An insatiable appetite for ancient and modern tongues

Classification: Indo-European, possibly Italic. The precise classification of Venetic within the Indo-European family has not been established yet.

Overview. Venetic was an ancient Indo-European language of northeastern Italy, displaced by Latin, difficult to relate to other members of the family due to insufficient evidence.

Distribution. Venetic was spoken in the northeastern Italic peninsula along the northern coast of the Adriatic Sea. It is attested from 525 BCE until 50 BCE.

Documents. The language is documented in 350 inscriptions, almost exclusively votive or funerary in nature. The main ones were found at:


  1. The sanctuary of the goddess Reitia at Baratella.

  1. The sanctuary at Làgole di Calalzo in the valley of the Piave River.


Vowels. Venetic had 10 simple vowels and 6 diphthongs.

  1. a)Monophthongs (10): they comprised five basic vowels which could be either short or long:



  1. b)Diphthongs (6): ei, eu, ai, au, oi, ou

Consonants (16). Between 350 and 300 BCE the sound of the glottal fricative [h] disappeared in all Venetic-speaking areas.


Script and Orthography

    The source of the Venetic alphabet was a northern Etruscan script that had eliminated the letters b, d, g, o. The Venetians assigned [b], [d], and [g] sounds to preexisting Etruscan letters (phi, theta, khi) that represented sounds non-existent in Venetic. Besides, they reborrowed o from Greek.

    Dots separated syllables but not word boundaries. The most common writing direction was from right to left, but sometimes it was from left to right or also in boustrophedon (alternating in direction). The latest inscriptions (150-50 BCE) were written in the Latin alphabet. The Venetic alphabet princeps of c. 550 BCE was the following:


  1. the letter san, transliterated as ś, represented probably a palatal fricative or a dental affricate.

  2. [f] was written with the digraph vh which, when later the [h] sound was lost, was replaced by h in some regions.

  3. [w] is transliterated v.

  4. [j] had no independent letter, it employed the same letter as [i].

Morphology. Venetic, like other Italic languages, was inflective, adding suffixes to nominal and verbal stems to mark a variety of grammatical categories. Due to the paucity of inscriptions, Venetic morphology is imperfectly known.

  1. Nominal

  2. case: at least nominative, accusative, dative, genitive, ablative.

  1. gender: masculine, feminine, neuter.

  1. number: singular, plural.

  1. Verbal.

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

  1. tensepresent, past.

  1. mood: indicative, imperative, and possibly subjunctive.

  1. voice: active, medio-passive.


In inscriptions found at Este different word orders existed: SVO (Subject-Verb-Object), OVS, and OSV. There was agreement between adjective and noun in case, number and gender. Verbs agreed in number and person with the subject.

Basic Vocabulary. Only 50 Venetic words are known. Among them:

nerka: humble, bowing to

doto: gave

vhagsto: offered

donon: gift

aisun (accusative, singular): god

vhraterei (dative, masculine singular): brother

hostei (dative, masculine singular): host

vivoi (dative, masculine singular): alive

mortuvoi (dative, masculine singular): dead

kve: and

  1. © 2013 Alejandro Gutman and Beatriz Avanzati                                                                               

Further Reading

  1. -Manuel de la Langue Vénète. M. Lejeune. Carl Winter (1974).

  2. -'Venetic'. R. E. Wallace. In The Ancient Languages of Europe, 124-140. R. D. Woodard (ed). Cambridge University Press. (2008)

  3. -'Die Venetische Sprache'. J. Untermann. Glotta 58, 281-317 (1980).

  4. -'Venetico'. A. L. Prosdocimi. Studi etruschi 40, 193-245 (1972).

  1. Top   Home   Alphabetic Index   Classificatory Index   Largest Languages & Families   Glossary



Address comments and questions to: