In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Italic Languages

  • Introduction
  • Venetic

Classics Italic Languages
Philip Baldi, Gabriel C.L.M. Bakkum
  • LAST REVIEWED: 11 October 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 June 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0045


The Italic languages are a group of cognate languages spoken throughout middle and southern Italy before the predominance of Rome. With the exception of Latin, they are known mainly from epigraphic sources ranging from the late 7th to the early 1st century BCE. The Italic language group is divided into two branches: one branch is represented by Latin and the closely related or even dialectal Faliscan and the other by a subgroup of languages that is usually referred to as the Sabellic or Sabellian languages. As an important member of the Indo-European language family, Latin enjoys a privileged status among languages for the amount of critical data it furnishes. And as one of the anchors of Western civilization, with Greek, Latin is one of the two most important languages in the history of the world. Between the two, Greek and Latin furnish more than 50 percent of the words found in an unabridged English dictionary. Greek borrowings have entered the language mainly as direct importations, usually in scientific terminology, whereas Latin borrowings have found their way into English mainly in the form of French words borrowed as a result of the Norman Conquest. The Sabellic languages, on the other hand, leave no such traces. When they were finally eclipsed by Latin during the period of Roman expansion, they ceased to be written down in any form, and they had no discernible influence on other languages of the region. A language with disputed membership in the Italic family is Venetic, known from about 350 inscriptions from the 6th to the 1st century BCE from the modern Veneto area, particularly from around the modern town of Este. Venetic shows a number of peculiar features but also has several, mainly morphological, similarities to the Italic languages. Whether or not Venetic is to be considered an Italic language and how this would change the generally accepted view of the subdivisions within the Italic family are points still under discussion. Within the confines of what is now called Italy, a number of other languages were spoken that, although for the most part Indo-European, do not belong to the Italic language family and are therefore not included in this bibliography. These are Etruscan (probably non-Indo-European); Ligurian, Lepontic (perhaps a Celtic language), Rhaetic, and (Gallic) Celtic; Messapic; Sicel and Elymic; and the immigrant languages South Italian Greek and Phoenician or Punic (Semitic).

The Italic Languages

Research on the Italic languages falls into several traditional publication outlets. Of course a major medium is that of periodicals, most of which are strictly peer-reviewed and where work of the highest quality is typically found. Another outlet for research on the Italic languages is survey monographs or collections, typically broad, even comprehensive treatments, global in scope. Finally, there are the collections, often focused on a theme, with multiple authors. All these publication outlets are represented in this bibliography.

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