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The Phrygian language was the Indo-European language of the Phrygians, a people who probably migrated from Thrace to Asia Minor in the Bronze Age, possibly during the Sea Peoples migrations of ca 1200 BC.
Phrygian is attested by two corpora, one from around 800 BC and later (Paleo-Phrygian), and then after a period of several centuries from around the beginning of the Common Era (Neo-Phrygian). The Palaeo-Phrygian corpus is further divided (geographically) into inscriptions of Midas-city (M, W), Gordion, Central (C), Bithynia (B), Pteria (P), Tyana (T), Daskyleion (Dask), Bayindir (Bay), and "various" (Dd, documents divers). The Mysian inscriptions seem to be in a separate dialect (in an alphabet with an additional letter, "Mysian s").
Ancient historians and myths sometimes did associate with Thracian and maybe even the Armenian, on grounds of classical sources. Herodotus recorded the Macedonian account that Phrygians emigrated into Asia Minor from Thrace (7.73). Later in the text (7.73), Herodotus states that the Armenians were colonists of the Phrygians, still considered the same ethnos in the time of Xerxes I. The earliest mention of Phrygian in Greek sources, in the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite, depicts it as different from Trojan: in the hymn, Aphrodite, disguising herself as a mortal to seduce the Trojan prince Anchises, tells him
- "Otreus of famous name is my father, if so be you have heard of him, and he reigns over all Phrygia rich in fortresses. But I know your speech well beside my own, for a Trojan nurse brought me up at home." Of Trojan, unfortunately, nothing is known.
The Phrygian language was most likely close to Thracian, Armenian and Greek. In most cases the Phrygian language used an alphabet originating with the Phoenicians. The available inscriptions in the Phrygian language have not yet been translated. Inscriptions which used a script close to the Greek, have been translated, and some of the Phrygian vocabulary identified.
Its structure, what can be recovered from it, was typically Indo-European, with nouns declined for case (at least four), gender (three) and number (singular and plural), while the verbs are conjugated for tense, voice, mood, person and number. No single word is attested in all its inflectional forms.
Many words in Phrygian are very similar to the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European language (PIE). Phrygian seems to exhibit an augment, like Greek and Armenian, c.f. eberet, probably corresponding to PIE *e-bher-e-t (Greek epheret).
A sizable body of Phrygian words are theoretically known; however, the meaning and etymologies and even correct forms of many Phrygian words (mostly extracted from inscriptions) are still being debated.
A famous Phrygian word is bekos, meaning "bread". According to Herodotus (Histories 2.9) Pharaoh Psammetichus I wanted to establish the original language. For this purpose, he ordered two children to be reared by a shepherd, forbidding him to let them hear a single word, and charging him to report the children's first utterance. After two years, the shepherd reported that on entering their chamber, the children came up to him, extending their hands, calling bekos. Upon enquiry, the pharaoh discovered that this was the Phrygian word for "wheat bread", after which the Egyptians conceded that the Phrygian nation was older than theirs. The word bekos is also attested several times in Palaeo-Phrygian inscriptions on funerary stelae. It was suggested that it is cognate to English bake, from PIE *bheh3g (Greek phōgō "to roast", Latin focus "fireplace", Armenian bosor "red", bots "flame", Irish goba "smith").
Bedu according to Clement of Alexandria's Stromata, quoting one Neanthus of Cyzicus means "water" (PIE *wed). The Macedonians are said to have worshipped a god called Bedu, which they interpreted as "air". The god appears also in Orphic ritual.
Other Phrygian words include:
- anar, 'husband', from PIE *ner- 'man';
- attagos, 'goat';
- cf. Gk: tragos (τράγος) "goat", Arm: tik "leather skin", Ger: Ziege "she-goat", Alb: dhi "she-goat".
- balaios, 'large, fast', from PIE *bel- 'strong';
- cognate to Gk: belteros (βέλτερος) "better", Rus: bol'shói "large, great", Welsh: balch "proud"
- belte, 'swamp', from PIE *bhel-, 'to gleam';
- cognate to Gk: baltos (βάλτος) "swamp", Alb: baltë (silt, mud), Bulg: blato (Old Bulg: balta) "swamp", Lith: baltas "white", Rus: bledny "pale".
- brater, 'brother', from PIE *bhrater-, 'brother';
- cognate to Gk: phrātēr (φρατήρ) "clansman, kin", Arm: ełbair "brother", Bulg: brat "brother".
- daket, 'does, causes', PIE *dhe-k-, 'to set, put';
- cognate to Lat: facere "to do, make", Gk: tithenai (τιθέναι) "to put, place, set", Arm: dnem "I place".
- germe, 'warm', PIE *gwher-, 'warm';
- cognate to Gk: thermos (θερμός) "warm", Arm: ĵerm "warm", Alb: zjarm "warm".
- kakon, 'harm, ill', PIE *kaka-, 'harm';
- cf. Gk: kakós (κακός) "bad", Alb: keq "bad, evil", Lith: keñti "to be evil".
- knoumane, 'grave', maybe from PIE *knu-, 'to scratch';
- cognate to Gk: knaō (κνάω) "to scratch", Alb: krromë "scurf, scabies", OHG: hnuo "notch, groove", nuoen "to smooth out with a scraper", Lith: knisti "to dig".
- manka, 'stela'.
- mater, 'mother', from PIE *mater-, 'mother';
- cf. Gk: meter (μήτηρ) "mother", Arm: mair, Alb: motër "sister"
- meka, 'great', from PIE *meg-, 'great';
- Gk: megas "great"; Arm: mets "big, great", Alb: madh.
- zamelon, 'slave', PIE *dhghom-, 'earth';
- Gk: chamelos (χαμηλός) "adj. on the ground, low", Srb/Cro: zèmlja "earth", Lat: humilis "low".
- Alphabets of Asia Minor
- Greek language
- Paleo Balkan languages
- Ancient Macedonian language
- Thracian language
- Armenian language