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Tyrrhenian languages

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Title: Tyrrhenian languages  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Athena, Etruscan language, Luwian language, Raetic language, Eteocretan language, Helmut Rix, Lemnian language, Tyrsenian languages, Cippus Perusinus, Tyrrhenian
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Tyrrhenian languages

Southern Europe
Linguistic classification: Tyrrhenian

Approximate area of Tyrsenian languages

Tyrsenian (Tyrsenisch, also Tyrrhenian), named after the Tyrrhenians (Ancient Greek: Tursānoi, Tursēnoi, Turrhēnoi), is an extinct family of closely related ancient languages proposed by Helmut Rix (1998), that consists of the Etruscan language of central Italy, the Raetic language of the Alps, and the Lemnian language of the Aegean Sea.


Rix assumes a date for Proto-Tyrsenian of roughly 1000 BC.

Cognates common to Raetic and Etruscan are:

  • Etr. zal, Raet. zal, "two";
  • Etr. -(a)cvil, Raet. akvil, "gift";
  • Etr. zinace, Raet. t'inaχe, "he made".
  • a genitive suffix -s in all three languages;
  • a second genitive suffix -a in Raetic, -(i)a in Etruscan;
  • the past active participle -ce in Etruscan, -ku in Raetic.

Cognates common to Lemnian and Etruscan are:

  • dative-case suffixes *-si, and *-ale, attested on the Lemnos Stele (Hulaie-ši "for Hulaie", Φukiasi-ale "for the Phocaean") and in Etruscan inscriptions (e.g. aule-si "To Aule" on the Cippus Perusinus).
  • a past tense suffix *-a-i (Etruscan <-e> as in ame "was" (< *amai); Lemnian <-ai> as in šivai "lived").

Strabo's (Geography V, 2), citation from Anticlides attributes to Pelasgians of Lemnos and Imbros a share in the foundation of Etruria.[1] The Pelasgians are also referred to by Herodotus as settlers in Lemnos, after they were expelled from Attica by the Athenians.[2] Tyrrhenians anciently in Lemnos are instanced by Apollonius of Rhodes in his Argonautica (IV.1760), written in the 3rd century BC, in an elaborate invented aition of Kalliste/Thera (modern Santorini): in passing he attributes to "Tyrrhenian warriors" in the island of Lemnos the flight of "Sintian" Lemnians to the island Kalliste.

Suggested relationships to other families

Aegean language family

A larger Aegean family including Eteocretan (Minoan language) and Eteocypriot has been proposed by G.M. Facchetti, and is supported by S. Yatsemirsky in Russia, referring to some alleged similarities between the Etruscan language and ancient Lemnian (an Aegean language widely thought to be related to Etruscan), and some Ancient Aegean languages: such as Minoan and Eteocretan. If these languages could be shown to be related to Etruscan and Rhaetic, they would constitute a pre-Indo-European family stretching from (at the very least) the Aegean islands and Crete across mainland Greece and the Italian peninsula to the Alps. Facchetti proposes a hypothetical language family derived from Minoan in two branches. From Minoan he proposes a Proto-Tyrrhenian from which would have come the Etruscan, Lemnian and Rhaetic languages. James Mellaart has proposed that this language family is related to the pre-Indo-European Anatolian languages, based upon place name analysis.[3] From another Minoan branch would have come the Eteocretan language.[4] However, this is by no means a common view; there are just as serious attempts to link Eteocretan and Eteocypriot with Semitic, and mainstream scholarship takes no position. Facchetti himself claims that it is only a hypothesis.

Anatolian languages

A relation with the Anatolian languages within Indo-European has been proposed (Steinbauer 1999;[5] Palmer 1965), but is not generally accepted (although Leonard R. Palmer did show that some Linear A inscriptions were sensible as a variant of Luwian). If these languages are an early Indo-European stratum rather than pre-Indo-European, they would be associated with Krahe's Old European hydronymy and would date back to a Kurganization during the early Bronze Age.

Northeast Caucasian languages

A number of mainly Soviet or post-Soviet linguists, including Sergei Starostin,[6] suggested a link between the Tyrrhenian languages and the Northeast Caucasian languages, based on claimed sound correspondences between Etruscan, Hurrian and Northeast Caucasian languages, numerals, grammatical structures and phonologies. This claim was renewed by Ed Robertson (2006).[7]


The language group would have died out around the 3rd century BC in the Aegean (by assimilation of the speakers to Greek), and as regards Etruscan around the 1st century AD in Italy (by assimilation to Latin). Finally, Raetic died out in the 3rd century AD, by assimilation to Vulgar Latin in the south and to Germanic in the north.

See also



  • Giulio . Facchetti, "Qualche osservazione sulla lingua minoica", Kadmos 40, pp. 1–38.
  • Giulio M. Facchetti, "Appendice sulla questione delle affinità genetiche dell'Etrusco", in 'Appunti di morfologia etrusca pp. 111– 150, Leo S. Olschki Editore, 2002. ISBN 88-222-5138-5.
  • L R Palmer, Mycenaeans and Minoans, Second ed. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 1965.
  • Helmut Rix, Rätisch und Etruskisch, Innsbruck 1998.
  • Dieter H. Steinbauer, Neues Handbuch des Etruskischen, St. Katharinen 1999.
  • Stefan Schumacher, 'Sprachliche Gemeinsamkeiten zwischen Rätisch und Etruskisch', Der Schlern 72 (1998), 90–114.
  • Stefan Schumacher, Die rätischen Inschriften. Geschichte und heutiger Stand der Forschung. 2. erweiterte Auflage [= Innsbrucker Beiträge zur Kulturwissenschaft 121 = Archaeolingua 2], Innsbruck: Institut für Sprachen und Literaturen der Universität Innsbruck 2004.
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