Paleo-Sardinian language

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Region Sardinia
Ethnicity Nuragic civilization
Extinct c. 2nd century AD
Language codes
ISO 639-3 None (mis)
Glottolog None

Paleo-Sardinian, also known as Proto-Sardinian or Nuragic, is an extinct language (or perhaps languages) spoken in Sardinia (and possibly Corsica) during the Bronze Age, which is thought to have left traces in the onomastics of the island and in the modern Sardinian language. By the third century, Latin had become the language of Sardinia, and the old language(s) survive mainly in toponyms, which appear to preserve grammatical suffixes, and in a few names of plants.

Monotower Nuraghe


Pre-Indo-European hypothesis[edit]

The Swiss linguist Johannes Hubschmid (1916-1995), one of the most renowned experts of the substratum elements, expressed himself in favour of six linguistic layers in prehistoric Sardinia.[1]

There is toponymic evidence suggesting that the Paleo-Sardinian language may have had connection to the reconstructed Proto-Basque and to the pre-Indo-European Iberian language of Spain.[2] Eduardo Blasco Ferrer concluded that it developed in the island in the Neolithic as a result of prehistoric migration coming from the Iberian peninsula.[3] The author in his analysis of the Paleo-Sardinian language find only few traces of Indo-European influences (*ōsa, *debel- and perhaps *mara, *pal-, *nava, *sala), possibly introduced in the Late Chalcolithic through Liguria.[4] Similarity between Paleo-Sardinian and Ancient Ligurian were also noted by Emidio De Felice.[5]

Bertoldi & Terracini[citation needed] propose that the common suffix -ara (with stress on the antepenult) was a plural marker, and indicated a connection to Iberian or to the Paleo-Sicilian languages. Terracini claims a similar connection for the suffix -ànarV, -ànnarV, -énnarV, -ònnarV, as in the place name Bonnànnaro. A suffix -ini also seems to be characteristic, as in the place name Barùmini. A suffix or suffixes -arr-, -err-, -orr-, -urr- have been claimed to correspond to Numidia (Terracini), to Iberia (specifically Basque, Blasco Ferrer), to the south of Italy and Gascony (presumably Basque, Rohlfs), and to Basque (Wagner, Hubschmid).

The non-Latin suffixes -ài, -éi, -òi, -ùi survive in modern place names based on Latin roots. Terracini sees connections to Berber. Bertoldi sees an Anatolian connection in the endings -ài, -asài (similar claims have been made of the Elymians of Sicily). A suffix -aiko is also common in Iberia and may have a Celtic origin. The tribal suffix -itani, -etani, as in the Sulcitani, has also been identified as Paleo-Sardinian.

Indo-European hypothesis[edit]

Etruscan-Nuragic connection[edit]

The linguist M. Pittau argues that the Paleo-Sardinian language (or "Sardian language") and the Etruscan language were closely linked, as he argues that they were both emanations of the Anatolian branch of the Indo-European. According to Pittau, the "Nuragics" were a population of Lydian origin who imported their Indo-European language to the island, pushing out the Pre-Indo-European languages spoken by the Pre-Nuragic peoples.

Illyrian hypothesis[edit]

According to Alberto Areddu[6] the Sherden were of Illyrian origin, on the basis of some lexical elements, unanimously acknowledged as belonging to the indigenous substrate. Areddu asserts that in ancient Sardinia, especially in the most interior area (Barbagia and Ogliastra), the locals supposedly spoke a particular branch of Indo-European. There are in fact some correspondences, both formal and semantic, with the few testimonies of Illyrian (or Thracian) languages, and above all with their theorized linguistic continuation, Albanian. The correlations include various central toponyms and microtoponyms; for instance Areddu offers the following correlations:

  • Sardinian: eni, enis, eniu 'yew' = Albanian: enjë 'yew, juniper'
  • Sardinian: rethi 'tendril' = Albanian: rrypthi 'tendril'[7]
  • Sardinian: àlase 'holly' (in Sard.: laruspinosu 'thorny laurel') = Albanian: halë 'thorn; lisp; corn beard; pine needle; black pine', halëz 'thorn; ear'
  • Sardinian: lothiu 'muddy'; top.: Lotzorai, Lothorgo, Loceri, Lotzeri = Albanian: lloç 'mire' (that about someone is a loan word by Bulgarian, but Orel reconstructs the base on an hypothetical southern Slavic *lojъ 'anything liquid')
  • Sardinian: duri 'tree trunk, with branches shortened because it serves as a hanger' = Albanian: druri 'wooden, stick, pole'
  • Sardinian: dròb(b)alu 'bowels, gut of pigs' = Albanian: drobolì 'bowel' (that is an ie. word, with such a meaning only in southern Slavic languages and it could be a Thracian loan)
  • Sardinian: urtzula 'clematis', top. Urtzulei = Albanian: (h)urth, hurdh 'ivy'
  • Sardinian: amadrina 'doe, hind' = Albanian: drenje, drenushe 'doe'
  • Sardinian: élimu 'rancor, resentment' = Albanian: helm 'displeasure, poison'
  • Sardinian: tzìrima, tzérrima 'rancor, insult, resentment' = Albanian: çirrma ‘shrill threats, insults'
  • Sardinian: càstia 'net to collect straw' = Albanian: kashtë 'straw, chaff'
  • Sardinian: thùrgalu 'creek, stream' = Albanian: çurg 'stream'
  • Sardinian: thiòccoro, ittiòccoro, isciòccoro 'Helminthia echioides; bristly oxtongue' = Albanian:hith 'sour, harsh, bitter'
  • Sardinian: madérria 'grandeur, haughtiness' = Albanian: madhërìa 'grandeur, haughtiness'
  • Sardinian: theppa, tzèppara 'stony peak', top. Zeppara = Albanian: thep-a 'top, peak'
  • Sardinian: Òrol- item that is found in a good number of mountain microtoponyms, and is correlated by Areddu with Thracian Òrolos 'eagle'

Other hypothesis[edit]

Nuragic populations

Archeologist Giovanni Ugas suggested that the three main Nuragic peoples (Balares, Corsi and Ilienses) may have had separate origins and thus spoke different languages:

The three modern dialects of Gallurese, Logudorese, and Campidanese might reflect that multilingual substratum.[11] Other minor Paleosardinian peoples of possible Indo-European stock were the Lucuidonenses (may originally be from Provence, where is attested the toponym Lugdunum) of the north of the island and the Siculensi (perhaps Siculi) of the Sarrabus region.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Heinz Jürgen Wolf 1998, p. 20.
  2. ^ Eduardo Blasco Ferrer, ed. 2010. Paleosardo: Le radici linguistiche della Sardegna neolitica (Paleosardo: The Linguistic Roots of Neolithic Sardinian). De Gruyter Mouton
  3. ^ Blasco-Ferrer 2010, p. 161, 162.
  4. ^ Blasco-Ferrer 2010, p. 152, 161, 162.
  5. ^ Mary Carmen Iribarren Argaiz, Los vocablos en-rr-de la lengua sarda: Conexiones con la península ibérica
  6. ^ Le Origini "albanesi" della civiltà in Sardegna, Naples, 2007
  7. ^ Elton (2009-08-30). "Due nomi di piante che ci legano agli Albanesi". l’enigma della lingua albanese. Retrieved 2017-05-24. 
  8. ^ Ugas 2005, p. 18.
  9. ^ Ugas 2005, p. 29.
  10. ^ Ugas 2005, p. 255.
  11. ^ Ugas 2005, p. 253.
  12. ^ Ugas 2005, p. 254.


  • Alberto G. Areddu, Le origini albanesi della civiltà in Sardegna, Naples 2007
  • Alberto G. Areddu, Uccelli nuragici e non nella Sardegna di oggi, ed. Kindle, 2016
  • Eduardo Blasco Ferrer, ed. 2010. Paleosardo: Le radici linguistiche della Sardegna neolitica (Paleosardo: The Linguistic Roots of Neolithic Sardinian). De Gruyter Mouton.
  • Johannes Hubschmid, Sardische Studien, Bern (1953)
  • Massimo Pittau, La lingua sardiana o dei Protosardi, Cagliari (2000)
  • Giulio Paulis, I nomi di luogo in Sardegna, Sassari (1987)
  • Ugas, Giovanni (2005). L'Alba dei Nuraghi. Cagliari: Fabula editrice. ISBN 88-89661-00-3. 
  • Heinz Jürgen Wolf, Toponomastica Barbaricina, Nuoro (1998)