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Tyrsenian languages

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Title: Tyrsenian languages  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Etruscan language, Etruscan origins, Tyrrhenians, List of languages by time of extinction, Etruscan history
Collection: Language Families, Pre-Indo-Europeans, Tyrsenian Languages
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Tyrsenian languages

Southern Europe
Linguistic classification: One of the world's primary language families
Glottolog: etru1243[1]
Approximate area of Tyrsenian languages

Tyrsenian (also Tyrrhenian), named after the Tyrrhenians (Ancient Greek (Ionic): Τυρσηνοί Tursēnoi), is a hypothetical extinct family of closely related ancient languages proposed by Helmut Rix (1998), that consists of the Etruscan language of central Italy, the Raetic language of the Alps, and the Lemnian language of the Aegean Sea. Camunic in northern Lombardy, in between Etruscan and Raetic, may belong here too, but the material is very scanty.[2]


  • Evidence 1
  • Suggested relationships to other families 2
    • Aegean language family 2.1
    • Anatolian languages 2.2
    • Northeast Caucasian languages 2.3
    • Uralic Family 2.4
  • Extinction 3
  • See also 4
  • Notes 5
  • References 6
  • Bibliography 7


Rix assumes a date for Proto-Tyrsenian of roughly 1000 BC.

Cognates common to Raetic and Etruscan are:

  • Etr. zal, Raet. zal, "two";
  • Etr. -(a)cvil, Raet. akvil, "gift";
  • Etr. zinace, Raet. t'inaχe, "he made".
  • a genitive suffix -s in all three languages;
  • a second genitive suffix -a in Raetic, -(i)a in Etruscan;
  • the past active participle -ce in Etruscan, -ku in Raetic.

Cognates common to Lemnian and Etruscan are:

  • dative-case suffixes *-si, and *-ale, attested on the Lemnos Stele (Hulaie-ši "for Hulaie", Φukiasi-ale "for the Phocaean") and in Etruscan inscriptions (e.g. aule-si "To Aule" on the Cippus Perusinus).
  • a past tense suffix *-a-i (Etruscan -e as in ame "was" ( ← *amai); Lemnian -ai as in šivai "lived").

Strabo's (Geography V, 2), citation from Anticlides attributes to Pelasgians of Lemnos and Imbros a share in the foundation of Etruria.[3][4] The Pelasgians are also referred to by Herodotus as settlers in Lemnos, after they were expelled from Attica by the Athenians.[5] Tyrrhenians anciently in Lemnos are instanced by Apollonius of Rhodes in his Argonautica (IV.1760), written in the 3rd century BC, in an elaborate invented aition of Kalliste/Thera (modern Santorini): in passing he attributes to "Tyrrhenian warriors" in the island of Lemnos the flight of "Sintian" Lemnians to the island Kalliste.

Suggested relationships to other families

Aegean language family

A larger Aegean family including Eteocretan (Minoan language) and Eteocypriot has been proposed by G.M. Facchetti, and is supported by S. Yatsemirsky in Russia, referring to some alleged similarities between the Etruscan language and ancient Lemnian (an Aegean language widely thought to be related to Etruscan), and some Ancient Aegean languages such as Minoan and Eteocretan. If these languages could be shown to be related to Etruscan and Rhaetic, they would constitute a pre-Indo-European family stretching from (at the very least) the Aegean islands and Crete across mainland Greece and the Italian peninsula to the Alps. Facchetti proposes a hypothetical language family derived from Minoan in two branches. From Minoan he proposes a Proto-Tyrrhenian from which would have come the Etruscan, Lemnian and Rhaetic languages. James Mellaart has proposed that this language family is related to the pre-Indo-European Anatolian languages, based upon place name analysis.[6] From another Minoan branch would have come the Eteocretan language.[7][8] T. B. Jones proposed in 1950 reading of Eteocypriot texts in Etruscan, which was refuted by most scholars but gained popularity in the former Soviet Union.

Anatolian languages

A relation with the Anatolian languages within Indo-European has been proposed,[1][10] but is not generally accepted (although Leonard R. Palmer did show that some Linear A inscriptions were sensible as a variant of Luwian). If these languages are an early Indo-European stratum rather than pre-Indo-European, they would be associated with Krahe's Old European hydronymy and would date back to a Kurganization during the early Bronze Age.

Northeast Caucasian languages

A number of mainly Soviet or post-Soviet linguists, including Sergei Starostin,[11] suggested a link between the Tyrrhenian languages and the Northeast Caucasian languages, based on claimed sound correspondences between Etruscan, Hurrian and Northeast Caucasian languages, numerals, grammatical structures and phonologies. This claim was renewed by Ed Robertson (2006).[12]

Uralic Family

Mario Alinei considers Etruscan to be very Old Hungarian.[13][14] Xaverio Ballester concurs in most word identifications, but thinks that as Etruscan traits not surviving in Hungarian may have persisted among speakers of an Uralic language where they survived 'alongside' a Hungarian no longer having them, Etruscan is rather a closely related language to Hungarian.[15] If he is right, this obviously is the case for Lemnian and Rhaetic as well.


The language group would have died out around the 3rd century BC in the Aegean (by assimilation of the speakers to Greek), and as regards Etruscan around the 1st century AD in Italy (by assimilation to Latin). Finally, Raetic died out in the 3rd century AD, by assimilation to Vulgar Latin in the south and to Germanic in the north.

See also


  1. ^ Steinbauer tries to relate both Etruscan and Rhaetic to Anatolian.[9]


  1. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Etrusco-Rhaetian".  
  2. ^ Blackwell reference .
  3. ^ Myres, JL (1907), "A history of the Pelasgian theory", Journal of Hellenic Studies: 169–225, s. 16 (Pelasgians and Tyrrhenians) .
  4. ^ Strabo, Lacus Curtius (public domain translation), Jones, HL transl., U Chicago, And again, Anticleides says that they (the Pelasgians) were the first to settle the regions round about Lemnos and Imbros, and indeed that some of these sailed away to Italy with Tyrrhenus the son of Atys .
  5. ^ Herodotus, The Histories, Perseus, Tufts, 6, 137 .
  6. ^ Mellaart, James (1975), "The Neolithic of the Near East" (Thames and Hudson)
  7. ^ Facchetti 2001.
  8. ^ Facchetti 2002, p. 136.
  9. ^ Steinbauer 1999.
  10. ^ Palmer 1965.
  11. ^  
  12. ^ Robertson, Ed (2006), Etruscan’s genealogical linguistic relationship with Nakh–Daghestanian: a preliminary evaluation ( .
  13. ^ Mario Alinei, Etruscan: An Archaic Form of Hungarian, Bologna, il Mulino, 2003 | url =
  14. ^ Mario Alinei, An answer to Dr. Szilágyi's criticism of my book on Etruscan (2005) | url =
  15. ^ Xaverio Ballester, Etrusco ¿una lengua úgrica?, "Faventia" 27 (1), 2005, pp. 9-21. | url =


  • Facchetti, Giulio M (2001), "Qualche osservazione sulla lingua minoica" [Some observations on the Minoican language], Kadmos (in Italiano) 40: 1–38 .
  • ——— (2002), "Appendice sulla questione delle affinità genetiche dell'Etrusco" [Appendix on questions of the Etruscan genetic affinity], Appunti di morfologia etrusca (in Italiano) (Leo S. Olschki): 111–50,  .
  • Palmer, LR (1965), Mycenaeans and Minoans (2nd ed.), New York: Alfred A. Knopf .
  • Rix, Helmut (1998), Rätisch und Etruskisch [Raetian & Etruscan] (in Deutsch), Innsbruck .
  • Steinbauer, Dieter H (1999), Neues Handbuch des Etruskischen [New handbook on Etruscan] (in Deutsch), St. Katharinen .
  • Schumacher, Stefan (1998), "Sprachliche Gemeinsamkeiten zwischen Rätisch und Etruskisch", Der Schlern (in Deutsch) 72: 90–114 .
  • ——— (2004), "Die rätischen Inschriften. Geschichte und heutiger Stand der Forschung. 2. erweiterte Auflage", Innsbrucker Beiträge zur Kulturwissenschaft (in Deutsch) (Innsbruck: Institut für Sprachen und Literaturen der Universität Innsbruck), 121 = Archaeolingua 2 .
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