Oscar language

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Language areas in Italy in the 6th century BC Chr.

Oscar was the language of the Samnites ; it belonged to the Oscar-Umbrian branch of the Italian languages , which in turn are a branch of Indo-European .

Extension of the language area

At the time of its greatest expansion before the Roman conquest, the language area of ​​Oscar extended essentially over the southern half of mainland Italy , i.e. the regions of Samnium , Campania and Lucania ; in addition there was that of the Mamertines , Samnite mercenaries , who conquered Messina in Sicily . Older Italian languages, which were originally more closely related to Umbrian , were overlaid by the Oskish and were spoken in the central Italian area by the Marrukines , Paligns and Vestines .

Text corpus

Oscar is currently known only through around 650 inscriptions . However, among them are only four to five longer texts; most traditions consist of a few words or even just letters .

Although all parts of the Oscar-speaking area are represented, most of the inscriptions come from Samnium and Campania (especially from Capua and Pompeii ).

Oscar script from a stone from Pompeii

The repertoire is also relatively limited in terms of content. There are mainly:

As a result, Oskish belongs to the category of corpus or debris languages, as large parts of the grammar and vocabulary are unknown to us.

Chronological order

The oldest inscriptions, which are still written in the language of the actual Oscar , date from the 6th century BC. Chr .; the bulk of the Oscar tradition dates from the 3rd to 1st centuries BC. Wall inscriptions are known from Pompeii , which must have been written relatively shortly before the city's destruction in AD 79 .

Inscription from Avella from the 3rd or 2nd century BC With Latin and German translation
Oscar Latin German

ekkum [SVAI PID herieset
trííbarak [AVUM Terei PUD
liímítú [m] pernúm [puis
herekleís fíísnú mefi [u
is ehtrad feíhúss pú [s
herekleís fíísnam AMFR
et, pert VIAM pússtíst
Paí IP is, Pustin slagím
senateís suveís tangi
NUD tríbarakavúm lí
kítud . íním íúk tríba
rakkiuf pam núvlanús
tríbarakattuset íúk trí
barakkiuf íním úíttiuf
abellanúm estud. avt
púst feíhúís pús físnam am
fret, eíseí tereí nep abel
lanús nep núvlanús pídum
tríbarakattíns. avt the
savrúm púd eseí tereí íst,
pún patensíns, múíníkad ta [n
ginúd patensíns, íním píd e [íseí
thesavreí púkkapíd ee [stit
a] íttíúm alttram alttr [ús
h] erríns. avt anter slagím
a] bellanam íním núvlanam
s] úllad víú uruvú íst. edú
e] ísaí víaí mefiaí teremen
n] iú staíet.

Item [si quid volent]
aedificare [in territorio quod
limitibus tenus [quibus]
Herculis fanum medium
est, extra muros, qui
Herculis fanum ambiunt,
trans viam positum est,
quae ibi est, pro finibus
senatus sui sententia,
aedificare liceto.
Et id aedificium quod Nolani
aedificaverint, et
usus Nolanorum esto.
Item si quid Abellani
aedificaverint, id aedificium et usus
Abellanorum esto. At
post muros qui fanum
unt , in eo territorio neque Avellani neque Nolani quidquam
aedificaverint. At the-
saurum qui in eo territorio est,
cum aperirent, communi ent-
tia aperirent, et quidquid in eo
thesauro quandoque extat,
caperent. At inter fines
Abellanos et Nolanos
ubique via felxa est -,
in ea via media termina

Likewise, they can
erect structures on the site if necessary
, on the
marked area belonging to the temple,
but outside the surrounding walls of
the Herakles temple itself,
on both sides of the street there, in
front of the respective border lines
[between the temple district and the two communities]
with the approval of the respective party competent senate.
A building that the Nolans build
may also be used by the Nolans [alone],
and the Abellans may also only use a
building they have built.
neither the Abellans
nor the Nolans are allowed to build anything within the perimeter walls of the sanctuary .
The treasure house, which lies within
this [narrower] temple area,
may only be opened by both sides after
a joint decision.
Everything that will one day be
stored in this treasury
belongs equally to both sides.
Furthermore, the road serves as a common border everywhere between
the area of ​​the Nolans on the one hand
and that of the Abellans on
the other .
The boundary stones are in the middle.

According to the system


Oscan differed six simple vowels, two rounded (/ u /, / ⁠ ɔ ⁠ / ) and four unrounded (/ i /, / e /, / ⁠ ɛ ⁠ / , / a /), of which except / ⁠ ɔ ⁠ / and / ⁠ ɛ ⁠ / all also appear elongated. The more open vowels can be combined with the following / i̯ / or / u̯ / to form the five diphthongs / ɛi̯ /, / ai̯ /, / au̯ /, / ɔi̯ / and / ɔu̯ /.

The long vowels are often expressed by double letters, for example: NIIR / NER / = gr. Ἀνήρ Aner , man, 'TR꜔STAAMENTVD / trestāmɛntɔd / ≈ lat. Testamento . From the distribution of these spellings it is concluded that the inherited vowel length apart from the nasal was only preserved in the first syllable of each word, and that at the time of the shortening of the remaining long vowels, which refer to the period between 450 and 350 BC. BC, the word accent must have been on these first syllables, which is also assumed for contemporary Latin. In addition to the inherited lengths, new long vowels created by replacement stretching appear later (e.g. SAAHTV̇M / sāhtɔm / = Latin sānctum , holy, consecrated ').


Oscan had three each unvoiced and three voiced plosives : the bilabial / p / and / b /, the dental / t / and / d /, the velar / k / and / g /. For this purpose the came fricatives / f /, / s / (with voiced allophone between vowels) and / h /, the Nasal / m / and / n /, the Liquidae / r / and / I / as well as the semi-vowels / i / and / u̯ /.

Historical changes in sound

Vowel fading and weakening

The loss of inherited short vowels takes place in two phases: Already before the 6th century BC. Chr. Generally disappear in final syllables before the final s (HV̇RZ / hɔrts / <* gʰortos > Latin hortus 'garden'; LV̇VKIS / lɔu̯kis / ' Lucius '); in the 4th or late 5th century BC they disappeared in open as well as in / s / closing inner syllables (FACTVD / faktud / <* face-tōd > Latin. facitō 'mach!'; MINSTREIS / minstrɛes / <* minus-tero- ,smaller').

Only occasionally and exclusively next to labial consonants are examples of a sound change similar to the internal syllable weakening (which is typical of Latin ), the result of which is always a sound marked with the letter V : PRVPVKID <* prō-p a k- 'predetermined', PRAEFVCVS <* prai̯-f a k- , 'superior', PERTUMUM <* pert- e mom.

Individual evidence

  1. ^ The inscription of Avella in transcription, Latin and German translation. In: History of Roman Law. Christian Gizewski, 2000, accessed on December 4, 2012 (with illustration of the actual inscription).
  2. a b c d e f g h i j Emil Vetter, Handbook of Italic Dialects I: Texts with explanation, glosses, dictionary , Heidelberg 1953, a) Ve 5, p. 35; b) Ve 11, p. 49; c) Ve 147, p. 104; d) Ve 147, p. 105; e) Ve 4, p. 31; f) Ve 2, p. 15; g) Ve 2, p. 17; h) Ve 1, p. 8th; i) Ve 2, p. 16; j) Ve 2, p. 15th
  3. ^ Hreinn Benediktsson, The Vowel syncope in Oscan-Umbrian , in: Norsk Tidsskrift for Sprogvidenskap 19 (1960), pp. 157-295.


  • Henricus Hubertus Janssen: Oscan and Umbrian Inscriptions. Brill, Leiden 1949.
  • Katherine McDonald: Oscan in Southern Italy and Sicily. Evaluating Language Contact in a Fragmentary Corpus. Cambridge University Press 2015. ISBN 978-1-107-10383-2 .
  • Jürgen Untermann: Dictionary of the Oskisch-Umbrian. Winter, Heidelberg 2000. ISBN 3-8253-0963-0
  • Helmut Rix : Handbook of the Italian dialects. Volume 5: Sabellian Texts. The texts of the Oscan, Umbrian and Southern Piken. Winter, Heidelberg 2002, ISBN 978-3-8253-0853-7 .
  • Rex E. Wallace: The Sabellic Languages ​​of Ancient Italy. Languages ​​of the World / Materials. Vol. 371. LINCOM Europe, Munich 2007, ISBN 3-89586-990-2 .

Web links

Commons : Oscar inscriptions  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Oskisch  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations