|Spoken in:||Romania, Moldova, parts of Ukraine, Hungary, Serbia, and Northern Bulgaria|
|Language extinction:||probably by the sixth century AD|
|Language family:|| Indo-European|
|Note: This page may contain IPA phonetic symbols in Unicode. See IPA chart for English for an English-
based pronunciation key.
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The Dacian language was an Indo-European language spoken by the ancient people of Dacia. It is often considered to have been a northern variant of the Thracian language or closely related to it. (see Daco-Thracian)
Characteristics and sources
Many of the characteristics of the Dacian language are unknown and disputed. There are almost no written documents in Dacian. What is known of the language derives from:
- the toponyms, hydronyms, proper names (including names of kings)
- Dacian names of about fifty plants written in Greek and Roman sources (see List of Dacian plant names) -- however, an etymology has been established only for a few of them.
- the substratum words found in the current Romanian language, the language that is spoken in almost all the places Dacians lived: there are about 400 words with uncertain origin (like brânză=cheese, balaur=dragon, etc), about 160 of which have cognates in Albanian. These words may have entered Romanian from the Dacian language in ancient times.
- Dacian writings; Decebalus Per Scorilo is the longest inscription known. The Roman poet Ovid claimed that he learned the Dacian language after being exiled to Tomis (today Constanta) in Dacia. In his Tristia and Epistulae ex Ponto he claimed to have composed poems in the language - if this is true, they were not preserved.
Dacian used to be one of the major languages of South-Eastern Europe, stretching from what is now Eastern Hungary to the Black Sea shore. Based on archaeological findings, the origins of the Dacian culture are believed to be in Moldavia, being identified as an evolution of the Iron Age Basarabi culture.
Sound changes from PIE
In the 1950s, the Bulgarian linguist Vladimir Georgiev published his work which demonstrated that the phonology of the Dacian language is close to the phonology of Albanian, further supporting the theory that Dacian was on the same language branch as the Albanian language, a language branch termed Daco-Moesian (or Daco-Mysian), Moesian (or Mysian) being thought of as a transitional dialect between Dacian and Thracian.
There are cognates between Daco-Thracian and Albanian which may be evidence of the Daco-Thracian-Albanian language affinity, and many substratum words in Romanian have Albanian cognates.
Ancient Greek geographer Strabo claimed that the Getae spoke the same language as the Thracians. However, Georgiev argued that Dacian and Thracian are two different languages, with two different phonetic systems, his idea being supported by the placenames, which end in -dava in Dacian and Moesian, as opposed to -para, in Thracian placenames.
It is unclear exactly when the Dacian language became extinct, or even whether it has a living descendant. The initial Roman conquest of part of Dacia did not put an end to the language, as Free Dacian tribes such as the Carpi may have continued to speak Dacian in Moldavia and adjacent regions as late as the 6th or 7th century AD, still capable of leaving some influences in the forming Slavic languages.
- Another hypothesis considers Albanian to be a Daco-Moesian Dialect that split off from Dacian before 300 BC and that Dacian itself became extinct;
The argument for this early split (before 300BC) is the following: inherited Albanian words (Ex: Alb. motër 'sister' < Late IE ma:ter 'mother') shows the transformation Late IE /a:/ > Alb /o/, but all the Latin loans in Albanian having an /a:/ shows Latin a: > Alb a. This indicates that the transformation PAlb /a:/ > PAlb /o/ happened and ended before the Roman arrival in the Balkans. On the other hand, Romanian substratum words shared with Albanian show a Romanian /a/ that correspond to an Albanian /o/ when both sounds source is an original Common /a:/ (mazãre/modhull<*ma:dzula 'pea'; raţã/rosë<*ra:tya: 'duck') indicating that when these words have had the same Common form in Pre-Romanian and Proto-Albanian the transformation PAlb /a:/ > PAlb /o/ had not started yet. The correlation between these two facts indicates that the split between Pre-Romanian(the Dacians that were later Romanized) and Proto-Albanian happened before the Roman arrival in the Balkans.
- Another hypothesis connects Albanian not with Dacian, but with the Illyrian languages.
Dacian as the substratum of Proto-Romanian
The Dacian language may form the substratum of the Proto-Romanian language, which developed from the Vulgar Latin spoken in the Balkans north of the Jirecek line that roughly divides Latin influence from Greek influence.
Whether Dacian in fact forms the substratum of Proto-Romanian is disputed (see Origin of Romanians), yet this theory does not rely on the Romanization having occurred in Dacia, as Dacian was also spoken in Moesia, and as far south as northern Dardania. About 300 words in Eastern Romance (Romanian, Aromanian, Megleno-Romanian, Istro-Romanian) may derive from Dacian, and many of these show a satem-reflex, as one would expect in Daco-Thracian words (see Eastern Romance substratum).
- I. I. Russu, Limba traco-dacilor, Bucharest, Editura Ştiinţifică, 1967
- Vladimir Georgiev (Gheorghiev), Raporturile dintre limbile dacă, tracă şi frigiană, "Studii Clasice" Journal, II, 1960, 39-58
- Hadrian Daicoviciu, Dacii, Editura Enciclopedică Română, 1972