The Phrygian language () was the Indo-European language
of the Phrygians
, spoken in Anatolia
), during classical antiquity
(c. 8th century BC to 5th century AD).
observed that some Phrygian words resembled Greek ones. Modern consensus views Phrygian to be closely related to Greek
[Brixhe, Cl. "Le Phrygien". In Fr. Bader (ed.), ''Langues indo-européennes'', pp. 165-178, Paris: CNRS Editions.] [ "Unquestionably, however, Phrygian is most closely linked with Greek." (p. 72).]
Phrygian is a member of the Indo-European
linguistic family with its exact position within it having been debated due to the fragmentary nature of its evidence. Though from what is available it is evident that Phrygian shares important features with Greek and Armenian. Phrygian is part of the centum
group of Indo-European languages. However, between the 19th and the first half of the 20th century Phrygian was mostly considered a satəm
language, and thus closer to Armenian
, while today it is commonly considered to be a centum language and thus closer to Greek. The reason that in the past Phrygian had the guise of a satəm language was due to two secondary processes that affected it. Namely, Phrygian merged the old labiovelar with the plain velar, and secondly, when in contact with palatal vowels /e/ and /i/, especially in initial position, some consonants became palatalized. Furthermore, Kortlandt
(1988) presented common sound changes of Thracian and Armenian and their separation from Phrygian and the rest of the palaeo-Balkan languages
from an early stage.
Modern consensus views Greek as the closest relative of Phrygian, a position that is supported by Brixhe
, Neumann, Matzinger, Woodhouse, Ligorio, Lubotsky, and Obrador-Cursach. Furthermore, 34 out of the 36 Phrygian isoglosses that are recorded are shared with Greek, with 22 being exclusive between them. The last 50 years of Phrygian scholarship developed a hypothesis that proposes a proto-Graeco-Phrygian
stage out of which Greek and Phrygian originated, and if Phrygian was more sufficiently attested, that stage could perhaps be reconstructed.
An alternative theory, suggested by Eric P. Hamp
, is that Phrygian was most closely related to Italo-Celtic
The Phrygian epigraphical material is divided into two distinct subcorpora
, Old Phrygian and New Phrygian, which attest different stages of the Phrygian language, are written with different alphabets and upon different materials, and have different geographical distribution.
Old Phrygian is attested in 395 inscriptions in Anatolia
and beyond. They were written in the Phrygian alphabet
between 800 and 330 BCE. The ''Corpus des inscriptions paléo-phrygiennes'' (CIPPh) and its supplements contain most known Old Phrygian inscriptions, though a few graffiti are not included.
New Phrygian is attested in 117 funerary inscriptions, mostly curses against desecrators added after a Greek epitaph
. New Phrygian was written in the Greek alphabet
between the 1st and 3rd centuries CE and is restricted the western part of ancient Phrygia
, in central Anatolia
. Most New Phrygian inscriptions have been lost, so they are only known through the testimony of the first compilers. New Phrygian inscriptions have been cataloged by Ramsay and by Obrador-Cursach.
Some scholars identify a third division, Middle Phrygian, which is represented by a single inscription from Dokimeion
. It is a Phrygian epitaph consisting of six hexametric verses written in eight lines, and dated to the end of the 4th century BCE, following the Macedonian
conquest. It is considered the first Phrygian text to be inscribed with the Greek alphabet
. Its phraseology has some echoes of an Old Phrygian epitaph from Bithynia, but it anticipates phonetic and spelling features found in New Phrygian. Three graffiti from Gordion, from the 4th to the 2nd centuries BCE, are ambiguous in terms of the alphabet used as well as their linguistic stage, and might also be considered Middle Phrygian.
File:Phrygian Inscriptions.jpg|The distribution of the Old, Middle and New Phrygian inscriptions.
File:MidasSehri.TombDetail.jpg|6th century BCE inscription with the Phrygian alphabet from the Midas Tomb, Midas City: ΒΑΒΑ: ΜΕΜΕϜΑΙΣ: ΠΡΟΙΤΑϜΟΣ: ΚΦΙJΑΝΑϜΕJΟΣ: ΣΙΚΕΝΕΜΑΝ: ΕΔΑΕΣ (Baba, advisor, leader from Tyana, dedicated this niche).
The last mentions of the language date to the 5th century CE, and it was likely extinct by the 7th century CE.
Its structure, what can be recovered of it, was typically Indo-European
, with nouns declined
(at least four), gender
(three), and number
(singular and plural), while the verbs are conjugated
, and number
. No single word is attested in all its inflection
Phrygian seems to exhibit an augment
, like Greek
, and Armenian
; cf. , probably corresponding to Proto-Indo-European
' ('' el|épʰere'' with loss of the final ''t'', '' sa|ábharat)'', although comparison to examples like ''ios ... addaket'' 'who does ... to', which is not a past tense form (perhaps subjunctive
), shows that ''-et'' may be from the Proto-Indo-European
(PIE) primary ending .
It has long been claimed that Phrygian exhibits a sound change
of stop consonant
s, similar to Grimm's Law
and, more to the point, sound laws found in Proto-Armenian
; i.e., voicing
of PIE aspirates
of PIE voiced stop
s and aspiration of voiceless stop
s. This hypothesis was rejected by Lejeune (1979) and Brixhe (1984) but revived by Lubotsky (2004) and Woodhouse (2006), who argue that there is evidence of a partial shift of obstruent
series; i.e., voicing of PIE aspirates (''*bh'' > ''b'') and devoicing of PIE voiced stops (''*d'' > ''t'').
s ''ts'' and ''dz'' developed from velar
s before front vowel
Phrygian is attested fragmentarily, known only from a comparatively small corpus of inscriptions.
A few hundred Phrygian words are attested; however, the meaning and etymologies of many of these remain unknown.
A famous Phrygian word is ''bekos'', meaning 'bread'. According to Herodotus
(''Histories'' 2.2) Pharaoh Psammetichus I
wanted to determine the oldest nation and establish the world's original language
. For this purpose, he ordered two children to be reared by a shepherd, forbidding him to let them hear a single word, and charging him to report the children's first utterance. After two years, the shepherd reported that on entering their chamber, the children came up to him, extending their hands, calling ''bekos''. Upon enquiry, the pharaoh discovered that this was the Phrygian word for 'wheat bread', after which the Egyptians conceded that the Phrygian nation was older than theirs. The word ''bekos'' is also attested several times in Palaeo-Phrygian inscriptions on funerary stelae. It may be cognate to the English ''bake'' (PIE *''bʰeh₃g-''). Hittite
(both also influenced Phrygian morphology), Galatian and Greek (which also exhibits a high amount of isoglosses with Phrygian) all influenced Phrygian vocabulary.
According to Clement of Alexandria
, the Phrygian word ''bedu'' () meaning 'water' (PIE *''wed-'') appeared in Orphic
The Greek theonym Zeus
appears in Phrygian with the stem ''Ti-'' (genitive ''Tios'' = Greek ''Dios'', from earlier ''*Diwos''; the nominative is unattested); perhaps with the general meaning 'god, deity'. It is possible that ''tiveya'' means 'goddess'. The shift of ''*d'' to ''t'' in Phrygian and the loss of ''*w'' before ''o'' appears to be regular. Stephanus Byzantius
records that according to Demosthenes
, Zeus was known as ''Tios'' in Bithynia
Another possible theonym is ''bago-'' (cf. Old Persian ''baga-'', Proto-Slavic
'' "god"), attested as the accusative singular ''bag̣un'' in G-136.
[However also read as ''bapun''; "Un très court retour vertical prolonge le trait horizontal du Γ. S'il n'était accidentel nous aurions ..un p assez semblable à celui de G-135." Brixhe and Lejeune 1987: 125.]
Lejeune identified the term as ''*bʰagom'', in the meaning 'a gift, dedication' (PIE ''*bʰag-'' 'to apportion, give a share'). But Hesychius of Alexandria
mentions a ''Bagaios, Phrygian Zeus'' () and interprets the name as 'giver of good things'. Mallory
agree that the word ''Bagaios'' was an epithet to the Phrygian worship of Zeus that derived from the same root.
* Paleo-Balkan languages
* Ancient Macedonian language
* Thracian language
* Dacian language#Anatolia
* Greek language
* Alphabets of Asia Minor
*Brixhe, Claude. "Du paléo- au néo-phrygien". In: ''Comptes rendus des séances de l'Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres'', 137ᵉ année, N. 2, 1993. pp. 323-344.
*Lamberterie, Charles de. "Grec, phrygien, arménien: des anciens aux modernes". In: ''Journal des savants'', 2013, n°. 1. pp. 3-69.
*Lejeune, Michel. "Notes paléo-phrygiennes". In: ''Revue des Études Anciennes''. Tome 71, 1969, n°3-4. pp. 287-300.
*Orsat Ligorio & Alexander Lubotsky. “Phrygian”, in ''Handbook of Comparative and Historical Indo-European Linguistics''. Vol. 3. Eds. Jared Klein, Brian Joseph, & Matthias Fritz. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton, 2018, pp. 1816–31.
External linksCorpus of Phrygian InscriptionsLubotsky's Phrygian Etymological Database (Incomplete)Encyclopædia Britannica - Phrygian LanguageLinguistic Bibliography OnlinePalaeolexicon - Dictionary, History and Translations of the Phrygian LanguageMidas and the Mushki, by Miltiades E. Bolaris (2010)
Category:Languages attested from the 8th century BC
Category:Languages extinct in the 5th century
Category:Languages of ancient Anatolia
Category:Extinct languages of Asia
Category:Unclassified Indo-European languages