Ligurian language

Ligurian language

The Ligurian language was spoken in pre-Roman times and into the Roman era by an ancient people of north-western Italy and south-eastern France known as the Ligures. Very little is known about this language (mainly place names and personal names remain) which is generally believed to have been Indo-European; it appears to have shared many features with other Indo-European languages, primarily Celtic (Gaulish) and Italic (Latin and the Osco-Umbrian languages).

Xavier Delamarre argues that Ligurian was a Celtic language, similar to but not the same as Gaulish. His argument hinges on two points: firstly, the Ligurian place-name "Genua" (modern Genoa, located near a river mouth) is claimed by Delamarre to derive from PIE *"genu-", "chin(bone)". Many Indo-European languages use 'mouth' to mean the part of a river which meets the sea or a lake, but it is only in Celtic that reflexes of PIE *"genu-" mean 'mouth'. Besides Genua, which is considered Ligurian (Delamarre 2003, p. 177), this is found also in "Genava" (modern Geneva), which may be Gaulish. However, "Genua" and "Genava" may well derive from another PIE root with the form *"genu-", which means "knee" (so in Pokorny, IEW [] ).

Delamarre's second point is Plutarch's mention (Marius 10, 5-6) that during the Battle of Aquae Sextiae in 102 BC, the Ambrones (who may have been a Celtic tribe) began to shout "Ambrones!" as their battle-cry; the Ligurian troops fighting for the Romans, on hearing this cry, found that it was identical to an ancient name in their country which the Ligurians often used when speaking of their descent ("outôs kata genos onomazousi Ligues"), so they returned the shout, "Ambrones!".

Delamarre points out a risk of circular logic - if it is believed that the Ligurians are non-Celtic, and if many place names and tribal names that classical authors state are Ligurian seem to be Celtic, it is incorrect to discard all the Celtic ones when collecting Ligurian words and to use this edited corpus to demonstrate that Ligurian is non-Celtic or non-Indo-European.

Strabo on the other hand states "As for the Alps... Many tribes (éthnê) occupy these mountains, all Celtic (Keltikà) except the Ligurians; but while these Ligurians belong to a different people (hetero-ethneis), still they are similar to the Celts in their modes of life (bíois)."

The Ligurian-Celtic question is also discussed by Barruol (1999).

Herodotus (5.9) wrote that "sigunnai" meant 'hucksters, peddlers' among the Ligurians who lived above Massilia.

ee also



* Barruol, G. (1999) "Les peuples pré-romains du sud-est de la Gaule - Etude de géographie historique", 2d ed., Paris
* Delamarre, X. (2003). Dictionaire de la Langue Gauloise (2nd ed.). Paris: Editions Errance. ISBN 2877722376
* Strabo (1917) "The Geography of Strabo I". Horace Jones, translator. Loeb Classical Library. London, William Heineman.

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