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Luwian language

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Title: Luwian language  
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Luwian language

Luwian hieroglyph
Native to Hittite Empire, Arzawa, Neo-Hittite kingdoms
Region Anatolia, Northern Syria
Extinct around 600 BC
Language codes
ISO 639-3 Either:
xlu – Cuneiform Luwian
hlu – Hieroglyphic Luwian
Linguist list
xlu Cuneiform Luwian
  hlu Hieroglyphic Luwian
Glottolog luvi1235[1]
Distribution of the Luwian language

Luwian (; sometimes spelled Luvian, rarely Luish) is an ancient language or group of languages of the Anatolian branch of the Indo-European language family. The two varieties of Luwian are named for the scripts that they were written in: Cuneiform Luwian (CLuwian) and Hieroglyphic Luwian (HLuwian). As to whether these were one language or two, there is no consensus.

Several other languages in Anatolia have been identified as being most similar to Luwian, which suggests that they belong in their own branch with CLuwian and HLuwian. Some linguists name the branch "the Luwian Group" or just "Luwian" and, in that sense, Luwian means all of the Luwian languages. Other linguists, following Melchert, prefer to use Luwic for the branch and Luwian for CLuwian and HLuwian.[2] Proto-Luwian can mean the common ancestor of the two, or the common ancestor of the several although, in the tree-naming conventions, if the branch is to be called Luwic, its ancestor should be Proto-Luwic or Common Luwic.


Stele of Sultanhan, Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara, Turkey.


Luwian is closely related to Hittite.

Trojan hypothesis

Luwian is closely related to, though not the direct ancestor of, Lycian.[3] Luwian has been deduced as one of the likely candidates for the language spoken by the Trojans.[4]

Fringe hypothetical connections

Some fringe hypotheses rejected by mainstream historical linguistics are a Tyrrhenian language connection (related to Lemnian), a Thracian connection, and a Greek connection.


Luwian was among the languages spoken during the 2nd and 1st millennia BC by groups in central and western Anatolia and northern Syria.[5] In the Old Hittite version of the Hittite Code, some, if not all, of the Luwian-speaking areas were called Luwiya. Widmer (2007) has argued that the Mycenaean term ru-wa-ni-jo, attested in Linear B, refers to the same area.[6] The general consensus among scholars is that Luwian was spoken—to varying degrees—across a large portion of western Anatolia, including Troy (Wilusa), the Seha River Land (Sēḫa ~ Sēḫariya, i.e., the Greek Hermos river and Kaikos valley), and the Mira-Kuwaliya kingdom with its core being the Maeander valley.[7] This is suggested by, among other things, a corrupt late copy of the Hittite Code in which the geographical term Luwiya is replaced with Arzawa,[8] a western Anatolian kingdom corresponding roughly with Mira and the Seha River Land.[9] In the post-Hittite era, the region of Arzawa came to be known as Lydia (Assyrian Luddu, Greek Λυδία), where the Lydian language was in use. The name Lydia has been derived from the name Luwiya (Lydian *lūda- < *luw(i)da- < luwiya-, with regular Lydian sound change y > d), which further argues in favour of the location of Luwiya in the west.[10]

Beginning in the 14th century BC, Luwian-speakers came to constitute the majority in the Hittite capital Hattusa.[11] It appears that by the time of the collapse of the Hittite Empire ca. 1180 BC, the Hittite king and royal family were fully bilingual in Luwian. Long after the extinction of the Hittite language, Luwian continued to be spoken in the Neo-Hittite states of Syria, such as Milid and Carchemish, as well as in the central Anatolian kingdom of Tabal that flourished in the 8th century BC.[12]

Cuneiform Luwian

Cuneiform Luwian is a term that refers to the corpus of Luwian texts attested in the tablet archives of Hattusa; it is essentially the same cuneiform writing system used in Hittite.[13] In Laroche's Catalog of Hittite Texts, the corpus of Hittite cuneiform texts with Luwian insertions runs from CTH 757-773, mostly comprising rituals.[14] Cuneiform Luwian texts are written in several dialects, of which the most easily identifiable are Kizzuwatna Luwian, Istanuwa Luwian, and Empire Luwian.[15] The last dialect represents the vernacular of Hattusan scribes of the 14th-13th centuries BC and is mainly attested through Glossenkeil words in Hittite texts.

Hieroglyphic Luwian

Hieroglyphic Luwian is a term that refers to the corpus of Luwian texts written in a native script, known as Anatolian hieroglyphs.[16][17] Once thought to be a variety of the Hittite language, "Hieroglyphic Hittite" was formerly used to refer to the language of the same inscriptions, but this term is now obsolete. The dialect of Luwian hieroglyphic inscriptions appears to be either Empire Luwian or its descendant Iron Age Luwian.

The first report of a monumental inscription dates to 1850, when an inhabitant of Nevşehir reported the relief at Fraktin. In 1870, antiquarian travellers in Aleppo found another inscription built into the south wall of the Al-Qaiqan Mosque. In 1884, Polish scholar Maryan Sokolowski discovered an inscription near Köylütolu, in western Turkey. The largest known inscription was excavated in 1970 in Yalburt, northwest of Konya. Luwian hieroglyphic texts contain a limited number of lexical borrowings from Hittite, Akkadian, and Northwest Semitic; the lexical borrowings from Greek are limited to proper nouns, although common nouns borrowed in the opposite direction do exist.[18]

Relationship to preceding languages

Luwian has numerous archaisms and so is important both to Indo-European linguists and to scholars of the Bronze Age Aegean.

Luwian is used to support the view that the Proto-Indo-European language had three distinct sets of velar consonants:[19]

For Melchert, PIE *ḱ → Luwian z (probably [ts]); *kk; and *kʷku (probably [kʷ]).

Luwian has also been enlisted for its verb kalut(t)i(ya)-, which means "make the rounds of" and is probably derived from *kalutta/i- "circle".[20] It has been argued[21] that this derives from a proto-Anatolian word for "wheel", which in turn would have derived from the common word for "wheel" found in all other Indo-European families.[22] The wheel was invented in the 5th millennium BC and, if kaluti does derive from it, then the Anatolian branch left PIE after its invention (so validating the Kurgan hypothesis as applicable to Anatolian). However, kaluti need not imply a wheel and so need not have been derived from a PIE word with that meaning. The IE words for a wheel may well have arisen in those other IE languages after the Anatolian split.

Luwian possessive adjectives

Where Hittite allows the classically Indo-European suffix -as for the singular genitive and -an for the plural genitive, the "canonical" Luwian as used in cuneiform employed instead a possessive suffix -assa for the singular genitive and -assanz- for the plural genitive.

Given the prevalence of -assa place names and words scattered around all sides of the Aegean Sea, this possessive suffix was sometimes considered evidence of a shared non-Indo-European language or an Aegean Sprachbund preceding the arrivals of Luwians and Greeks. It is, however, possible to account for the Luwian possessive construction as a result of case attraction in the Indo-European noun phrase.[23] The possessive adjectives are pervasive in Kizzuwatna Luwian cuneiform texts, but in Iron Age texts in hieroglyphic transmission they compete with the inherited genitives.[24] The special form of possessive adjectives with plural possessor is restricted to Kizzuwatna Luwian and probably represents a result of its structural interference with Hurrian.[25]

See also


  1. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Luwian". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  2. ^ Melchert 2012, p. 14
  3. ^ Melchert 2003, pp. 175-7 with ref; Melchert 2008a:46.
  4. ^ Watkins 1994; Watkins 1995:144–51; Melchert 2003, pp. 265-70 with ref.
  5. ^ Melchert 2003.
  6. ^ P. Widmer, "Mykenisch ru-wa-ni-jo „Luwier", Kadmos 45 (2007), 82-84, cited on Palaeolexicon: Word study tool of ancient languages.
  7. ^ Watkins 1994; id. 1995:144–51; Starke 1997; Melchert 2003; for the geography Hawkins 1998.
  8. ^ See, e.g., Bryce in Melchert 2003:29–31; Singer 2005:435; Hawkins 2009:74.
  9. ^ Although Yakubovich (2010) has argued that a chain of scribal error and revision led to this substitution, and that Luwiya was not coterminous with Arzawa, but was further east in the area of the Konya plain; see Yakubovich 2010:107–17.
  10. ^ Beekes 2003; cf. Melchert 2008b:154.
  11. ^ Yakubovich 2010:307
  12. ^ Melchert 2003, pp. 147-51
  13. ^ Luwian cuneiform texts are collected in Starke 1985
  14. ^ Laroche 1971, pp. 35-9
  15. ^ Yakubovich 2010, pp. 68-73
  16. ^  
  17. ^ Melchert, H. Craig (1996), "Anatolian Hieroglyphs", in Daniels, Peter T.; Bright, William, The World's Writing Systems, New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press,  
  18. ^ Yakubovich 2010, pp. 140-57
  19. ^ Melchert 1987
  20. ^ Melchert 1993, p. 99
  21. ^ Melchert, p.c., reported in Rieken 2012, p. 5
  22. ^ cf. the Serbo-Croat word "kolut"/"колут" [1]
  23. ^ Yakubovich 2008
  24. ^ Melchert 2003 p. 171
  25. ^ Yakubovich 2010, pp. 45-53


  • Beekes, R. S. P. 2003. ‘Luwians and Lydians.’ Kadmos 42:47–9.
  • Hawkins, J. D. 1998. “Tarkasnawa King of Mira: ‘Tarkendemos’, Boğazköy Sealings, and Karabel.’ Anatolian Studies 48:1–31.
  • Hawkins, J. D. 2009. ‘The Arzawa letters in recent perspective.’ British Museum Studies in Ancient Egypt and Sudan 14:73–83.
  • Laroche, Emmanuel. Catalogue des textes hittites 1971.
  • Melchert H. C. 2008b. 'Greek mólybdos as a loanword from Lydian.' In B. J. Collins et al., eds., Anatolian Interfaces, 153–7. Oxford.
  • Melchert, H. C. 2008a. ‘Lycian’. In The Ancient Languages of Asia Minor, ed. R. D. Woodard, 46–55 at p. 46. Cambridge.
  • Melchert, H. Craig (ed). The Luwians. Boston: Brill Academic Publishers, 2003. ISBN 90-04-13009-8.
  • Melchert, H. Craig. Anatolian Historical Phonology. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1994.
  • Melchert, H. Craig. Cuneiform Luvian Lexicon. Chapel Hill: self-published, 1993.
  • Melchert, H. Craig. "PIE velars in Luvian." In Studies in memory of Warren Cowgill (1929–1985): Papers from the Fourth East Coast Indo-European Conference, Cornell University, June 6–9, 1985, ed. C. Watkins, 182–204. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1987.
  • Melchert, H. Craig (2012). "The Position of Anatolian". 
  • Otten, Heinrich. Zur grammatikalischen und lexikalischen Bestimmung des Luvischen. Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1953.
  • Rieken, Elisabeth. 'Luwier, Lykier, Lyder -- alle vom selben Stamm?'. In Die Ausbreitung des Indogermanischen. Thesen aus Sprachwissenschaft, Archäologie und Genetik. Akten der Arbeitstagung der Indogermanischen Gesellschaft, Würzburg, 24-26 September 2009, ed. H. Hettrich and S. Ziegler, p. ??-??. Wiesbaden: Reichert, 2012.
  • Rosenkranz, Bernhard. Beiträge zur Erforschung des Luvischen. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1952.
  • Singer, I. 2005. ‘On Luwians and Hittites.’ Bibliotheca Orientalis 62:430–51. (Review article of Melchert 2003).
  • Starke, Frank. 'Troia im Kontext des historisch-politischen und sprachlichen Umfeldes Kleinasiens im 2. Jahrtausend. Studia Troica 7:446–87.
  • Starke, Frank. Die keilschrift-luwischen Texte in Umschrift (StBoT 30, 1985)
  • Starke, Frank. Untersuchungen zur Stammbildung des keilschrift-luwischen Nomens (StBoT 30, 1990)
  • Watkins, C. 1995. How to Kill a Dragon: Aspects of Indo-European Poetics. New York and Oxford.
  • Watkins, C.1994. ‘The Language of the Trojans.’ In Selected Writings, ed. L. Oliver et al., vol. 2. 700–717. Innsbruck. = Troy and the Trojan War. A Symposium held at Bryn Mawr College, October 1984, ed. M. Mellink, 45–62. Bryn Mawr.
  • Widmer, P. 2006. 'Mykenisch ru-wa-ni-jo, "Luwier".' Kadmos 45:82–84.
  • Woudhuizen, Fred. The Language of the Sea Peoples. Amsterdam: Najade Pres, 1992.
  • Yakubovich, Ilya. Sociolinguistics of the Luvian Language. Leiden: Brill, 2010
  • Yakubovich, Ilya. "The Origin of Luwian Possessive Adjectives". In Proceedings of the 19th Annual UCLA Indo-European Conference, Los Angeles, November 3–4, 2007, ed. K. Jones-Bley et al., Washington: Institute for the Study of Man, 2008.
  • Luwian Identities: Culture, Language and Religion between Anatolia and the Aegean. Brill, 2013. ISBN 978-90-04-25279-0 (Hardback) ISBN 978-90-04-25341-4 (e-Book)

External links

  • Luwian Swadesh list of basic vocabulary words (from Wiktionary's Swadesh list appendix)
  • Arzawa, to the west, throws light on Hittites
  • Alekseev Manuscript
  • Hieroglyphic Luwian Phonetic Signs
  • Catalog of Hittite Texts: texts in other languages
  • Genitive Case and Possessive Adjective in Anatolian
  • Melchert homepage on Anatolian tongs
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