|Extinct||3rd century BC?|
The origins of Elymian and its relationships with other languages are unclear. It is widely believed to have been part of the Indo-European language family, but even that is uncertain. Within the Indo-European languages, it has been speculated that Elymian was related to either the Italic languages or the Anatolian languages (such as Hittite), although both theories are disputed.
Only a handful of Elymian texts have survived, dating from between the 6th and 4th Centuries BCE. These comprise: a few proper names recorded by non-Elymian sources; inscriptions in Greek script on several coins, which include the names of Elymian cities; and inscriptions in Greek script on about 170 fragments of pottery (found mostly in a votive deposit at the ruined Elymian city of Segesta). These texts have been identified as Elymian, based on their evidently non-Hellenic characteristics, location and age.
The majority of textual artifacts are very short and fragmentary, comprising only a few letters. A small number of longer texts apparently contain a personal name and may have been dedicatory epigraphs. They sometimes appear to resemble Hellenic dedicatory epigraphs, in which an anthroponym in genitive form is followed by a verb literally meaning "I am" in order to convey "belonging".
A vase found at Montedoro, around 15 km southwest of Palermo, features one of the few complete inscription in Elymian. It has been tentatively translated to read "I [the pot] am [a gift] of Ata Tuka", or "I am [a gift] of Ata of [= son of] Tuka".
Proposed classifications the Elymian language can be summarized under two main positions, both of which relate to Indo-European languages.
Some[who?] historical linguists agree that some peculiarities of that language – like non-alphabetic symbols engraved on some dedicational fragments of pots, and genitive in -ai found in almost all the complete sequences – are suggestive of a connection to the Anatolian languages, and in particular, to Hittite.
Any resolution of the question of affiliation appears to rely on further archaeological investigations at Elymian settlements in western Sicily.
- Schrijver, Peter, "Elymian", in Encyclopedia of the Languages of Europe, ed. Glanville Price. Blackwell Publishing, 2000. ISBN 0-631-22039-9
- Ambrosini, Riccardo, "Italica o anatolica la lingua dei graffiti di Segesta?", in Studi e Saggi Linguistici, VIII, 1968, 160–172 (ita)
- Agostiniani, Luciano, "Iscrizioni anelleniche di Sicilia, I: Le iscrizioni elime", Firenze, 1977 (ita)
- Durante, Marcello, "L'enigma della lingua degli Elimi", in AA.VV., Φιλίας χάριν. Miscellanea di studi classici in onore di Eugenio Manni, 1980, III, 881–888 (ita)
- Marchesini, Simona, "The Elymian language", in Language and Linguistic Contact in Ancient Sicily edited by Olga Tribulato, Cambridge Classical Studies, 2012, 95–114. ISBN 978-1-107-02931-6
- Rizzo, Antonino, "Segesta", in Monetazione della Sicilia antica
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