Linguistics Baking Part IX: Lycian

I actually made the latest addition to the Linguistics Baking series back in Easter term for the most recent Linguistics Reading Group but didn’t have time to blog about it then. However, better late than never, so here (finally) is the Lycian Cake:

Lycian cake

Lycian is a language that was spoken in south-western Asia Minor (now Turkey), and is attested in inscriptions dating from around the 5th-4th centuries B.C.E.; it’s part of the Anatolian branch of the Indo-European language family, so most closely related to other nearby languages like Hittite. The position of Lycia fairly near the Greek-speaking areas of Asia Minor along the Aegean coast meant that it experienced a considerable amount of contact with Greeks (in fact for part of the 5th century it was a member of the Athenian-controlled Delian League). This is most obvious when looking at the script, which (as can be seen from the cake) is an adaptation of the Greek alphabet. Most of the Lycian letters are taken directly from the Greek alphabet, and have the same or similar values: e.g. Ρ = r, Τ = t, Β = v. Others, however, have had their values changed – the letter that looks like Ε, for instance, actually represents i – and there are a few signs that were newly invented to write Lycian. For example, since E was  being used for i, e is represented by the sign that looks like an arrow pointing up, while the third one along in the first row (looking a bit like a tree) is a nasalised e – a sound that didn’t exist in Greek, but needed to be written in Lycian.

This particular text (like many of the surviving Lycian inscriptions) is an epitaph, and reads as follows:

ebẽñnẽ: xu-pã:                  this [accusative]: tomb [accusative]

m=ẽne pr-ñnawatẽ:         [conjunction]-it [accusative]: built

me-de: epñnẽni:                personal name: noun denoting some kind of relation, possibly ‘younger brother’

ehbi: hprã-ma:              possessive pronoun, dative singlar: personal name

se(j)=atli                            [conjunction]-reflexive pronoun, dative singular

‘M. built this tomb for his younger brother (?), H., and for himself’. Very sweet.


(Thanks to Pippa Steele for organising the Lycian Reading Group!)