Luwian language

Luwian language
Hieroglyph Luwian BOS.jpg
Luwian hieroglyph
Spoken in Hittite Empire, Arzawa, Neo-Hittite kingdoms
Region Anatolia, Northern Syria
Extinct around 600 BC
Language family
Language codes
ISO 639-3 either:
xlu – Cuneiform Luwian
hlu – Hieroglyphic Luwian
Luwian Language de.svg
Distribution of the Luwian language (after Melchert 2003)

Indo-European topics

Albanian · Armenian · Baltic
Celtic · Germanic · Greek
Indo-Iranian (Indo-Aryan, Iranian)
Italic · Slavic  

extinct: Anatolian · Paleo-Balkan (Dacian,
Phrygian, Thracian· Tocharian

Vocabulary · Phonology · Sound laws · Ablaut · Root · Noun · Verb
Europe: Balts · Slavs · Albanians · Italics · Celts · Germanic peoples · Greeks · Paleo-Balkans (Illyrians · Thracians · Dacians·

Asia: Anatolians (Hittites, Luwians)  · Armenians  · Indo-Iranians (Iranians · Indo-Aryans)  · Tocharians  

Homeland · Society · Religion
Abashevo culture · Afanasevo culture · Andronovo culture · Baden culture · Beaker culture · Catacomb culture · Cernavodă culture · Chasséen culture · Chernoles culture · Corded Ware culture · Cucuteni-Trypillian culture · Dnieper-Donets culture · Gumelniţa-Karanovo culture · Gushi culture · Karasuk culture · Kemi Oba culture · Khvalynsk culture · Kura-Araxes culture · Lusatian culture · Maykop culture · Middle Dnieper culture · Narva culture · Novotitorovka culture · Poltavka culture · Potapovka culture · Samara culture · Seroglazovo culture · Sredny Stog culture · Srubna culture · Terramare culture · Usatovo culture · Vučedol culture · Yamna culture

Luwian (sometimes spelled Luvian) is an extinct language of the Anatolian branch of the Indo-European language family. Luwian is closely related to Hittite, and was among the languages spoken during the second and first millennia BC by population groups in central and western Anatolia and northern Syria.[1] In the Old Hittite version of the Hittite Code, all or some Luwian-speaking areas were called Luwiya. One scholar has argued that the Mycenaean Greek term ru-wa-ni-jo, attested in Linear B syllabic script refers to the same area.[2] The general consensus amongst scholars is that Luwian was spoken—to a greater or lesser degree—across a large area of western Anatolia, including (possibly) Wilusa (= Troy), the Seha River Land (to be identified with the Hermos and/or Kaikos valley), and the kingdom of Mira-Kuwaliya with its core territory of the Maeander valley.[3] This is suggested by, among other things, an admittedly corrupt late copy of the Hittite laws in which the geographical term Luwiya is replaced with Arzawa,[4] a western Anatolian kingdom corresponding roughly with Mira and the Seha River Land (although one scholar 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[5]). 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 convincingly derived from the name Luwiya (Lydian *lūda- < *luw(i)da- < luwiya- with the regular Lydian sound change of y > d), which further argues in favour of the location of Luwiya in the west.[6]

Luwian is closely related to, though not the direct ancestor of Lycian.[7] Luwian has also been adduced as one of the likely candidates for the language spoken by the Trojans,[8] alongside a possible Tyrrhenian language (related to Lemnian), Thracian, and Greek.

Beginning in the fourteenth century BC, Luwian native speakers came to constitute the majority of the population of 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 the members of the 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]

Luwian has been preserved in two writing systems, namely the Anatolian adaptation of Mesopotamian cuneiform and Anatolian hieroglyphs.


Cuneiform Luwian

Cuneiform Luwian is a term that refers to the corpus of Luwian texts attested in the tablet archives of Hattusa; it is essentially the same cuneiform writing system used in Hittite.[11] In Laroche's Catalog of Hittite Texts, the corpus of Hittite cuneiform texts with Luwian insertions runs from CTH 757-773, mostly comprising rituals.[12] Cuneiform Luwian texts are written in several dialects, of which the most easily identifiable are Kizzuwatna Luwian, Istanuwa Luwian, and Empire Luwian.[13] 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 Luwian

Hieroglyphic Luwian is a term that refers to the corpus of Luwian texts written in a native script, known as Anatolian hieroglyphs.[14][15] 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 travelers in Aleppo found another inscription built into the south wall of the el-Qiqan mosque. In 1884 Polish scholar Maryan Sokolowski 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.[16]

Relationship to preceding languages

Luwian has numerous archaisms, and so is important both to Indo-European linguists and to students of the Bronze Age Aegean.

Craig Melchert[17] used Luwian to support the controversial idea that the Proto-Indo-European language had three distinct sets of velar consonants:

  • Plain velars
  • Palatovelars
  • Labiovelars

For Melchert, PIE *ḱ > Luwian z (probably [ts]); *k > k; and *kʷ > ku (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".[18] It has been argued[who?] 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 BCE 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 concrete wheel, and so need not have 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.

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

Luwian possessive adjectives

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.[19] The possessive adjectives are pervasive in Kizzuwatna Luwian cuneiform texts, but in Iron Age texts in hieroglyphic transmission they compete with the inherited genitives.[20] The special form of possessive adjectives with plural possessor is restricted to Kizzuwatna Luwian and probably represents a result of its structural interference with Hurrian.[21]

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See also


  1. ^ Melchert 2003.
  2. ^ Widmer 2006; Palaeolexicon, Word study tool of ancient languages
  3. ^ Watkins 1994; id. 1995:144–51; Starke 1997; Melchert 2003; for the geography Hawkins 1998.
  4. ^ See e.g. Bryce in Melchert 2003:29–31; Singer 2005:435; Hawkins 2009:74.
  5. ^ Yakubovich 2010:107–17
  6. ^ Beekes 2003; cf. Melchert 2008b:154.
  7. ^ Melchert 2003, pp. 175-7 with ref; Melchert 2008a:46.
  8. ^ Watkins 1994; Watkins 1995:144–51; Melchert 2003, pp. 265-70 with ref.
  9. ^ Yakubovich 2010, p. 307
  10. ^ Melchert 2003, pp. 147-51
  11. ^ Luwian cuneiform texts are collected in Starke 1985
  12. ^ Laroche 1971, pp. 35-9
  13. ^ Yakubovich 2010, pp. 68-73
  14. ^ Melchert, H. Craig (2004), "Luvian", in Woodard, Roger D., The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the World's Ancient Languages, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-56256-2 
  15. ^ Melchert, H. Craig (1996), "Anatolian Hieroglyphs", in Daniels, Peter T.; Bright, William, The World's Writing Systems, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-507993-0 
  16. ^ Yakubovich 2010, pp. 140-57
  17. ^ Melchert 1987
  18. ^ Melchert 1993, p. 99
  19. ^ Yakubovich 2008
  20. ^ Melchert 2003 p. 171
  21. ^ Yakubovich 2010, pp. 45-53


  • Beekes, R. S. P. 2003. ‘Luwians and Lydians.’ Kadmos 42:47–9.
  • Hawkins, J. D. 1998. “Tarkasnawa King of Mira: ‘Tarkendemos’, Boğazköy Sealings, and Karabel.’ Anatolian Studies 48:1–31.
  • Hawkins, J. D. 2009. ‘The Arzawa letters in recent perspective.’ British Museum Studies in Ancient Egypt and Sudan 14:73–83.
  • Laroche, Emmanuel. Catalogue des textes hittites 1971.
  • Melchert, H. Craig. "PIE velars in Luvian." In Studies in memory of Warren Cowgill (1929–1985): Papers from the Fourth East Coast Indo-European Conference, Cornell University, June 6–9, 1985, ed. C. Watkins, 182–204. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1987.
  • Melchert, H. Craig. Cuneiform Luvian Lexicon. Chapel Hill: self-published, 1993.
  • Melchert, H. Craig. Anatolian Historical Phonology. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1994.
  • Melchert, H. Craig (ed). The Luwians. Boston: Brill Academic Publishers, 2003. ISBN 90-04-13009-8.
  • Melchert, H. C. 2008a. ‘Lycian’. In The Ancient Languages of Asia Minor, ed. R. D. Woodard, 46–55 at p. 46. Cambridge.
  • Melchert H. C. 2008b. 'Greek mólybdos as a loanword from Lydian.' In B. J. Collins et al., eds., Anatolian Interfaces, 153–7. Oxford.
  • Otten, Heinrich. Zur grammatikalischen und lexikalischen Bestimmung des Luvischen. Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1953.
  • Rosenkranz, Bernhard. Beiträge zur Erforschung des Luvischen. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1952.
  • Singer, I. 2005. ‘On Luwians and Hittites.’ Bibliotheca Orientalis 62:430–51. (Review article of Melchert 2003).
  • Starke, Frank. Die keilschrift-luwischen Texte in Umschrift (StBoT 30, 1985)
  • Starke, Frank. Untersuchungen zur Stammbildung des keilschrift-luwischen Nomens (StBoT 30, 1990)
  • Starke, Frank. 'Troia im Kontext des historisch-politischen und sprachlichen Umfeldes Kleinasiens im 2. Jahrtausend. Studia Troica 7:446–87.
  • Watkins, C.1994. ‘The Language of the Trojans.’ In Selected Writings, ed. L. Oliver et al., vol. 2. 700–717. Innsbruck. = Troy and the Trojan War. A Symposium held at Bryn Mawr College, October 1984, ed. M. Mellink, 45–62. Bryn Mawr.
  • Watkins, C. 1995. How to Kill a Dragon: Aspects of Indo-European Poetics. New York and Oxford.
  • Widmer, P. 2006. 'Mykenisch ru-wa-ni-jo, "Luwier".' Kadmos 45:82–84.
  • Woudhuizen, Fred. The Language of the Sea Peoples. Amsterdam: Najade Pres, 1992.
  • Yakubovich, Ilya. "The Origin of Luwian Possessive Adjectives". In Proceedings of the 19th Annual UCLA Indo-European Conference, Los Angeles, November 3–4, 2007, ed. K. Jones-Bley et al., Washington: Institute for the Study of Man, 2008.
  • Yakubovich, Ilya. Sociolinguistics of the Luvian Language. Leiden: Brill, 2010

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  • Luwian language — also called  Luvian  or  Luish        one of several ancient extinct Anatolian languages. The language is preserved in two closely related but distinct forms, one using cuneiform script and the other using hieroglyphic writing.       Luwian… …   Universalium

  • Luwian — /looh ee euhn/, n. 1. an extinct ancient Anatolian language written in cuneiform. adj. 2. of or pertaining to Luwian. [1920 25; Luwi nation of ancient Asia Minor + AN] * * * ▪ ancient Anatolian people also called  Luite        member of an… …   Universalium

  • Luwian — [lo͞o′vē ənlo͞o′wē ən] n. [< the native name] an extinct Anatolian language regarded as closely related to Hittite: also Luvian [lo͞o′vē ən] …   English World dictionary

  • Luwian — noun Etymology: Luwi, an ancient people of the southern coast of Asia Minor Date: 1924 an Anatolian language of the Indo European language family see Indo European languages table • Luwian adjective …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Luwian — noun an Anatolian language • Syn: ↑Luvian • Hypernyms: ↑Anatolian, ↑Anatolian language * * * Luwian var. Luvian n. and a …   Useful english dictionary

  • language — I (New American Roget s College Thesaurus) System of communication Nouns 1. language, tongue, lingo, vernacular, mother tongue, protolanguage; living or dead language; idiom, parlance, phraseology; wording; dialect, patois, cant, jargon, lingo,… …   English dictionary for students

  • Luwian — Lu•wi•an [[t]ˈlu i ən[/t]] n. 1) peo an extinct Indo European language of S Anatolia, contemporary with and closely related to Hittite, and attested in both cuneiform and a hieroglyphic script 2) of or pertaining to Luwian • Etymology: 1920–25;… …   From formal English to slang

  • Luwian — noun An extinct language of the Anatolian branch of the Indo European language family …   Wiktionary

  • language — Synonyms and related words: Abnaki, Afghan, Afghani, Afrikaans, Afro Asiatic, Ainu, Akan, Akkadian, Albanian, Aleut, Algonquian, Algonquin, Amharic, Anatolian, Anatolic, Andaman, Annamese, Anzanite, Apache, Arabic, Aramaic, Araucanian, Arawak,… …   Moby Thesaurus

  • Luwian — /ˈluwiən/ (say loohweeuhn) noun 1. an extinct Anatolian language. –adjective 2. of or relating to this language …  

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