An insatiable appetite for ancient and modern tongues

Overview. Palaic is an old Anatolian language, contemporaneous with Hittite and Luvian, sparsely documented in fragmentary texts preserved in the Hittite archive uncovered at Hattusas (Bogazkoy). It was used as a liturgical language by the Hittites in the cult of Hattic gods. The Hattic people were the original non-Indoeuropean inhabitants of the Anatolian peninsula who influenced the language and culture of the Indo-European newcomers.

Classification. Indo-European, Anatolian.

Distribution. Palaic was spoken in north central Anatolia (now Turkey) in the land of Palā, situated northwest of Hittite territory.

Status. Extinct. Attested between 1600-1200 BCE.

Main Documents.

The Palaic corpus is rather scanty consisting of a few independent documents and a number of fragments included in Hittite texts. Their main subjects are the Hattic gods and their cult.


Vowels. Palaic had four short and four long vowels: i, i:, e, e:, a, a:, u, u:.

Consonants. Palaic, like Luvian and Hittite, apparently preserved reflexes of two (out of three) archaic laryngeal sounds (which became a pair of pharyngeal fricatives) but lost the aspirated stops of Indo-European. In contrast to Hittite, there is no evidence in Palaic of labio-velar stops (although kʷ might have existed). The fricative [f] was an innovation borrowed from Hattic; there might have been other fricatives besides those listed below but evidence is incomplete.


Script and Orthography

Palaic was inscribed in clay tablets with the same cuneiform syllabary used to write Hittite, which derived from the Old Babylonian script.

Palaic 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. Palaic nouns were inflected for case, gender and number.

  1. case: nominative, vocative, accusative, ablative-instrumental (hypothetical), genitive, dative, locative. Besides the genitive, Palaic employed, like other Anatolian languages, a modified adjective to mark possession.

  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. Verbal. The Palaic 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.

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

  1. non-finite forms: infinitive, participle. Palaic had at least one participle but there is no sufficient data to reach any conclusion about it or about other possible participle(s).



Palaic neutral word order was Subject-Object-Verb but several others are attested. Position depended mainly on emphasis. Ample use of clitics.


The core vocabulary of Palaic is Indo-European but Hattic loanwords are frequent in the texts preserved as almost all of them deal with Hattic religion. There are also some borrowings from Hittite.

Basic Vocabulary

father: pāpa

mother: anna

river: hapnas

sea: aruna

heart: kart

blood: esur

knee: ginu

sun god: tiyaz

good: wasu

  1. © 2013 Alejandro Gutman and Beatriz Avanzati                                                                               

Further Reading

  1. -'Palaic'. H. Craig Melchert. In The Ancient Languages of Asia Minor, 40-45. R. D. Woodward (ed). Cambridge University Press (2008).

  2. -Das Palaische. Texte, Grammatik, Lexikon. Studien zu den Bogazkoy-Texten 10. O. Carruba. Otto Harrassowitz (1970).

  3. -Were Hittite kings divinely anointed? A Palaic invocation to the Sun-God and its significance for Hittite religion. I. Yakubovich. Brill (2006).

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