Umbrian is an extinct Italic language formerly spoken by the Umbri in the ancient Italian region of Umbria. Within the Italic languages it is closely related to the Oscan group and is therefore associated with it in the group of Osco-Umbrian languages, a term generally replaced by Sabellic in modern scholarship. Since that classification was first formulated, a number of other languages in ancient Italy were discovered to be more closely related to Umbrian. Therefore, a group, the Umbrian languages, was devised to contain them.
|Era||attested 7th–1st century BC|
|Umbrian and Old Italic alphabet|
Approximate distribution of languages in Iron Age Italy during the 6th century BC
Umbrian is known from about 30 inscriptions dated from the 7th through 1st centuries BC. The largest cache by far is the Iguvine Tablets, seven inscribed bronze tablets found in 1444 near the village of Scheggia or, according to another tradition, in an underground chamber at Gubbio (ancient Iguvium). The seven tablets contain notes on the ceremonies and statutes for priests of the ancient religion in the region. Sometimes they are called the Eugubian tablets after the medieval name of Iguvium/Eugubium. The tablets contain 4000–5000 words.
The Iguvine tablets were written in two alphabets. The older, the Umbrian alphabet, like other Old Italic script, was derived from the Etruscan alphabet, and was written right-to-left, essentially equivalent to the Neo-Etruscan, but using letter shaped like a 'P' from the Archaic Etruscan alphabet for the unique Umbrian sound discussed below. The newer was written in the Latin script. The texts are sometimes called Old Umbrian and New Umbrian. The differences are mainly orthographic. For example, rs in the Latin alphabet is represented by a single character in the native script (generally transcribed as ř; this represents an unknown sound that developed regularly from intervocalic *-d- in most cases). To clearly distinguish them, the native script is generally transcribed in bold, the Latin in italics.
Classes of nouns roughly match those in Latin: long a-stems matching Latin first declension, historical o-stems matching Latin second declension, consonant- and i-stems matching Latin third declension, with some more sparse attestation of u-stem (Latin fourth) and long e-stem (Latin fifth) declensions.
There are seven attested cases in the singular: nominative, accusative (along with the nom-acc neuter case), genitive, dative, ablative, locative, and vocative. In the plural, there are only four distinct cases: nominative; accusative; genitive; and dative-and-ablative combined into one form. There are no attested locative or vocative plurals.
Examples from long a-stems (for use of bold versus italic script, see above under "Alphabet"): Singular: Nom. muta/mutu "fine" (related to Latin molta "fine"); Acc. tuta / totam "city, state"; Gen. tutas / totar (the later with rhotacism, on which see below) "of the city" (note that Umbrian continues the PIE case, while Latin innovates here to -ae); Dat. tute "to the city"; Abl. asa "from the altar"; Loc. tote "in the city"; Voc. Prestota "Oh, Prestota" Plural: Nom. fameřias "families"; Acc. porca "pigs"; Gen. pracatarum "of the ramparts"?; Dat.-Abl. plenasier "for the annual festival" (with final rhotacism from -s; thought to be related to Latin plenus "full" with the semantic development > "of the full (year)").
Umbrian shares some phonological changes with its sister language Oscan.
Labialization of *kʷ to pEdit
This change is shared with Umbrian, and so is a common Sabellic change, reminiscent of the k/p split between Goidellic (Irish, etc) and Cymric (Welsh, etc). piře, pirse "what"; Oscan pídum vs Latin quid.
At some point early in the history of all Indo-European Italic languages, the accent seems to have shifted to the initial syllable of words as a stress accent, since non-initial syllables are regularly lost or weakened. Since the same pattern occurs in the history of Etruscan, this must be assumed to be an areal feature that spread from the north, since Umbrian and Latin were affected more markedly than was Oscan in the south. (By the time of classical Latin, the accent had shifted to more of an Ancient Greek pattern--on the third syllable from the end (antepenult) unless the last syllable was long, in which case it fell on the second to last syllable (the penult).)  The degree to which these shifts can be connected to similar shifts to initial stress in Celtic and Germanic is unclear; for discussion see J. Salmons' Accentual Change and Language Contact. 
But compared to its highly conservative sister language Oscan, Umbrian exhibits a number of innovations, some of them shared by its neighbor to the west, Latin. (Below, following convention, bold text for Umbrian and Oscan indicates words written in the native, Etruscan derived script, while italics represents words written in Latin-derived script.)
Treatment of original diphthongsEdit
All diphthongs are simplified (a process only partly seen in Latin, and only very rarely in Oscan). So Proto-Italic *ai and *ei become Umbrian low ē: kvestur : Oscan kvaísstur, Latin quaestor 'official in charge of public revenue and expenditure'; prever 'single' : Oscan preivatud, Latin prīvus; furthermore, Proto-Italic *oi, *ou and *au become ō (written u in the native script) in initial syllables: unu 'one' : Old Latin oinus; ute 'or' : Oscan auti, Latin aut; tuta 'city' : Oscan touto.
Palatalization of velarsEdit
Velars are palatalized and spirantized before front vowels and the front glide /j/ to probably a palatalized sibilant (perhaps the postalveolar /ʃ/), written ç, ś or simply s. (A similar change happened later in most Romance languages.) For example: Umbrian śesna 'dinner' : Oscan kersnu, Latin cēna; Umbrian façiu 'I do, I make' : Latin faciō. 
Like Latin, but unlike Oscan, intervocalic -s- rhotacized to -r- in Umbrian. In late forms of the language, final -s also becomes -r (a change not seen in Latin). For example, the genitive plural ending of -ā stems: Umbrian -arum, Latin -arum vs Oscan -asúm (compare Sanskrit -āsām). 
Treatment of *dEdit
While initial *d- is preserved (spelled t in the native alphabet), earlier intervocalic *-d- (and sometimes *-l-) show up in the native alphabet as a character generally transliterated as ř, but as the sequence rs in Umbrian texts using the Latin alphabet. The exact pronunciation is unknown: piře, pirse "what" vs. Oscan pídum, Latin quid.
Taken from the Iguvine Tablets, tablet Va, lines 6–10 (written in the native alphabet on the tablet):
Taken from the Iguvine Tablets, tablet VIa, lines 25–31 (written in the Latin alphabet on the tablet):
- Umbrian at MultiTree on the Linguist List
- The tradition born in the 17th century that the tablets were originally nine, and that two, sent to Venice, never came back, must be considered spurious. Paolucci (1966), p. 44
- AA. VV. (2004), p. 243
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- Hare, JB (2005). "Umbrian". Wordgumbo. Retrieved 24 August 2010.
- Conway, Robert Seymour (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 14 (11th ed.). pp. 297–298. — with details of the Umbrian language .