Lusitanian language

extinct=2nd century AD

Lusitanian (so named after the Lusitani or Lusitanians) was a paleohispanic language that clearly belongs to the Indo-European family like the Celtiberian language. It is known by only five inscriptions and numerous names of places (toponyms) and of gods (). The language was spoken in the territory inhabited by Lusitanian tribes, from Douro to the Tagus rivers, territory that nowadays belongs mainly to Portugal, but also to Spain.


The Lusitanians were the most numerous people in the western area of the Iberian peninsula, and there are those who consider that they came from the Alps; others believe the Lusitanians were a Iberian tribe. In any event, it is known that they were established in the area by the 6th century BC.

Circa 150 BC, Lusitania began being conquered by the Roman Empire. Like all other paleohispanic languages, except for the Basque language, the Lusitanian language succumbed to the pressure and prestige of Latin over time.

Classification and related languages

Lusitanian appears to have been an Indo-European language which was quite different from the languages spoken in the centre of the Iberian Peninsula. It would be more archaic than the Celtiberian language.

The filiation of the Lusitanian language is still in debate. There are those who endorse that it is a Celtic language. This Celtic theory is largely based upon the historical fact that the only Indo-European tribes that are known to have existed in Portugal at that time were Celtic tribes. The apparent "Celticity" of most of the lexicon — the anthroponyms and toponyms — may also support a Celtic affiliation.

There is a substantial problem in the Celtic theory however: the preservation of initial /p/, as can be seen in PORCOM. The Celtic languages had lost that initial /p/ in their evolution: comparing with "athir" / "orc" (Old Irish) and "pater" / "porcum" (Latin) meaning "father" and "pig", respectively. However, the presence of this /p/ does not necessarily preclude the possibility of Lusitanian being Celtic: Lusitanian could have split off from the other Celtic languages before the loss of /p/, or when /p/ had become IPA|/ɸ/ (before shifting to /h/ and then being lost); the letter P could be used to represent either sound.

A second theory, defended by Francisco Villar and Rosa Pedrero, relates Lusitanian with the Italic languages. The theory is based on parallels in the names of deities (Latin "Consus" / Lusitanian "Cossue", Latin "Seia" / Lusitanian "Segia", Marrucinian "Iovia" / Lusitanian "Iovea(i)") and other lexical items (Umbrian "gomia" / Lusitanian "comaiam"), with some other grammatical elements.

Finally, Ulrich Schmoll proposed a new branch which he called "Galician-Lusitanian".

No Lusitanian text of sufficient length, however, has surfaced in order for its affiliation to be clearly determined, one way or the other.

Geographical distribution

Inscriptions have been found in Arroyo de la Luz (in Cáceres), Cabeço das Fragas (in Guarda) and in Moledo (Viseu). Taking into account Lusitanian theonyms, anthroponyms and toponyms, the Lusitanian sphere would include modern northeastern Portugal and adjacent areas in Spain, with the centre in Serra da Estrela.

There are fundamental suspicions that the area of the Gallaecian tribes (North of Portugal and Galicia), Asturian and, probably, Vetonian; that is, all the northwestern area of the Iberian peninsula, spoke languages related with the Lusitanian and not with the Celtic language, as it is commonly believed.

Writing system

The most famous inscriptions are those from Cabeço das Fráguas and Lamas de Moledo in Portugal and Arroyo de la Luz in Spain. All the known inscriptions are written in the Latin alphabet.

Further reading

* Gorrochategui, Joaquín (1987): «En torno a la clasificación del lusitano», "Actas del IV coloquio sobre lenguas y culturas paleohispanicas", pp. 2-3.
* Untermann, Jürgen (1997): «Lusitanisch, keltiberisch, keltisch», "Veleia" 2-3, pp. 57-76.
* Untermann, Jürgen (1997): "Monumenta Linguarum Hispanicarum. IV Die tartessischen, keltiberischen und lusitanischen Inschriften", Wiesbaden.
* Villar, Francisco (1996): "Los indoeuropeos y los orígenes de Europa", Madrid.
* Villar, Francisco; Pedrero Rosa (2001): «La nueva inscripción lusitana: Arroyo de la Luz III», "Religión, ´Lengua y Cultura Prerromanas de Hispania", pp. 663-698.

ee also

*Pre-Roman peoples of the Iberian Peninsula
*List of Celtic place names in Portugal

External links

* [ Lusitanian] in [ LINGVÆ·IMPERII] (Spanish)
* [ Detailed map of the Pre-Roman Peoples of Iberia (around 200 BC)]

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