Illyrian tribes in antiquity.
The Illyrian languages are a group of Indo-European languages that were spoken in the western part of the Balkans in former times by groups identified as Illyrians: Ardiaei, Delmatae, Pannonii, Autariates, Taulanti (see List of Illyrian tribes). Some sound-changes from Proto-Indo-European to Illyrian and other language features are deduced from what remains of the Illyrian languages, but because there are no examples of ancient Illyrian literature surviving (aside from the Messapian writings if they can be considered Illyrian), it is difficult to clarify its place within the Indo-European language family. Because of the uncertainty, most sources provisionally place Illyrian on its own branch of Indo-European, though its relation to other languages, ancient and modern, continues to be studied.
The Illyrian languages are part of the Indo-European language family. The relation of the Illyrian languages to other Indo-European languages ancient and modern is poorly understood due to the paucity of data and is still being examined. Today, the main source of authoritative information about the Illyrian language consists of a handful of Illyrian words cited in classical sources, and numerous examples of Illyrian anthroponyms, ethnonyms, toponyms and hydronyms.
Given the scarcity of the data it is difficult to identify the sound changes that have taken place in the Illyrian languages; the most widely accepted one is that the Indo-European voiced aspirates /b /, /d /, /g / became voiced consonants /b/, /d/, /g/.
A grouping of Illyrian with the Messapian language has been proposed for about a century, but remains an unproven hypothesis. The theory is based on classical sources, archaeology and onomastics. Messapian material culture bears a number of similarities to Illyrian material culture. Some Messapian anthroponyms have close Illyrian equivalents.
A grouping of Illyrian with the Venetic language and Liburnian language, once spoken in northeastern Italy and Liburnia respectively, has also been proposed. The consensus now is that Illyrian was quite distinct from Venetic and Liburnian.
Centum vs. Satem
In the absence of sufficient lexical data and texts written in the Illyrian languages, the theories supporting the Centum character of the Illyrian language have been based mainly on the Centum character of the Venetic language, which was thought to be related to Illyrian, in particular regarding Illyrian toponyms and names such as Vescleves, Acrabanus, Gentius, Clausal etc. The relation between Venetic and Illyrian was later discredited and they are no longer considered closely related.
Scholars supporting the Satem character of the Illyrian languages highlight particular toponyms and personal names such as Asamum, Birzinimum Zanatis etc. in which these scholars claim that there is clear evidence of the Satem character of the Illyrian language. They also point to other toponyms including Osseriates derived from /*eghero/ (lake) or Birziminium from PIE /*bherg^h/ or Asamum from PIE /*ak^-mo/ (sharp).
Regarding the Illyrian toponyms and personal names like Vescleves, Acrabanus, Gentius, Clausal, the supporters of the Centum character of the Illyrian language have tried to explain those names through comparison with other old documented IE languages, such as Sanksrit or Ancient Greek or reconstructed PIE. For example, Vescleves has been explained as PIE *wesu-k'leves (of good fame). Also, the name Acrabanus as a compound name has been compared with Ancient Greek /akros/ with no signs of palatalization. or Clausal has been related to /*klew/ (wash, rinse).
In all these cases the supporters of the Centum character of the Illyrian language consider PIE *k^ >/*k/ or PIE *g^>/*g/ followed by an /l/ or /r/ to be evidence of a Centum character of the Illyrian language. However, it has been shown that even in Albanian and Balto-Slavic, which are Satem languages, in this phonetical position the palatovelars have been generally depalatized (the depalatization of PIE *k^ >*k and *g^>*g before /r/ and /l/ regularly in Albanian).
Even the name Gentius or Genthius does not help to solve the problem since we have two Illyrian forms Genthius and Zanatis. If Gentius or Genthius derives from *g^en- (be born) this is proof of a Centum language, but if the name Zanatis is similarly generated (or from *g^en- know) than we have a Satem language. Another problem related to the name Gentius is the reason that nowadays it can not be stated surely if the initial /G/ of the sources was a palatovelar or a labiovelar.
Taking into account the absence of sufficient data and sometimes the dual nature of their interpretation the Centum/Satem character of the Illyrian language is still uncertain and requires more evidence.
Possible relation to Albanian
Beginning in the 18th century, a number of scholars have claimed that the modern Albanian language is descended from Illyrian. However, the Illyrian data, consisting mainly of hydronyms, toponyms, and personal names (some of them dubious and disputed) and appearing in no inscriptions, may not be sufficient to sustain any clear identification of linguistic affinities.
Cognates with Albanian
mal, "mountain"; cf. Alb mal
bardi, "white"; cf. Alb bardh 
drenis, "deer"; cf. Alb dre, dreni
delme (sheep); cf. Alb dele (sheep)
dard, "pear"; cf. Alb dardh 
s ca, "dagger"; cf. Alb thik or thika "knife"
Ulc-, "wolf" (pln. Ulcinium); cf. Alb ujk "wolf":
brisa, "husk of grapes"; cf. Alb b rs "lees, dregs; mash" (< PA *bruti )
lo geon, "pool"; cf. Alb lag, legen "to wet, soak, bathe, wash" (< PA *lauga), l gat "pool" (< PA *leugat ), lakshte "dew" (< PA laugista)
mant a "bramblebush"; Old and dial. Alb mand "berry, mulberry" (mod. Alb m n, man)
rhinos, "fog, mist"; cf. OAlb ren "cloud" (mod. Alb re, r ) (< PA *rina)
The Greeks were the first literate people to come into frequent contact with the speakers of Illyrian languages. Their conception of "Illyroi", however, differed from what the Romans would later call "Illyricum". The Greek term encompassed only the peoples who lived on the borders of Macedonia and Epirus. Pliny the Elder, in his work Natural History, applies a stricter usage of the term Illyrii when speaking of Illyrii proprie dicti ("Illyrians properly so-called") among the native communities in the south of Roman Dalmatia.
For a couple of centuries before and after the Roman conquest in the late 1st century BC, the concept of Illyricum expanded towards the west and north. Finally it encompassed all native peoples from the Adriatic to the Danube, inhabiting the Roman provinces of Dalmatia, Pannonia and Moesia, regardless of their ethnic and cultural differences. A passage in Appian's Illyrike stating that the Illyrians lived beyond Macedonia and Thrace, from Chaonia and Thesprotia to the Danube River, is representative of the broader usage of the term.
An extensive study of Illyrian names and territory was undertaken by Hans Krahe in the first decades of the twentieth century. He and other scholars argued for a broad distribution of Illyrian peoples considerably beyond the Balkans though in his later work, Krahe curbed his view of the extent of Illyrian settlement.
The further refinements of Illyrian onomastic provinces for that Illyrian area included in the later Roman province were proposed by G za Alf ldy. He identified five principal groups: (1) "real Illyrians" south of the river Neretva and extending south of the provincial boundary with Macedonia at the river Drin to include the Illyris of north and central Albania; (2) the Delmatae who occupied the middle Adriatic coast between the "real Illyrians" and the Liburni; (3) the Venetic Liburni of the northeast Adriatic; (4) the Japodes who dwelt north of the Delmatae and behind Liburni, where names reveal a mixture of Venetic, Celtic and Illyrian; and (5) the Pannonian people north in Bosnia, Northern Montenegro, and western Serbia.
These identifications were later challenged by Radoslav Kati i  who on the basis of personal names which occur commonly in Illyricum distinguished three dialect areas: (1) South-Eastern Illyrian, extending southwards from the southern part of Montenegro and including most of Albania west of the river Drin, though its demarcation to the south remains uncertain; (2) Central Illyrian consisting of most of ex-Yugoslavia, north of southern Montenegro to the west of Morava, excepting ancient Liburnia in the northwest, but perhaps extending into Pannonia in the north; (3) Liburnian, whose names resemble those of the Venetic territory to the northeast.
The onomastic differences between the South-Eastern and Central areas are not sufficient to show that two clearly differentiated dialects of Illyrian were in use in these areas. However, as Kati i has argued, the core onomastic area of Illyrian proper is to be located in the southeast of that Balkan region, traditionally associated with the Illyrians (centered in modern Albania).
Since there are no Illyrian texts, sources for identifying Illyrian words have been identified by Hans Krahe as being of four kinds: inscriptions, glosses of Illyrian words in classical texts, names including proper names (mostly inscribed on tombstones), toponyms and river names and Illyrian loanwords in other languages. The last category has proven particularly contentious. The names occur in sources that range over more than a millennium, including numismatic evidence, as well as posited original forms of placenames. There are no Illyrian inscriptions (Messapian inscriptions are treated separately, and there is no consensus that they are to be reckoned as Illyrian). The spearhead found at Kovel and thought by some to be Illyrian is considered by the majority of runologists to be Eastern Germanic, and most likely Gothic, while a votive inscription on a ring found near Shkod r which was initially interpreted as Illyrian was shown to actually be Byzantine Greek.
Only a few Illyrian words are cited in classical sources by Roman or Greek writers, and of these only four are identified with an ethnonym Illyrii or Illurio ; others must be identified by indirect means:
||PIE *h eng is
||Lat. anguis, Old High Germ. unc, Lith. ang s, Gk. chis "snake", echis "viper", Toch. auk "snake", Arm. auj, Russ. u , Skt. his, Av. a i
||PIE *b g-
||Phrygian bekos "bread", Eng. bake, Lat. focus "hearth", Old Ir. goba "blacksmith", Gk. ph gein "to roast", Armenian bosor "red", bots "flame"
||"husk of grapes"
||PIE *b ruti eh
||Alb. b rs "lees, dregs; mash", Eng. broth, Lat. defrutum "new wine boiled down", Welsh brwd "brewage", Old Ir. bruth "heat, wrath", Thrac. br tos "barley alcohol", br tion "wine must", Gk. ap phrysen "to seethe, boil", ? Lith. br sti "to mature, ripe", brendimas "ripening", also brinkti "to swell", brink mas "swelling" ?
||PIE *d u smi
||Skt. dh noti "he shakes", Gk. th ein "to rage, seethe", th eion "sulfur vapor", Eng. dizzy, Paeonian D alos "Dionysos", Lat. furere "to rage", belua "wild animal", Old Ir. d sacht "rage, fury", Lith. dv sti "to croak, perish, die (animals)", dvelksmas "breath, waft, aura", Hitt. tuhhai "to gasp", Rus. d hanije "breath, waft", duh "spirit, soul, mind, ghost, wind" also used to describe someone's "aliveness, breathing, willingness, meaningfullness, truthfulness", du "spirit, soul", also "heart, kindness, truthfulness", etc
||PIE *mendi os
||Alb. m z, m z "pony", Thrac. Mez nai "divine horseman", Mess. Iuppiter Menzanas (divinity)
||NGheg Alb. mand , Alb. m n, man "berry, mulberry"; borrowed into Romansch mani "raspberry"
||PIE *h rin Hti
||Old Alb. ren, mod. Alb. re, r "cloud", rij, r 'to make humid'; further to Gk. (Lesbian) or nein "to move", Old Ch. Slav. rin ti "to flow", Skt. ri -ti "to pour, let flow"
*sabaia, *sabaium, *sabaius
||"a type of beer"
||Eng. sap, Lat. sapere "to taste", Skt. sabar "sap, juice, nektar", Avestan vi pa "having poisonous juices", Arm ham, Gk. hapal s "tender, delicate", Old Ch. Slav. svept "bee's honey"; borrowed into Lat. and from there into Ital. zabaglione "frothy drink"
*sibina (Lat. sibyna ~ sybina); (Gk.), (Gk.), (Gk.), (Gk.)
||Festius, citing Ennius is compared to (Gk.), "flute case", a word found in Aristophanes' Thesmophoriazusai; the word appears in the context of a barbarian speaking
||"a hunting spear", generally, "a spear", "pike"
||Alb. thup r "bar, stick", Pers. z p n, Arm. s v n "a spit"
*sika (Lat. sica ~ sicca)
||First mentioned in Ennius (Annals, 5.540): Illyrii restant sicis sybinisque fodentes, of Illyrian soldiers; later used in Pliny to describe Thracian implements
||"curved knife, dagger"
||PIE * eh k eh
||Alb. thik 'knife', Old Ir. cath "wise", Lat. c s, (gen. c tis) "whetstone", catus "sharp, acute", Eng. hone, Arm. sur "sharp", srem "to sharpen", Avest. sa ni "pot", sal "slab, anvil", Skt. it "sharp"; borrowed into Lat. sicca "dagger", Lat. sicarii "assassins"
Some additional words have been extracted by linguists from toponyms, hydronyms, anthroponyms, etc.:
Agruvium "along the coast between Risinum and Butua": IE *a r-; cf. Skt. jra "pasture, field", Lat. ager, Gk. agr s, Goth. akrs
Bindus "river god"; cf. Old Ir. banne "drop", Skt. bind , vind "drops, gob, spot", possibly Lat. f ns Bandusiae
Bosona, "Bosna river", literally "running water": IE *bheg-, bhog- "to run"; cf. Old Ch. Slav. b ati "to flee, run", Lith. b gti "to flee", Gk. ph besthai "to flee", ph bos "fear", Alb. boj "to drive, mate", Eng. beck "brook, stream", Middle Ir. b al "flowing water", Hindi bh g "to flee"
- mons Bulsinus, "B anim hill": IE *b l kos; cf. Eng. balk, Middle Ir. blog "piece, fragment", Lat. fulcrum "bedpost", Gk. ph lanx "trunk, log", Lith. bal iena "crossbar", Serb. blaz na "roof beam", Skt. bhur j u "cart arms"
Derbano , Anderva: IE *derv; cf. Eng. tree, Alb. dru "wood", Old Ch. Slav. dr vo "tree", Rus. dj revo "tree, wood", Welsh derw "oak", Gk. d ry "wood, spear", dr s "oak, tree", Lith. derva "pine wood", Hitt. taru "tree, wood', Thrac. taru "spear", Skt. dru "tree, wood", daru "wood, log"
Diz ros, And z tes: IE *digh; cf. Eng. dough, Gk. te chos "wall", Lat. fingere "to shape, mold", Old Ir. com-od-ding "he builds, erects", Old Russ. d a "kneading trough", Arm. dez "heap", Skt. dehah "body, form"
Domator, personal name; cf. Old Ir. damnaid "he binds, breaks a horse", dam "ox", Eng. tame, dialectal Germ. zamer "ox not under the yoke", Alb. dem "young bull", Lat. dom re "to tame", domitor "tamer", Gk. d mn mi "to break in", d malos "calf", Skt. d my ti "he is tame; he tames"
Lo geon: Strabo in his Geography mentions "a marsh called Lougeon" (which has been identified as Lake Cerknica in Slovenia) by the locals (Illyrian and Celtic tribes), Lougeon being Strabo's rendition of the local toponym into Greek. cf. Alb. lag "to wet, soak, bathe, wash", l gat "pool", lug, Lith. li gas "pool", Old Ch. Slav. & Rus. lu a "pool", Rus. le tj "to lie, rest, lounge" & lo itj "to lay, put", Thrac. L ginos "river name"
- stagnus Morsianus "marshlands in Pannonia": IE *mer ; cf. Middle High Germ. murc "rotten, withered, boggy", Old Ir. meirc "rust", Alb. marth "to shiver, shudder", Lith. mark ti "to rust"
Naro: IE *nor; cf. Lith. n ras "diving duck; diver", Russ. nor "hole", Serbo-Croat. po-nor "abyss"
Nedinum: IE *ned; cf. Skt. nadas "roarer"
Oseriates, "lakes": IE *h1e ero; cf. Serb-Croat. j zero, Rus. zero, Lith. eras, Latvian z rs, Gk. Ach r n "river in the underworld"
Pelso (Latin authors referred to modern Lake Balaton as "lacus Pelso", Pelso being a hydronym from the local inhabitants), Pelso apparently meant "deep" or "shallow": IE *pels-; cf. Czech pleso "deep place in a river, lake", Welsh bwlch "crack", Arm. pelem "to dig"
Tergitio, "merchant"; Alb. tregtar (from treg, market), cf. Old Ch. Slav. tr g (Serbo-Croat t g) "market", Rus. torg "bargain", Lith. t rgus, Latv. tirgus, Swed. torg. This group is considered to be cognate with the Italian city name of Trieste
Teuta, Teutana: IE *teuta- "people"; cf. Lith. tauta "people", Germ. Deutsch "German", Old Eng. theod "people", Old Ir. t ath "clan", Umbrian tota "people", Oscan touto "city", Hitt. tuzzi "army"
T maros, Tomorr mountain; cf. Old Ir. temel "darkness", Middle Ir. teimen "dark grey", Old High Germ. demar "darkness", dinstar "dark", Lat. tenebrae "darkness", temere "by chance, rashly", Skt. tamas "darkness", tamsrah "dark", Old Ch. Slav. tima "darkness", Rus. tjma or tj menj "darkness, gloom, obscurity", tjenj "shadow", Lith. tams "darkness"
Ulcisus mons, Ulcinium (city), Ulcisia castra; cf. Eng. wolf, Old Alb. ulk, Alb. ujk, Avestan v hrk , Persian gurg, Skt. v kas, Old Ch. Slav. vl k , Russ. volk, vol ca, Lith. vil kas, Lat. lupus, Gk. l kos
Volcos, river name in Pannonia; cf. Old Ir. folc "heavy rain, wet weather", Welsh golchi "to wash", obsolete Eng. welkin "cloud", Old High Germ. welk "moist", Old Ch. Slav. & Rus. vlaga "moisture, plant juice", ? v lg k "wet", Latv val gums "wetness", Alb ulmej "to dampen, wet"
The following anthroponyms derive from Illyrian or are not yet connected with another language unless noted, such as the Delmatae names of Liburnian origin. Alf ldy identified five principal onomastic provinces within the Illyrian area: 1) the "real" Illyrians south of the river Neretva in Dalmatia and extending south to Epirus; 2) the Delmatae, who occupied the middle Adriatic coast between the "real Illyrians" to the south and the Liburni to the north; 3) the Liburni, a branch of Venetic in the northeast Adriatic; 4) the Iapodes, who dwelt north of the Delmatae and behind (inland from) the coastal Liburnians; 5) the Pannonians in the northern lands, and in Bosnia, northern Montenegro and Western Serbia. Kati i does not recognize a separate Pannonian onomastic area, and includes the Pannoni with the Delmatae. Below, names from four of Alf ldy's five onomastic areas are listed, Liburnian excluded, having been identified as being akin to Venetic. A Dardanian area is also detailed.
- Andena (f., attested at Dyrrhachium), Andes, Andis, Andio, Andia
- Antis (f.)
- Bato, Batina, Batouna (perhaps means to strike similar to Latin battuere)
- Blodus, Bledis
- Boria, Bora
Cleitus/Kleitos (from Greek)
- Dazaios, Dazas, Dazos
- Epe(n)tinus (attested at Dyrrhachium; the name is adjectival, meaning "from Epetium", a town now known as Strobe )
- Genthena, Genthios, Gentius
Glaukias (from Greek)
Plator (in Liburnian as Plaetor; Venetic Plaetorius, cp. Latin Plaetorius)
- Temus, Temeia
Teuta, Teutana means Queen in Illyrian.
- Tito, Titus (also the Illyrian name of the river Krka)
Hundreds of Delmatae names have been recorded. Characteristic names include:
- Aplis, Apludus, Aplus, Aplius
- Beusas, Beuzas
- Paio, Paiio
- Panes, Panias, Panius (or Pantus, inscription unclear), Panentius
- Pant(h)ia/Panto (f.)
- Seio, Seiio
- Statanius, Staticus, Stato, Status
- Sestus, Sextus, Sexto
Delmatae names in common with the Pannoni (some also occur among the south Illyrians):
- Dasas, Dazas
- Plator, Platino
- Scenobarbus, Scenobardos (?)
Some Delmatae names probably originate from the Liburnians. This conclusion is based on the Liburnian suffixes: -icus, -ica, -ocus, -ico; and from the distribution of the names among the Liburni/Veneti, and from their absence or scarcity in other onomastic areas:
- Germanicus (the native Delmatae stem Germanus, Germus, with the Venetic/Liburnian -icus suffix)
From the southern Illyrians, the names Boria, Epicadus, Laedicalius, Loiscus, Pinnes and Tato and some others are present. From the Iapodes, Diteio and Ve(n)do, and a few names of Celtic origin (not shown here).
Some names attested among the Pannoni:
- Bato (also common among the Delmatae)
- Dasas, Dasius (also common among the Delmatae)
- Scenobarbus (also common among the Delmatae)
The following names are confined to the Pannonian onomastic province:
- Arsa (possibly Thacian)
- Iauletis (genitive)
- Vietis (genitive)
Names attested among the Colapiani, an Illyric tribe of Pannonia:
Among the Jasi: Scenus. The Breuci: Scilus Bato (first and last name), Blaedarus, Dasmenus, Dasius, Surco, Sassaius, Liccaius, Lensus. The Amantini, the Scordisci: Terco, Precio, Dases, Dasmenus.
- Dasius, Latin form of a Messapic name from southern Italy.
The following names of gods (theonyms) derive from possibly several languages (Liburnian, Illyrian, etc.) and are names of gods worshipped by the Illyrians. We must note that they are known through Interpretatio romana and their names may have been corrupted.
The Ancient Greek language would have become an important external influence on Illyrian-speakers who occupied lands adjacent to ancient Greek colonies, mainly on the Adriatic coast. The Taulantii and the Bylliones had, according to Strabo, become bilingual. Invading Celts who settled on lands occupied by Illyrians brought the Illyrians into contact with the Celtic languages and some tribes were Celticized especially those in Dalmatia and the Pannoni. Intensive contact may have happened in what is now Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia. Due to this intensive contact, and because of conflicting classical sources, it is unclear whether some ancient tribes were Illyrian or Celtic (ex: Scordisci). or mixed in varying degree. Thracians and Paeonians also occupied lands populated by Illyrians, bringing Illyrians into contact with the Thracian language and Paeonian language.
The following Illyrian names, most of which occur in inscriptions from the upper Neretva river valley near Konjic in Bosnia, derive from Celtic:
- Ammida (questionable associations)
- Argurianus (Thracian or Celtic)
- Matera (questionable associations)
- Mellito (Greek and Celtic)
- Pinenta (possible)
- Seneca (questionable associations)
The following names derive from Thracian:
- Argurianus (Thracian or Celtic)
The following names may derive from Greek:
Agron, (" ", "prey" or " ", "wild country")
Ceraunii, tribal exonym, (" , "Thunderbolt-men)"
Cleitus, (" ", "renowned man")
Enchelei, tribal exonym, (" ", "Eel-men" from "eel")
Glaukias, (" ", "gleaming man")
Illyrians, ( ), tribal exonym
- Mellito (Greek and Celtic), (" ", "like honey")
Plator, (" ", "wide man")
Pleuratus, (" ", 'side')
- Thana, (" ", "death")
The Illyrian languages were likely extinct between the 2nd and 6th centuries AD. However, it is also possible that Illyrian was preserved and spoken in the countryside as attested in the 4th-5th century testimonies of St. Jerome.
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