The Language of the Thracians, Ivan Duridanov

IX. The place of the Thracian among the Indo-European languages


1. Phonetical similarities:

Phonetical features Thrac. Dacian Alban. Balto- Slavic "Pelasg." German Indo- Iranian Greek Phryg. Armen. Italic Celtic Hittite Tokhar.
 IE o>a + + + + + + + + A + 
B –
IE, > ur(or), 
     ul (ol); ir, il
+ (+) (+) + + (+) +
      un (on); im, in
+ + + + + +
IE k, g, gh > 
     k, g (k), g
+ + + + + Ind. ± 
Iran. ±
IE k', g', g'h > 
     s (þ), z (d)
+ + + + + Ind. s,j,h 
Iran. +
+ +
IE p, t, k > 
+ + + + + +
IE b, d, g > 
     p, t, k
+ + + + + + +
IE bh, dh, gh > 
     b, d, g
+ + + + + + Ind. – 
Iran. +
+ + + +
IE sr > str + + +
(Lith. –)
? + ?
IE tt, dt > st + ? + ? Ind. – 
Iran. +
+ ? ? ? ?
2. Lexical similarities

 2.1. Thracian and "Pelasgian" (pre-Greek)

There are many phonetical similarities between Thracian and pre-Greek but, still, almost no lexical analogies between them were found. The proposed parallels include:

– the Thracian river name Asamus and the Pelasgian asáminthos 'a (stone) bath' from the stem asam- 'of stone' < IE *ak'am.

– the Thracian tribal name Astai (in Strandzha) and country name Astikē and the pre Greek ásty 'a town', but there are also similar Messapian vastei (dat.) 'a town', the Old Indian 'vástu-' 'a house', etc. words.

– the Thracian tribal name Apsinthioi, Apsynthioi (north of Thracian Chersones), the river and village name Apsynthos, and the botanical name apsínthion 'a wormwood, a mugwort', but there is also another etymology proposed for the Thracian Apsynthos.


 2.2. Thracian and Albanian

– the Thracian Dáton (Dátos) and the Albanian datë 'a place, a country' from the IE *dhətā.

– the Thracian personal names Drenis and the Albanian (Gegh) dre, dreni 'a deer'.

– the second element in the Thracian place names Basi-bunon, Kasi-bunon and the Albanian bunë 'a shepherd's hut', but there are more parallels as well from the western Balkans.

– the Thracian -buris (-boris) in the personal names of Muka-bur(is), -boris, etc. and the Albanian burrë 'a man' from the IE *bhno-s. D. Dechev, however, pointed to the presence of the same element in Celtic and Lidyan personal names.


 2.3. Thracian and Baltic

There are many Thraco-Baltic lexical parallels with similarities both in the stems and in the suffixes which impress greatly [See Thracisch-dakische Studien. I. Teil: Die thrakisch- und dakisch-baltischen Sprachbeziehungen. Balkansko ezikoznanie, XIII, 2, Sofia, 1969]. Here are some examples:

(VN - village name; PN - personal name; PlN - place name; RN - river name; FM - family name)
Thracian Baltic
VN Batkúnion Lith. VN Batkunai
VN Clasus Latv. PlN Kalsi, Kals-strauts
VN Kýpsela Lith. VN Kupšēliai 
from kupsēlis 'a hillock'
VN Rumbo-dona Old-Pruss. PlN Rumbow (a ford), 
Latv. rum
̃ba 'river rapids'
VN Sártē Lith. RN Sar̃
from sar
̃tas 'bright-red'
VN Scretisca Lith. VN Skrētiškė
VN Strambai Old-Pruss. strambo 'a stubble-field' 
Latv. VN Strũobas
PN Sautes Old-Latv. FN Sautte 
Latv. sautis 'a lazy man'
PN Skilas Lith. PN Skyl
PN Sparkē Old-Pruss. PN Sparke
midne 'a village' Latv. mītne 'a place of stay'
zibythides 'the noble Thracians' Lith. žibùtė 'light; something shining'
VN Zburulus Lithžiburỹs 'light'

 2.4. Thracian, Baltic and Slavic

It is not a surprise that there are some Slavic analogies to the Thraco-Baltic parallels. Baltic and Slavic and closely related and are sometimes grouped together in a Balto-Slavic group. Here are some parallels:

– the Thracian PN Brinkazis, Brinkainos, the Slavic PN Brzek, Brzeko (Polish), Brekoja (Bulg.) and the Lith. VN (from FN) Brinkiškiai.

– the Thracian PN Kersēs, Kersos, the Old-Pruss. PN Kerse, Kerso (from kéršas 'on white and black spots'), and the Slavic PN Črch (Czech) (from the Old-Slavic *čьrchь), the Bulgarian Chernjo (from cheren 'black').

– the Thracian VN Kurpisos, the Lith. VN Kurpai, Kurpikai, etc., and the Bulgarian VN Kərpec (from the Old-Slavic *kərp-), the Russian korpatь 'to dig up', the Ukrainian korpati 'to dig, to rummage'.

– the Thracian tribe name Trausoi is identical to the Old-Latv. FN Trousz from the Latv. traušs 'friable', similar to the Lith. traušus 'friable, fragile' and the Old-Russian PN Truha, Trushь, the Old-Russian tronhə 'lazy, sad'.

– the first element in the Thracian VN Tarpo-dizos and the Lith. tárpas 'an interstice, an interspace' and the Church-Slavic trapə, the Bulgarian trap 'a ditch, a pit' (from the Old-Slavic *tǎrpə).


 2.5. Thracian and German

Specifically Thraco-German are the following parallels:

– the Thracian bólinthos 'a wild bull, a bison', and the Middle-German Bulle.

– the Thracian -thurd(a)- in the deity names Zbel-thurdos, Zbel-Thiurdos, and the Old-HighGerman sturzen, the Middle-HighGerman stürzen 'to push, to crash down'.

– the Thracian PN Mellai, -cella in Syra-cella, -kela in *Saldo-kela, and the Old-HighGerman quella 'a spring', the German Quelle.

– the Thracian skálmē 'a knife, a sword', and the Old-Icel. skolm 'a short sword, a knife'. The related words in other IE languages (the Greek skalmós, the Hittite kalmišana-, etc.) have different meanings and were not taken into account.


 2.6. Thracian, Baltic and German

There are several such parallels:

– the Thracian PN Bérēs and the Lith. bėras 'brown', the river name B, the Latv. bẽrs 'brown (for horses)', the PN Bēr-upe, and the Old-HighGerman bero, the Anglo-Sax. bera, the German Bär 'a bear' (with an initial meaning 'brown').

– the Thracian daph- in the VN Daphabae, the Lith. dãpas 'a flood', and the Old-Icel. dafla 'to slap in the water; to splash', the Norw. dial. dave 'a puddle, a pool'.

– the Thracian VN Dingion, the Old-Pruss. PN Dinge, the Latv. dinga 'a plant; a fertile ground', and the Old-HighGerman tunga 'manuring'.

– the Thracian VN Kabýlē, the Old-Pruss. RN Cabula (instead of *Gabula), and the English quab.


 2.7. Thracian and Indo-Iranian

There are not too many parallels:

– the Thracian -dama in the VN Uscu-dama is explained from the IE *dhəmā and is compared to the Old-Indian dhāman- 'a place for living', the Avestan daman 'a place, a country'.

– the Thracian -diza, -dizos 'a fortress' in VN Tyro-diza, Kisti-dizos, Tarpo-dizos, and the Avestan pairi-daēza- 'a fence', the Old-Persian didā 'a fortress'.

– the Thracian PN Byzas, Byzēs, the Avestan būza 'a goat', the New-Persian buz 'a goat', and the Armenian buz 'a lamb'.

– the Thracian VN Perinthos, the Old-Ind. párvata- 'a mountains, a rock, a stone', the Avestan paurvata- 'a mountain', and the Hittite peruna- 'a rock'.


 2.8. Thracian and Greek

– the Thracian element -sula, -sylē in the VN Scapten-sula, Skaptē-sylē, and the Greek hýlē 'a wood, a grove' of still unclear etymology.

– the first element Skaptēin the VN *Skapto-para is linked to the Greek skáptō 'to dig, to dig up'. This parallel, however, is not exclusively Thraco-Greek - there is the Lith. skaptúoti 'to hollow out (in wood), to cut'.

– the Thracian zetraia 'a pot, a jar' is compared to the Greek chýtra of the same meaning.


 2.9. Thracian and Illyrian

The old notion of a supposedly close relation between Thracian and Illyrian has been already overcome. The new studies (Vl. Georgiev) showed that the differences between these languages are significant and that they cannot be put together in a common 'Thraco-Illyrian' group.

There are three toponymic parallels which, however, are not exclusively Thraco-Illyrian:

– the Thracian river name Asamus and the VN Asamum in Dalmatia from the IE *ak'am-. Compare, however, to the pre-Greek ("Pelasgian") asáminthos 'a (stone) bath', the Old-Ind. asman 'a stone; a sky', etc.

– the Thracian river name Nestos and the Illyrian river name Nestos (in Dalmatia). Compare, however, to the Russian (from Baltic) river name Nesla from an older *Nestlā, IE *Ned-tlā, from the IE stem ned- in the Old-Ind. nadī- 'a river, a current'.

– the Thracian river name Hebros and the Illyrian river name Hebros (in Albania). Compare also to the Bulgarian (from Thracian) river name Ibər,  the Serbian river name Ibar (probably of Illyrian origin), the Russian river name Ibr, which is obviously of non-Slavic origin.

* * *
There are single parallels with other Indo-European languages as the Tokharian ri (A), riye (B) 'a town' and the Thracian -bria. The general conclusion about the nature of the Thracian language is:


The number of Thraco-Baltic (resp. Thraco-Balto-Slavic) parallels is impressive. Some isoglosses show Thracian was also related to German, on one hand, and to Indo-Iranian, on the other hand. Similar relations to "Pelasgian" (pre-Greek) can be only supposed on the basis of phonetic similarities.

There are almost no Phrygian parallels with Thracian. Having in mind this as well as the number of phonetical differences between the two languages, it can be assumed that the common Thraco-Phrygian sound shifts (the so called Lautverschiebungen) are not of decisive importance. Summing up, it can be said that

in earlier times probably in the III-th millennium BC, and before the realisation of the aforementioned sound shifts, the Thracian language formed a close group with the Baltic (resp. Balto-Slavic), the Dacian and the "Pelasgian" languages. More distant were its relations with the other Indo-European languages, and especially with Greek, the Italic and Celtic languages, which exhibit only isolated phonetic similarities with Thracian; the Tokharian and the Hittite were also distant.

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