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Luwian /ˈliən/ sometimes known as Luvian or Luish is an ancient language, or group of languages, within the Anatolian branch of the Indo-European language family.

Hieroglyph Luwian BOS.jpg
Luwian hieroglyph
Native to Hittite Empire, Arzawa, Neo-Hittite kingdoms
Region Anatolia, Northern Syria
Extinct around 600 BC
Language codes
ISO 639-3 Either:
xlu – Cuneiform Luwian
hlu – Hieroglyphic Luwian
xlu Cuneiform Luwian
  hlu Hieroglyphic Luwian
Glottolog luvi1235[1]
Distribution of the Luwian language
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.
Distribution according to another source

The ethnonym Luwian comes from Luwiya (also spelled Luwia or Luvia) – the name of the region in which the Luwians lived. Luwiya is attested, for example, in the Hittite laws.[2]

Several other Anatolian languages – particularly Carian, Lycian, Lydian and Milyan (also known as Lycian B or Lycian II) – are now usually identified as related to Luwian – and as mutually connected more closely than other constituents of the Anatolian branch.[3] This suggests that these languages formed a sub-branch within Anatolian. Some linguists follow Craig Melchert in referring to this broader group as Luwic,[4] whereas others refer to the "Luwian group" (and, in that sense, "Luwian" may mean several distinct languages). Likewise, Proto-Luwian may mean the common ancestor of the whole group, or just the ancestor of Luwian. (Normally, under tree-naming conventions, were the branch to be called Luwic, its ancestor should be known as Proto-Luwic or Common Luwic; in practice, such names are seldom used.)

Luwic or Luwian (in the broad sense of the term), is one of three major sub-branches of Anatolian, alongside Hittite and Palaic.[3]

The two varieties of Proto-Luwian or Luwian (in the narrow sense of these names), are known after the scripts in which they were written: Cuneiform Luwian (CLuwian) and Hieroglyphic Luwian (HLuwian). There is no consensus as to whether these were a single language, or two closely related languages.


Relationship to preceding languagesEdit

As Luwian has numerous archaisms, it is regarded as important to the study of Indo-European languages (IE) in general, the other Anatolian languages and the Bronze Age Aegean.

These archaicisms often regarded as supporting the view that the Proto-Indo-European language (PIE) had three distinct sets of velar consonants:[5]

For Melchert, PIE *ḱ → Luwian z (probably [ts]); *kk; and *kʷku (probably [kʷ]).

Luwian has also been enlisted for its verb kalut(t)i(ya)-, which means "make the rounds of" and is probably derived from *kalutta/i- "circle".[6] It has been argued[7] that this derives from a proto-Anatolian word for "wheel", which in turn would have derived from the common word for "wheel" found in all other Indo-European families. The wheel was invented in the 5th millennium BC and, if kaluti does derive from it, then the Anatolian branch left PIE after its invention (so validating the Kurgan hypothesis as applicable to Anatolian). However, kaluti need not imply a wheel and so need not have been derived from a PIE word with that meaning. The IE words for a wheel may well have arisen in those other IE languages after the Anatolian split.

Linguistic geographyEdit

Luwian was among the languages spoken during the 2nd and 1st millennia BC by groups in central and western Anatolia and northern Syria.[8] The earliest Luwian texts in cuneiform transmission are attested in connection with the Kingdom of Kizzuwatna in southeastern Anatolia, as well as a number of locations in central Anatolia. Beginning in the 14th century BC, Luwian-speakers came to constitute the majority in the Hittite capital Hattusa.[9] It appears that by the time of the collapse of the Hittite Empire ca. 1180 BC, the Hittite king and royal family were fully bilingual in Luwian. Long after the extinction of the Hittite language, Luwian continued to be spoken in the Neo-Hittite states of Syria, such as Milid and Carchemish, as well as in the central Anatolian kingdom of Tabal that flourished in the 8th century BC.[10]

A number of scholars in the past attempted to argue for the Luwian homeland in western Anatolia. According to James Mellaart, the earliest Indo-Europeans in northwest Anatolia were the horse-riders who came to this region from the north and founded Demircihöyük (Eskisehir Province) in Phrygia c. 3000 BC. They were allegedly ancestors of the Luwians who inhabited Troy II, and spread widely in the Anatolian peninsula. [11] He cited the distribution of a new type of wheel-made pottery, Red Slip Wares, as some of the best evidence for his theory. According to Mellaart, the proto-Luwian migrations to Anatolia came in several distinct waves over many centuries. The recent detailed review of Mellaart's claims suggests that his ethnolinguistic conclusions cannot be substantiated on archaeological grounds .[12]

Other arguments were advanced for the extensive Luwian presence in western Anatolia in the late second millennium BC. In the Old Hittite version of the Hittite Code, some, if not all, of the Luwian-speaking areas were called Luwiya. Widmer (2007) has argued that the Mycenaean term ru-wa-ni-jo, attested in Linear B, refers to the same area.[13] but the stem *Luwan- was recently shown to be non-existent [14]. In a corrupt late copy of the Hittite Code the geographical term Luwiya is replaced with Arzawa[15] a western Anatolian kingdom corresponding roughly with Mira and the Seha River Land.[16] Therefore several scholars shared the view that Luwian was spoken—to varying degrees—across a large portion of western Anatolia, including Troy (Wilusa), the Seha River Land (Sēḫa ~ Sēḫariya, i.e., the Greek Hermos river and Kaikos valley), and the Mira-Kuwaliya kingdom with its core being the Maeander valley.[17] In a number of recent publications, however, the geographic identity between Luwiya and Arzawa was rejected or doubted [18]. In the post-Hittite era, the region of Arzawa came to be known as Lydia (Assyrian Luddu, Greek Λυδία), where the Lydian language was in use. The name Lydia has been derived from the name Luwiya (Lydian *lūda- < *luw(i)da- < luwiya-, with regular Lydian sound change y > d) [19]. The Lydian language, however, cannot be regarded as the direct descendant of Luwian and probably does not even belong to the Luwic group. Therefore, none of the arguments in favour of the Luwian linguistic dominance in Western Asia Minor can be regarded as compelling, although the issue continues to be debated.

Luwic/Luwian groupEdit

Stele of Sultanhan, Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara, Turkey.

Proto-Luwian/Luwian languageEdit

Cuneiform LuwianEdit

Cuneiform Luwian is the corpus of Luwian texts attested in the tablet archives of Hattusa; it is essentially the same cuneiform writing system used in Hittite.[20] In Laroche's Catalog of Hittite Texts, the corpus of Hittite cuneiform texts with Luwian insertions runs from CTH 757–773, mostly comprising rituals.[21] Cuneiform Luwian texts are written in several dialects, of which the most easily identifiable are Kizzuwatna Luwian, Istanuwa Luwian, and Empire Luwian.[22] The last dialect represents the vernacular of Hattusan scribes of the 14th–13th centuries BC and is mainly attested through Glossenkeil words in Hittite texts.

Hieroglyphic LuwianEdit

Hieroglyphic Luwian is the corpus of Luwian texts written in a native script, known as Anatolian hieroglyphs.[23][24] Once thought to be a variety of the Hittite language, "Hieroglyphic Hittite" was formerly used to refer to the language of the same inscriptions, but this term is now obsolete. The dialect of Luwian hieroglyphic inscriptions appears to be either Empire Luwian or its descendant, Iron Age Luwian.

The first report of a monumental inscription dates to 1850, when an inhabitant of Nevşehir reported the relief at Fraktin. In 1870, antiquarian travellers in Aleppo found another inscription built into the south wall of the Al-Qaiqan Mosque. In 1884, Polish scholar Marian Sokołowski (pl) discovered an inscription near Köylütolu, in western Turkey. The largest known inscription was excavated in 1970 in Yalburt, northwest of Konya. Luwian hieroglyphic texts contain a limited number of lexical borrowings from Hittite, Akkadian, and Northwest Semitic; the lexical borrowings from Greek are limited to proper nouns, although common nouns borrowed in the opposite direction do exist.[25]


Possessive adjectivesEdit

Where Hittite allows the classically Indo-European suffix -as for the singular genitive and -an for the plural genitive, the "canonical" Luwian as used in cuneiform employed instead a possessive suffix -assa for the singular genitive and -assanz- for the plural genitive.

Given the prevalence of -assa place names and words scattered around all sides of the Aegean Sea, this possessive suffix was sometimes considered evidence of a shared non-Indo-European language or an Aegean Sprachbund preceding the arrivals of Luwians and Greeks. It is, however, possible to account for the Luwian possessive construction as a result of case attraction in the Indo-European noun phrase.[26] The possessive adjectives are pervasive in Kizzuwatna Luwian cuneiform texts, but in Iron Age texts in hieroglyphic transmission they compete with the inherited genitives.[27] The special form of possessive adjectives with plural possessor is restricted to Kizzuwatna Luwian and probably represents a calque from Hurrian.[28]

Trojan hypothesisEdit

Luwian has been deduced as one of the likely candidates for the language spoken by the Trojans.[29]

After the 1995 finding of a Luwian biconvex seal at Troy VII, there has been a heated discussion over the language that was spoken in Homeric Troy. Frank Starke of the University of Tübingen recently demonstrated that the name of Priam, king of Troy at the time of the Trojan War, is connected to the Luwian compound Priimuua, which means "exceptionally courageous".[30] "The certainty is growing that Wilusa/Troy belonged to the greater Luwian-speaking community," although it is not entirely clear whether Luwian was primarily the official language or in daily colloquial use.[31]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Luvian". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  2. ^ Law number 21 of the Code of the Nesilim says, "If anyone steal a slave of a Luwian from the land of Luwia, and lead him here to the land of Hatti, and his master discover him, he shall take his slave only."
  3. ^ a b Anna Bauer, 2014, Morphosyntax of the Noun Phrase in Hieroglyphic Luwian, Leiden, Brill NV, pp. 9–10.
  4. ^ Melchert 2012, p. 14
  5. ^ Melchert 1987
  6. ^ Melchert 1993, p. 99
  7. ^ Melchert, p.c., reported in Rieken 2012, p. 5
  8. ^ Melchert 2003.
  9. ^ Yakubovich 2010:307
  10. ^ Melchert 2003, pp. 147-51
  11. ^ Christoph Bachhuber (2013), James Mellaart and the Luwians: A Culture-(Pre)history,
  12. ^ Christoph Bachhuber (2013), James Mellaart and the Luwians: A Culture-(Pre)history, p. 284
  13. ^ P. Widmer, "Mykenisch ru-wa-ni-jo „Luwier", Kadmos 45 (2007), 82-84, cited on Palaeolexicon: Word study tool of ancient languages.
  14. ^ Gander 2015: 474
  15. ^ See, e.g., Bryce in Melchert 2003:29–31; Singer 2005:435; Hawkins 2009:74.
  16. ^ Although Yakubovich (2010) has argued that a chain of scribal error and revision led to this substitution, and that Luwiya was not coterminous with Arzawa, but was further east in the area of the Konya Plain; see Yakubovich 2010:107–17.
  17. ^ Watkins 1994; id. 1995:144–51; Starke 1997; Melchert 2003; for the geography Hawkins 1998.
  18. ^ Hawkins 2013, p. 5, Gander 2017, p. 263, Matessi 2017, fn. 35
  19. ^ Beekes 2003; cf. Melchert 2008b:154.
  20. ^ Luwian cuneiform texts are collected in Starke 1985
  21. ^ Laroche 1971, pp. 35-9
  22. ^ Yakubovich 2010, pp. 68-73
  23. ^ Melchert, H. Craig (2004), "Luvian", in Woodard, Roger D., The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the World's Ancient Languages, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-56256-2 
  24. ^ Melchert, H. Craig (1996), "Anatolian Hieroglyphs", in Daniels, Peter T.; Bright, William, The World's Writing Systems, New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-507993-0 
  25. ^ Yakubovich 2010, pp. 140-57
  26. ^ Yakubovich 2008
  27. ^ Melchert 2003 p. 171
  28. ^ Yakubovich 2010, pp. 45-53
  29. ^ Watkins 1994; Watkins 1995:144–51; Melchert 2003, pp. 265-70 with ref.
  30. ^ Starke, Frank (1997). "Troia im Kontext des historisch-politischen und sprachlichen Umfeldes Kleinasiens im 2. Jahrtausend". Studia Troica. 7: 447–87. 
  31. ^ Latacz 2004, p. 116


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zu Westkleinasien in der Spätbronzezeit”. Klio 97/2 (2015): 443-502.

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