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Luwian hieroglyph
Hieroglyph Luwian BOS.jpg
Spoken in Hittite Empire, Arzawa, Neo-Hittite kingdoms
Region Anatolia, Northern Syria
Language extinction around 600 BC
Language family Indo-European
Category (sources) Inscriptions and names
Language codes
ISO 639-1 None
ISO 639-2
ISO 639-3 either:
xlu – Cuneiform Luwian
hlu – Hieroglyphic Luwian
Distribution of the Luwian language (after Melchert 2003)

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

Luwian (sometimes spelled Luvian) is an extinct language of the Anatolian branch of the Indo-European language family. Luwian is closely related to Hittite, and was among the languages spoken during the second and first millennia BC by population groups in Arzawa, to the west or southwest of the core Hittite area. In the oldest texts, eg. the Hittite Code, the Luwian-speaking areas including Arzawa and Kizzuwatna were called Luwia. In the post-Hittite era, the region of Arzawa came to be known as Lydia (Assyrian Luddu, Greek Λυδία).

Luwian is either the direct ancestor of Lycian, or a close relative of the ancestor of Lycian. Luwian is also one of the likely candidates for the language spoken by the Trojans, alongside a possible Tyrrhenian language related to Lemnian.

From this homeland, Luwian speakers gradually spread through Anatolia and became a contributing factor to the downfall, after circa 1180 BC, of the Hittite Empire, where it was already widely spoken. Luwian was also the language spoken in the Neo-Hittite states of Syria, such as Milid and Carchemish, as well as in the central Anatolian kingdom of Tabal that flourished around 900 BC.

Luwian has been preserved in two forms, named after the writing systems used to represent them: Cuneiform Luwian, and Hieroglyphic Luwian.


Cuneiform Luwian

Cuneiform Luwian is the form of the Luwian language attested in the tablet archives of Hattusa; it is essentially the same cuneiform writing system used in Hittite. In Laroche's Catalog of Hittite Texts, its corpus runs from CTH 757-773, mostly comprising rituals.

Hieroglyphic Luwian

Hieroglyphic Luwian is a form of Luwian written in a native script, known as Anatolian hieroglyphs.[1][2] Once thought to be a variety of the Hittite language, "Hieroglyphic Hittite" was formerly used to refer to the language of the same inscriptions, but this term is now obsolete. The first report of a monumental inscription dates to 1850, when an inhabitant of Nevşehir reported the relief at Fraktin. In 1870, antiquarian travellers in Aleppo found another inscription built into the south wall of the el-Qiqan Mosque. In 1884 Polish scholar Maryan Sokolowski discovered an inscription near Köylütolu, western Turkey. The largest known inscription was excavated in 1970 in Yalburt, northwest of Konya. Luwian in its hieroglyphic stage could have been influenced from Hittite and perhaps also Greek, which had spread to Late Minoan II Crete by the 15th century BC.

Relationship to preceding languages

Luwian has numerous archaisms, and so is important both to Indo-European linguists and to students of the Bronze Age Aegean.

Craig Melchert in Studies in Memory of Warren Cowgill (1987; pp 182–204) used Luwian to support the controversial idea that the Proto-Indo-European language had three distinct sets of velar consonants:

For Melchert, PIE *ḱ > Luwian z (probably [ts]); *k > k; and *kʷ > ku (probably [kʷ]).

Luwian has also been enlisted for its verb kaluti, which means "turn" or "circle". Many linguists claim that this derives from a proto-Anatolian word for "wheel", which in turn would have derived from the common word for "wheel" found in all other Indo-European families. The wheel was invented in the 5th millennium BCE and, if kaluti does derive from it, then the Anatolian branch left PIE after its invention (so validating the Kurgan hypothesis as applicable to Anatolian). However kaluti need not imply a concrete wheel, and so need not have derived from a PIE word with that meaning. The IE words for a wheel may well have arisen in those other IE languages after the Anatolian split.

Stele of Sultanhan, Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara, Turkey.

Non-Indo-European survivals in Luwian

In addition, Luwian and its descendants in general reflect survivals of a non-Indo-European type in western Anatolia. Where Hittite, with some Hieroglyphic Luwian and Palaic texts, allow the classically Indo-European suffix -as for the singular genitive and -an for the plural genitive, the "canonical" Luwian as used in cuneiform (with some Palaic rituals) employed instead an adjectival suffix -assa. Given the prevalence of -assa place-names and words scattered around all sides of the Aegean Sea, this suffix is considered evidence of a shared non-Indo-European language or at the very least an Aegean Sprachbund preceding the arrivals of Luwians and Greeks. This feature of Cuneiform Luwian may have been a deliberate archaism, to emphasise their roots in that land; or else the Luwians may have genuinely forgotten the Indo-European genitive only to pick it up later for Hieroglyphic Luwian.


  1. ^ Melchert, H. Craig (2004), "Luvian", in Woodard, Roger D., The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the World's Ancient Languages, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-56256-2  
  2. ^ Melchert, H. Craig (1996), "Anatolian Hieroglyphs", in Daniels, Peter T.; Bright, William, The World's Writing Systems, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-507993-0  


  • Laroche, Emmanuel. Catalogue des textes hittites 1991.
  • Melchert, H. Craig. "PIE velars in Luvian." In Studies in memory of Warren Cowgill (1929–1985): Papers from the Fourth East Coast Indo-European Conference, Cornell University, June 6–9, 1985, ed. C. Watkins, 182–204. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1987.
  • Melchert, H. Craig. Anatolian Historical Phonology. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1994.
  • Melchert, H. Craig (ed). The Luwians. Boston: Brill Academic Publishers, 2003. ISBN 90-04-13009-8.
  • Otten, Heinrich. Zur grammatikalischen und lexikalischen Bestimmung des Luvischen. Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1953.
  • Rosenkranz, Bernhard. Beiträge zur Erforschung des Luvischen. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1952.
  • Starke, Frank. Die keilschrift-luwischen Texte in Umschrift (StBoT 30, 1985)
  • Starke, Frank. Untersuchungen zur Stammbildung des keilschrift-luwischen Nomens (StBoT 30, 1990)
  • Woudhuizen, Fred. The Language of the Sea Peoples. Amsterdam: Najade Pres, 1992.

External links


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

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Proper noun




  1. An extinct language of the Anatolian branch of the Indo-European language family.

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