Celtiberian language

Native to Iberian Peninsula
Ethnicity Celtiberians
Extinct attested 2nd to 1st century BC[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 xce
Linguist list
Glottolog celt1247[2]

  Celtiberian in the context of the Paleohispanic languages

Celtiberian or Northeastern Hispano-Celtic is an extinct Indo-European language of the Celtic branch spoken by the Celtiberians in an area of the Iberian Peninsula lying between the headwaters of the Duero, Tajo, Júcar and Turia rivers and the Ebro river. This language is directly attested in nearly 200 inscriptions dated in the 2nd century BC and the 1st century BC, mainly in Celtiberian script, a direct adaptation of the northeastern Iberian script, but also in Latin alphabet. The longest extant Celtiberian inscriptions are those on three Botorrita plaques, bronze plaques from Botorrita near Zaragoza, dating to the early 1st century BC, labelled Botorrita I, III and IV (Botorrita II is in the Latin language). In the northwest was another Celtic language, Northwestern Hispano-Celtic, that was somewhat related to Celtiberian.


Enough has been preserved to show that the Celtiberian language could be called Q-Celtic (like Goidelic), and not P-Celtic like Gaulish.[3] For some, this has served to confirm that the legendary invasion of Ireland by the Milesians, preserved in the Lebor Gabála Érenn, actually happened.

Since Brythonic is P-Celtic too, but as an Insular Celtic language more closely related to Goidelic than to Gaulish,[4] it follows that the P/Q division is polyphyletic: the change from to p occurred in Brythonic and Gaulish at a time when they were already separate languages, rather than constituting a division that marked a separate branch in the "family tree" of the Celtic languages. A change from PIE (q) to p also occurred in some Italic languages and Ancient Greek dialects: compare Oscan pis, pid ("who, what?") with Latin quis, quid; or Gaulish epos ("horse") and Attic Greek ἵππος hippos with Latin equus and Mycenaean Greek i-qo. Celtiberian and Gaulish are usually grouped together as the Continental Celtic languages, but this grouping is paraphyletic too: no evidence suggests the two shared any common innovation separately from Insular Celtic.

Celtiberian exhibits a fully inflected relative pronoun ios (as does, e.g., Ancient Greek), not preserved in other Celtic languages, and the particles -kue 'and' < *kʷe (cf. Latin -que, Attic Greek τε te), nekue 'nor' < *ne-kʷe (cf. Latin neque), ekue 'also, as well' < *h₂et(i)-kʷe (cf. Lat. atque, Gaulish ate, OIr. aith 'again'), ve "or" (cf. Latin enclitic -ve and Attic Greek ē < Proto-Greek *ē-we). As in Welsh, there is an s-subjunctive, gabiseti "he shall take" (Old Irish gabid), robiseti, auseti. Compare Umbrian ferest "he/she/it shall make" or Ancient Greek δείξῃ deiksēi (aorist subj.) / δείξει deiksei (future ind.) "(that) he/she/it shall show".

Sound laws

Celtiberian was a Celtic language that shows the characteristic sound changes of Celtic languages such as:[5]

PIE Consonants

Consonants clusters


Syllabic resonants and Laryngeals


Noun cases[8]

Case Singular   Plural
ā-stem o-stem i-stem u-stem r-stem ā-stem o-stem i-stem u-stem r-stem
Nominative *arznā *veizos / *vamos *gentis *loutu *duater *arznās *veizus < *weidʰ-yōs ? ? *duateres
Accusative *arznām *veizom *gentim ? ? *arznās *veizus < *weidʰ-y-ons ? ? ?
Genitive *arznās *veizo ? ? ? ? *veizum < *weidʰ-y-ōm *gentizum < *isōm ? ?
Dative *arznāi *veizūi < *weidʰ-y-ōi *gentei ? ? ? *veizubos ? ? ?
Ablative *arznaz *veizuz < *weidʰ-y-ōd / *vamuz < *up-m̥ōd *gentiz *loutuz ? ? *veizubos ? ? ?
Locative *arznai *veizei *gentei ? ? ? ? ? ? ?

Demonstrative pronouns[9]

Case Singular   Plural
masculine feminine neuter masculine feminine neuter
Nominative *so: so viros 'this man' *sa: sa dugater 'this daughter' *soz: soz bezom < *so-sy-o *bʰedʰ-yom 'this mine'. ? ? ?
Accusative *som: 'to this' *sam: 'to this' ? *suz < *sōs < *so-ns *saz < *sa-ns ?
Genitive ? ? ? soum < *so-ōm 'of these' saum < *sa-ōm 'of these' soisum < *so-ys-ōm 'of these'
Dative somui < *so-sm-ōi 'for this' somai < *so-sm-ai 'for this' ? ? ? ?
Locative somei < *so-sm-ei 'from this' samei < *sa-sm-ei 'from this' ? ? ? ?

Sample texts

trikantam : bergunetakam : togoitos-kue : sarnikio (:) kue : sua : kombalkez : nelitom
nekue [: to : vertaunei : litom : nekue : taunei : litom : nekue : masnai : tizaunei : litom : soz : augu
aresta[lo] : damai : uta : oskues : stena : verzoniti : silabur : sleitom : konsklitom : gabizeti
kantom [:] sanklistara : otanaum : togoitei : eni : uta : oskuez : boustom-ve : korvinom-ve
makasiam-ve : ailam-ve : ambidiseti : kamanom : usabituz : ozas : sues : sailo : kusta : bizetuz : iom
asekati : [a]mbitinkounei : stena : es : uertai : entara : tiris : matus : tinbituz : neito : trikantam
eni : oisatuz : iomui : listas : titas : zizonti : somui : iom : arznas : bionti : iom : kustaikos
arznas : kuati : ias : ozias : vertatosue : temeiue : robiseti : saum : dekametinas : datuz : somei
eni touzei : iste : ankios : iste : esankios : uze : areitena : sarnikiei : akainakubos
nebintor : togoitei : ios : vramtiom-ve : auzeti : aratim-ve : dekametam : datuz : iom : togoitos-kue
sarnikio-kue : aiuizas : kombalkores : aleites : iste : ires : ruzimuz : ablu : ubokum

soz augu arestalo damai
all this (is) valid by order of the competent authority
'all this' soz (< *sod) 'final, valid' augo (< *h₂eug-os 'strong, valid', cf. Latin augustus 'solemn').
'of the competent authority' arestalos (< *pr̥Hi-steh₂-lo 'competent authority' < *pr̥Hi-sto 'what is first, authority', gen. sing.)
'by order' damai (< *dʰh₁m-eh₂ 'put, dispose', instrumental fem. sing.).
(Translation: Prosper 2006)

saum dekametinas datuz somei eni touzei iste ankios iste es-ankios
of these, he will give the tax inside of this territory, so be fenced as be unfenced
'of these' (saum < *sa-ōm) 'the tithes, the tax' (dekametinas)
'he will pay, will give' (datuz) 'indide, in' (eni < *h₁en-i)
'of this' (somei loc. sing. < *so-sm-ei 'from this')
'territory' (touzei loc. sing. < *touzom 'territory' < *tewt-yo)
'so (be) fenced' iste ankios 'as (be) unfenced' iste es-ankios
(Transcription Jordán 2004)

togoitei ios vramtiom-ve auzeti aratim-ve dekametam datuz
In Togotis, he who draws water either for the green or for the farmland, the tithe (of their yield) he shall give
(Translation: De Bernardo 2007)

eni Orosei
uta Tigino tiatunei
erecaias to Luguei
araianom komeimu
eni Orosei Ekueisui-kue
okris olokas togias sistat Luguei tiaso

eni Orosei uta Tigino tiatunei erecaias to Luguei araianom comeimu eni Orosei Ekueisui-kue okris olokas togias sistat Luguei
in Orosis and the surroundings of Tigino we dedicate the fields to Lugus. In Orosis and Equeiso the hills, the vegetable gardens and the houses are dedicated to Lugus
'in' eni (< *h₁en-i) 'Orosis' Orosei (loc. sing. *oros-ei)
'and' uta(conj. cop.) 'of Tigino' (gen. sing. *tigin-o) 'in the surroundings' (loc. sing. *tiatoun-ei < *to-yh₂eto-mn-ei)
'the furrows > the land cultivated' erekaiās < *perka-i-ans acc. pl. fem.) 'to Lugus' to Luguei
araianom (may be a verbal complement: properly, lollaly, humbly???) 'we dedicate' komeimu (< *komeimuz < *kom-ei-mos-i, present 3 p.pl.)
'in' eni 'Orosis' (Orosei loc. sing.) 'in Ekueisu' (Ekueisui loc. sing.) '-and' (-kue <*-kʷe)
'the hills' (okris < *h₂ok-r-eyes. nom. pl.) 'the vegetable gardens' (olokas < *olkās < *polk-eh₂-s, nom. pl.) '(and) the roofs > houses' (togias < tog-ya-s, nom. pl.)
'are they (dedicated)' sistat (< *sistant < *si-sth₂-nti, 3 p.pl.) 'to Lug' (Lugue-i dat.)
(Transcription: Meid 1994, Translation: Prosper 2002)

derkininei : es
kenim : dures : lau
ni : olzui : obakai
eskenim : dures
useizunos : gorzo
nei : lutorikum : ei
subos : adizai : ekue : kar
tinokum : ekue : lankikum
ekue : tirtokum : silabur
sazom : ibos : esatui

Lutorikum eisubos adizai ekue Kartinokum ekue Lankikum ekue Tirtokum silabur sazom ibos esatui (datuz)
for those of the Lutorici included in the duty, and also of the Cartinoci, of the Lancici and of the Tritoci, must give enough money to settle the debt with them.
'for those included ' (eisubos < *h1epi-s-o-bʰos)
'of the Lutorici' (lutorikum gen. masc. pl.)
'and also' (ekue <*h₂et(i)kʷe) 'of the Cartinoci' (kartinokum)
'and also' (ekue) 'of the Lancici' (lankikum) 'and also' (ekue) 'of the Tritoci' (tirtokum)
'in the assignment, in the duty' (adizai loc. fem. sing. < *adittia < *ad-dik-tia. Cfr. Latin addictio 'assignment'),
'money' (silabur) 'enough' (sazom < *sātio < *seh₂t-yo)
'to settle the debt' (esatui < *essato < *eks-h₂eg-to. Cfr. Latin ex-igo 'demand' and exactum 'equivalent')
'for them' (ibus < *i-bʰos, dat.3 p.pl.)
'must give' (datuz < *dh₃-tōd).
(Transcription and Translation: Prosper 2015)

See also


  1. Celtiberian at MultiTree on the Linguist List
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Celtiberian". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. Mallory, J. P. (1989). In Search of the Indo-Europeans. Thames & Hudson. p. 106. ISBN 0-500-05052-X.
  4. McCone, Kim (1996). Towards a Relative Chronology of Ancient and Medieval Celtic Sound Change. Maynooth: Dept. of Old and Middle Irish, St. Patrick's College. ISBN 0-901519-40-5.
  5. Koch, John (2005). Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia. ABL-CIO. pp. 1465–66. ISBN 978-1-85109-440-0. Retrieved June 10, 2011.
  6. De Bernardo, P. "La gramática celtibérica del bronce de Botorrita. Nuevos Resultados". In Palaeohispanica 9 (2009), pp. 683-699.
  7. Schmidt, K. H. "How to define celtiberian archaims?". in Palaeohispanica 10 (2010), pp. 479-487.
  8. Wodtko, Dagmar S. "An outline of Celtiberian grammar" 2003
  9. Jordán Cólera, Carlos "La forma verbal cabint del bronce celtibérico de Novallas". En Emerita, Revista de Lingüística y Filología Clásica LXXXII 2, 2014, pp. 327-343


  • Jordán Cólera, C. (2004). Celtibérico. Zaragoza.
  • Hoz, Javier de. (1996). The Botorrita first text. Its epigraphical background; in: Die größeren altkeltischen Sprachdenkmäler. Akten des Kolloquiums Innsbruck 29. April - 3. Mai 1993, ed. W. Meid and P. Anreiter, 124145, Innsbruck.
  • Meid, Wolfgang. (1994). Celtiberian Inscriptions, Archaeolingua, edd. S. Bökönyi and W. Meid, Series Minor, 5, 1213. Budapest.
  • Untermann, Jürgen. (1997): Monumenta Linguarum Hispanicarum. IV Die tartessischen, keltiberischen und lusitanischen Inschriften, Wiesbaden.
  • Velaza, Javier (1999): «Balance actual de la onomástica personal celtibérica», Pueblos, lenguas y escrituras en la Hispania Prerromana, pp. 663–683.
  • Villar, Francisco (1995): Estudios de celtibérico y de toponimia prerromana, Salamanca.
  • Celtiberian*.Carlos Jordán University of Zaragoza, Spain..

External links

For a list of words relating to Celtiberian, see the Celtiberian language category of words in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
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