Talk:Ligurian (ancient language)

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Possible scholarly input[edit]

Placing a considerable quantity of useful discussion on Ligurian here, where it can be readilly found. It was squirrelled away on user talk pages. --Nantonos 20:13, 11 July 2005 (UTC)

I happen to know Lepontic probably as well as anyone else, and I doubt very much that it is even a Celtic language, let alone a close relative of Gaulish. I happen to believe it is closely related to Ligurian, a member of a separate branch of Indo-European. (There is a note to that effect in the article on Lepontic.) And given that we know even less about Noric than we know about Lepontic, who knows... You draw your conclusions.


Pasquale 8 July 2005 23:49 (UTC)

The notion has been around a long time that the dialect of the Lepontii (Lepontic), together with those of the Salassi and Taurini (the three have been jointly referred to as North Ligurian or Subalpine), were affiliated with Ligurian (an Indo-European language originally spoken not only in Liguria proper but also in the Western Alps, the South of France, both sides of the northern Appennine ridge, as well as remote valleys of North-Eastern Italy and the Eastern Alps). Traditionally the main source was Joshua Whatmough (in Robert Seymour Conway, Joshua Whatmough, and Sarah Elizabeth Jackson Johnson, The prae-Italic dialects of Italy, 1933). While this work may be outdated in many respects, it still remains an extremely useful source. Personally, I wrote a 1973 thesis at the University of Rome entitled "La lingua delle iscrizioni leponzie" (unpublished) in which I weighed all the evidence and took a position slightly in favor of the Ligurian hypothesis (I'll spare you the details). Meanwhile, in 1970, Michel Lejeune had published a long article in which he took a stand in favor of the Celtic hypothesis. His entire argument, however, hinges on a sleight-of-hand. It is based on one important inscription, whose attribution to Lepontic is doubtful. Many think it may be in Cisalpine Gaulish. (The same alphabet of Lugano used for Lepontic was later also used for Cisalpine Gaulish.) In this inscription there is a personal name Uwamogotsis, or "highest host". Lejeune says the inscription cannot be in Gaulish because *gotsis is nowhere else attested in Celtic. So, it has to be Lepontic. Ergo, Lepontic is closely akin to Gaulish, because this personal name clearly shows Celtic phonology (*p > 0, *st > ts). Never mind that with this sleight-of-hand, *gotsis does become attested in Celtic! (Furthermore, personal names are not all that significant because, having fallen under Celtic influence, the Lepontii may have used Gaulish personal names, something for which there is some evidence also among the early Germanic people.) It all pretty much boils down to whether Indo-European *p was preserved in Lepontic (as in Ligurian) or not. The most commonly attested word in Lepontic is PALA (possibly for *palla, since geminate consonants were apparently never written), which means 'stone, tombstone'. Does this show an Indo-European *p? Whatmough seemed to think so. I favor that view as well. But, having chosen the Celtic interpretation, Lejeune, of course, had to reject that etymology. One of the problems with the Lepontic inscriptions is that no distinction is made between voiced and voiceless stops, so that PALA can stand for *pala, *palla, *bala, *balla. BTW, in the Alps, there are lots of mountain peaks called Palla-this and Palla-that. By folk-etymology, these seem to have been interpreted as "ball" and even translated into German as "Kugel" (e.g. Pallabianca = Weisskugel). But these mountains don't look like balls at all, they look more like... well, rocks!

Pasquale 22:58, 9 July 2005 (UTC)

As for the Todi inscription, indeed, when I worked on it, it was universally considered to be Cisalpine Gaulish. The Lepontii were just a small indigenous mountain tribe of Canton Ticino and adjoining areas of northern Lombardy and Piedmont. Well before the Gaulish invasion of northern Italy, they developed the alphabet of Lugano, one of five alphabets of northern Italy traditionally known as "North Etruscan" alphabets because they were derived from the Etruscan alphabet (Lugano, Sondrio, Magrè, Bolzano, Este — with additional subtypes and variants). There is no presumption, however, that to each alphabet corresponds only one language. In particular, the alphabet of Lugano was clearly used for Cisalpine Gaulish.

However, I admit I have been away from the most recent scholarship. It appears that there is a trend now to consider Lepontic and Cisalpine Gaulish not as discrete languages, but as closely related dialects of "Cisalpine Celtic" (e.g. Joseph F. Eska, The linguistic position of Lepontic, 1998). This position seems to be gaining ground, although it plays fast and loose with both history and data. On line, you can find this article by Eska, which will give you an idea of what he's up to: research/Eska_Mercado_Vergiate.pdf. Notably, he has to reject the identification of Lepontic KARITE (which can be read as *karrite) with Gaulish karnitu, showing different 3sg preterite morphology and the possibility of a progressive assimilation of -rn- to -rr-, something quite alien to Celtic (or simply of an otherwise well-attested pre-Celtic root *kar- or *karr- meaning 'stone'). Notice that the Lepontic corpus is, by and large, older than the Celtic invasion of norther Italy. I don't know how these Celticists square that away.

After 400 BC the powerful Gaulish tribe of the Insubres held sway in what is now Western Lombardy, centered around Mediolanum (Milan). They may have commingled in part with the indigenous Lepontii, their northern neighbors, but to say that they were one and the same or that their languages were dialects of one and the same language, or even the same language, is, IMO, absurd and ignorant. To then go as far as say that the Insubres spoke Lepontic because they used a variant of the alphabet of Lugano (as Paul Russell seems to do) is plainly ridiculous.

By the way, the assertion that Celtiberian is closely related to Gaulish is also way off the mark. Celtiberian is probably the most divergent of the Celtic languages. Among other things, it is the only Celtic language to preserve final -m -- other than Lepontic, of course (but not Cisalpine Gaulish, which shows -n).

Pasquale 02:16, 11 July 2005 (UTC)

Conway, Whatmough & Jackson Johnson 1933 still remains a fundamental reference not just for Lepontic, but for all the prae-Italic languages of Italy, a kind of editio princeps, if you will. If you get a chance to look at it, you'll see what I mean. Whatmough 1933 carefully weighs all the evidence and leans slightly towards the Ligurian affiliation for Lepontic. But he certainly would have been shocked by the current claims identifying Lepontic and Gaulish, which seem totally to ignore the historical reality of the Gaulish invasion of northern Italy of approx. 400 BC, the fact that this invasion most probably came from Noricum (!), that there is no other evidence of Celtic peoples in northern Italy prior to that invasion, that large swaths of the South of France were Celticized even later than northern Italy (Provence was still Ligurian-speaking possibly as late as 200-150 BC and the dede bratou dekantem inscriptions are most probably Ligurian, not Gaulish). The Lepontic inscriptions, on the other hand, date as far back as 600 BC, if not even earlier.

Personally, having studied all the Ligurian evidence in depth (substratum terms, toponymy, and the few extant Apuanian inscriptions, written in the Etruscan alphabet), I have no doubt that Ligurian was Indo-European. And, BTW, that's what the Wikipedia stub for the Ligurian language used to say, until an anonymous contributor ( changed the wording from "Very little is known about this language which is believed to have been Indo-European" to "Very little is known about this language, which is believed to have been non-Indo-European, as evidenced by certain place-names in the region where it was spoken." What place-names? Genua, nearly identical to Genava (also alternatively known as Genua in ancient times)? Briga? Langa? Alba? Album (e.g. Album Intemelium, Album Ingaunum)? I have never seen more Indo-European-looking place-names. No, in fact, Ligurian represents a little-known extinct branch of Indo-European, akin but different from Celtic (and not simply for the preservation of *p), and sharing some features with Osco-Umbrian (e.g. the full labialization of ALL the labio-velars, but NOT of the velar plus glide clusters (e.g. *ekwo-, etc.), a very different situation than in Celtic. There is ample evidence of the previous presence of this Ligurian branch not only in northern and central Italy, the Alps, and at least the south of Gaul, but also in the Iberian peninsula, and Corsica and Sardinia. There is even, in all likelyhood, a considerable Ligurian adstratum in Basque!

Pasquale 19:25, 11 July 2005 (UTC)

If the published evidence indicates that Ligurian was more likely Indo-European rather than non-IE, then obviously the majority view gets more representation. On the other hand, since some scholars believe otherwise, then they must also be cited. Decius 23:18, 11 July 2005 (UTC)
In the meanwhile, I found an individual named Claudio R. Salvucci making this statement on this webpage:[1] "The use of the term Ligurians is confusing, since it is used both for a Pre-Indo-European language whose chief evidence is place-names, as well as an Indo-European language (not Celtic or Italic) from names in an inscripton near Genoa. The language of the historical Ligurians was probably the second of those." Decius 00:12, 12 July 2005 (UTC)

Gauls in Italy[edit]

Pasquale, regarding the 400BC invasion, why do you say that "no other evidence of Celtic peoples in northern Italy"? Looking at Livy, History of Rome Book V: The Veii and the Destruction of Rome by the Gauls
it says
and when they learnt that the country in which they had settled belonged to the Insubres, a name also borne by a canton of the Haedui, they accepted the omen of the place and built a city which they called Mediolanum.
which seems to argue that the Insubres were already there when the Gauls invaded. Why do you say they came from Noricum, by the way? "the Bituriges, the Averni, the Senones, the Aedui, the Ambarri, the Carnutes, and the Aulerci" are all Gaulish, surely?
Also, could you explain why you consider the dede bratou dekantem inscriptions are most probably Ligurian? Meid for example states that they are Gaulish. I agree they have a different distribution to the Gaulish material written in Latin script, but its not different to the distribution of other Gaulish material written in Greek script, is it? --Nantonos 02:43, 14 July 2005 (UTC)
Well, the date of the Gaulish invasion of Italy may be slightly earlier, in any case in the fifth century BC, as I recall. (As you may know, Brennus attacked Rome in 390 BC, on the heels of that invasion.) The Wikipedia has virtually nothing about the history of Ancient Italy, and I don't have other Web references to give you right now, but it's all pretty well known. Certainly around 600-500 BC the Etruscans ruled the entire Po Valley, including the Milan area, Bologna (then known as Felsina), Spina (near Ferrara), etc. There were no Gauls in Cisalpine Italy then. Livy's account seems to be largely fantastic. Of the tribes he mentions, I believe only the Senones are attested in Italy, centered around Sena Gallica (modern Senigallia). Any good ancient history book will give you a detailed account of the names and geographical distribution of the Cisalpine Gaulish tribes: Insubres (around Milan), Libici, Boii (around Bologna), Cenomani, Lingones, Senones (I am quoting from memory). Nobody knows exactly what route they came from, but since the south of France (e.g. Provence) and the Alps (e.g. Savoy) seem to have come under Gaulish control considerably later, the notion that the Gauls came from Noricum is certainly appealing and has been supported by some historians (sorry, I can't give any sources now). The small region of Cadore, a natural entry route into northern Italy, was inhabited by and takes its name form the Catubriges, a Celtic tribe. The Cisalpine Gaulish tribal names are of little help. The Boii, for example, are attested in Transalpine Gaul, but do we know when they got there? However, they also gave their name to Bohemia, which may have been their original homeland. The tribal names mentioned by Livy were indeed all from Transalpine Gaul, but, again, AFAIK, only the Senones are actually attested in Italy. Pasquale 20:30, 14 July 2005 (UTC)
I'm not asking because I am ignorant of history or because I can't be bothered to read an introductory work. I'm asking what your sources are because your version of the history differs from the one I have read; rather than just say you are wrong I pointed to some contemporary evidence that could be interpreted counter to your claims and asked what your other evidence was. Yes, around 400 some Gaulish Celts crossed the Alps southwards; my point is that when they did, Livy indicats that they met other Celts (I didn't call the Gauls, I called them Celts). Merely saying 'its well known' or 'some historians' is not a compelling argument. Please cite sources, as I did. --Nantonos 17:28, 15 July 2005 (UTC)
The possibility that the dede bratou dekantem inscriptions may be in Ligurian rather than Celtic is an old idea of mine, which I have never published, but hopefully some day may. They are all pretty old and from the South-West of France, an area supposed to be Ligurian until relatively late (maybe 200-150 BC, but that's just a guess). For example, the Salyes, near Massilia, were most probably Ligurian. Now, dede has a 3sg preterite -e ending, attested in Lepontic, whereas Gaulish shows a 3sg preterite -u ending; furthermore, an inscription in the Lugano alphabet that has been considered either Lepontic or Cisalpine Gaulish (the Prestino inscription) has dedu. For me, the Prestino inscription is clearly in Gaulish, for several reasons, not just dedu. Also, consider that dede in dede bratou dekantem seems to mean 'gave', while dedu in the Prestino inscription seems to mean 'placed'.
The second word bratou can be either, with its labialized labiovelar and a root amply attested both in Italic and in Celtic. But the final -m of dekantem ('tithe') can hardly be Gaulish, and shouldn't Gaulish show dekameton here anyway? Well, it's anybody's guess, but I vote for Ligurian. Pasquale 20:30, 14 July 2005 (UTC)
Thanks, that is helpful. --Nantonos 17:28, 15 July 2005 (UTC)

Kim McCone, Towards a relative chronology of ancient and medieval Celtic sound change (Maynooth 1996, p. 69) argues that Lepontic is part of Gaulish (and against Lejeune's and Schmidt's proposal that Lepontic is a separate branch of Celtic) thus:

The significance of Lep. -m vs. Cis. Gaul. -n (Lej. 432-5) has been completely undermined by the evidence of the Larzac inscription for fluctuation between -m and -n still at quite a late date in Transalpine Gaulish, and the suspiciously close proximity of Vercelli to the 'Lepontic' area is anyway sufficient to call the dichotomy into question. Since, moreover, the inscriptions around the Lakes are almost certainly earlier for the most part than the other three, the by any standards trivial -n for -m could be simply a matter of chronology as, for that matter, could the survival of an old -ei dative in the n-stems [referring to Lep. PIUONEI and ASILONEI where Trans. Gaul. usually has either -E or -I].

That leaves Lep. TETU /dedū/ 'set up' < *dedō < *dhedhoh1e vs. Trans. Gaul. δεδε with -e taken over from the majority of perfects without final laryngeal (Lej. 446-52). Given original 3sg. in some versus -e in most old perfects, the new 'weak' -it- preterite was free to adopt either or both. Consequently it would be rash to read too much into ('Lepontic') Vergiate KARITE, KALITE but (Cis. Gaul.) Todi KARNITU agreeing with Transalpine Gaulish καρνιτου. In addition to p < kw, 'Lepontic' shares with Cisalpine Gaulish an assimilation of nd > nn not even found in Transalpine Gaulish and has an -it- preterite as well as an -ikno- patronymic otherwise definitely attested only in Gaulish among known Celtic languages.

--Angr/tɔk tə mi 21:00, 14 July 2005 (UTC)

Well, that's one opinion. I don't think that simply because an opinion is published it becomes the gospel truth. And how does McCone square away the historical facts, or are those irrelevant?
I totally fail to get the point about Vercellae, well-known to be a Gaulish town (of the Libici or Anamares). It does not fall within the Lepontic territory. However, the Insubres (the most powerful Cisalpine Gaulish tribe) certainly did settle partly in Lepontic territory. Has McCone never heard of two people sharing (in part) the same territory?
The progressive assimilation of nd > nn is indeed found in Cisalpine Gaulish and it is a (presumably very recent) areal sound change that Cisalpine Gaulish (or at least Insubrian) shares with Lepontic (but also Osco-Umbrian!). And the patronymics in -ikno- are also attested in Italic (Paeligni, etc.).
Again, the Lepontic corpus is much too small to come to such cavalier conclusions. The first Indian to approach the Pilgrim Fathers in Plymouth a year after their landing (a Micmac from Maine who spoke some English and was on his way to Rhode Island) addressed them with the words "Hello Englishmen!". A corpus of two words. Ergo, the American Indians spoke English?
I am open to all possible conclusions regarding Lepontic but I am baffled by such gratuitous self-assurance. Pasquale 01:49, 15 July 2005 (UTC)
Oh, yes, and a map of Rhaetia [2] might help people understand just where the Lepontii lived and how small their territory was (basically Ossola and Ticino). Look for the Lepontii in the south-western corner of Rhaetia. The area to the South, including what was to become the Insubrian capital Mediolanum (modern Milan), was Etruscan around 600-500 BC, when the Lepontii began writing (mostly tombstones) in their alphabet (one of several Etruscan-derived alphabets in the Rhaetian territory). Interestingly, the small area occupied by the Lepontii wasn't even in Gallia Cisalpina, but in Rhaetia!
And this is a map of Liguria proper and areas to the north: [3]. Here you can see the location of Gallic Vercellae, between the territories of the Libui (also known as Libici) and Laevi, not at all in Lepontic territory. Pasquale 02:05, 15 July 2005 (UTC)

I'm not defending McCone's conclusions, and by no means am I calling them gospel truth. I'm just letting you (and anyone else who cares) know what one well-respected Celticist has had to say on the matter. And I don't think he sounds particularly self-assured (for him, anyway) or is coming to cavalier conclusions, he's just pointing out that the arguments that have been brought forward to show that Lepontic and Cis.Gaul./Trans.Gaul. are very different from each other can be explained differently. If anything, he's arguing against coming to cavalier conclusions. --Angr/tɔk tə mi 05:41, 15 July 2005 (UTC)

Fine, Angr, but consider the following. McCone's statement (as quoted by you) "That leaves Lep. TETU /dedū/ 'set up' < *dedō < *dhedhoh1e etc." takes both the long quantity of the final -u and the derivation from *dhedhoh1e for granted. In fact, both are mere conjecture. Eska (whom I have criticized for gratuitously conflating Lepontic and Cisalpine Gaulish, but who knows his Celtic and Indo-European stuff) pretty much demolishes both hypotheses (see Eska & Mercado, research/Eska_Mercado_Vergiate.pdf, pp. 17-18, and fns. 42-45). In other words, both the assumption of a final -ū in TETU and the derivation from *de-dō-e — whether from *de-deh3-e (Markey & Mees) or from *dhe-dheh1-e (Bammesberger, evidently followed by McCone) — are highly improbable guesswork.
And that is precisely the sort of attitude I was referring to by "self-assured" and "cavalier conclusions". When Tom and Dick formulate a hypothesis (and a shaky one to boot) and then Harry refers to it as accepted fact, is that scholarship? In fact, there isn't even agreement on whether the *dhē- or the *dō- root is reflected in TETU and δεδε, EXCEPT that both must be derived from one and the same root, in the name of a prejudged Gaulish identity of these corpora (never mind that TETU seems to mean 'set up' and δεδε 'gave'). Again, is that scholarship? (Incidentally, what is the evidence for an -e ending "in most old perfects" in Gaulish, other than δεδε itself? To me, what seems "rash" is to conclude that there was some kind of free variation in Gaulish between 3sg. preterite endings [again, totally unproven vowel length] and -e, something I don't recall seeing in any language.)
In the pre-Roman Iberian peninsula, there were certainly several dozen languages, belonging to a variety of language groups, some Indo-European, some non-Indo-European. Ditto for pre-Roman Italy. Curiously, when it comes to Continental Celtic studies, geographic labels such as "Trans. Celt." and "Cis. Celt." are assumed to identify languages.
And what about McCone's reference to the poorly understood Larzac inscription and its "fluctuation between -m and -n"? This inscription is dated to 90-110 AD, when Latin was certainly widely spoken in Gaul. Maybe the instances of final -m are a reflection of Gaulish/Latin bilingualism. How else can you explain this odd resurgence of final -m centuries after it had changed to -n? And then use it as evidence against the "significance of Lep. -m vs. Cis. Gaul. -n"! I am sorry, but I don't believe this is scholarship at all. Pasquale 17:41, 15 July 2005 (UTC)

Comment March 2006[edit]

This all seems very strange to include in Wikipedia, even for a discussion page. Pasquale seem to disagree with just about everything written by established Celticists on Lepontic and makes some very strong statements about their scholarship. Archaeological evidence makes it quite clear that there were Celts in Northern Italy before the famous invasion after 400BC and no one (apart from Pasquale) who has written on the topic seems to doubt Lejeune's conclusions. All subsequent scholars (US, Irish, Welsh, German, French, Italian) have supported his argument that Uvamogozis derives from *upamo-ghostis and means '(having) supreme guests', i.e. it is a superlative bahuvrihi very similar to the Irish name Fergus (probably '(having) super guests'). The curators at the museum in Como where the Prestino inscription is housed have no doubt that Lepontic is Celtic either -- in fact it is 'Ligurian' itself which is the dubious and problematic language, not Lepontic.
Well, Bmees, for one thing, I never said UVAMOKOZIS was not Celtic. In fact, I never doubted it was Celtic. You obviously misread what I wrote. For me, UVAMOKOZIS is undoubtedly Celtic. What is not sure is that UVAMOKOZIS is "Lepontic". It could be Cisalpine Gaulish, i.e. of the Gaulish tribe of the Insubres, who took over the area of Milan and surrounding plains, chasing the local tribe of the Lepontii up the mountain valleys of Ticino and Ossola. This inscription is written in a later variant of the Alphabet of Lugano that is quite different from the original one used in the older inscriptions from 700-400 BC, which are surely Lepontic. My contention is that Lepontic and Cisalpine Gaulish are different languages. By the way, Lejeune says the same thing, but the difficulty is in determining exactly which inscriptions belong to one and which to the other language, given how short some of them are. It's interesting that you cite Fergus as an example of *ghosti- in Celtic. In 1970, Lejeune wrote that the reason this inscription has to be assigned to Lepontic (rather than Gaulish) is that *ghosti- is nowhere else attested in Celtic, ergo it cannot be Celtic, ergo it must be Lepontic. And then he adds, ergo Lepontic is also Celtic, because of *p > 0 and because of *-st- to -ts- (or tau gallicum or whatever). It is precisely that syllogism that I have referred to as sleight-of-hand. As for me, I would simply say that this particular inscription is in Cisalpine Gaulish (Celtic), not in Lepontic, and that the affiliation of Lepontic remains in doubt. And, by the way, I never said I have conclusive evidence that Lepontic belongs with Ligurian (which was probably a non-Celtic Indo-European language). All I am trying to say is that the evidence is inconclusive one way or the other. Only by forcibly conflating Lepontic and Cisalpine Gaulish into one language (simply because they are written in closely related variants of the same alphabet, a principle nowhere else held as evidence in linguistics), can you then assign Lepontic to Celtic. I call that another sleight-of-hand. Pasquale 23:08, 28 March 2006 (UTC)
I should add, by the way, that the name Fergus is usually not derived from *ghosti- 'guest', but from Proto-Celtic *gustu- 'force', in other words, *Uφer-gustu- (cf. other personal names such as *Kuno-gustu-, *Oino-gustu-; see Proto-Celtic - English Glossary). So, the etymology offered by Bmees for Fergus is most probably incorrect, and Lejeune may still be correct that *ghosti- is nowhere else attested in Celtic. Nonetheless, his 1970 argument remains circular. Once again, it was precisely Lejeune's 1970 argument that (1) attributed the Prestino inscription to Lepontic rather than Cisalpine Gaulish simply because *ghosti- (in the proper name UVAMOKOZIS) is attested nowhere else in Celtic; then (2) assigned Lepontic to Celtic on the basis of *p > 0 and *-st- > -ts- (in the very same UVAMOKOZIS). However, Lejeune 1970 considered Lepontic a completely different Celtic language than Cisalpine Gaulish (as distant from Gaulish as, say, Celtiberian). My understanding is that, on that point, Lejeune's thinking has not changed. In other words, he would completely disagree with latter-day Celticists, such as Eska, who quite arbitrarily conflate Lepontic and Cisalpine Gaulish into one and the same language. Pasquale 18:15, 29 March 2006 (UTC)


The article right now is still very unbalanced giving us mostly Delamarre's view that Ligurian was a Celtic language. I haven't studied Ligurian much, nor do I have references on the Liguran corpus, but someone who does should add the counter-Celtic arguments into the article. Decius 14:27, 12 July 2005 (UTC)

Yes, and if I come across contrary views I will add them; but yesterday the artice had little info and zero sources. I was about to add an unreferenced template, but then came across at least one referencable opinion, so added it. Which was better than what was before. --Nantonos 18:39, 12 July 2005 (UTC)
I have some problems with Delamarre's statement. For one thing, both Geneva and Genoa assert that their name comes from the IE root *genu- that means "knee", not the one that means "cheek". Secondly, even if they do come from the "cheek" word (the "chin" meaning seems to be restricted to Germanic), what's the evidence this word was used in Celtic for the mouth of a river? In Brythonic, anyway, the word seems to be *abber-, as in Aberystwyth and Aberdeen. In Old Irish gin "mouth" is used for a mountain pass, not a river mouth. Also, according to Germanic tribes and Marius, the Ambrones were a Germanic tribe, not a Celtic one. --Angr/tɔk tə mi 17:44, 12 July 2005 (UTC)
In the first century CE and earlier, 'German' was frequently used as a geographical label (people in the area bounded by the Rhine, the Elbe, the north sea and the Alps) without necessarily indicating a linguistic definition. But I will look for more info on the Ambrones. --Nantonos 18:39, 12 July 2005 (UTC)
According to Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities, 1898 (Ambrones entry available online at Perseus), the Ambrones were a Celtic tribe. Yet I know from handling Dardani and Scordisci articles that ancient writers often gave conflicting ethnic identifications of many of these tribes. Decius 18:44, 12 July 2005 (UTC)

Well, in the absence of any attestations of the Ambronic language, what criteria can be used to determine what they were? And if we don't really know for sure whether they were Celtic or Germanic or even something else, then the fact that they could talk with the Ligurians doesn't help us decide what kind of language the Ligurians spoke. --Angr/tɔk tə mi 20:17, 12 July 2005 (UTC)

My understanding of Plutarch's account is that, at the Battle of Aquae Sextiae, the Ligurians and the Cimbri/Teutones, fighting on opposite sides, discovered that they used the same self-designation "Ambrōnes" (at least, I believe it's a long ō), roughly meaning 'men', as a battle-cry. Like: What is it that you're shouting over there? "Men"? But that's what we call ourselves! I don't want to sound like a broken record here, but I have a working hypothesis: ambrones is the Ligurian word for 'men'. And I further suspect (OK, just a guess) that Umbri has the same root (the term seems to have originally referred to the pre-Umbrian population of Umbria -- the historical Umbrians called themselves Safins, i.e. Sabines). Pasquale 20:30, 12 July 2005 (UTC)

I looked up the quote from Plutarch in my own copy of Plutarch (Dryden translation), and there is no indication in Plutarch that the Ligurians and Ambrones began discoursing with each other at all, let alone in mutually intelligible tongues: rather, the Ambrones were shouting "Ambrones!" as a battle-cry; and the Ligurians, on hearing this term, found it to be identical to "an ancient name in their country", so the Ligurians, as they advanced to engage the Ambrones, also began to shout "Ambrones!". Both sides kept shouting this, enraging one another, till the Ligures finally fell upon them, joined by the Romans---and all of the Ambrones were slaughtered. There was no "chit-chat" going on. Decius 20:51, 12 July 2005 (UTC)
Postscriptum, I found the Dryden translation of Plutarch's Caius Marius online:[4]. If Dryden's translation is accurate, then Delamarre's interpretation is childish, unrealistic, and is not substantiated. Decius 21:59, 12 July 2005 (UTC)
And on top of all this, I don't think it is even known with any certainty whether the Ambrones were even Celts---but even if they were, the translation doesn't indicate that any actual discourse went on at all between the Ligures and Ambrones. Decius 22:13, 12 July 2005 (UTC)
I am sorry, Decius, but I was just trying to inject a little humor into the story. That is why I prefaced my imaginary quote by "Like:" (a vulgarism meaning "as if"). I thought it was obvious. In any case, the Plutarch text you quote is pretty much what I remembered. I didn't say they spoke the same language. What I said is that they "discovered that they used the same self-designation "Ambrōnes", roughly meaning 'men', as a battle-cry." Well, more or less, in any case. Indeed, it is not known with certainty if the Ambrones were Celtic-speaking, Germanic-speaking, or neither. It is also not known if they were just another name for the Cimbri and Teutones, or a third tribe that had joined the Cimbri and Teutones in their peregrinations. Plutarch's text allows for the interpretation I put forth, namely that the term was a self-designation of the Cimbri/Teutones, but it does not require it. Pasquale 22:38, 12 July 2005 (UTC)
Yes, I agree that Ambrones may well have meant "Men" or something similar. It baffles me how Delamarre was able to extrapolate such a scenario from Plutarch. In the meanwhile, I'm trying to find more references for the article. Decius 22:45, 12 July 2005 (UTC)


Interesting; why not write Battle of Aquae Sextiae while you're at it? So Pasquale, are you saying Ligurian is the missing link between Celtic and Italic? Are you an Italo-Celtist? I must say it seems likely there was a lot of prehistoric contact between the groups (see Talk:Vates). Maybe the tree model just breaks down here, and Ligurian was "half Italic, half Celtic"? I have been taught that Lepontic is a Gaulish dialect without reasonable doubt. But I'll have to go and review the evidence now. dab () 07:26, 13 July 2005 (UTC)

No, I am not saying either that Ligurian is the missing link between Celtic and Italic or that it was "half Italic, half Celtic", nor do I believe that the classification of Ligurian impinges on whether there ever existed an Italo-Celtic branch within Indo-European. As a matter of fact, I have serious doubts about the solidity of an Italic branch within Indo-European, let alone Italo-Celtic (I suspect the apparent Italic unity is due at least in part to later convergence, and would separate out from Italic not only Venetic, but also the Sabellic group, leaving within Italic only Latino-Faliscan with other, poorly attested languages of Southern and South-Central Italy: Ausono-Sicel ? Hernico-Apulian ?).
I consider Ligurian a separate branch of Indo-European, close but different from Celtic, and with affinities also to Sabellic and possibly Illyrian. This separate branch of Indo-European was originally flung far and wide across Western Europe, from Portugal to Slovenia and perhaps from Jutland to Abruzzi and Sardinia. It was overrun in part by the spread of Celtic: Iberian Celtic first, Gaulish later.
The problem with recognizing the Indo-European nature of Ligurian is not only its very limited attestation, but also the use of the same term to refer to a bundle of substratum lexical items identified with Liguria and neighboring regions of Italy, France, and Spain. These pre-Indo-European lexical items may very well have been actual words in Ligurian, but that does not a priori make Ligurian non-Indo-European any more than the very substantial pre-Indo-European lexicon in Latin, Greek, Germanic, etc. makes those languages non-Indo-European.
As far as Lepontic is concerned, the consensus through decades of (still valid) scholarship, up to about 1970, was a cautious leaning towards a "para-Celtic" rather than Celtic affiliation. The term "para-Celtic" was used (instead of "Ligurian") in part in order not to prejudge the separate issue of whether Ligurian was indeed Indo-European, in part because Indo-Europeanists are leery of setting up a separate Indo-European branch around a poorly attested language (the same hesitation applies to Daco-Mysian, Thraco-Phrygian, etc.) and will obviously not wish to use a LESS attested language (Ligurian) as a point of reference for a (slightly) better attested language (Lepontic).
The above situation changed with the publication of Lejeune's Lepontica (1970). While Lejeune's review of the extant inscriptions is very thorough, his rationale for ultimately identifying Lepontic as a Celtic language is rather flimsy. In any case, Lejeune never confuses Lepontic with the later Cisalpine Gaulish, on the contrary the distinction between the two is actually essential to his argumentation. But since the two languages use the same alphabet, it is often hard to tell in which of these two languages the extremely short texts of most of these inscriptions are written. (The preservation of word-final *-m in Lepontic, but not in Gaulish is one element that, as far as I know, no one has cast into doubt.)
More recently, others (Eska in particular) have gone as far as conflating the two languages, but this seems totally preposterous to me, since it completely ignores the history of who the Lepontii were (a small Alpine tribe whose presence in the area precedes the Gaulish invasion of northern Italy certainly by several centuries), just when Cisalpine Gaul was settled by the Gauls, in other words, the history of the area and people involved.
The Lepontic corpus is simply too small to come to a decision. (The Cisalpine Gaulish corpus is equally small, if not smaller, but no one doubts that it was Gaulish.) For Lepontic, only a clear case of Indo-European *p preserved (hence, not Celtic) or lost (hence, Celtic) can definitively decide the issue. The only supposedly solid example that Lejeune could muster is the proper name Uvamokozis in the Prestino inscription, an inscription written in an unusual variant of the alphabet of Lugano which allows for a voice distinction between /t/ and /d/ and has a Gaulish-looking verbal form dedu (with 3sg. preterite ending -u, instead of Lepontic -e). And since the same character for /p/ also represents /b/, one can always read PALA ('tombstone, stone, rock', the most common word in the Lepontic corpus) as /bala/ and avoid seeing a /p/ in that word. (Never mind that there is substantial evidence of a substratum lexical item *palla with similar meanings, both in the Alps and the Appennines.) So, ultimately, as you can see, it becomes sleight-of-hand. Very sad indeed.
Pasquale 18:44, 13 July 2005 (UTC)

Translation question[edit]

Strabo is quoted as saying:

but while these Ligurians belong to a different race (hetero-ethneis),

Wouldn't "people" be a lot better than "race" here?

Yes, I agree. ---Decius 14:51, 21 August 2005 (UTC)


Hello, I've just changed wrong interlinks in this article, because interlinks about ancient (pre-roman) ligurian language are:

Interlinks about modern (romance) ligurian language:

The bulgarian article is about both languages (the ancient and the modern one).

Bye, Lucio Di Madaura

References, references[edit]

I see a lot of material in the discussion and almost none in the article, and no line-item references in the article. The discussion is far larger than the article. We are hanging fire here. I thank you all for your inputs. Now it needs to be translated into referenced material in the article (this is the true translation problem). I remind you that the Indo-European/non-Indo-European question has by no means been settled, so we need to present both views in a balanced fashion. Accordingly I got us started with the organization. Dave's fourth law of movements: for every scholarly assertion there is an equal and opposite scholarly assertion. So, on this one I think we would do better to avoid the weasel language, "it is generally accepted." One man's generality is another man's peculiarity.Dave (talk) 13:19, 14 May 2009 (UTC)

Indo-European vs. non-Indo-European[edit]

I strongly disagree with Dave's changes in the first paragraph of the article. The evidence for the Indo-European affiliation of Ligurian is actually very solid. I wonder if Dave is aware of the Sententia Minuciorum, a 2nd-century-B.C. judicial decision rendered to resolve a territorial dispute between the Ligurian tribes of the Genuates and Langates and preserved on stone. It is in Latin, but it contains a wealth of local place names (lieux-dits) whose Indo-European character is beyond doubt, e.g. Porcobera (the river now known as Polcévera, which itself derives from Porcǐfera, a literal Latin translation of Porcobera), Lebriemelum, and many more. I am sorry, but de Jubainville's opinion regarding Ligurian is completely passé. Of course, it goes without saying that, as everywhere else, there was a non-Indo-European substrate preceding Ligurian, which can be observed in substratum terms, but that has no bearing on the linguistic affiliation of the Ligurian language spoken in the centuries before Romanization in northwestern Italy, parts of southern France, Corsica, northern Sardinia, and very likely also in various regions of the Iberian peninsula. Please restore the original wording. Pasquale (talk) 14:37, 14 May 2009 (UTC)

I have gone ahead and restored the original wording in the first paragraph, but I have added a second paragraph that refers to the non-Indo-European substrate hypothesis, d'Arbois de Jubainville, and the Cardium Pottery Culture. Please note that Strabo does not provide support for the Ligurian substrate hypothesis, but only for the Ligurians being different from the Celts.
In all modesty, I believe I am as familiar as anyone with the limited Ligurian corpus, and my view is that it is a separate branch of Indo-European, similar to, but different from Celtic. For example, in phonology, the most obvious difference from Celtic would be the preservation of IE *p. There are also differences in morphology, such as the suffixes *-osko- and *-inko-. On the other hand, there are several lexical items that are identical to Gaulish, e.g. brīwa 'bridge', seen in La Brigue, Briga Alta, and Brig, cf. Gaulish Samarobriva 'bridge on the Samara (Somme)'.
Naturally, like all other branches of Indo-European, Ligurian absorbed substantial elements from its substrate language, which may well have been akin to Iberian and/or Basque. There is also evidence that Ligurian may have originally developed in the Rhine Valley and the Eastern regions of present-day France, and may have already absorbed substantial elements from a Basque-type substrate already in those regions.
I have also removed the map, because I don't believe it was very informative. Pasquale (talk) 20:51, 14 May 2009 (UTC)
Hello Pasquale. I acknowledge your new participation in the article. First, this is not an academic discussion. Those procedures are reserved for journal articles, papers, etc. Second, we operate by successive revision. The article is currently low quality. In my opinion the reasons are, oversimplification, lack of footnoted references, lack of pictures. I see you have an academic background. Academics can make generalizations and everyone listens. Wikipedia does not have that luxury. No unsupported generalizations, please. If you say the Ligurian language is generally considered to be something you need a reference, perhaps more than one. My efforts were intended in the direction of article improvement; that is, I did not intend to provide a finished article of good quality. Liguria was not built in a day. So, I am not going to take issue with your taking issue. Take all the issue you like. However, does this not imply that you have taken on a responsibility? If you do not like what I do, your not liking it implies that you know better than me, and your expressing that implies that you can do better than me and are interested in doing so. I say, go ahead. Give us some substantial improvements. I see you were on here in 2004. That means you know enough to do it right. My only reservation with regard to you is that sometimes academics get fixated on ideas, as I implied above. This is the place for balance not fixation. However, I do not know if you are or not. You have some valid points there but they only prove my assertion that the article is oversimple. One more suggestion; whenever the article gets expanded it is going to need an organization. If you didn't like mine, give us another! Wikipedia is an ongoing, dynamic process of mutual discovery. It is not or should not be one person doing all the work while the others sit back and tear what he does to shreds, which is, I dare say, the way academia often operates. Well I hope I have not been too offensive. In cases of reversion such as yours, where you are reverting everything I do, it is is necessary to start from the foundation; that is, pointing out the problems with the article, and we do that with tags. The administrators appear not to like too many tags so I have begun with a modest few. They can only be taken off by correcting the problem. As for me, well, this article is not on my current list. I only noticed it needs a lot of work. Show us what you can do, hey? If this article were on my current list I would be going through it with you detail by detail. It may be on the list at some future time, but not for a while. If you can't put that much time in, surely you can put some time on it. I appreciate your academic credentials and I hope we can make use of them. Remember, as I say, academics do not get to pronounce here, they only get to substantiate, so substantiate for us. On with the show. When you use those tags up I will put more on if warranted. That is fair, don't you think?Dave (talk) 22:52, 14 May 2009 (UTC)
Dave, with all due respect, that's a very wordy rant to make one simple point, that the article needs citations and footnotes. Granted, but, alas, that is also the case with a vast number of Wikipedia articles. In my opinion, this particular article is still a stub of sorts, too short to warrant an organization (especially if that organization is going to be misleading). However, in its brevity, it is not at all oversimplified, rather it reflects the consensus of the several people who have worked on it for the past five and a half years, several of whom (not just myself) either have academic credentials or are knowledgeable amateurs. It is rather your participation in the article that is new. While I agree it is regrettable that the article does not include citations and footnotes, it does not take much to look up Ligurian language in the Britannica for quick corroboration. No one here is doubting your good faith, and I appreciate your good intentions in adding the references to d'Arbois de Joubainville and Cardium Pottery, but, as I believe I have clearly explained, they are not germane. I am very much in favor of adding new material to the article, as long as that new material is not misleading. As an encyclopedia user, I'd rather see little, but on target, than a lot, but either incorrect or not germane. Finally, your notions about the academic world are off the mark. Rather, it is dilettantes, not academics, that get fixated on ideas. Academics, on the contrary, are accustomed to a constant dialectic and debate, in which every point they make is put to the test. Pasquale (talk) 14:59, 15 May 2009 (UTC)

That was fast. Thanks. I think the article looks better. It is easier to address modularized sections, don't you think? I don't wish to hurt your feelings but I fear I must disagree on a number of points. First, you and a few other editors do not represent the general point of view, but rather a clique on Wikipedia. Although you are turning out to be politer than the nasty persons I usually encounter, you are nevertheless a clique and you do have a fixed point of view. You act together to revert changes that do not suit your point of view. I do say this spitefully in any way. Although it is not relevant to say that power corrupts, power does sway the judgement. By the way in my time spent with academia I did not find much of the objectivity you mention. I did find some, the memory of which I cherish. You have your experience and I have mine; it is a matter of opinion and judgement. I do agree that untrained or uninitiated persons do sometimes begin fixated. I'm not in any of those categories. Now for the currency of your views, you (and presumably your clique) are taking the view that the language was most likely Celtic. That is not I do believe representative of the overall view. The Celtic angle has been worked over for decades, even centuries. You speak as though it were later or more up-to-date when in point of development it is not. As for the outcome, you speak of conclusions as though they were settled. That is not so; in fact, as I scan knowlegeable persons on the Internet (via Google) I see a certain tendency to realize the Celtic angle is not going anywhere. The words held in evidence could as easily be loans. Either the language is not known and there are theories or it is known to be Indo-European or Celtic and the matter is settled. The latter case is certainly not true. To present the Celtic as the major or predominant view is a misrepresentation. I note that you just throw out the little evidence that did get in the article as irrelevant. I can't agree with that. It is relevant. Now, what I mean by oversimple is that the details and the connecting ideas and sentences are missing. If a proper workup is done on this article they will not appear to be irrelevant. Your clique, you say, has had this article for some time. Why have you not done a proper workup with proper references in all this time? This is a rhetorical question, you don't have to answer. So these are our differences. You took out the tags. Your response is so prompt and you did respond to many of my objections that I am not going to throw any more tags on right now. The article is much better with just this little work. A second reason is that you have proceded in such a way that the ball is in my park. If I know of other evidence it is up to me to provide the evidence and make the changes so that the article does reflect a balanced point of view. Some tags I was considering are the insufficient sources, the unbalanced article, etc. But, we have by no means finished with the sources. What is that strange format there at the bottom? Needs cleanup is another tag. If I start making one-sided demands on you I will be neglecting my implied responsibility. By the way, I can provide quite a bit of non-Celtic and non-Indoeuropean source material. Unfortunately as I said above this is rather precipitate for me; I want to work on my list and right now a month or so workup on this article is not on my agenda. Eventually it will be. For the time being I am going to let such weasel language as "generally believed" go by. It is not that I espouse any view but rather that I know other views are espoused and balance and objectivity are Wikipedia policies. So, I'm backing out for now. I achieved my goal of improving or getting improved a stub article. If you really want to take an interest I do have a few suggestions. I would expand some of those ideas. What IS the evidence for Indo-European? Give us a few words, make some linguistic types of statements. What basic words, such as numerals, show characteristically Celtic or Italic features? Develop this thing a little. Also, the bottom formatting could use some work. My point of view, which I believe is general, is that the linguistics of Ligurian is NOT known. Not enough remains to make conclusions, only speculations. We don't want to say "it is generally believed." We want to present views. The EB is a point of view, but they do not have the "answer" either. Those articles, written by individuals, are often not as good as Wikipedia. I almost never use them for a source. The material from the 1911 encyclopedia is for the most part absolutely awful. Well I'm getting back to my targeted articles now. If you are still on Wikipedia we will at some point be in a full-fledged academic-type face-off if that is still required. I can't say when. Once again thanks for your response. You began confrontationally but I thought you ended well. I suggest you go on with it; maybe you will change your mind. Best.Dave (talk) 22:03, 15 May 2009 (UTC)

Dave, this is very unfortunate, but this other long rant of yours clearly shows that you continue to misunderstand. (1) I was absolutely never confrontational with you. You chose to read that in my reversal of some of your edits, but, as I said earlier, I was simply restoring the established consensus. (2) Contrary to what you imagine, there is absolutely no clique here. The various other previous contributors and myself are not at all in agreement and do not at all "have a fixed point of view" or "act together to revert changes". Rather, I believe the previous contributors have been respectful of different views. Scholarship is divided on Ligurian and there are multiple views, which is why the article is somewhat vague. However, I assure you that Ligurian is indeed now "generally believed" to have been Indo-European. The different views have to do with how to classify Ligurian within Indo-European, and the evidence is insufficient to settle that question. (3) You state that I am "taking the view that the language was most likely Celtic". Once again, you are mistaken. I do not take that view at all. Personally, I favor the view that Ligurian was a separate branch of Indo-European, now completely extinct, that at one point extended from Eastern and Southern France, to northwestern Italy, parts of the Alps, sections of central and southern Italy, Sicily, Corsica, northern Sardinia, the Balearic islands, and areas of the Iberian peninsula, including the relatively poorly attested Lusitanian language. Have I injected any of this into the article? Not at all, to the point that you attributed a Celtic view to me! Since the evidence is flimsy and subject to different explanations, none of that appears in the article. (4) You confuse, as the distinguished d'Arbois de Joubainville evidently also did, the pre-Roman language of the first millennium BC with its substrate, two very different things, as I have previously tried to explain. This is no longer an option, in light of the evidence in favor of an Indo-European affiliation. (5) The reason the evidence in favor of an Indo-European affiliation is not described in detail is that it relies on the analysis of a large mass of what is almost exclusively place names. There are no texts actually written in Ligurian, except for the scanty Apuanian funeral stelae, written in the Etruscan alphabet and discussed in Michel Lejeune's book Lepontica (Paris: Société d'Éditions 'Les Belles Lettres', 1971). The place name evidence is conspicuous and substantial, however, because of its very nature, does not lend itself to the kind of linguistic description you would like to see ("basic words, such as numerals").(6) The "strange format" of the sources listed at the bottom was caused by the fact that someone had listed the sources under a "References" section, which I have now changed to "Sources". (7) Personally, I have been out of academia for more than 20 years and certainly hold no power in it that might sway my judgement. (8) Finally, I am somewhat baffled by your belligerent tone and fantastic allegations. I have the impression you embarked on some kind of wild goose chase by targeting this article. Pasquale (talk) 17:36, 18 May 2009 (UTC)
This is very interesting. Now that Botteville has apparently given up, someone else, namely Dmitri Lytov, has taken up the non-Indo-European cause, peddling outdated nineteenth-century theories that were conceived when Historical Linguistics and Indo-European studies were still relatively young. Please! Pasquale (talk) 16:42, 18 June 2009 (UTC)

Why not giving more substance to the article by providing a comprehensive list of all known Ligurian words? I think this would be more informative than just debating the views of scholars. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:10, 20 August 2009 (UTC)

Instead of moving a lot of air it would be wiser to do more to let the readers to form their opinion by themselses by publishing all existing documents. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:05, 21 August 2009 (UTC)

Study of the modern romance language as testimony of relationship among substratum languages[edit]

I wish to bring to the attention of the specialist editors here that it might be of help in identifying the origins of a language of which we know little, as it is the case for ancient Ligurian, to study the outcome of it as a Galloroman language. The peculiarities of Romance Ligurian are well known and might well be studied in their relationship with similar outcomes in other languages of the same family in order to draw inferences on the origin and position of ancient Ligurian among the Celtic languages. The peculiarities of modern Ligurian that I find most intersdting in this respect are phonetical, including accentuation and pitch. It is a well known fact that modern Ligurian is both cognate and distinct in this respect with neighbouring Galloroman languages. See changes of b to g, f to sc, loss of final vowel versuso u, presence of original fricatives and liquids versus droppping. The Galloroamance language that bears most similarities to modern Ligurian seems to be modern Galeg-Portuguese. My hypothesis is that ancient Ligurian should therefore be cognate to the language of the ancestors of the Galegs.Aldrasto (talk) 03:35, 6 December 2009 (UTC)

Move discussion in progress[edit]

There is a move discussion in progress on Talk:Ligurian language (Romance) which affects this page. Please participate on that page and not in this talk page section. Thank you. —RM bot 13:45, 13 February 2011 (UTC)

How can we classify a language only on the base of names?[edit]

I'm a little confused how can we classify a language only on the basis of toponyms and personal names? For example, if we were only left with names of Etruscans /dozens of which are actually borrowed from the ancient Greeks/ and some single words, like "mask", "family" and "populus", it would have been not so controversial to consider the Etruscian language as Indo-European, which it isn't. (We know that thanks to the numerous resources found in Etruscian...) Can't it be the same with the (ancient) Ligurian?

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Any links to maps or bywords on Lingurian placenames in France and whereverthither?[edit]

Come across loads of placename maps of France. French seem to love em especially so if placenames have Germanic etymologies (and then 'Gaulish') but where are the Linguarian and Basque placename maps. Indeed, never seen any Lingurian placename maps....