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Indo-European Etymological Dictionary
Italic languages are a subfamily of the Indo-European language
family, originally spoken by Italic peoples. They include
its descendants (the Romance languages) as well as a number of extinct
languages of the Italian Peninsula, including Umbrian, Oscan, Faliscan
and South Picene.
With over 800 million native speakers, the
Italic languages are the
second most widely spoken branch of the Indo-European family, after
the Indo-Iranian languages.
In the past, various definitions of "Italic" have prevailed. This
article uses the classification presented by the Linguist List:
Italic includes the
Latin subgroup (
Latin and the Romance languages)
as well as the ancient
Italic languages (Faliscan, Osco-Umbrian and
two unclassified Italic languages,
Aequian and Vestinian). Venetic
(the language of the ancient Veneti), as revealed by its inscriptions,
shared some similarities with the
Italic languages and is sometimes
classified as Italic. However, since it also shares similarities with
other Western Indo-European branches (particularly Celtic languages),
some linguists prefer to consider it as an independent Indo-European
In the extreme view, Italic did not exist, but the different groups
descended directly from Indo-European and converged because of
geographic contiguity. That view stems in part from the difficulty in
identifying a common Italic homeland in prehistory.
In the intermediate view, the
Italic languages are one of the ten or
eleven major subgroups of the
Indo-European language family
Indo-European language family and might
therefore have had an ancestor, Common Italic or
which its daughter languages descended. Moreover, there are
similarities between major groups, but how the similarities are to be
interpreted is one of the major debated issues in the historical
linguistics of Indo-European. The linguist
Calvert Watkins went so far
as to suggest, among the ten major groups, a four-way division of
East, West, North and South Indo-European. He considered them to be
"dialectical divisions within Proto-Indo-European which go back to a
period long before the speakers arrived in their historical areas of
attestation". It is not to be considered a nodular grouping; in
other words, there was not necessarily any common west Indo-European
serving as a node from which the subgroups branched but a hypothesised
similarity between the dialects of Proto-Indo-European that developed
into the recognised families.
4 See also
7 External links
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The main debate concerning the origin of the
Italic languages is the
same as one that preoccupied Greek studies for the last half of the
20th century. The Indo-Europeanists for Greek had hypothesized (see
Dorian invasion, Proto-Greek) that Greek originated outside Greece and
was brought in by invaders. Analysis of the lexical items of Mycenaean
Greek, an early form of Greek, raised the issue of whether Greek was
formed within Greece from Indo-European elements brought in by
migrants or by invaders, mixed with elements of indigenous languages.
The issue was settled in favour of Greek being a language that
developed from all of these elements but then also took its
recognisable form all within Greece.
Proto-Italic homeland outside
Italy is just as elusive as the home
of the hypothetical Greek-speaking invaders. No early form of Italic
is available to match Mycenaean Greek. The
Italic languages are first
attested in writing from Umbrian and Faliscan inscriptions from the
7th century BC. The alphabets used are based on the Old Italic
alphabet, which is itself based on the Greek alphabet. The Italic
alphabets themselves show minor influence from the Etruscan alphabet
and somewhat more from the Ancient Greek alphabet. There is no
guarantee that the intermediate phases between Italic and
Indo-European will be found. The question of whether Italic originated
Italy or developed by assimilation of Indo-European and other
elements within Italy, approximately on or within its current range
there, remains. Silvestri says:
...Common Italic... is certainly not to be seen as a prehistoric
language that can largely be reconstructed, but rather as a set of
prehistoric and proto-historic processes of convergence.
Proto-Italic as a "chronological stage" without an
independent development of its own, but extending over late
Proto-Indo-European and the initial stages of Proto-
Proto-Sabellic. Meiser's dates of 4000 BC to 1800 BC, well before
Mycenaean Greek, are described by him as "as good a guess as
Gray and Atkinson come up by using their Bayesian phylogenetic model
that the Italic branch separated from the Germanic branch 5500 years
ago, roughly the start of the Bronze Age.
Languages of Central
Italy at the beginning of Roman expansion
The Italic family has two known branches:
Faliscan, which was spoken in the area around
Falerii Veteres (modern
Civita Castellana) north of the city of Rome
Latin, which was spoken in west-central Italy. The Roman conquests
eventually spread it throughout the peninsula and beyond, in the Roman
Romance languages, the descendants of
Latin (evolved dialects of
Osco-Umbrian or Sabellian:
Oscan, which was spoken in the south-central region of the Italian
Umbrian (not to be confused with the modern Umbrian dialect of
Italian), which was spoken in the north-central region
Marsian, the language of the Marsi
South Picene, in east-central Italy
Lazio and the central Apennines
The relationship of the
Venetic language to other Indo-European
languages is still debated, but the majority of scholars agree that
Venetic shared some similarities with the Italic languages, and so is
often classified as Italic or as a separate branch transitional to
Some other languages belong to the Italic branch, but too little is
known for further classification: Aequian, spoken by the
east of Rome, and Vestinian, spoken by the
Vestini in northeast Italy.
It is unknown whether the Indo-European language spoken by the Sicels
Sicily was Italic or not.
Roman Republic extended its political dominion over the whole
of the Italian peninsula,
Latin became dominant over the other Italic
languages, which ceased to be spoken perhaps sometime in the 1st
century AD. From Vulgar Latin, the
Romance languages emerged.
It has also been proposed that the
Lusitanian language may have
belonged to the Italic family.
Map showing the approximate extent of the centum (blue) and satem
From the point of view of Proto-Indo-European, the Italic languages
are fairly conservative. In phonology, the
Italic languages are centum
languages by merging the palatals with the velars (
Latin centum has a
/k/) but keeping the combined group separate from the labio-velars. In
Italic languages preserve six cases in the noun and
the adjective (nominative, accusative, genitive, dative, ablative,
vocative) with traces of a seventh (locative), but the dual of both
the noun and the verb has completely disappeared. From the position of
both morphological innovations and uniquely shared lexical items,
Italic shows the greatest similarities with Celtic and Germanic, with
some of the shared lexical correspondences also being found in Baltic
^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds.
Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute
for the Science of Human History.
^ See under External links below.
^ Silvestri 1998, pp. 322–323.
^ Watkins 1998, pp. 31–33
^ Silvestri 1998, p. 325
^ Bakkum 2009, p. 54.
^ Gray & Atkinson 2003.
^ Gvozdanović, Jadranka (2012). "On the linguistic classification of
Venetic. In Journal of Language Relationship." p. 34.
^ Francisco Villar (2000) Indoeuropeos y no indoeuropeos en la
Hispania prerromana, Ediciones Universidad de Salamanca, Spain
^ Douglas Q., Adams (1997). Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture.
Taylor & Francis. pp. 316–317.
Library resources about
Resources in your library
Resources in other libraries
Adams, Douglas Q., and James P. Mallory. 1997. "Italic Languages." In
The Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture. Edited by James P. Mallory
and Douglas Q. Adams, 314–319. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn.
Bakkum, G. C. L. M. 2009. The
Latin Dialect of the Ager Faliscus: 150
Years of Scholarship. Amsterdam: Vossiuspers UvA.
Baldi, Philip. 2002. The Foundations of Latin. Berlin: de Gruyter.
Beeler, Madison S. 1966. "The Interrelationships within Italic." In
Ancient Indo-European Dialects: Proceedings of the Conference on
Indo-European Linguistics held at the University of California, Los
Angeles, April 25–27, 1963. Edited by Henrik Birnbaum and Jaan
Puhvel, 51–58. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.
Coleman, Robert. 1986. "The Central Italic Languages in the Period of
Roman Expansion." Transactions of the Philological Society 84.1:
de Vaan, Michiel. 2008. Etymological Dictionary of
Latin and the Other
Italic Languages. Leiden
Indo-European Etymological Dictionary Series
7. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.
Dickey, Eleanor, and Anna Chahoud, eds. 2010. Colloquial and Literary
Latin. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.
Gray, Russell D. and Quentin D. Atkinson. 2003. "Language-Tree
Divergence Times Support the Anatolian Theory of Indo-European
Origin." Nature 426.6965: 435-439.
Joseph, Brian D., and Rex J. Wallace. 1991. "Is Faliscan a Local Latin
Patois?" Diachronica 8:159–186.
Pulgram, Ernst. 1968. The Tongues of Italy: Prehistory and History.
New York: Greenwood.
Rix, Helmut. 2002. Handbuch der italischen Dialekte. Vol. 5,
Sabellische Texte: Die Texte des Oskischen, Umbrischen und
Südpikenischen. Indogermanische Bibliothek. Heidelberg, Germany:
Silvestri, Domenico. 1998. "The Italic Languages." In The
Indo-European Languages. Edited by Anna Giacalone Ramat and Paolo
Ramat, 322–344. London: Routledge.
Tikkanen, Karin. 2009. A Comparative Grammar of
Latin and the
Sabellian Languages: The System of Case Syntax. PhD diss., Uppsala
Wallace, Rex E. 2007. The Sabellic Languages of Ancient Italy.
Languages of the World: Materials 371. Munich: LINCOM.
Watkins, Calvert. 1998. "Proto-Indo-European: Comparison and
Reconstruction" In The Indo-European Languages. Edited by Anna
Giacalone Ramat and Paolo Ramat, 25-73. London: Routledge.
For a list of words relating to Italic languages, see the Italic
languages category of words in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
TM Texts Italic A list of all Italic texts in Trismegistos.
Michael de Vaan (2008) Etymological Dictionary of
Latin and the other
Italic Languages p.826, Leiden Indo-European Etymological Dictionaries
Series, Brill Academic Publishers, (part available freely online)
"Tree for Italic". Linguist List, Eastern Michigan University. 2010.
Retrieved 4 April 2010.
"A Glossary of Indo-European Linguistic Terms". Institut für deutsche
Sprache und Linguistik. 2009. Archived from the original on 4 December
2008. Retrieved 16 September 2009.