Liburnian language

Liburnian language

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The Liburnian language is an extinct language which was spoken by the ancient Liburnians
The Liburnians were an ancient Illyrian tribe inhabiting the district called Liburnia, a coastal region of the northeastern Adriatic between the rivers Arsia and Titius in what is now Croatia....

, who occupied Liburnia
Liburnia in ancient geography was the land of the Liburnians, a region along the northeastern Adriatic coast in Europe, in modern Croatia, whose borders shifted according to the extent of Liburnian dominance at a given time between 11th and 1st century BC...

 in classical times. The Liburnian language is reckoned as an Indo-European language, in the Centum group. Alternative speculations place it on the same Indo-European branch as the Venetic language
Venetic language
Venetic is an extinct Indo-European language that was spoken in ancient times in the North East of Italy and part of modern Slovenia, between the Po River delta and the southern fringe of the Alps....

 or on a separate branch.

No writings in Liburnian are known. The only Liburnian linguistic remains are Liburnian toponyms and some family and personal names in Liburnia, in Latinized form from the 1st century AD. Smaller differences found in the archaeological material of narrower regions in Liburnia are in a certain measure reflected also in these scarce linguistic remains. There are three groups of names: one in northern Liburnia structurally similar to those of Histri
Histri were an ancient tribe, which Strabo refers to as living in Istria, to which they gave the name.The Histri are classified in some sources as a "Venetic" Illyrian tribe, with certain linguistic differences from other Illyrians. The Romans described the Histri as a fierce tribe of pirates,...

 and Veneti
Adriatic Veneti
The Veneti were an ancient people who inhabited north-eastern Italy, in an area corresponding to the modern-day region of the Veneto....

; another linked to the Dalmatae
The Dalmatae or Delmatae were an ancient people who inhabited the core of what would then become known as Dalmatia after the Roman conquest - now the eastern Adriatic coast in Croatia, between the rivers Krka and Neretva...

, Iapodes and other Illyrians
The Illyrians were a group of tribes who inhabited part of the western Balkans in antiquity and the south-eastern coasts of the Italian peninsula...

; and a third group of names common throughout Liburnian territory. Names of local deities also had different regional distributions, while toponyms, in both structure and form, show more diversity and wider dispersion, like Pre-Indo-European (Mediterranean), Indo-European and local features.

This caused many speculations about their language. Due to a certain similarities, Géza Alföldy
Géza Alföldy
Géza Alföldy was a Hungarian Ancient historian.-Life:Géza Alföldy was born in Budapest. He studied at the University of Budapest from 1953 to 1958, where he in 1959 received a doctorate...

 has concluded that Liburni and Histri belonged to Venetic language area, while Jürgen Untermann has linked only Liburnians at the eastern Istrian coast to Veneti, and R. Katičić
Radoslav Katicic
Radoslav Katičić is a Croatian linguist, classical philologist, Indo-Europeanist, Slavist and Indologist, one of the most prominent Croatian scholars in the field of humanities.-Biography:...

 included them to the North-Adriatic language area before he has finally stated that they had been separate entirety, ethnically and by language. S. Čače has noted that appurtenance of the Liburnian language to the North-Adriatic area rather than to Iapodes and Dalmatae is hard to prove due to scarce remains.

The Liburnians were essentially different to Histri and Veneti, culturally and ethnically, seen especially in burial tradition, by which they were the closest to Dalmatae. Liburnian language developed on the Indo-European basis, but strong traditions were dragged from the Pre-Indo-European times, which is especially noticed in their social relations, undoubtly related to their separate cultural development, territorial isolation and ethnical integration and features.

The grouping of Liburnian with Venetic is based on a part of the Liburnian onomastics
Onomastics or onomatology is the study of proper names of all kinds and the origins of names. The words are from the Greek: "ὀνομαστικός" , "of or belonging to naming" and "ὀνοματολογία" , from "ὄνομα" "name". Toponymy or toponomastics, the study of place names, is one of the principal branches of...

. In particular, some Liburnian anthroponyms show strong Venetic affinities, with common or similar names and a number of common roots, such as Vols-, Volt-, and Host- (<PIE
A pie is a baked dish which is usually made of a pastry dough casing that covers or completely contains a filling of various sweet or savoury ingredients....

 *ghos-ti-, "stranger, guest, host"). Liburnian and Venetic names also share suffixes in common, such as -icus and -ocus.

These features set Liburnian and Venetic apart from the Illyrian
The Illyrians were a group of tribes who inhabited part of the western Balkans in antiquity and the south-eastern coasts of the Italian peninsula...

 onomastic province, though this does not preclude the possibility that Venetic-Liburnian and Illyrian
Illyrian languages
The Illyrian languages are a group of Indo-European languages that were spoken in the western part of the Balkans in former times by groups identified as Illyrians: Ardiaei, Delmatae, Pannonii, Autariates, Taulanti...

 may have been closely related, belonging to the same Indo-European branch. In fact, a number of linguists argue that this is the case, based on similar phonetic features and names in common between Venetic-Liburnian on the one hand and Illyrian on the other.

The Liburnians were conquered by the Romans in 35 BC. The Liburnian language eventually was replaced by Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

, undergoing language death
Language death
In linguistics, language death is a process that affects speech communities where the level of linguistic competence that speakers possess of a given language variety is decreased, eventually resulting in no native and/or fluent speakers of the variety...

 probably very early in the Common era
Common Era
Common Era ,abbreviated as CE, is an alternative designation for the calendar era originally introduced by Dionysius Exiguus in the 6th century, traditionally identified with Anno Domini .Dates before the year 1 CE are indicated by the usage of BCE, short for Before the Common Era Common Era...



The single name plus patronymic formula common among Illyrians is rare among Liburnians. In a region where the Roman three-name formula (praenomen
The praenomen was a personal name chosen by the parents of a Roman child. It was first bestowed on the dies lustricus , the eighth day after the birth of a girl, or the ninth day after the birth of a boy...

, nomen gentile, cognomen
The cognomen nōmen "name") was the third name of a citizen of Ancient Rome, under Roman naming conventions. The cognomen started as a nickname, but lost that purpose when it became hereditary. Hereditary cognomina were used to augment the second name in order to identify a particular branch within...

: Caius Julius Caesar) spread at an early date, a native two-name formula appears in several variants.
Personal name plus family name is found in southern Liburnia, while personal name plus family name plus patronymic is found throughout the Liburnian area, for example: Avita Suioca Vesclevesis, Velsouna Suioca Vesclevesis f(ilia), Avita Aquillia L(uci) f(ilia), Volsouna Oplica Pl(a)etoris f(ilia), Vendo Verica Triti f(ilius).
  • Acaica
  • Aetor
  • Avitus (masc.), Avita (fem.)
  • Boninus
  • Cliticus
  • Colatina
  • Curticus
  • Darmo
  • Dumma
  • Hosp(olis)
  • Hostiducis (gen.)
  • Hostiices
  • Lambicus
  • Malavicus
  • Marica
  • Menda
  • Moicus
  • Oclatinus
  • Oeplus
  • Opia
  • Opiavus
  • Oplus
  • Plaetor, gen. Plaetoris. Found among the Veneti as Plaetorius; among the Illyrians as Plator, genitive Platoris. Attested as Pletor in an inscription found in the area of Ljubljana
    Ljubljana is the capital of Slovenia and its largest city. It is the centre of the City Municipality of Ljubljana. It is located in the centre of the country in the Ljubljana Basin, and is a mid-sized city of some 270,000 inhabitants...

     in Slovenia
    Slovenia , officially the Republic of Slovenia , is a country in Central and Southeastern Europe touching the Alps and bordering the Mediterranean. Slovenia borders Italy to the west, Croatia to the south and east, Hungary to the northeast, and Austria to the north, and also has a small portion of...

  • Patalius
  • Recus
  • Suioca
  • Tarnis
  • Toruca
  • Trosius
  • Turus
  • Vadica
  • Velsouna (fem.)
  • Viniocus
  • Volaesa
  • Volscus
  • Volsetis (gen.)
  • Volso
  • Volsonus
  • Volsounus (masc.), Volsouna (fem.)
  • Volsus
  • Voltimesis (gen.)
  • Vol(l)tis(s)a
  • Zupricus

The majority of the preceding names are unknown among the eastern and southern neighbors of the Liburnians (Dalmatae
The Dalmatae or Delmatae were an ancient people who inhabited the core of what would then become known as Dalmatia after the Roman conquest - now the eastern Adriatic coast in Croatia, between the rivers Krka and Neretva...

, etc.), yet many have Venetic complements. The following names are judged to be exclusively Liburnian, yet one (Buzetius) is also attested among the neighboring Iapodes to the north and northeast:
  • Aeia
  • Barcinus
  • Buzetius
  • Caminis (gen.)
  • Ceunus
  • Clausus
  • Granp (...). Attested only in abbreviated form.
  • Iaefus
  • Lastimeis (gen. ?)
  • Mamaester
  • Pasinus
  • Picusus
  • Tetenus
  • Vesclevesis (gen.). The etymology is established. It is a compound, the initial element Ves- from PIE *wesu-, "good"; the second element -cleves- (genitive suffix -is) from PIE *kleu-, "to hear".
  • Virno