World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Thracian language

Article Id: WHEBN0000476564
Reproduction Date:

Title: Thracian language  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Albanian language, List of extinct languages of Europe, Indo-European migrations, Prehistory of the Balkans, Albanians
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Thracian language

Region Southern Bulgaria; European Turkey, parts of the region of Macedonia (including Paeonia), parts of Northern Greece, parts of Bithynia in Anatolia. Probably also spoken in parts of Dardania and pockets or temporary pockets of Thracian speakers perhaps in southeastern Albania
Extinct Fifth century[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 txh
Linguist list
Glottolog thra1250[2]

The Thracian language () was the Indo-European language spoken in ancient times in Southeastern Europe by the Thracians, the northern neighbors of the Ancient Greeks. The Thracian language exhibits satemization: it either belonged to the Satem group of Indo-European languages or it was strongly influenced by Satem languages. The language, of which little is known from written sources, was extinct by the Early Middle Ages.

Geographic distribution

The Thracian language was spoken in what is now the southern half of Bulgaria,[3][4] eastern Republic of Macedonia, Northern Greece, European Turkey and in parts of Bithynia (North-Western Asiatic Turkey).

Eastern Vladimir Georgiev et al.) is grouped with Dacian.

Remnants of the Thracian language

Little is known for certain about the Thracian language, since no phrase beyond a few words in length has been satisfactorily deciphered, and the sounder decipherments given for the shorter phrases may not be completely accurate. Some of the longer inscriptions may indeed be Thracian in origin but they may not reflect actual Thracian language sentences, but rather jumbles of names or magical formulas.[5]

Enough Thracian lexical items have survived to show that Thracian was a member of the Indo-European language family and that it was a satemized language by the time it is attested. Besides the aforementioned inscriptions, Thracian is attested through anthroponyms, toponyms (toponyms includes settlements as well as mountain names/oronyms, river and lake names and other bodies of water/hydronyms), plant names, names of deities (theonyms), etc., and by a small number of words cited in Ancient Greek texts as being specifically Thracian.[6]

Other ancient Greek lexical items were not specifically identified as Thracian by the ancient Greeks but are hypothesized by paleolinguists as being or probably being of Thracian origin. Other lexical items are hypothesized on the basis of local anthroponyms, toponyms, hydronyms, oronyms, etc. mentioned in primary sources (see also List of ancient cities in Thrace and Dacia, List of Dacian plant names) .

Below is a table showing both words cited as being Thracian in classical sources, and lexical elements that have been extracted by paleolinguists from Thracian anthroponyms, toponyms, etc. In this table the closest cognates are shown, with an emphasis on cognates in Albanian, Baltic, Slavic, Greek, and substratum and/or old-layer words in the Eastern Romance languages: Romanian, Aromanian, et cetera. See also the List of reconstructed Dacian words.

Significant cognates from any Indo-European language are listed. However, not all lexical items in Thracian are assumed to be from the Proto-Indo-European language, some non-IE lexical items in Thracian are to be expected.

attestation English meaning etymology cognates
alopekis "cap"
asa A Bessian word for the Coltsfoot
aspios, esvas, asbe-, "horse" PIE *h₁éḱwos Sanskrit açva or áśva-, "horse", Avestan aspa, "horse", Ossetic jäfs, Prussian aswinan ‘mare milk’, Lithuanian ašvíenis ‘stallion’,ašvà, dial. ešvà ‘mare’
bolinthos "wild bull" PIE *bʰel-, "to swell" English bull, (possibly) Albanian buall "bull"
bria "town, settlement" 1) after Pokorny, from PIE *wriyeh₂. 2) Olteanu, PIE *gʷer-, "heavy, strong" 1) Mycenean rijo "promontory", Bulgarian rid "promontory", Greek ríon "id", Tocharian A ri, Tocharian B rīye "town". 2) Greek barus, "heavy"
bríloun "barber" PIE *bʰrī-l- Old Church Slavonic briti "to shave", Old Irish brissim "I shatter", English brine, Latin friare "to rub, crumble", Albanian brej, brêj "to gnaw", Sanskrit bhrīn.anti "they injure, hurt", Lithuanian briauna (peilio) "edge (of a knife)".
bríza "emmer-wheat, rye" 1) PIE *wrīǵʰ- 2) PIE *breǵʰ- 1) Bulgarian brica "type of summer grain"; Sanskrit vrīhis "rice" 2) Norwegian brok "kind of grass"
brynchos "a string instrument, characterized as a Thracian kithara[7]" PIE *bʰrm-kos -
brytos, bryton, brutos, bryttion "a kind of ale made from barley" PIE *bʰrūto- English broth; Middle High German briu, bru, briuwen, (Engl. to brew), briut, Braut and brut Brut (Engl. bride and brood); Alb. bruz "blue, indigo", brumë "dough", Welsh brwd "brewage", Lat defrutum "must boiled down", Greek apéphrysen "to seethe, boil", Slavic vriti "to seethe, boil" vrutok "strong spring, boiling water", Sanskrit bhurati "he quivers",
deiza, disza, diza, dizos "a fortified settlement" PIE *dʰeigʰ-, "to knead clay" Greek teichos ("wall"), German Teig (Gothic daigs, M.H.G. teic, teig =soft dough) Avestan daeza "wall", Slavic zidati, sozidati, (po)dizati "to build" and zid "wall", English dough Romanian "zid" (from Slavic),"wall"
dinupula, *sinupyla (reconstructed from a corrupted manuscript), kinoboila (Dacian) "wild pumpkin" Lithuanian šúnobuolas "wild pumpkin", Albanian thënukël "dogberry", Bulg. dinja, "watermelon", Polish dynia, "pumpkin"
embades "boots" Albanian: (e) mbath - wear shoe, boots. Old High German ambahte Amt (office holder, person in authority)
génton "meat" PIE *gʷʰento- "struck, cut" Latin fendere "to strike, push", Old English gūth "combat", Alb. gjuaj, "to hunt, strike", Welsh gwannu "to stab", Greek theínein "to strike, kill", Arm ganem "I strike", Sanskrit hánti "he strikes, kills", hatyá "stabbed, killed", Hittite kuenzi "he strikes", Old Church Slavonic žętva "harvest", žęteljĭ "harvester"
germe "warm" PIE *gʷʰer- "warm" Greek thermos "warm", Latin formus "warm", Hindi gharam "warm or hot", Persian gærm "warm", Old Prussian gorme "heat", Alb. zjarm, pl. dial. zjerm, zjermë, zjarme "fire", Slavic gorko "warm", Lithuanian garmėti "to plunge/sink into".
kalamindar "Plane tree"
kemos "a kind of fruit with follicles"
ktistai (pl.) "Thracians living in celibacy, monks"
manteia "bramblebush, mulberry"? Illyrian mantía, Gheg Alb. mandë, Alb. mën, German Mandel (Engl.almond), man "berry, mulberry"
mendruta a Moesian name for the beet or alternatively the black hellebore, Veratrum nigrum
mezēnai (from which is extracted mezēna) "horseman" (while mezēna meant "horse") Alb. mëz ("foal, colt"), Rom. mânz ("foal, colt"), Messapian Menzana, there are other cognates also
para, pera, peron "town" Sanskrit "pura" city, Albanian pjerr "to bend, incline", Old Prussian pera "group" peroni "parish, community", Lithuanian pilis "castle".
rhomphaia "a spear"; later the meaning "sword" is attested Alb. rrufë, rrufeja "thunderbolt, dialect Bul. roféja, rufija "a thunderbolt",; Latin rumpere "to break, tear", German MHG rumpeln "noisy, jerky move", Old English reofan "to tear, break"
sica "short sword" or "knife", also cited as an Illyrian word PIE *sek-, "to cut" Albanian thikë (id., from earlier Albanian *sica), Latin secula "sickle", Old English sagu "saw", Armenian "şiş" "dagger", "skewer", borrowed into Old Romanian and Turkish, also into English as "shish (kebab)" "skewer(ed) roast", German Sichel (half-moon shaped cutting tool[9]), Polish siekać "to chop, cut", Lithuanian seikėti "to measure".
skálmē "a knife, a sword" PIE *skolmeh₂ Old Norse skalm "short sword, knife", Albanian shkallmë "sword, kind of knife", Serbian, Bulgarian kama for dagger,.
skárke "a coin" PIE *skerg- "to jingle" Old Norse skark "noise", Sanskrit kharjati "to creak, crunch", Serbian škripa krcka "creak, crunch", šarke old Serbian word for shiny, Lithuanian skarda "tin".
spinos "a stone which burns when water is poured on it" Albanian finjë (< PAlb spinā) "soap suds, soap water", Romanian "spin", "spine", "burr"
titha from Diana Germetitha ("Diana of the warm bosom") Olteanu (et al.?) interprets this lexical element as "bosom, breasts, tit(s)" Ancient Greek titthos, "breast, tit", West Germanic *titta (id.), Latin *titia (id.), Albanian thitha "nipples", Bulgarian "tsitsa", "breast" Romanian "ţâţă", "breast"
torelle "a lament, a song of mourning" Albanian (Gheg) torrë "foolish", "crazy". In German Torheit is foolishness, der Tor (a fool)
zalmós, zelmis "a hide, skin" PIE *ḱelm-, *ḱolm- German Helm "helmet", Alb. thelmë "rag, patch" (in sewing), Lith. šálmas, OPruss. salmis "helmet", Slavic OSl. šlĕmŭ, šlem, Skt. śárman "cover"
zeira, zira "tunic, cloak" (a type of upper garment)
zelas "wine" PIE *ǵʰēlo- Ancient Macedonian kalithos, "wine", Sanskrit hālā "brandy", Albanian "dhallë" "sour milk", Greek khális "pure wine", Russian zel'je "a fermented or witch's brew"
zetraía "a pot" PIE *ǵʰeutr- Grk. khútra "pipkin"
zibythides "noble Thracians" Lith. zhibut "fire, light", Serb. šibica "a lightening stick", Bul. šibam "to hit, to whip", Albanian "thupër" Ghegh. thupën "stick" .

The proposed Thracian words in the Ancient Greek lexicon are not numerous. They include the parth- element in Parthenon; balios ("dappled"; < PIE *bhel-, "to shine"; Pokorny also cites Illyrian as a possible source, the non-Greek origin is argued on phonological grounds), bounos, "hill, mound".[10]

The Thracian horseman hero was an important figure in Thracian religion, mythology, and culture. Depictions of the Thracian Horseman are found in numerous archaeological remains and artifacts from Thracian regions. From the Duvanli ring and from cognates in numerous Indo-European languages, mezēna is seen to be a Thracian word for "horse", deriving from PIE *mend-. Another Thracian word for "horse" is hypothesized, but it looks certain, there is no disagreement among Thracologists: aspios, esvas, asb- (and some other variants; < PIE *ekwo [1], the Thracian showing a satem form similar to Sanskrit açva or áśva-, "horse", Avestan aspa, "horse", Ossetic jäfs, Prussian aswinan ‘mare milk’, Lithuanian ašvíenis ‘stallion’, ašvà, dial. ešvà ‘mare’[11]), from Outaspios, Utaspios, an inscription associated with the Thracian horseman. Ut- based on the PIE root word ud- (meaning "up") and based on several Thracic items, would have meant "upon", "up", and Utaspios is theorized to have meant "On horse(back)", parallel to ancient Greek epi-hippos.[12]

The early Indo-European languages had more than one word for horse; for example Latin had equus from PIE *ekwo- and mannus ("a pony") from another IE root, later receiving cabalus as a loanword.

In many cases in current Thracology, there is more than one etymology for a Thracian lexical item. For example, Thracian Diana Germetitha (Diana is from Latin while the cognates, thus confusing the affinity of Thracian.


Limits of the (southern) Thracian linguistic territory according to Ivan Duridanov,1985

Only four Thracian inscriptions of any length have been found. One is a gold ring found in 1912 in the town of Ezerovo, Bulgaria. The ring was dated to the 5th century BC. On the ring is an inscription written in a Greek script which says:


The meaning of the inscription according (according to Dimitar Dechev) might be 'I am Rolisteneas, a descendant of Nereneas. Tilezipta, an Arazian woman, delivered me to the ground.'

More recently (2014), a Thracian Greek Professor, Charalambos Spyrides, claimed that the chain of the words was written boustrophedon (bi- directional): : ΡΟΛΙΣ / ΤΕΝΕΑΣΝ / ΛΙΤΑ / ΕΝΕΠΕ / ΤΕΑΝΗΣ / ΚΟΑΜ / ΟΔΑΕΖ / ΑΡΕΑΝ / ΤΙΑ / ΕΖΥΕΗΙ / ΜΑΤΕΡΑ / ΖΗΛΤΑ and the meaning of the inscription might be: 'Polis of people from Teo, address to Area, the high priestess of the Cabeiri, who led us to Teo, and became settler of the town of wine.'

A second inscription was found in 1965 near the village of Kyolmen, Preslav district, dating to the 6th century BC. It consists of 56 letters of the Greek alphabet, probably a tomb stele inscription similar to the Phrygian ones:

ebar. zesasn ēnetesa igek. a / nblabaēgn / nuasnletednuedneindakatr. s

A third inscription is again on a ring, found in Duvanli, Plovdiv district, next to the left hand of a skeleton. It dates to the 5th century BC. The ring has the image of a horseman with the inscription surrounding the image. It is only partly legible (16 out of the initial 21)

ēuziē.....dele / mezēnai

The meaning of the inscription is 'Horseman Eusie protect!'

These are the longest inscriptions preserved. The remaining ones are mostly single words or names on vessels and other artifacts.

A Thracian or Thraco-Dacian branch of Indo-European

The Thracian language in linguistic textbooks is usually treated either as its own branch of Indo-European, or is grouped with Dacian, together forming a Daco-Thracian branch of IE. Older textbooks often grouped it also with Illyrian or Phrygian. The belief that Thracian was close to Phrygian is no longer popular and has mostly been discarded.[13] The Thraco-Illyrian grouping has also been called into question. Daco-Thracian or Thraco-Dacian is the main hypothesis .

Thraco-Dacian in turn has been hypothesized as forming a branch of Indo-European along with either Albanian , Baltic,[14] or Greco-Macedonian . No definite evidence has yet been found that demonstrates that Thracian or Daco-Thracian belonged on the same branch as Albanian or Baltic or Balto-Slavic or Greco-Macedonian or Phrygian or any other IE branch. For this reason textbooks still treat Thracian as its own branch of Indo-European, or as a Daco-Thracian/Thraco-Dacian branch.

The generally accepted clades branched from the Proto-Indo-European language are, in alphabetical order, the Proto-Albanian language, Proto-Anatolian language, Proto-Armenian language, Proto-Balto-Slavic language, Proto-Celtic language, Proto-Germanic language, Proto-Greek language, Proto-Indo-Iranian language, Proto-Italic language, and the Proto-Tocharian language. Thracian, Dacian, Phrygian, Illyrian, Venetic, and Paeonian are fragmentarily attested and cannot be reliably categorized.

Fate of the Thracians and their language

Most of the Thracians were eventually Romanized, Hellenized or Slavicized, with the last remnants surviving in remote areas until the 5th century.[15]

See also


  1. ^ Thracian at MultiTree on the Linguist List
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Thracian". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  3. ^ Encyclopedia of European peoples, Carl Waldman, Catherine Mason, Infobase Publishing, 2006, ISBN 0-8160-4964-5, p. 205.
  4. ^ Archaeology and language: the puzzle of Indo-European origins, Colin Renfrew, CUP Archive, 1990, ISBN 0-521-38675-6, p. 71.
  5. ^ Olteanu et al.
  6. ^ Duridanov, Ivan. "The Language of the Thracians". Retrieved 2007-01-14. 
  7. ^ Hesychius of Alexandria: "κιθάραν, Θρᾷκες"
  8. ^ Schwäbisches Wörterbuch 1904 Brummer, Brummer, brummig, Brummbart
  9. ^ Sichel,tool
  10. ^ Olteanu hypothesizes that the Thracian toponym Basibounon may contain bouno(n), a Greek word for "hill" that may also be a Thracian word
  11. ^ In Old Church Slavonic is found ehu, which may be a loan from Germanic ; otherwise the Slavic word for horse from ekwo- was lost, due perhaps to the lack of equestrianism among the early Slavs
  12. ^ Georgiev, Olteanu et al.
  13. ^ See C. Brixhe - Ancient languages of Asia Minor, Cambridge University Press, 2008
    We will dismiss, at least temporarily, the idea of a Thraco-Phrygian unity. Thraco-Dacian (or Thracian and Daco-Mysian) seems to belong to the eastern (satem) group of Indo-European languages and its (their) phonetic system is far less conservative than that of Phrygian (see Brixhe and Panayotou 1994, §§3ff.)
  14. ^ Holst (2009):66.
  15. ^ R.J. Crampton (1997). A Concise History of Bulgaria. Cambridge University Press. p. 4.  

Further reading

  • V.I. Georgiev, Introduction to the History of the Indo-European Languages, Sofia (1981).
  • V.I. Georgiev, The Genesis of the Balkan Peoples, in: The Slavonic and East European Review, Vol. 44, No. 103 (Jul., 1966)
  • I.I. Russu, Limba Traco-Dacilor / Die Sprache der Thrako-Daker, Bucharest (1967, 1969).
  • Paul Kretschmer, "Glotta", in: Zeitschrift für griechische und lateinische Sprache 7 (1915).
  • J.H. Holst, "Armenische Studien", Wiesbaden (2009).

External links

  • The Language of the Thracians, an English translation of Ivan Duridanov's 1975 essay Ezikyt na trakite
  • (SoLTDM)Sorin Olteanu's Thraco-Daco-Moesian Languages Project (sources, thesaurus, textual criticism, phonetics and morphology, substratum, historical geography a.o.)
  • Thracian glossary
  • Palaeolexicon - Word study tool of ancient languages (including Thracian dictionary)
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.