|Language extinction:||Fifth century|
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Excluding Dacian, whose status as a Thracian language is disputed, Thracian was spoken in substantial numbers in what is now southern Bulgaria, parts of Serbia, the Republic of Macedonia, Northern Greece (especially prior to Ancient Macedonian expansion), throughout Thrace (including European Turkey) and in parts of Bithynia (North-Western Asiatic Turkey).
As an extinct language with only a few short inscriptions attributed to it (see below), there is little known about the Thracian language, but a number of features are agreed upon. Some Thracian words can be found cited in ancient texts (this list excludes Dacian plant names which however are sometimes included):
- asa — A Bessian word for the Coltsfoot.
- bolinthos — "wild bull, Mac. vol "a bull", bison", English bull
- bria — "town"
- brynchos — "guitar"; cf. Romanian broancă "a stringed instrument", Russian brenčat' "play on a stringed instrument", Polish brzek "ringing, tinkle", Mac. brumchi "a ringing sound"
- brytos, bryton, brutos, bryttion — "a kind of ale made from barley" ; cf. E broth, Welsh brwd "brewage", Lat defrutum "must boiled down", Gk apéphrysen "to seethe, boil",Slavic vriti "to seethe, boil" vrutok "strong spring, boiling water", Skt bhurati "he quivers", Alb brumë "dough"
- dinupula, *sinupyla — "wild pumpkin"; cf. Bul. and Mac. dinya a watermelon, Lith šúnobuolas wild pumpkin, Alb thënukël dogberry
- genton — "meat"
- kalamindar — "plane tree"
- kemos — "a kind of fruit with follicles"
- ktistai — "Thracians living in celibacy, monks"
- mendruta — a Moesian name for the beet or alternately the False Helleborine, Veratrum nigrum
- rhomphaia — "a spear"; later the meaning "sword" is attested, Mac. rophia " a lightning", "God's sword"
- skalme — "a knife, a sword"
- skarke — "a coin"
- spinos — "a stone which burns when water is poured on it"
- torelle — "a lament, a song of mourning"
- zalmos, zelmis — "a hide, skin" ; cf. G Helm "helmet", Lith šálmas, OPruss salmis "helmet", OSl šlĕmŭ, Skt śárman "cover"
- zeira, zira — "a type of upper garment"
- zelas — "wine"; Russian zelye "a fermented or witch's brew",
- zetraia — "a pot"; Grk. χύτρα "pot"
- zibythides — "the noble Thracian men and women", Lith. zhibut "fire, light" Mac. and Serb. shibytsa "a lightening stick".
In addition there are many words and probable words extracted from anthroponyms, toponyms, hydronyms, oronyms and other lexical elements found in ancient and Byzantine sources (see also List of ancient Thracian cities):
- -disza, -diza, -dizos — "a fortified settlement" compare to Slavic zidati, sozidati, (po)dizati "to build"
- -para, -pera, -paron, etc. — "a town"
A number of probable Thracian words are found in inscriptions (most of them written with Greek script) on buildings, coins, and other artifacts (see inscriptions below).
Another source for the Thracian vocabulary are words of unknown or disputed etymology found in Bulgarian and Macedonian(see Bulgarian lexis)as well as Romanian (see Eastern Romance substratum). Albanian is sometimes regarded as a descendant of Dacian or Thracian, or as a descendant of Illyrian with a Daco-Thracic admixture; thus the Albanian lexis is another source.
Thracian words in the Ancient Greek lexicon are also proposed. Greek lexical elements may derive from Thracian, such as balios ("dappled"; < PIE *bhel-, "to shine"; Pokorny also cites Illyrian as a possible source), bounos, "hill, mound", etc.
Only four Thracian insciptions have been found. One is a gold ring found in 1912 in the town of Ezerovo, Bulgaria. The ring was dated to the 5th century BC. On the ring is an inscription written in a Greek script which says:
- ΡΟΛΙΣΤΕΝΕΑΣΝ / ΕΡΕΝΕΑΤΙΛ / ΤΕΑΝΗΣΚΟΑ / ΡΑΖΕΑΔΟΜ / ΕΑΝΤΙΛΕΖΥ / ΠΤΑΜΙΗΕ / ΡΑΖ / ΗΛΤΑ
- rolisteneasn /ereneatil / teanēskoa / razeadom / eantilezu / ptamiēe / raz / ēlta
The meaning of the inscription is not known, and it bears no resemblance to any known language. Thracologists such as Georgiev and Dechev have proposed various translations for the inscription but these are just guesses.
A second inscription was found in 1965 near the village of Kjolmen, Preslav district, dating to the sixth century BC. It consists of 56 letters of the Greek alphabet, probably a tomb stele inscription similar to the Phrygian ones:
- ΕΒΑΡ. ΖΕΣΑΣΝ ΗΝΕΤΕΣΑ ΙΓΕΚ.Α / ΝΒΛΑΒΑΗΕΓΝ / ΝΥΑΣΝΛΕΤΕΔΝΥΕΔΝΕΙΝΔΑΚΑΤΡ.Σ
- ebar. zesasn ēnetesa igek. a / nblabaēgn / nuasnletednuedneindakatr.s
A third inscription is again on a ring, found in Duvanli, Plovdiv district, next to the left hand of a skeleton. It dates to the 5th century BC. The ring has the image of a horseman with the inscription surrounding the image. It is only partly legible (16 out of the initial 21)
- ΗΖΙΗ ..... ΔΕΛΕ / ΜΕΖΗΝΑΙ
- ēziē ..... dele / mezēnai
These are the longest inscriptions preserved. The remaining ones are mostly single words or names on vessels and other artefacts. In addition, Thracian lexical elements have been drawn from inscriptions in Greek or Latin.
In a Latin inscription from Rome discussing a citizen from the Roman province of Thracia, the phrase Midne potelense is found; this is interpreted as indicating the Thracian's place of origin, midne being seen as the Thracian equivalent of Latin vicus, "village". If this is correct, the Thracian word has a close cognate (Latv. mitne, "a dwelling") in Latvian, a Baltic language.It could be connected also to the Bulgarian term for dwelling place "mitnitsa".
- Greek language
- Dacian language
- Illyrian languages
- Paionian language
- Phrygian language
- Ancient Macedonian language
- I. I. Russu, Limba Traco-Dacilor / Die Sprache der Thrako-Daker, Bucharest (1967, 1969)