|Formerly spoken in Cyprus
|Eastern Mediterranean Sea
|10th to 4th century BC
One of the Eteocypriot inscriptions from Amathus
Eteocypriot is an extinct pre-Indo-European language that was spoken in Cyprus by the pre-Hellenic population until the Iron Age. The name means "true" or "original Cypriot" parallel to Eteocretan, both of which names are used by modern scholars to mean the pre-Greek languages of those places. Eteocypriot was written in the Cypriot syllabary, a syllabic script derived from Linear A (via the Cypro-Minoan variant Linear C). The language was under pressure from Arcadocypriot Greek from about the 10th century BC and finally became extinct in about the 4th century BC.
The language is as yet unknown except for a small vocabulary attested in bilingual inscriptions. Such topics as syntax and possible inflection or agglutination remain an enigma. Partial translations depend to a large extent on the language or language group assumed by the translator, but there is no consistency. It is conjectured by some linguists to be related to the Etruscan and Lemnian languages, by others to be related to Hurrian, and by some to Northwest Semitic. Those who do not advocate any of those theories often adopt the default of an unknown pre-Greek language. Due to the small number of texts found, there is currently much unproven speculation.
Eteocypriot may be descended from the language of the Cypro-Minoan inscriptions, a collection of poorly-understood inscriptions from Bronze Age Cyprus. Both Cypro-Minoan and Eteocypriot share a common genitive suffix -o-ti.
Several hundred inscriptions written in the Cypriot syllabary (VI-III BC) cannot be interpreted in Greek. While it does not necessarily imply that all of them are non-Greek, there are at least two locations where multiple inscriptions with clearly non-Greek content were found:
While the language of Cypro-Minoan inscriptions is often supposed to be the same as (or ancestral to) Eteocypriot, that has yet to be proven, as the script is only partly legible.
The most famous Eteocypriot inscription is a bilingual text inscribed on a black marble slab found on the acropolis of Amathus about 1913, dated to around 600 BC and written in both the Attic dialect of Ancient Greek and Eteocypriot. The Eteocypriot text in Cypriot characters runs right to left; the Greek text in all capital Greek letters, left to right. The following are the syllabic values of the symbols of the Eteocypriot text (left to right) and the Greek text as is:
Cyrus H. Gordon translates this text as
Gordon's translation is based on Greek inscriptions in general and the fact that "the noble Ariston" is in the accusative case, implying a transitive verb. Gordon explains that "the verb is omitted ... in such dedicatory inscriptions".
The inscription is important as verifying that the symbols of the unknown language, in fact, have about the same phonetic values as they do when they are used to represent Greek. Gordon says, "This bilingual proves that the signs in Eteocypriot texts have the same values as in the Cypriot Greek texts...."