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Venetic language

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Native toItaly
EthnicityAdriatic Veneti
Eraattested 6th–1st century BCE[1]
Old Italic (Venetic alphabet)
Language codes
ISO 639-3xve
Ethnolinguistic map of Italy in the Iron Age, before the Roman expansion and conquest of Italy. Venetic is in brown.

Venetic (/vəˈnɛtɪk/) is an extinct Indo-European language, usually classified into the Italic subgroup, that was spoken by the Veneti people in ancient times in northeast Italy (Veneto and Friuli) and part of modern Slovenia, between the Po Delta and the southern fringe of the Alps, associated with the Este culture.[3][1][4]

The language is attested by over 300 short inscriptions dating from the 6th to the 1st century BCE. Its speakers are identified with the ancient people called Veneti by the Romans and Enetoi by the Greeks. It became extinct around the 1st century when the local inhabitants assimilated into the Roman sphere. Inscriptions dedicating offerings to Reitia are one of the chief sources of knowledge of the Venetic language.[5]

Linguistic classification[edit]

Venetic alphabet

Venetic is a centum language. The inscriptions use a variety of the Northern Italic alphabet, similar to the Etruscan alphabet.

The exact relationship of Venetic to other Indo-European languages is still being investigated, but the majority of scholars agree that Venetic, aside from Liburnian, shared some similarities with the Italic languages and so is sometimes classified as Italic. However, since it also shared similarities with other Western Indo-European branches (particularly Celtic languages and Germanic languages), some linguists prefer to consider it an independent Indo-European language. Venetic may also have been related to the Illyrian languages once spoken in the western Balkans, though the theory that Illyrian and Venetic were closely related is debated by current scholarship.

While some scholars consider Venetic plainly an Italic language, more closely related to the Osco-Umbrian languages than to Latin, many authorities suggest, in view of the divergent verbal system, that Venetic was not part of Italic proper, but split off from the core of Italic early.[6]

A 2012 study has suggested that Venetic was a relatively conservative language significantly similar to Celtic, on the basis of morphology, while it occupied an intermediate position between Celtic and Italic, on the basis of phonology. However these phonological similarities may have arisen as an areal phenomenon.[2] Phonological similarities to Rhaetian have also been pointed out.[7]

In 2016, Celtologist Peter Schrijver argued that Venetic and Italic together form one sub-branch of an Italo-Celtic branch of Indo-European, the other sub-branch being Celtic.[8]


During the period of Latin-Venetic bilingual inscriptions in the Roman script, i.e. 150–50 BCE, Venetic became flooded with Latin loanwords. The shift from Venetic to Latin resulting in language death is thought by scholarship to have already been well under way by that time.[9]


Venetic had about six, possibly seven, noun cases and four conjugations (similar to Latin). About 60 words are known, but some were borrowed from Latin (liber.tos. < libertus) or Etruscan. Many of them show a clear Indo-European origin, such as vhraterei < PIE *bʰréh₂trey = to the brother.


In Venetic, PIE stops *bʰ, *dʰ and *gʰ developed to /f/, /f/ and /h/, respectively, in word-initial position (as in Latin and Osco-Umbrian), but to /b/, /d/ and /ɡ/, respectively, in word-internal intervocalic position (as in Latin). For Venetic, at least the developments of *bʰ and *dʰ are clearly attested. Faliscan and Osco-Umbrian have /f/, /f/ and /h/ internally as well.

There are also indications of the developments of PIE *kʷ > kv, *gʷ- > w- and PIE *gʷʰ- > f- in Venetic, the latter two being parallel to Latin; as well as the regressive assimilation of the PIE sequence *p...kʷ... > *kʷ...kʷ..., a feature also found in Italic and Celtic.[10]: p.141 

Language sample[edit]

A sample inscription in Venetic, found on a bronze nail at Este (Es 45):[3]: 149 

Venetic Mego donasto śainatei Reitiiai porai Egeotora Aimoi ke louderobos
Latin (literal) Me donavit sanatrici Reitiae bonae Egetora [pro] Aemo liberis-que
English Egetora gave me to Good Reitia the Healer on behalf of Aemus and the children

Another inscription, found on a situla (vessel such as an urn or bucket) at Cadore (Ca 4 Valle):[3]: 464 

Venetic eik Goltanos doto louderai Kanei
Latin (literal) hoc Goltanus dedit liberae Cani
English Goltanus sacrificed this for the free Kanis


The most prominent scholars who have deciphered Venetic inscriptions or otherwise contributed to the knowledge of the Venetic language are Pauli,[11] Krahe,[12] Pellegrini,[3] Prosdocimi,[3][13][14] and Lejeune.[10] Recent contributors include Capuis[15] and Bianchi.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Wallace, Rex (2004). "Venetic". In Woodard, Roger D. (ed.). The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the World's Ancient Languages. University of Cambridge. pp. 840–856. ISBN 0-521-56256-2.
  2. ^ a b Gvozdanović, Jadranka (2012). "On the linguistic classification of Venetic" (PDF). Journal of Language Relationship. 7: 33–46. doi:10.31826/jlr-2012-070107. S2CID 212688857.
  3. ^ a b c d e Pellegrini, Giovanni Battista; Prosdocimi, Aldo Luigi (1967). La Lingua Venetica: I – Le iscrizioni; II – Studi. Padova: Istituto di glottologia dell'Università di Padova.
  4. ^ Wilkes, J.J. (9 January 1996). The Illyrians (1st ed.). Wiley-Blackwell. p. 77. ISBN 0-631-19807-5 – via Google Books.
  5. ^ Woodard, Roger D, ed. (2008). The Ancient Languages of Europe. Cambridge e‑Books. doi:10.1017/CBO9780511486814. ISBN 9780511486814. [full citation needed]
  6. ^ de Melo, Wolfgang David Cirilo (2007). "The sigmatic future and the genetic affiliation of Venetic: Latin faxō "I shall make" and Venetic vha.g.s. to "he made"". Transactions of the Philological Society. 105 (105): 1–21. doi:10.1111/j.1467-968X.2007.00172.x.
  7. ^ Silvestri, M.; Tomezzoli, G. (2007). Linguistic distances between Rhaetian, Venetic, Latin, and Slovenian languages (PDF). Int'l Topical Conf. Origin of Europeans. pp. 184–190.
  8. ^ Schrijver, Peter (2016). "17. Ancillary study: Sound Change, the Italo-Celtic Linguistic Unity, and the Italian Homeland of Celtic". In Koch, John T.; Cunliffe, Barry (eds.). Celtic from the West 3: Atlantic Europe in the Metal Ages – Questions of Shared Language. Oxford, UK: Oxbow Books. pp. 489–502. ISBN 978-1-78570-227-3. Retrieved May 12, 2019.
  9. ^ Woodard, Roger D., ed. (2008). The ancient languages of Europe. Cambridge University Press. p. 139.
  10. ^ a b Lejeune, Michel (1974). Manuel de la langue vénète. Heidelberg: Carl Winter – Universitätsverlag.
  11. ^ Pauli, Carl Eugen (1885–1894). Altitalische Forschungen. Leipzig: J.A. Barth.
  12. ^ Krahe, Hans (1954). Sprache und Vorzeit: europäische Vorgeschichte nach dem Zeugnis der Sprache (in German). Heidelberg: Quelle & Meyer.
  13. ^ Prosdocimi, Aldo Luigi (2002). Veneti, Eneti, Euganei, Ateste.[full citation needed]
  14. ^ Prosdocimi, Aldo Luigi (2002). "Trasmissioni alfabetiche e insegnamento della scrittura". AKEO. I Tempi della Scrittura. Veneti Antichi: Alfabeti e Documenti. Montebelluna: 25–38. (Catalogue of an exposition at Montebelluna, 12/2001–05/2002)
  15. ^ Capuis, Loredana. "Selected bibliography". Archived from the original on 2005-08-06.
  16. ^ Bianchi, Anna Maria Chieco; et al. (1988). Italia: omnium terrarum alumna: la civiltà dei Veneti, Reti, Liguri, Celti, Piceni, Umbri, Latini, Campani e Iapigi (in Italian). Milano: Scheiwiller.

Further reading[edit]

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