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Alternative Names. Luwian, Cuneiform Luvian, Hieroglyphic Luvian, Hieroglyphic Hittite.

Overview. Luvian is, with Old Hittite, the oldest representative of the Anatolian branch of the Indo-European family. It is preserved in cuneiform tablets and hieroglyphic monumental inscriptions.

Classification. Indo-European, Anatolian.

Distribution. Probably originated in southwestern Anatolia (modern Turkey) and northern Syria, Luvian spread to eastern and, perhaps, to central Anatolia.

Status. Extinct. Attested between 1600-600 BCE.


Varieties. There were two varieties of Luvian, Cuneiform Luvian and Hieroglyphic Luvian, which were, likely, dialects of the same language.

Main Documents.

  1. 1600-1300 BCE. Cuneiform inscribed tablets from the Hittite archive found in Hattusas (Bogazkoy), in north-central Turkey. Ritual and cultic in nature.

  1. 1300-600 BCE. Hieroglyphic monumental inscriptions in rocks and monuments. Most of them date after the fall of the Hittite Empire (c. 1180) belonging to the Neo-Hittite period. They are dedicatory and historical.


Vowels. Luvian had three short and three long contrasting vowels: i, i:, a, a:, u, u:.

Consonants. Luvian, like Hittite, apparently preserved reflexes of two (out of three) archaic laryngeal sounds (which became pharyngeal fricatives) but lost the aspirated stops of Indo-European. In contrast to Hittite, there is no evidence in Luvian of labio-velar stops (although kʷ might have existed).


Script and Orthography

Two completely different scripts were used to write Luvian. One, Cuneiform Luvian, was the same cuneiform syllabary used to write Hittite between the 16th and 13th centuries. The other, Hieroglyphic Luvian, was a mixed logographic-syllabic system recorded mainly between the 10th and 7th centuries. Cuneiform Luvian texts were mainly ritual in nature and were inscribed in clay tablets. Hieroglyphic Luvian was used in the monumental inscriptions of the Neo-Hittite kings.

Luvian sounds are usually transliterated in the following way:

  1. long vowels are represented with a macron: ī, ē, ā, ū.

  2. [ts] is transliterated z.

  3. [s] is transliterated by many authors but here we use s instead.

  4. [ħ] is transliterated ḫḫ or hh. The latter is used here.

  5. [ʕ] is transliterated  or h. The latter is used here.

  6. [j] is transliterated y.


  1. Nominal. Luvian nouns were inflected for case, gender and number.

  1. case: nominative, vocative (rare), accusative, ablative-instrumental, dative-locative, genitive (only in Hieroglyphic Luvian). Cuneiform Luvian employs a modified adjective to mark the genitive relationship while Hieroglyphic Luvian employs both, the modified adjective and the genitive case.

  1. gender: animate (masculine and feminine), inanimate (neuter). It lacks the traditional gender division between masculine-feminine of many Indo-European languages.

  1. number: singular, plural.

  1. pronouns: personal, demonstrative, relative-interrogative.

  2. Demonstrative pronouns distinguish proximal and distal. Pronouns are inflected similarly, though not identically, to nouns.

  1. Verbal. The Luvian verbal system was rather simple, it had only two verbal classes (mi and hi conjugation), and a fairly limited number of tenses and moods.

  1. person and number: 1s, 2s, 3s; 1p, 2p, 3p.

  1. voice: active, middle or medio-passive.

  1. tense: present (used also for the future and historical present), preterite. Each tense and conjugation has its own set of personal endings.

  1. aspect: the imperfective aspect, expressing an ongoing or incomplete action, was marked by the suffixes sa/za.

  1. mood: indicative, imperative. The Indo-European subjunctive and optative were not preserved in Luvian.

  1. non-finite forms: infinitive, past participle.

  2. The infinitive ends in -una, and the past participle, which has a passive or stative sense, ends in -a(i)mma.                     


Luvian word order is mainly Subject-Object-Verb but position is frequently altered for emphasis. Ample use of clitics.


Around 80 % or more of Luvian vocabulary is Indo-European. Loanwords come mostly from Hurrian and are usually related to ritual and divination.

Basic Vocabulary

father: tāta

mother: ānna

daughter: duttariyata

head: harmaha

hair: tappāni

eye: tāwa

foot: patās

hand: īssara

heart: zārza

fire: pāhūr

water: wārsa

earth: tiyamm

king: handawat

  1. © 2013 Alejandro Gutman and Beatriz Avanzati                                                                               

Further Reading

  1. -'Luvian'. H. Craig Melchert. In The Ancient Languages of Asia Minor, 31-39. R. D. Woodward (ed). Cambridge University Press (2008).

  2. -Il Geroglifico Anatolico. Problemi di analisi e prospettive di ricerca. M. Marazzi. Università Sapienza (1990).

  3. -Kleine Einführung in das Hieroglyphen-Luwische. R. Werner. Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht (1991).

  4. -Sociolinguistics of the Luvian Language. I. Yakubovich. University of Chicago (2008).

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