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Latino-Faliscan languages

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The Latino-Faliscan or Latino-Venetic languages are a group of languages spoken in Italy belonging to the Italic languages, a group of the Indo-European languages.

Originally Latium in Italy, at maximum extent as a living language, the borders of the Roman Empire
Linguistic classification Indo-European
Glottolog lati1262[1]
Latino-Faliscan languages and dialects in different shades of blue.

Latin and Faliscan belong to the group as well as two others often considered to be archaic Latin dialects: Lanuvian and Praenestine.

Latin eventually absorbed the others and replaced Faliscan as the power of Ancient Rome expanded. All members of the group other than Latin went extinct. Latin, in turn, developed into the Romance languages (via Vulgar Latin), which are now spoken by more than 800 million people worldwide.


Linguistic descriptionEdit

Latin and Faliscan have several innovations with Italic:

  • The late Indo-European sequences /*ə, *eu/ evolve into a, ou.
  • The Indo-European syllabic liquids /*l̥, *r̥/ develop an epenthetic vowel o giving in Italic ol, or.
  • The Indo-European syllabic nasals /*m̥, *n̥/ develop an epenthetic vowel e giving em, en.
  • Fricativisation of aspirated stops of Indo-European at the beginning of the word /*bʰ, *dʰ, *gʰ/ into f, f, h.
  • Assimilation of the sequence /*kʷ...p/ into kʷ...kʷ (Proto-Indo-European *penkʷe 'cinco' > Latin quinque)

Some differences are that Latin and Faliscan retain the Indo-European labiovelars /*kʷ, *gʷ/ as qu-, gu- (they would later become velars + semivocal), while in Osco-Umbrian, they become labial p, b. In addition, Latin presents the evolution of ou into ū (Latin lūna < Proto-Italic *lousna < PIE *leuk-sna 'luminosa').


The consonant inventory of Proto-Latino-Faliscan would be basically identical to that of archaic Latin:

Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar Labio-
Occlusive voiceless *p *t *k *kʷ
voice *b *d *g *gʷ
Fricative *f *s *h
Sonorants *r, *l *y *w
Nasal *m *n

The /kʷ/ sound still had to exist in archaic Latin when the alphabet was developed where the minimum pair comes from: quī /kʷī/ ("who", nominative) - cuī /ku.ī/ ("to whom", dative). Note that in other positions no attempt is made to distinguish between diphthongs and hiatuses, persdere ("to persuade") is a diphthong but sua ("his"/"her") is a hiatus. For reasons of symmetry, it is quite possible that many sequences of gu in archaic Latin will in fact represent a voiced labiovelar /gʷ/.


Initially, the Indo-Europeanists had been inclined to postulate, for the various Indo-European languages of ancient Italy, a belonging to a unitary linguistic family, parallel for example to that of Celtic or Germanic; the founder of this hypothesis is considered Antoine Meillet (1866-1936).[2]

Starting from the work of Alois Walde (1869-1924), however, this unitary scheme has been subjected to radical criticism; decisive, in this sense, were the arguments put forward by Vittore Pisani (1899-1990) and, later also by Giacomo Devoto (1897-1974), who postulated the existence of two distinct Indo-European branches in which it is possible to inscribe the Italic languages. Variously reformulated in the years following the Second World War, the various hypotheses concerning the existence of two different Indo-European families have definitively imposed themselves, even if the specific traits that separate or close them, as well as the exact processes of formation and penetration into Italy, remain the object of research by historical linguistics.[3]

The Latino-Faliscan languages were:[3]

  • Faliscan, spoken in the area around Falerii Veteres (the modern Civita Castellana) north of the city of Rome.
  • Latin, spoken in central-western Italy, later spread (in the specific version of Latin spoken in Rome) with the Roman conquests throughout the Empire and beyond.
  • Venetic, spoken in northeastern Italy by the Veneti.
  • Sicel, spoken in eastern Sicily by the Sicels (limited attestation).


  • Villar, Francisco (1997). Gli Indoeuropei e le origini dell'Europa [Indo-Europeans and the origins of Europe] (in Italian). Bologna, Il Mulino. ISBN 88-15-05708-0. 
  • Vineis, Edoardo (1995). "X. Latin". In Giacolone Ramat, Anna; Ramat, Paolo. Las lenguas indoeuropeas [The Indo-European languages] (in Spanish). Madrid: Cátedra. pp. 349–421. ISBN 84-376-1348-5. 


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Latino-Faliscan". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  2. ^ Villar, 'Gli Indoeuropei e le origini dell'Europa, pp. 474-475.
  3. ^ a b Villar, cit., pp. 447-482.

See alsoEdit