in Southeast Europe

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.

Proto-Italic language Ancestor of Latin and other Italic languages

The Proto-Italic language is the ancestor of the Italic languages, most notably Latin and its descendants, the Romance languages. It is not directly attested in writing, but has been reconstructed to some degree through the comparative method. Proto-Italic descended from the earlier Proto-Indo-European language.

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.


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  2. 1 2 3 4 5 Pellegrini, Giovanni Battista; Prosdocimi, Aldo Luigi (1967). La Lingua Venetica: I – Le iscrizioni; II – Studi. Padova: Istituto di glottologia dell'Università di Padova.
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  6. Gvozdanović, Jadranka (2012). "On the linguistic classification of Venetic" (PDF). Journal of Language Relationship [Вопросы языкового родства]. 7: 33–46. doi:10.31826/jlr-2012-070107. S2CID   212688857.
  7. Silvestri, M.; Tomezzoli, G. (2007). Linguistic distances between Rhaetian, Venetic, Latin, and Slovenian languages (PDF). Int'l Topical Conf. Origin of Europeans. pp. 184–190.
  8. Woodard, Roger D., ed. (2008). The ancient languages of Europe. Cambridge University Press. p. 139.
  9. 1 2 Lejeune, Michel (1974). Manuel de la langue vénète. Heidelberg: Carl Winter – Universitätsverlag.
  10. Pauli, Carl Eugen (1885–1894). Altitalische Forschungen. Leipzig: J.A. Barth.
  11. Krahe, Hans (1954). Sprache und Vorzeit: europäische Vorgeschichte nach dem Zeugnis der Sprache (in German). Heidelberg: Quelle & Meyer.
  12. Prosdocimi, Aldo Luigi (2002). Veneti, Eneti, Euganei, Ateste.[ full citation needed ]
  13. Prosdocimi, Aldo Luigi (2002). "Trasmissioni alfabetiche e insegnamento della scrittura". AKEO. I Tempi della Scrittura. Veneti Antichi: Alfabeti e Documenti. Montebelluna: 25–38. (Catalogue of an exposition at Montebelluna, 12/2001–05/2002)
  14. Capuis, Loredana. "Selected bibliography". Archived from the original on 2005-08-06.
  15. Bianchi, Anna Maria Chieco; et al. (1988). Italia: omnium terrarum alumna: la civiltà dei Veneti, Reti, Liguri, Celti, Piceni, Umbri, Latini, Campani e Iapigi (in Italian). Milano: Scheiwiller.

Further reading