4.9. Messapic

4.9.1. Messapic evolution

Messapic has been traditionally classified as connected to “Illyrian”, although the very concept of a language behind Illyrian tribe names is not tenable today. The “Messapic language” is better confined to the inscriptions of the Salento peninsula, south of a hypothetical line connecting Brindisi-Taranto, which is where the name of Messapians (Messāpii, Mεσσάπιοι) is found in ancient sources. Indigenous inscriptions are attested here since ca. mid–6th c. BC, with a homogeneous linguistic community designated by the traditional name “Iapygian” (Simone 2018).

The prolific use in Messapic documents of European common appellative *teutā ‘people, community’, as well as deities connecting the language to Italic, makes it quite likely that it belonged to the North-West Indo-European language expanding with Bell Beakers into the Apennine Peninsula.

Common features include (Simone 2018):

·       NWIE *o → Messapic a.

·       Diphthong *ou, *eu *ou → Messapic ao.

·       Multiple palatalisations, such as Bla(t)ϑes =Blatses/Blatšes < *Blatos, Zis < *dēs.

·       Vocalisation of syllabic nasal, cf. anda < *do ‘and, as well’.

·       Probable deaspiration of voiced aspirates: *bh → *b, *dh → *d.

·       NWIE *s → Messapic h.

·       Genitive in –(i)hi probably comparable to Italo-Celtic -ī-genitive.

4.9.2. Schleicher’s fable in Proto-Messapic

The following is a tentative version of the fable in Proto-Messapic, based on the scarce data available, assuming a close similarity with the Italo-Celtic group.

avih ekōh-ke.

avih i̯āi vlanā ne eht

ekōn vaiðet;

tam graum vegam vegantəm,

tam maɣam baram,

tam gəmanəm ōku berantəm.

avih ekabah vaoket:

“kēr agetar moi,

viram ekōn aɣantəm viðəntei.

ekōh vaokantsi: “klaodi, avih!

kēr agetar noh vidəntbah:

virah, patih, avii̯am vlanām

sebei garmām vehtim dedōti.

avii̯am-ke vlānā ne ehtsi.”

tad kekluvah, avih aɣram buɣet.