Venetic language

This article is about the extinct Venetic language. For the modern day Romance language, see Venetian language. For other uses, see Veneti (disambiguation).
Region Veneto
Era attested 5th–1st century BC[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Glottolog vene1257[2]
Linguistic groups around the Italian peninsula during the Iron Age. Venetic is in brown.

Venetic is an extinct Indo-European language that was spoken in ancient times in the North East of Italy (Veneto) and part of modern Slovenia, between the Po River delta and the southern fringe of the Alps.[3][4][5]

The language is attested by over 300 short inscriptions dating from the 6th to the 1st century BC. 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 were assimilated into the Roman sphere. Inscriptions dedicating offerings to Reitia are one of the chief sources of knowledge of the Venetic language.[6]

Venetic should not be confused with Venetian, a Romance language presently spoken in the same general region.

Linguistic classification

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.

Some important parallels with the Germanic languages have also been noted, especially in pronominal forms:[7]:p.708,882

Venetic: ego = I, accusative mego = me
Gothic: ik, accusative mik
(Latin: ego, accusative me)
Venetic: sselboi sselboi = to oneself
Old High German: selb selbo
(Latin: sibi ipsi)

A recent research found out that Venetic was a relatively archaic language significantly similar to Celtic, on the basis of morphology, while it occupied an intermediate position between Celtic and Italic, on the phonological side, but the similarities with the latter may well have arisen as areal phenomena.[8] Phonological similarities to Rhaetian have also been pointed out.[9]


Venetic had about six or even 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 *bhraterei = 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 /g/, respectively, in word-internal intervowel 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

A sample inscription in Venetic, found on a bronze nail at Este (Es 45):[3]:p.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]:p.464

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


The most prominent scholars who have deciphered Venetic inscriptions or otherwise contributed to the knowledge of the Venetic language are Carl Eugen Pauli,[11] Hans Krahe,[12] Giovanni Battista Pellegrini,[3] Aldo Luigi Prosdocimi,[3][13][14] and Michel Lejeune.[10] Recent contributors include Loredana Calzavara Capuis[15] and Anna Maria Chieco Bianchi.[16]

See also


  1. Venetic at MultiTree on the Linguist List
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Venetic". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 Giovanni Battista Pellegrini; Aldo Luigi Prosdocimi (1967). La Lingua Venetica: I- Le iscrizioni; II- Studi. Padova: Istituto di glottologia dell'Università di Padova.
  4. Wallace, Rex (2004). Venetic in Roger D. Woodard (ed.), The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the World’s Ancient Languages, University of Cambridge, pp. 840-856. ISBN 0-521-56256-2 Online version
  5. The Illyrians by J. J. Wilkes Page 77 ISBN 0-631-19807-5
  6. Cambridge Ebooks, The Ancient Languages of Europe
  7. Julius Pokorny (1959), Indogermanisches Etymologisches Wörterbuch. Bern.
  8. Gvozdanović, Jadranka (2012). "On the linguistic classification of Venetic. In Journal of Language Relationship." p. 34.
  9. Silvestri, M.; Tomezzoli, G. (2007). Linguistic distances between Rhaetian, Venetic, Latin and Slovenian languages (PDF). Proc. Int'l Topical Conf. Origin of Europeans. pp. 184–190.
  10. 1 2 Michel Lejeune (1974). Manuel de la langue vénète. Heidelberg: Carl Winter - Universitätsverlag.
  11. Carl Eugen Pauli (1885–94). Altitalische Forschungen. Leipzig: J.A. Barth.
  12. Hans Krahe (1954). Sprache und Vorzeit : europäische Vorgeschichte nach dem Zeugnis der Sprache. Heidelberg: Quelle & Meyer.
  13. Aldo Luigi Prosdocimi (2002), Veneti, Eneti, Euganei, Ateste.
  14. Aldo Luigi Prosdocimi (2002).Trasmissioni alfabetiche e insegnamento della scrittura, in AKEO. I tempi della scrittura. Veneti antichi: alfabeti e documenti, (Catalogue of an exposition at Montebelluna, 12/2001-05/2002). Montebelluna, pp.25-38.
  15. Selected bibliography of Loredana Calzavara Capuis
  16. Anna Maria Chieco Bianchi; et al. (1988). Italia: omnium terrarum alumna: la civiltà dei Veneti, Reti, Liguri, Celti, Piceni, Umbri, Latini, Campani e Iapigi. Milano: Scheiwiller.

Further reading

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