|Native to||Lycia, Lycaonia|
|Era||500 – ca. 200 BCE|
The Lycian language (𐊗𐊕𐊐𐊎𐊆𐊍𐊆 Trm̃mili) was the language of the ancient Lycians who occupied the Anatolian region known during the Iron Age as Lycia. Most texts date back to the fifth and fourth century BC. Two languages are known as Lycian: regular Lycian or Lycian A, and Lycian B or Milyan. Lycian became extinct around the beginning of the first century BC, replaced by the Ancient Greek language during the Hellenization of Anatolia. Lycian had its own alphabet, which was closely related to the Greek alphabet but included at least one character borrowed from Carian as well as characters proper to the language. The words were often separated by two points.
Lycia covered the region lying between the modern cities of Antalya and Fethiye in southern Turkey, especially the mountainous headland between Fethiye Bay and the Gulf of Antalya. The Lukka, as they were referred to in ancient Egyptian sources, which mention them among the Sea Peoples, probably also inhabited the region called Lycaonia, located along the next headland to the east, also mountainous, between the modern cities of Antalya and Mersin.
From the late eighteenth century Western European travellers began to visit Asia Minor to deepen their acquaintance with the worlds of Homer and the New Testament. In southwest Asia Minor (Lycia) they discovered inscriptions in an unknown script. The first four texts were published in 1820, and within months French Orientalist Antoine-Jean Saint-Martin used a bilingual showing individuals' names in Greek and Lycian as a key to transliterate the Lycian alphabet and determine the meaning of a few words. During the next century the number of texts increased, especially from the 1880s when Austrian expeditions systematically combed through the region. However, attempts to translate any but the most simple texts had to remain speculative, although combinatorial analysis of the texts cleared up some grammatical aspects of the language. The only substantial text with a Greek counterpart, the Xanthos stele, was hardly helpful because the Lycian text was quite heavily damaged, and worse, its Greek text does not anywhere come near to a close parallel.
It was only after the decipherment of Hittite, by Bedřich Hrozný in 1917, that a language became known that was closely related to Lycian and could help etymological interpretations of the Lycian vocabulary. A next leap forward could be made with the discovery in 1973 of the Letoon trilingual in Lycian, Greek and Aramaic. Though much remains unclear, comprehensive dictionaries of Lycian have been composed since by Craig Melchert and Günter Neumann.
Lycian is known from these sources, some of them fairly extensive:
Main article: Lycian alphabet
The Lycian alphabet consists of about 29 signs, many of them reminiscent of the Greek alphabet:
|transcription||a||b||g||d||i||w||z||h||θ||j (y)||k||l||m||n||u||p||κ (c)||r||s||t||e||ã||ẽ||m̃||ñ||τ||q||β||χ|
|pronounced (IPA)||/a/||/β/||/ɣ/||/ð/||/i/, /ĩ/||/w/||/t͡s/||/h/||/θ/||/j/||/kʲ/, /ɡʲ/||/l/, /l̩~əl/||/m/||/n/||/u/, /ũ/||/p/, /b/||/k/?, /kʲ/?, /h(e)/?||/r/, /r̩~ər/||/s/||/t/||/e/||/ã/||/ẽ/||/m̩/, /əm/, /m./||/n̩/, /ən/, /n./||/tʷ/? /t͡ʃ/?||/k/, /g/||/k/? /kʷ/?||/q/|
Lycian was an Indo-European language, one in the Luwian subgroup of Anatolian languages. A number of principal features help identify Lycian as being in the Luwian group:
The Luwian subgroup also includes cuneiform and hieroglyphic Luwian, Carian, Sidetic, Milyan and Pisidic. The pre-alphabetic forms of Luwian extended back into the Late Bronze Age and preceded the fall of the Hittite Empire. These vanished at about the time of the Neo-Hittite states in southern Anatolia (and Syria); thus, the Iron Age members of the subgroup are localized daughter languages of Luwian.
Of the Luwic languages, only the Luwian parent language is attested prior to 1000 BC, so it is unknown when the classical-era dialects diverged. Whether the Lukka people always resided in southern Anatolia or whether they always spoke Luwian are different topics.
From the inscriptions, scholars have identified at least two languages that were termed Lycian. One is considered standard Lycian, also termed Lycian A; the other, which is attested on side D of the Xanthos stele, is Milyan or Lycian B, separated by its grammatical particularities.
Nouns and adjectives distinguish singular and plural forms. A dual has not been found in Lycian. There are two genders: animate (or 'common') and inanimate (or 'neuter'). Instead of the genitive singular case normally a so-called possessive (or "genitival adjective") is used, as is common practice in the Luwic languages: a suffix -(e)h- is added to the root of a substantive, and thus an adjective is formed that is declined in turn.
Nouns can be divided in five declension groups: a-stems, e-stems, i-stems, consonant stems, and mixed stems; the differences between the groups are very minor. The declension of nouns goes as follows:
|Singular||Nominative||-Ø, -s||-~, -Ø, -yẽ||lada||tideimi||tuhes||(tese)||atlahi|
|Accusative||-~, -u, -ñ||ladã, ladu||tideimi||tuhesñ||atlahi|
|Locative||-a, -e, -i||(lada)||(tideime)||tesi||(atlahi)|
Possessive: -(e)he-, -(e)hi-
|Genitive||-ẽ, -ãi||ladãi (?)||tideimẽ|
The paradigm for the demonstrative pronoun ebe, "this" is:
|Accusative||ebẽ, ebeñnẽ, ebẽñni||ebeis, ebeijes|
|Dative / Locative||ebehi||ebette|
|Ablative / Instrumental||?||?|
The demonstrative ebe, 'this', is also used as a personal pronoun: 'this one', therefore 'he, she, it'. Here is a paradigm of all attested personal pronouns:
'he, she, it'
|Dative / Locative||ebtte||ehbije||epttehe|
Other pronouns are:
The following numerals are attested:
|cardinal number||'x-fold'||'x-year-old'||also attested|
|two||[kbi-]||tupm̃me-, 'twofold, pair'||kbisñne/i-, 'two-year-old'||kbihu, 'twice'; kbijẽt(i)-, 'double'; |
kbi-, kbije-, '(an-)other'; kbisñtãta, 'twenty'
|three||teri-||trppem-, 'threefold (?)'||trisñne/i-, 'three-year-old'||(Milyan:) trisu, 'thrice'|
|four||mupm̃m[-||mupm̃m[-, 'four, fourfold'|
|twelve||qñnãkba||(Milyan:) qñnãtbisu, 'twelve times'|
Just as in other Anatolian languages (Luwian, Lydian) verbs in Lycian were conjugated in the present-future and preterite tenses and in the imperative with three persons singular and plural. Some endings have many variants, due to nasalization (-a- → -añ-, -ã-; -e- → -eñ-, -ẽ-), lenition (-t- → -d-), gemination (-t- → -tt-; -d- → -dd-), and vowel harmonization (-a- → -e-: prñnawãtẽ → prñnewãtẽ).
About a dozen conjugations can be distinguished, on the basis of (1) the verbal root ending (a-stems, consonant stems, -ije-stems, etc.), and (2) the endings of the third person singular being either unlenited (present -ti; preterite -te; imperative -tu) or lenited (-di; -de; -du). For example, prñnawa-(ti) (to build) is an unlenited a-stem (prñnawati, he builds), a(i)-(di) (to make) is a lenited a(i)-stem (adi, he makes). Differences between the various conjugations are minor.
Verbs are conjugated as follows; Mediopassive (MP) forms are in brown:
|ending||ending||'to build'||'to put, place'||'to make, do'||'to release'||'to lie' (MP)|
|Singular||1||-u (-w)||-xani, -xãni||sixani|
|3||-di, -(t)ti, -i, -e||-ẽni, -tẽni||prñnawati||(t)tadi||adi, edi||hadi, hati||sijẽni, sijeni, sitẽni|
|3||~-ti, -(i)ti, -ñti||~-tẽni (?)||tãti (tẽti)||aiti||(h)hãti, (h)hati||sitẽni (?)|
|Preterite||Singular||1||-(x)xa, -xã, -ga, -ax(a)||-xagã, -xaga (?)||prñnawaxã, -waxa||taxa||axa, aga, axã, agã;
(MP:) axagã, axaga
|3||-tẽ, -(t)te, -dẽ, -de||(-tte ?)||prñnawatẽ, -wate (-wetẽ, -wete)||tadẽ, tade (tetẽ ?)||adẽ. ade (ede, ada)||hadẽ, hade|
|3||~-tẽ, -(i)tẽ, -(i)te, ~-te, -ñtẽ, -ñte||?||prñnawãtẽ, -wãte; prñnewãtẽ||tete||aitẽ, aite||hãtẽ, hãte|
|3||-(t)tu, -du, -u||(-tẽnu ?)||tatu||hadu|
|Plural||2||(-tẽnu ?)||(-tẽnu ?)|
|3||~-tu||(~-tẽnu ?)||tãtu, tatu|
|Participle Active (Passive?)||Singular||-mi, ~-mi, -me, -ma|
|Plural||-mi||(acc. neutr.:) eim̃||(accusative:) hm̃mis|
|Infinitive||-ne, ~-ne, -na, ~-na||?||(t)tãne, tane, ttãna||hane, hãne, hhãna|
A suffix -s- (cognate with Greek, Latin -/sk/-), appended to the stem and attested with half a dozen verbs, is thought to make a verb iterative:
Emmanuel Laroche, who analysed the Lycian text of the Letoon trilingual, concluded that word order in Lycian is slightly more free than in the other Anatolian languages. Sentences in plain text mostly have the structure
The verb immediately follows an "initial particle cluster", consisting of a more or less meaningless particle "se-" or "me-" (literally, 'and') followed by a series of up to three suffixes, often called emphatics. The function of some of these suffixes is mysterious, but others have been identified as pronomina like "he", "it", or "them". The subject, direct object, or indirect object of the sentence may thus proleptically be referred to in the initial particle cluster. As an example, the sentence "X built a house" might in Lycian be structured: "and-he-it / he-built / X / a-house".
Other constituents of a sentence, like an indirect object, predicate, or complimentary adjuncts, can be placed anywhere after the verb.
Contrary to this pattern, funeral inscriptions as a rule have a standard form with the object at the head of the sentence: "This tomb built X"; literally: "This tomb / it / he built / X" (order: O - ipc - V - S). Laroche suspects the reason for this deviation to be that in this way emphasis fell on the funerary object: "This object, it was built by X". Example:
|1.||ebẽñnẽ prñnawã mẽti prñnawatẽ||This building, [it was] he who built it:|
|2.||xisteriya xzzbãzeh tideimi||Qisteria, Qtsbatse's son,|
|3.||hrppi ladi ehbi se tideime||for his wife and for the sons.|
In line 1 mẽti = m-ẽ-ti is the initial particle cluster, where m- = me- is the neutral "steppingstone" to which two suffixes are affixed: -ẽ- = "it", and the relative pronoun -ti, "who, he who".
Kim McCone proposed in the 1970s that Lycian's unmarked word order was instead subject-verb-object. The apparent VSO and OVS orders come from various frontings and dislocations of a basic SVO structure.
Lycian's SVO is itself a shift from the typical Anatolian subject-object-verb order, of which Lycian preverbal object pronouns like ẽ "him/her/it" would be a relic.
Megasthenes set it up…
In spite of McCone's alternative analysis, the assumption that verb-subject-object was Lycian's unmarked word order went unchallenged until the 2010s, when Alwin Kloekhorst independently formulated and adopted the SVO hypothesis. This led to other linguists like Heiner Eichner and H. Craig Melchert to adopt the SVO hypothesis after him. The principal unmarked example cited by SVO supporters comes from the following sentence:
pajawa m[a]n[ax]ine: prñnawa-te: prñnaw-ã ebẽ-ñnẽ:
Pajawa.NOM Manaxine build.PRET-3sg building-ACC this-ACC
Pajawa Manaxine built this building. (Note the absence of the initial particle cluster.)
Further examples of subject-initial unmarked clauses cited by Melchert include:
tebursseli prñnawa-te lusñ[tr]e ẽti waziss-e
Tebursseli.NOM build.PRET-3sg Lysander.GEN at leadership-LOC
Tebursseli built (this tomb) under Lysander's leadership.
upazij ẽne-prñnawa-te hrppi prñnezi ehbi
Upazij.NOM it-build.PRET-3sg for household his.DAT
Upazij built it for his household.
A few etymological studies of the Lycian language endonym are present. These are: