Thraco-Illyrian is a hypothesis that the Thraco-Dacian and Illyrian languages comprise a distinct branch of Indo-European. Thraco-Illyrian is also used as a term merely implying a Thracian-Illyrian interference, mixture or sprachbund, or as a shorthand way of saying that it is not determined whether a subject is to be considered as pertaining to Thracian or Illyrian. Downgraded to a geo-linguistic concept, these languages are referred to as Paleo-Balkan.
The linguistical hypothesis was especially current in the early 20th century, but after the 1960s it was seriously called into question. New publications argued that no strong evidence for Thraco-Illyrian exists, and that the two language-areas show more differences than correspondences (Vladimir Georgiev, Ivan Duridanov, Eric Hamp, et al.).
Linguistic contact or common branch?
The rivers Vardar, South and Great Morava are generally taken as the rough line of demarcation between the Illyrian sphere on the west and Thracian on the east. There is however much interference in the area between Illyrian and Thracian, with Thracian groups inhabiting Illyrian lands (the Thracian Bryges for example) and Illyrian groups overlapping into the Thracian zone (the Dardani seem to be a Thraco-Illyrian mix; Wilkes, 1992 et al.). It appears that Thracian and Illyrian do not have a clear-cut frontier. Similarities found between the Illyrian and Thracian lexis can thus be seen as merely linguistic interference (Hemp, Georgiev et al.).
Others such as I. I. Russu argue that there should have been major similarities between Illyrian and Thracian, and a common linguistic branch (not merely a Sprachbund) is probable. Among the Thraco-Illyrian correspondences Russu considers are the following:
|Abroi||Abre-||Abre- is an element taken from certain Thracian anthroponyms|
|Aploi, Aplus, Apulia||Apuli, Appulus, Apulum|
|Dardi, Dardani||Dardanos, Darda-para|
Not many Thraco-Illyrian correspondences are definite, and a number may be incorrect, even from the list above. Sorin Paliga (2002) however states: "According to the available data, we may surmise that Thracian and Illyrian were mutually understandable, e.g. like Czech and Slovak, in one extreme, or like Spanish and Portuguese, at the other."
Other linguists however argue that Illyrian and Thracian were different Indo-European branches which later converged through contact. It is also of significance that Illyrian languages still have not been classified whether they were centum or satem language, while it is undisputed that Thracian was a satem language by the Classical Period (the satem nature of proto-Thracian is disputed, Olteanu 2002).
Due to the fragmentary attestation of both Illyrian and Thraco-Dacian, the existence of a Thraco-Illyrian branch remains controversial. Evidence of a Thraco-Illyrian branch has also been sought in the Albanian language, which might have developed from either a Thraco-Dacian or Illyrian language, or possibly even a Thraco-Illyrian creole.
- Paleo-Balkan languages
- Albanian language
- Balkan sprachbund
- Classification of Thracian
- Dacian language
- Paleo-Balkan languages
- Romanian words of possible Dacian origin (and comparison with Albanian words)
- Thracian language
- Venetic language
- ^ The place of Paeonian remains unclear. Not much has been determined in the study of Paeonian, and some linguists do not recognize a Paeonian area separate from Illyrian or Thracian. The place of Ancient Macedonian is also undetermined. Paliga (2002) states: "It is therefore difficult to say whether the ancient Macedonians spoke an idiom closer to Thracian, Illyrian, Greek or a specific idiom."