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Overview. Lydian is a poorly documented and incompletely understood Anatolian language that is remarkable by some features not shared by other members of the same linguistic branch. It was spoken in the second half of the first millennium BCE alongside Lycian and Carian.

Classification. Indo-European, Anatolian, West Anatolian.

Distribution. Spoken in the central coast of Anatolia and around Sardis, in the modern Turkish provinces of Manisa and Izmir.

Status. Extinct. Attested between 700-200 BCE.

Main Documents. The most significant Lydian documents are stone inscriptions found in the Sardis area and belonging to the 5th and 4th centuries BCE. The Lydian corpus consists of funerary inscriptions, some decrees, coin legends and graffiti.


Vowels. i, u, e, o, a, plus two nasalized vowels transliterated as ã and but whose exact place of articulation is in doubt.

Consonants. Interestingly, Lydian, in contrast to other Anatolian languages, had no glides.



Lydian was written in a form of the Greek alphabet, consisting of 26 letters. Later texts were read from right to left but the direction of earlier texts could be either left to right or right to left.

  1. [p] is represented by the letter b.

  2. [kʷ] is represented by q.

  3. [ts] is represented by τ.

  4. [dz] is represented by c.

  5. [s] is represented by ś and [ç] by s.

  6. [ð] is represented by d.

  7. ʋ represents an unknown sound.

  8. y is an allophone of [i].


Lydian appears to have had a poorer morphology compared to its Anatolian counterparts, though that could be just a reflection of our ignorance of the language.

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

  1. case: nominative, accusative, dative-locative. Apparently, Lydian had less cases than other contemporaneous Anatolian languages, like Lycian. Lydian employed a modified adjective to mark possession replacing the genitive completely.

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

  1. number: singular, plural.

  1. Verbal. The Lydian 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; 1p, 2p; 3 sp. There was no number distinction in the 3rd person.

  1. voice: active, middle or medio-passive (not certain).

  1. tense: present (used also for the future and historical present), preterite.

  1. mood: indicative, imperative?. The Indo-European subjunctive and optative were lost.

  1. non-finite forms: infinitive. One or more participles might have existed as well.


Word order was mainly Subject-Object-Verb but position depended also on emphasis. Adjectives preceded their nouns and relative clauses the main ones. Postpositions were used.


Due to the paucity and brevity of the Lydian texts preserved, it is not feasible to make any positive statement.

Basic Vocabulary

I, me: amu

wife: kana

son: śuũoś

king: qaλmλu

earth: kλida

loving: amãś

month: ora

year: borliś

wall: laqrisa

house: bira

to give: da

to kill: qẽn

  1. © 2013 Alejandro Gutman and Beatriz Avanzati                                                                               

Further Reading

  1. -'Lydian'. H. Craig Melchert. In The Ancient Languages of Asia Minor, 56-63. R. D. Woodward (ed). Cambridge University Press (2008).

  2. -Lydisches Wörterbuch. R. Gusmani. Carl Winter (1964).

  3. -'La Scrittura Lidia'. R. Gusmani. Annali della Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa, Classe di Lettere e Filosofia, 3rd series, 8: 833–847 (1978).

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