Thracian language

From Academic Kids

The Thracian language was the Indo-European language spoken in ancient times by the Thracians.



As an extinct language that has no literature left, there's little known about it, but some Thracian words can be found cited in ancient texts [1] ( In addition there are many probable words extracted from names, toponyms, and names of rivers mentioned in ancient sources. A number of possible Thracian words are found in inscriptions (most of them written with Greek script) on buildings, coins, and other artifacts.


The Thracian language is generally considered to have belonged to the Satem group of Indo-European languages, and is usually considered to have been on the same language branch as the extinct Dacian language (viewed as a northern dialect of Thracian), though some Thracologists think Dacian may have been a separate language. Scholars also see a relation between Thracian and the ancient Macedonian language once spoken in Macedon.

Older models often linked Thracian to the Phrygian or Illyrian language, or to the Armenian language, but recent studies do not make such a connection apparent.

Relationships between Thracian and various living Indo-European languages have been proposed, but these connections are hard to prove, because not enough of the Thracian language has survived.

Connections to Albanian

Many Thracologists suggest that Thracian may be related to the Albanian language, and there are some cognates between Thracian and Albanian, but this may indicate only language interaction between the groups and not language affinity. There have been significant changes in the Albanian language since Thracian times, and a Thracian link is difficult to demonstrate. Still, the possible relation of Thracian to Albanian is given much consideration even today.

There are a restricted number of strong cognates between Thracian and Albanian: the Thracian inscription mezenai on the Duvanli gold ring has been unanimously linked to Albanian mz (=colt), as well as to Romanian mnz (=colt), and it is agreed that Thracian mezenai meant 'horseman'; Thracian manteia (=blackberry) is agreed to be cognate to Albanian man (=mulberry). It may also be connected to the Slavic mantiya (=cloak). Sorin Paliga, a linguist at the academy of Bucharest, recently linked Romanian buza (=lip) and Albanian buz (=lip) to the Thracian personal names Buzas, Buzo, Buzes. This word also exists in Macedonian (buza is also a Macedonian word for 'lip'). See Romanian substratum words.

Connections to Slavic and Baltic

In 1960 Vladimir Georgiev published his paper The Genesis of the Balkan peoples that proposed that Dacian and Thracian were on two different Indo-European branches. In 1975 Ivan Duridanov publishes his Ezikyt na trakite ('The Language of the Thracians' essay) in which a number of Thracian words (cited and conjectured) are given Balto-Slavic cognates and alleged Balto-Slavic cognates.

With the advent of the internet, Georgiev's and Duridanov's works have been popularized by web groups such as GeoCities and, so much so that Georgiev and Duridanov's publications on the Thracian language are probably the most well-known of such works available to the general public.

Using Duridanov's Ezikyt na trakite essay as his basis, in the late 1980s and 1990s the linguist Harvey E. Mayer claimed that the Thracian language was a Southern Baltoidic language, and he also claimed that Thracian and Dacian were not close to Slavic and Albanian. Mayer also stated that the proto-Slavs and Albanians were once "slaves" ruled by "Baltoidic masters". His work has been overall neglected by the linguistic community.

Contrary to the view that Thracian was close to Baltic, the linguist Mario Alinei recently (2003) published a paper that presents the claim that Thracian was much closer to Slavic than Baltic.

There is no agreement on whether Thracian was even very close to Balto-Slavic itself, let alone agreement on which of the two it was closest to. Most Thracologists place Thracian on its own Satem language branch, which may have shared a number of points in common with Balto-Slavic, Albanian, and Phrygian.

Though many cognates between Balto-Slavic and Thracian appear to exist, no conclusive evidence has arisen in support of a very close relation between Thracian and Balto-Slavic, and the longer Thracian inscriptions that exist (if indeed considered as Thracian) are not at all close to Baltic, Slavic, or any other known language [2] (, and in fact they have not been deciphered aside from a few words.

Thracian as a Centum language

Recently Sorin Olteanu, a Romanian linguist and thracologist, has proposed that the Thracian (as well as the Dacian) language was a Centum language in its earlier period, and developed satem features over time [3] ( One of the arguments for this idea is that there are many cognates between Thracian and Ancient Greek. There are also substratum words in the Romanian language that are cited as evidence of the genetic relationship of the Thracian language to ancient Greek and the ancient Macedonian language (the extinct language of Macedon), and perhaps to other Centum language branches.

Geographic distribution

Thracian was spoken in the territory of today's Bulgaria, Romania, Macedonia, Moldova, parts of Serbia and Hungary, Northern Greece and North-Western Turkey.


The most reliable Thracian words are the words which have been explicitly cited and described as Thracian by the ancient authors. There are not many such cited words. Elements appearing in typical Thracian two-component geographical names (for example, Poltymbria) are another source for the reconstructed vocabulary.

The Thracian vocabulary includes as well many more words whose meanings are conjectured, speculative, or disputed. Indeed, their status as actual words (as opposed to parts of words) is speculative in many cases. Most of the words are definitely of Indo-European origin. Some of the 21 cited Thracian words have been linked to Baltic words, and 1 of the 21 cited words has been linked to a Romanian word (Thracian brynchos, 'guitar'; Romanian broanca, 'stringed instrument') as well as a Russian word (the infinitive brynchati has a meaning of playing on a stringed instrument).

Another source for the Thracian vocabulary is words of unknown or uncertain etymology found in Bulgarian, Romanian, and Aromanian, which would be substratum words inherited from the Thracians.

See also

External links

The following links present a sample of the various hypotheses concerning the nature of the Thracian language.


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