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For the modern Romance languages spoken in Switzerland and North-Eastern Italy, see Rhaeto-Romance languages.
Spoken in Ancient Raetia
Region Eastern Alps
Language extinction 3rd century
Language family uncertain
Language codes
ISO 639-1 None
ISO 639-2 und
ISO 639-3 xrr

Raetic (also Rhaetic, Rhaetian) is an extinct language spoken in the ancient region of Raetia in the Eastern Alps in pre-Roman and Roman times. It is documented by a limited number of short inscriptions in a variant of the Etruscan alphabet. Its linguistic categorization is not clearly established, and it presents a confusing mixture of what appear to be Etruscan, Indo-European, and uncertain other elements.

The ancient Raetic language is not related to the modern Romance languages of the same Alpine region, known as Rhaeto-Romanic—although confusingly both are sometimes referred to as "Rhaetian".

The most credible theories are that Raetic was:

  • a member along with Etruscan of a proposed Tyrrhenian language family, possibly influenced by neighboring Indo-European languages.
  • an independent branch of the Indo-European language super-family, intermediate between Illyrian and Celtic, which was later influenced by Etruscan
  • a language isolate, later influenced by Etruscan

For a research history, see Schumacher (1992) and Schumacher (1998) and Morandi (1999) for editions of the inscriptions. Several recent works have claimed a definitive connection with Etruscan (Rix 1998, Schumacher 1998).

It is clear that in the centuries leading up to Roman imperial times, the Raetians had at least come under Etruscan influence, as the Raetic inscriptions are written in what appears to be a northern variant of the Etruscan alphabet. The ancient Roman sources mention the Raetic people as being reputedly of Etruscan origin, so there may at least have been some ethnic Etruscans who had settled in the region by that time.

In his Natural History (1st century AD), Pliny wrote about Alpine peoples:

adjoining these (the Noricans) are the Raeti and Vindelici. All are divided into a number of states.[1] The Raeti are believed to be people of Tuscan race[2] driven out by the Gauls; their leader was named Raetus.[3]

Pliny's comment on a leader named Raetus is typical of mythologized origins of ancient peoples, and not necessarily reliable. A more probable derivation is from Celtic rait ("mountain land")[4]. The name of the Venetic goddess Reitia has commonly been discerned in the Raetic finds, but the two names do not seem to be linked. The spelling as Raet- is found in inscriptions, while Rhaet- was used in Roman manuscripts; whether this Rh represents an accurate transcription of an aspirated R in Raetic or is an error is uncertain.

Many inscriptions are known, but most of them are only short and fairly repetitive, probably mostly votive texts. Raetic became extinct by the 3rd century A.D., with its speakers adopting late Latin in the south and Germanic in the north, and possibly Celtic prior to that[5].


  1. ^ in multas civitates divisi.
  2. ^ Tuscorum prolem (genitive case followed by accusative case), "offshoot of the Tusci."
  3. ^ Book III Section XX. The translation is H. Rackham's in the Loeb edition.
  4. ^ Encyclopaedia Britannica 1911
  5. ^ Encyclopaedia Britannica 1911
  • Morandi, Alessandro. (1999). Il cippo di Castelciès nell’epigrafia retica (Studia archaeologica, 103). Rome: Bretschneider
  • Prosdocimi, Aldo L. (2003-4). 'Sulla formazione dell'alfabeto runico. Promessa di novità documentali forse decisive'. Archivio per l'Alto Adige 97-98.427-440
  • Rix, Helmut. (1998). Rätisch und Etruskisch (Innsbrucker Beiträge zur Sprachwissenschaft; Vorträge und kleinere Schriften, 68). Innsbruck: Institut für Sprachwissenschaft der Universität Innsbruck.
  • Schumacher, Stefan. (1992). Die rätischen Inschriften. Geschichte und heutiger Stand der Forschung (Innsbrucker Beiträge zur Kulturwissenschaft; Sonderheft, 79). Innsbruck: Institut für Sprachwissenschaft der Universität Innsbruck, 2nd ed. 2004.
  • Schumacher, Stefan. (1998). 'Sprachliche Gemeinsamkeiten zwischen Rätisch und Etruskisch'. Der Schlern 72.90-114.

External links

See also


Redirecting to Raetic language


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