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Paionian language: Wikis


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Spoken in Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo, northern Greece, southwestern Bulgaria
Language extinction probably 1st century BC--2nd century AD
Language family Indo-European
Language codes
ISO 639-1 None
ISO 639-2 ine
ISO 639-3 xli

The Paionian language is the poorly attested language of the ancient Paionians, whose kingdom once stretched north of Macedon into Dardania and in earlier times into southwestern Thrace.

Several Paionian words are known from classical sources:

A number of anthroponyms (some known only from Paionian coinage) are attested, as well as several toponyms (Bylazora, Astibos) and a few theonyms (Dryalus, Dyalus, the Paionian Dionysus), as well as the following:

  • Pontos, affluent of the Strumica River, perhaps from *ponktos, "boggy" (cf. German feucht, "wet", Middle Irish éicne "salmon", Sanskrit pánka "mud, mire");
  • Stoboi (nowadays Gradsko), name of a city, from *stob(h) (cf. Old Prussian stabis "rock", Old Church Slavonic stoboru, "pillar", Old English stapol, "post", Ancient Greek stobos, "scolding, bad language");
  • Dóberos, other Paionian city, from *dheubh- "deep" (cf. Lithuanian dubùs, English deep);
  • Agrianes, name of a tribe, from *agro- "field" (cf. Latin ager, Greek agros).

Classical sources usually considered the Paionians distinct from Thracians or Illyrians, comprising their own ethnicity and language. Athenaeus seems to have connected the Paionian tongue to the Mysian language, itself barely attested. If correct, this may mean that Paionian was an Anatolian language.

On the other hand, the Paionians were also regarded as being related to Thracians and ancestors of the Phrygians, which may prove that Paionian is in the Paleo-Balkanic linguistic group.

Modern linguists are uncertain on the classification of Paionian, due to the extreme scarcity of materials we have on this language. On one side are Wilhelm Tomaschek and Paul Kretschmer, who claim it belonged to the Illyrian family, and on the other side is Dimiter Dečev, who claims affinities with Thracian.

However, it seems that Paionian was different from either. It shows a/o distinctiveness and does not appear to be a Satem language. The Indo-European voiced aspirates (*bh, *dh, etc) became plain voiced consonants (/b/, /d/, etc), just like in Illyrian(albanian also), Thracian, and Phrygian


  • Francisco Villar. Gli Indoeuropei e le origini dell'Europa. Il Mulino, 1997. ISBN 88-15-05708-0


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