Dacian language: Wikis


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Spoken in Romania, Moldova, parts of Ukraine, Hungary, Serbia, and Northern Bulgaria
Language extinction probably by the sixth century AD
Language family Indo-European
Language codes
ISO 639-1 None
ISO 639-2 ine
ISO 639-3 xdc

Indo-European topics

Indo-European languages (list)
Albanian · Armenian · Baltic
Celtic · Germanic · Greek
Indo-Iranian (Indo-Aryan, Iranian)
Italic · Slavic  

extinct: Anatolian · Paleo-Balkans (Dacian,
Phrygian, Thracian) · Tocharian

Indo-European peoples
Europe: Balts · Slavs · Albanians · Italics · Celts · Germanic peoples · Greeks · Paleo-Balkans (Illyrians · Thracians · Dacians) ·

Asia: Anatolians (Hittites, Luwians)  · Armenians  · Indo-Iranians (Iranians · Indo-Aryans)  · Tocharians  

Language · Society · Religion
Urheimat hypotheses
Kurgan hypothesis
Anatolia · Armenia · India · PCT
Indo-European studies

The Dacian language was spoken by the ancient inhabitants of Dacia. It belongs to the Indo-European language family.

Dacian is often considered to be a dialect of the same language as Thracian or to be a separate language from Thracian but closely related to it. (See Daco-Thracian.)


Characteristics and sources

Many characteristics of the Dacian language are disputed or unknown. No Dacian inscriptions survive, save names using the Latin alphabet. What is known about the language derives from:

  • The Roman poet Ovid claimed that he learned the Dacian language after being exiled to Tomis (today Constanţa) in Dacia. In his Tristia and Epistulae ex Ponto he claimed to have composed poems in the language. If this is true, they have not been preserved.

Testimonies about a written form of the ancient Dacian language are the followings

  • Iamblicus (280-333 AD)“For instructing the Getae in these things, and for having written laws for them, Zalmoxis was by them considered as the greatest of the gods”[2]
  • Jordanes (550 AD) about high priest Deceneu "by imparting a knowledge of physics he made them live naturally under laws of their own, which they possess in written form to this day and call belagines."[3]

Geographic distribution

Dacian used to be one of the major languages of South-Eastern Europe, spoken from what is now Eastern Hungary to the Black Sea shore.

Pliny, Justinian, Appianus, Strabo and Mela [4] assert that Dacians and Getae were the same people and/or speaking the same language. Strabo testimony speaks about one country (n.a. Dacia) as it follows: “But there is also another division of the country which has endured from early times, for some of the people are called Daci, whereas others are called Getae — Getae, those who incline towards the Pontus and the east, and Daci, those who incline in the opposite direction towards Germany and the sources of the Ister.[5]“ A Pliny testimony confirmed by others gives the Vistula as the western boundary of Dacia (there is no reason to doubt its mention in connection to Germany)[6] Based on archaeological findings, the origins of the Dacian culture are believed to lie in Moldavia, being identified as an evolution of the Iron Age Basarabi culture.

Sound changes from Proto-Indo-European

Dacian was a satem language.


In the 1950s the Bulgarian linguist Vladimir Georgiev published a work[7] in which he argued that the phonology of Getae-Dacian is close to that of Albanian, 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. These cognates may be evidence of a Daco-Thracian-Albanian language affinity.

The ancient Greek geographer Strabo claimed that the Getae spoke the same language as the Thracians.[8] However, Georgiev argued that Dacian and Thracian are two different languages, with two different phonetic systems, supporting this view with the evidence of placenames, which end in -dava in Dacian and Moesian, as opposed to -para in Thracian placenames.[7] (See List of Dacian cities and List of ancient Thracian cities.)

The fate of Dacian

A map showing a theoretical scenario, the Albanians as a migrant Dacian people.

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 and Costoboci may have continued to speak Dacian in the area northeast of the Carpathians (in the areas of modern Moldova and Ukraine) as late as the 6th or 7th century AD.

  • 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 300 BC) is the following: Inherited Albanian words (e.g. Alb motër 'sister' < Late IE ma:ter 'mother') show the transformation Late IE /a:/ > Alb /o/, but all the Latin loans in Albanian having an /a:/ show 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 corresponds to an Albanian /o/ when the source of both sounds is an original Common /a:/ (mazăre / modhull < *ma:dzula 'pea', raţă / rosë < *ra:tya: 'duck'), indicating that when these words had the same Common form in Pre-Romanian and Proto-Albanian the transformation PAlb /a:/ > PAlb /o/ had not yet begun.

The correlation between these two facts indicates that the split between the Pre-Roman Dacians (those Dacians who were later Romanized) and Proto-Albanian happened before the Roman arrival in the Balkans.

Substratum of Proto-Romanian

Main article: Eastern Romance substratum
Blue=lands conquered by the Roman Empire.
Red = area populated by Free Dacians.
Language map based on the range of Dacian toponyms.

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, which roughly divides Latin influence from Greek influence.

Whether Dacian in fact forms the substratum of Proto-Romanian is disputed (see Origin of the 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.

In Romanian culture

The Romanian philologist Nicolae Densuşianu argued in his book Dacia Preistorică (Prehistoric Dacia) that Latin and Dacian were the same language or mutually intelligible dialects. His work was disregarded by mainstream linguists as pseudoscience, but it was revived by the Nicolae Ceauşescu regime, which encouraged an ideology called Protochronism and stressed the important role of the Dacians in the creation of the modern Romanian people.

The first article to revive Densuşianu's theory was an unsigned article named "The Beginnings of the History of the Romanian People" published in Anale de istorie[9], a journal published by the Romanian Communist Party's "Institute of History of the Party".[10]

The article claims that the Thracian language was a pre-Romance or Latin language using a demonstration which Lucian Boia describes as "a lack of basic professionalism and a straightforward contempt for the truth". Arguments used in the article include the lack of interpreters between the Dacians and the Romans, as depicted on the bas-reliefs of Trajan's column.[10] The bibliography includes, apart from Densuşianu, the work of a French academician Louis Armand (who is in fact an engineer), who allegedly showed that "the Thraco-Dacians spoke a pre-Romance language". Similar arguments are found in Iosif Constantin Drăgan's We, the Thracians (1976).[10]

This generated a great interest on researching of history of Dacia and many (often non-rigorous) works were published, among them Ion Horaţiu Crişan's "Burebista and His Age" (1975), who concluded the need of writing a monograph on the subject of "Dacian philosophy".[10] There were voices claiming the need of reconstructing the language and of the creation of a Dacian Language department at the University of Bucharest, but such proposals failed because of the lack of the object of study.[10]

After the 1989 Romanian Revolution, this theory continued being supported by Drăgan and the New York City-based physician Napoleon Săvescu, who published a book named We are not Rome's Descendents.[11] Together, they issue the magazine Noi, Dacii ("Us Dacians") and organize a yearly "International Congress of Dacology".[12]

See also


  1. ^ Daicoviciu, p.27
  2. ^ Iamblicus in The Complete Pythagoras by Patrick Rousell
  3. ^ 8) Getica The origin and deeds of the Goths by Jordanes translated by Charles C. Mierow
  4. ^ These ancient geographers and writers were also quoted in History and Genealogy or the Human Race by John Thomas Painter Junior, 1880, London and by John Jamieson “Hermes Scythes or Radical Affinities of the Greek and Latin Languages to The Gothic
  5. ^ The Geography of Strabo published in Vol. III of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1924 The text is in the public domain
  6. ^ Space, geography, and politics in the early Roman empire By Nicolet Claude
  7. ^ a b Georgiev, Raporturi..."
  8. ^ Strabo, "Geographica" Book VII, Chapter 3, 10
  9. ^ Anale de istorie, 4th issue (1976)
  10. ^ a b c d e Lucian Boia, History and Myth in Romanian Consciousness, Central European University Press, 2001, p.103-105. ISBN 9639116971.
  11. ^ Napoleon Săvescu, "Noi nu suntem urmaşii Romei"
  12. ^ "Ca şi cînd precedentele reuniuni n-ar fi fost de ajuns, dacologii bat cîmpii in centrul Capitalei", in Evenimentul Zilei, 22 June 2002


  • 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
  • Dimiter Detschew, Die thrakischen Sprachreste, Wien 1957.

External links



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