Illyrian was an Old Balkan language which belonged to the Indo-European homolingualism. It was spoken in the western Balkans by Illyrian tribes in a geographical area extending from the north of the Adriatic to Epirus and Macedonia.

The data we have on the language are scarce and therefore it is difficult to draw firm conclusions about its characteristics and its relationship with other languages.

characteristics of the language
To date no text has been found in Illyrian and our knowledge of the language consists of short inscriptions, only four words mentioned as Illyrian in various Greek and Roman sources, and a number of toponyms, personal names, ethnonyms and hydronyms. A very well known place name of Illyrian origin is 'Bosnia' which takes its name from the homonymous river Bosna (hydronym).In Illyrian Bosona means running water.

Linguistics has not yet come to a conclusion whether it is a Kendum or Satomic language.There is evidence in favour of one or the other category.

One feature of the phonology of the language that is accepted is the modification of Indo-European *bh to b and *dh to d. The same feature is recognized in the lexicological evidence we have for the ancient Macedonian language where b,d,c are found instead of f,i,h in most Greek dialects (Vereniki instead of Fereniki).

relationship with other languages

Its relationship with other ancient languages has not yet been proven.The claim that Albanian is a descendant of Illyrian is based on very inconclusive evidence and remains a theory promoted mainly by Albanian scholars.

The theory that Albanian originated from Dacian , a region of the central Balkans seems more likely.

 Nevertheless, in Albanian and Illyrian there are homonyms,such as mal (il,alb)=mountain,ren (il),re (alb)=cloud.

The naval vocabulary of Albanian is borrowed from other languages, mainly Latin,which supports the theory that Albanian originated from the mainland.

Illyrian seems to have many homonyms with Slavic languages as well.

Some scholars classify Illyrian languages and Messapian among the Illyrian languages, but such a categorization is not accepted by everyone today and there is a great deal of disagreement on this issue.

Albanian and Romanian

Romanian has a substrate vocabulary of a previously spoken language of about 100 words. Almost all of these words are also found in Albanian.

This means that the ancestors of Albanians and Romanians originally lived in the same place and either borrowed words from each other or spoke the same language.

The Roman administration of Dacia in the central Balkans.


The theory that Illyrian might be connected to Thracian has been proposed,too. Whether it was a dialect or a closely related language it is debated. It has also been categorised as part of a Thraco-Illyrian dialect continuum with Thracian in one side of the continuum and Illyrian on the other.

There is now strong linguistic evidence that the original cradle of the Albanians and Romanians was the Dacia administration in the central Balkans.

These conclusions of the linguists do not, of course, coincide with the national myth of the Albanians.


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