Umbrian language
Italic mapUmbrians inhabited the north-eastern Italian districts and were in close contact with Etruscan civilization and with other non-Indo-European peoples of Italy. That caused some changes in the language which did not happened not only in Latin, but even in Umbrian closest relative Oscan. Umbrian relative languages were also Volscian, Picene (believed to be first non-Indo-European, then assimilated) and Auruncan. Some dialects in Central Italy bore some Umbrian features as well as Latin.

Umbrian phonetics lost some of Indo-European vowels, practically all diphthongs, and it had a strong tendency for disappearance of final consonants. Final -d was lost, s between vowels and in final position became r under the rotacism law (it was much stronger than in Latin). Two strange sounds were invented, which are still being discussed by linguistics: a sibilant which was used instead of k between vowels, and a sound which is transcribed as [] and was transliterated by Romans as rs - maybe like in Chech diacritical r. This sound was sometimed used in intervocal position (between vowels) instead of original d.

The Umbrian alphabet is likewise of Etruscan origin. The letters T and K served for the /t/ and /k/ sounds as well as the /d/ and /g/ ones. A modified R, much like a capital P, denoted a sound which was transliterated in Latin as RS. One new symbol was used for a sibilant Ç.

Umbrian morphology was much alike Oscan, and changes did not influence it. But some linguists note that Umbrian was the most progressive of Italic tongues, and there was a trend of losing some flexions and complex verb forms. Umbrian was the first to influence Latin, as it did not disappear in first centuries AD, and many guess, that this language was one of the main mothertongues of Popular Latin. But Latin after all assimilated Umbrians, and we can judge about the language using just ancient texts, of which the Iguvian Tables are the main source. Umbrian grammar is very interesting and will be soon published here in our Indo-European Grammars section.

Umbrian Links