Dacian language

Dacian language
Spoken in Romania, northern Bulgaria, eastern Serbia; also (possibly): Moldova, SW Ukraine, eastern Hungary, southern Bulgaria, northern Greece, European Turkey, NW Anatolia (Turkey)
Extinct probably by the 6th century AD
Language family
Language codes
ISO 639-3 xdc

Indo-European topics

Albanian · Armenian · Baltic
Celtic · Germanic · Greek
Indo-Iranian (Indo-Aryan, Iranian)
Italic · Slavic  

extinct: Anatolian · Paleo-Balkan (Dacian,
Phrygian, Thracian· Tocharian

Vocabulary · Phonology · Sound laws · Ablaut · Root · Noun · Verb
Europe: Balts · Slavs · Albanians · Italics · Celts · Germanic peoples · Greeks · Paleo-Balkans (Illyrians · Thracians · Dacians·

Asia: Anatolians (Hittites, Luwians)  · Armenians  · Indo-Iranians (Iranians · Indo-Aryans)  · Tocharians  

Homeland · Society · Religion
Abashevo culture · Afanasevo culture · Andronovo culture · Baden culture · Beaker culture · Catacomb culture · Cernavodă culture · Chasséen culture · Chernoles culture · Corded Ware culture · Cucuteni-Trypillian culture · Dnieper-Donets culture · Gumelniţa-Karanovo culture · Gushi culture · Karasuk culture · Kemi Oba culture · Khvalynsk culture · Kura-Araxes culture · Lusatian culture · Maykop culture · Middle Dnieper culture · Narva culture · Novotitorovka culture · Poltavka culture · Potapovka culture · Samara culture · Seroglazovo culture · Sredny Stog culture · Srubna culture · Terramare culture · Usatovo culture · Vučedol culture · Yamna culture

The extinct Dacian language may have developed from proto-Indo-European in the Carpathian region around 2,500 BC and probably died out by AD 600. In the 1st century AD, it was the predominant language of the ancient regions of Dacia and (probably) Moesia and, possibly, of some surrounding regions.

It belonged to the Indo-European language family. As far as can be ascertained from the scarce available evidence, the Dacian language probably belonged to the satem group of the Indo-European languages.[1][2]

Dacian is considered by some scholars e.g. Baldi (1983) and Trask (2000), to be a dialect of the Thracian language, or vice versa (the term Daco-Thracian, or Thraco-Dacian, is used by linguists to denote such a common language, or its presumed parent-branch of Indo-European); or a separate language from Thracian but related to it and to Phrygian;[3] or a language unrelated to either Thracian or Phrygian (except in the distant sense of sharing an Indo-European origin) e.g. Georgiev (1977). [4]

The Dacian language is poorly documented. Unlike Phrygian, only one Dacian inscription is known to have survived.[5][6] In ancient literary sources, the Dacian names of a number of medicinal plants and herbs survive in ancient texts[7][8] this includes about 60 plant names with Dioscorides.[9] Dacian is also known through about 1,150 proper names[6][10]and about 900 toponyms.[6] Finally, there are few hundred words in modern Albanian and Romanian, which may have originated in ancient Balkan languages such as Dacian (see List of Romanian words of possible Dacian origin).



There is scholarly consensus that Dacian was a member of the Indo-European family of languages. These descended, according to the two leading theories of the expansion of IE languages, from a proto-Indo European tongue that originated in an urheimat ("original homeland") in S. Russia/ Caucasus region, (Kurgan hypothesis) or in central Anatolia (Anatolian hypothesis). According to both theories, proto-IE reached the Carpathian region not later than ca. 2,500 BC.[11][12] Supporters of both theories have suggested this region as IE's secondary urheimat, in which the differentiation of proto-IE into the various European language-groups (e.g. Italic, Germanic, Balto-Slavic, Celtic) began. There is thus considerable support for the thesis that Dacian developed in the Carpathian region during the 3rd millennium BC, although by which evolutionary pathways remains uncertain.[citation needed]

According to one scenario, proto-Thracian populations emerged during the Bronze Age from the fusion of the indigenous Eneolithic (Chalcolithic) population with the intruders of the transitional Indo-Europeanization Period.[13][14] From these proto-Thracians, in the Iron Age, developed the Dacians / North Thracians of the Danubian-Carpathian Area on the one hand and the Thracians of the eastern Balkan Peninsula on the other.[13][14].

According to Georgiev, the Dacian language was spread to South of the Danube by tribes from Carpathia penetrating the central Balkans in the period 2,000-1,000 BC, with further movements (e.g. the Triballi tribe) after 1,000 BC, until ca. 300 BC.[15] According to the ancient geographer Strabo, Daco-Moesian was further spread into Asia Minor, in the form of Mysian, by a migration of the Moesi people (Strabo asserts that Moesi and Mysi were variants of the same name).[16]


A fragment of a vase collected by Mihail Dimitriu at the site of Poiana, Galaţi (Piroboridava), Romania illustrating the use of Greek and Latin letters by a Dacian potter (source: Dacia journal, 1933)

Many characteristics of the Dacian language are disputed or unknown. No lengthy texts in Dacian exist, only a few glosses and personal names in ancient Greek and Latin texts. No Dacian-language inscriptions have been discovered, except of names in the Latin or Greek alphabet. What is known about the language derives from:

Gold stater coin found in Dacia. Obverse: Roman magistrate with lictors. Legend ΚΟΣΩΝ (Coson) and (left centre) monogram BR or OΛB. Reverse: Eagle clutching laurel-wreath. Probably minted in a Greek Black sea city (Olbia?), commissioned by a Thracian or Getan king (Cotys? Koson?) or by a high Roman official (Brutus?), in honour of the other. Late 1st century BC
  • Placenames, river-names and personal names (including the names of kings). The coin inscription KOΣON may also be a personal name, of the king who issued the coin.
  • The Dacian names of about fifty plants written in Greek and Roman sources (see List of Dacian plant names). Etymologies have been established for only a few of them.[17]
  • Substratum words found in Romanian, the language that is spoken today in most of the region once occupied by Dacian-speakers. These include about 400 words of uncertain origin. Romanian words for which a Dacian origin has been proposed include: balaur ("dragon"), brânză ("cheese"), mal ("bank, shore"), strugure ("bunch of grapes").[18]

However, the value of the substratum words as a source for the Dacian language is limited by the fact that there is no guarantee that they are of Dacian origin, as can be seen in the Dicţionar Explicativ al Limbii Române (DEX), which shows multiple possible etymologies for most of the words:

  1. Many of the words may not be "substratum" at all, as Latin etymologies have been proposed for them. These are inherently more likely than a Dacian origin, as the Romanian language is descended from Latin, not Dacian e.g. melc ("snail") may derive from Latin limax/proto-Romance *limace (cf. It. lumaca), by metastasis of "m" with "l".[19]
  2. Some may derive from other little-known ancient languages at some time spoken in Dacia or Moesia: for example, the Iranic Sarmatian, or the Turkic Avar, Bulgar or Cuman languages.[citation needed], or, conceivably, some unknown pre-Indo-European language(s) of the Carpathians or Balkans.[citation needed] (An illustration of the latter possibility are pre-Indo-European substratum (i.e. Iberian/Basque) in Spanish e.g. "fox" = zorro, from Basque azeri, instead of proto-Romance *vulpe). A pre-Indo-European origin has been proposed for several Rom. substratum words e.g. balaur [20], brad ("fir-tree").[21]
  3. About 160 of the Romanian substratum words have cognates in Albanian and therefore may be of Illyrian origin rather than Dacian, as many contemporary scholars consider Albanian to be a modern descendant of the ancient Illyrian language .[22] A possible example is Rom. brad ("fir-tree"), Alb. cognate bradh (same meaning).[23] Duridanov has reconstructed *skuia as a Dacian word for fir-tree,[24] strengthening the possibility that brad may be an Illyrian word for this tree.
  4. The numerous Rom. substratum words which have cognates in Bulgarian may derive from Thracian, which may have been a different language from Dacian (see below, Thracian).

Balaur ("dragon"), ascribed a Dacian origin by some scholars, exemplifies the etymological uncertainties. According to DEX, balaur has also been identified as: a pre-Indo-European relic; or derived from Latin belua or beluaria ("beast" cf. It. belva), or ancient Greek pelorion ("monster"); or as a cognate of Alb. buljar ("water-snake")[20] thus possibly of Illyrian origin. DEX argues that these etymologies, save the Albanian one, are dubious, but they are no more so than the unverifiable assertion that balaur is derived from some unknown Dacian word. (Another possibility is that balaur could be a Celtic derivation cf. the Irish mythical giant Balor (aka Balar), who could kill with flashes of light from his eye or with his poisonous breath).

However, the substratum words can be used to corroborate Dacian words reconstructed from place- and personal names. This has been possible in some cases, for example Dacian *balas = "white" (from personal name Balius), Rom bălan = "white-haired"; (although, even in this case, it cannot be determined with certainty whether the Romanian word derives from the presumed Dacian word or from its Old Slavic cognate belu). The Romanian substratum word spânz ("hellebore" cf. Albanian spëndër) is another example, used along with a Dacian form and Baltic words to support a Dacian word that meant "shiny".[specify Dacian word and IE etymology]

Geographical extent

Celtic, Illyrian and Dacian languages 4th - 3rd century BC
Map of Dacia 1st century BC
Dacia's map from a medieval book made after Ptolemy's Geographia (ca. 140 AD)

Linguistic area

Probably Dacian used to be one of the major languages of South-Eastern Europe, spoken from what is now Eastern Hungary to the Black Sea shore.[citation needed] According to historians, as a result of the linguistic unity of the Getae and Dacians that result from the record of ancient writers Strabo, Cassius Dio, Trogus Pompeius, Appian and Pliny the Elder, contemporary historiography often uses the term Geto-Dacians to refer to the people living in the area between the Carpathians, the Haemus (Balkan) Mountains and the Black Sea. Strabo gave the more specific information recording that “the Dacians speak the same language as the Getae” a dialect of the Thracian language.[25] The information provided by the Greek geographer is complemented by other literary, linguistic, and archeological evidence. According to these, the Geto-Dacians may have occupied the territory in the west and northwest as far as Moravia and the middle Danube, to the area of present-day Serbia in the southwest, and as far as the Haemus Mountains in the south. The eastern limit of the territory inhabited by the Geto-Dacians may have been the shore of the Black Sea and the Tyras River, possibly at times reaching as far as the Bug River, the northern limit reached the Trans-Carpathian Ukraine and southern Poland.[26]

Over time, some peripheral areas of the Geto-Dacians' territories were affected by the presence of other people, such as the Celts in the West, the Illyrians in the Southwest, the Greeks and Scythians in the East, and the Bastarnae in the Northeast. Nevertheless, between the Tisza River, the Haemus Mountains, the Black Sea, the Dniester River, and the northern Carpathians, a continuous Geto-Dacian presence was maintained, according to some scholars.[27]

According to the Bulgarian linguist Georgiev, the Daco-Mysian region included Dacia (approximately contemporary Romania and Hungary to the east of the Tisza River, Mysia (Moesia) and Scythia Minor (contemporary Dobrogea).[28]


1st century BC

In 53 BC, Julius Caesar stated that the lands of the Dacians started on the eastern edge of the Hercynian Forest.[29] This corresponds to the period between 82-44 BCE, when the Dacian state reached its widest extent during the reign of king Burebista : in the West it may have extended as far as the middle Danube River valley (present-day Hungary), in the East and North to the Carpathians (in Slovakia) and in the South to the lower Dniester valley (southwestern Ukraine) and western coast of the Black Sea as far as Appollonia.[30] At that time, some scholars believe, the Dacians built a series of hill-forts at Zemplin (Slovakia), Mala Kopania(Ukraine), Onceşti, Maramureş (Romania) and Solotvyno (Ukraine).[30] The Zemplin settlement appears to belong to a Celto-Dacian horizon, as well as the river Patissus (Tisza)'s region, including its upper stretch, according to Shchukin (1989).[31] According to Parducz (1956) Foltiny (1966), Dacian archaeological finds extend to the West of Dacia, occurring along both banks of the Tisza.[32] Besides the possible incorporation of a part of Slovakia into the Dacian state of Burebista, there was also Geto-Dacian penetration of South-Eastern Poland, according to Mielczarek (1989).[33] The Polish linguist Milewski Tadeusz (1966 and 1969) suggests that in the Southern regions of Poland appear names unusual in Northern Poland, possibly related to Dacian or Illyrian names.[34][35] On the grounds of these names, it has been argued that the region of the Carpathian and Tatra Mountains was inhabited by Dacian tribes linguistically related to the ancestors of modern Albanians.[36][35]

Also, a formal statement by Pliny indicated the river Vistula as the western boundary of Dacia, according to Nicolet (1991).[37] Between the Prut and the Dniester, the northern extent of the appearance of Geto-Dacian elements in the 4th century BC coincides roughly with the extent of the present-day Republic of Moldova, according to Mielczarek. [38]

According to Müllenhoff (1856) Shütte (1917) Urbannczyk (2001) Matei-Popescu (2007) Agrippa’s commentaries mention Vistula river as the western boundary of Dacia.[39][40][41][42] Urbannczyk (1997) speculates that according to Agrippa’s commentaries along with the map of Agrippa (before 12 BC) Vistula river separated Germania and Dacia.[43] Map is lost and its contents are unknown (See one possible reconstruction: [1] )[Full citation needed] However, later Roman geographers, including Ptolemy (AD 90 – c. AD 168) (II.10, III.7) and Tacitus (AD 56 – AD 117) (ref: Germania XLVI) considered the Vistula as the boundary between Germania and Sarmatia Europaea, or Germania and Scythia.[39].

1st century AD

Around 20 AD, Strabo wrote the Geographica [44] that provides information regarding to the extent of regions inhabited by Dacians. On its basis, Lengyel and Radan (1980), Hoddinott (1981) and Mountain (1998) consider that the Geto-Dacians inhabited both sides of the Tisza river prior to the rise of the Celtic Boii and again after the latter were defeated by the Dacians.[45][46][47][48] The hold of the Dacians between Danube and Tisza appears to have been only loose.[49] However, the Hungarian archaeologist Parducz (1856) argued a Dacian presence west of the Tisza dating from the time of Burebista (Ehrich 1970).[32] According to Tacitus (AD 56 – AD 117) Dacians were bordering Germany in the South-east while Sarmatians bordered it in the East.[50]

In the 1st century AD, the Iazyges settled West of Dacia, on the plain between the Danube and the Tisza rivers, according to some scholars' interpretation of Pliny's text: “The higher parts between the Danube and the Hercynian Forest (Black Forest) as far as the winter quarters of Pannonia at Carnuntum and the plains and level country of the German frontiers there are occupied by the Sarmatian Iazyges, while the Dacians whom they have driven out hold the mountains and forests as far as the river Theiss”.[51] [52][53] [54][55] Archaeological sources indicate that the local Celto-Dacian population retained its specificity as late as the third century.[38] Archaeological finds dated to the 2nd c. AD, after the Roman conquest, indicate that during that period, vessels found in some of the so-called Iazygian cemetery reveal fairly strong Dacian influence, according to Mocsy.[56] M. Párducz (1956) and Z. Visy (1971) reported a concentration of Dacian-style finds in the Cris-Mures-Tisza region and in the Danube bend area (around Budapest). These maps of finds remain valid today, but they have been complemented with additional finds that cover a wider area, particularly the interfluvial region between the Danube and Tisza (Toma 2007). [57] However, this interpretation has been invalidated by late 20th-century archaeology, which has discovered Sarmatian settlements and burial sites all over the Hungarian Plain, on both sides of the Tisza e.g. Gyoma (SE Hungary), Nyiregyhaza (NE Hungary).[Full citation needed] The Barrington Atlas shows Iazyges occupying both sides of Tisza (map 20).

2nd century AD

Central Europe map that includes Dacia

Written a few decades after the Roman conquest of Dacia 105-106 AD[58], Ptolemy's Geographia defined the boundaries of Dacia. There is a consensus among scholars that Ptolemy's Dacia was the region between the rivers Tisza, Danube, upper Dniester, and Siret.[59][60] [61][62] The mainstream of historians accepted this interpretation: Avery (1972) Berenger (1994) Fol (1996) Mountain (1998), Waldman Mason (2006).[63][29][64][65][66] Ptolemy also provided Dacian toponyms in the Upper Vistula (Polish: Wisla) river basin (Poland): Susudava and Setidava (with a manuscript variant Getidava[67]).[68][69][70] This may be an “echo” of Burebista’s expansion.[68] It appears that this northern expansion of the Dacian language as far as the Vistula river, lasted until AD 170-180 when the Hasdings, a Germanic tribe, expelled a Dacian group from this region, according to Shutte (1917) and Childe (1930).[71][72] This Dacian group is associated by Shutte (1952) with towns having the specific Dacian language ending 'dava' i.e. Setidava.[73] A previous Dacian presence that ended with the Hasdings' arrival is considered also by Heather (2010) who says that the Hasdings Vandals “attempted to take control of lands which had previously belonged to a free Dacian group called the Costoboci” [74] On the northern slopes of the Carpathians were mentioned several tribes that are generally considered Thraco-Dacian, i.e. Arsietae (Upper Vistula) [75][76][77][78][79], Biessi / Biessoi[78][76][80][81] and Piengitai.[76][79] Schutte (1952) associated the Dacian tribe of Arsietae with the Arsonion town.[75] And, the ancient documents attest names with the Dacian name ending -dava 'town' in the Balto-Slavic territory, in the country of Arsietae tribe, at the sources of the Vistula river.[82] The Biessi inhabited the foothills of the 'Carpathian Mountains,' which on Ptolemy's map are located on the headwaters of the Dnister and Sian Rivers (right-bank Carpathian tributary of the Vistula river).[83] Biessi (Biessoi) probably have left their name to the mountain chain of Bieskides, that continues the small Carpathian Mountains towards the north (Shutte 1952).[75] Ptolemy (140 AD) lists only Germanic or Balto-Slavic tribes, and no Dacians)[Full citation needed], on both sides of the Vistula (ref: II.10; III.7), as does the Barrington Atlas (map 19)[Full citation needed]

After the Marcomannic Wars (166-180 AD), Dacian groups from outside Roman Dacia had been set in motion. So were the 12,000 Dacians "from the neighbourhood of Roman Dacia sent away from their own country". Their native country could have been the Upper Tisza region but some other places cannot be excluded.[84]

Dacian linguistic zone in the era of Augustus

Core "dava" zone

Map of the geographical distribution of attested placenames with the -dava suffix, according to Olteanu (2010). The dava distribution confirms Dacia and Moesia as the zone of Dacian speech. The dava zone is, with few exceptions, consistent with Ptolemy's definition of Dacia's borders. There is no conclusive evidence that Dacian was a predominant language outside the dava zone in the 1st century AD. According to Strabo, the Thracians spoke the same language as the Dacians, in which case Dacian was spoken as far as the Aegean sea and the Bosporus. But Strabo's view is controversial among modern linguists: dava placenames are absent South of the Balkan mountains, with one exception (see Thracian, below)

At the start of the Roman imperial era (30 BC), the Dacian language was predominant in the ancient regions of Dacia and Moesia. Strabo's statement that the Moesian people spoke the same language as the Dacians and Getae is confirmed by the distribution of placenames, attested in Ptolemy's Geographia, which carry the suffix -dava ("town" or "fort").

North of the Danube, the dava-zone is largely consistent with Ptolemy's definition of Dacia's borders (III.8.1-3) i.e. the area contained by the river Ister (Danube) to the South, the river Thibiscum (Timiş) to the W., the upper river Tyras (Dniester) to the N. and the river Hierasus (Siret) to the E.[85] To the West, it appears that the -dava placenames in Olteanu's map lie within the line of the Timiş (extended northwards). However, 4 davas are located beyond the Siret, Ptolemy's eastern border. But 3 of these (Piroboridava, Tamasidava and Zargidava), are described by Ptolemy as pará (Gr."very close") to the Siret: Piroboridava, the only one securely located, was just 3 km from the Siret.[86] The location of Clepidava is uncertain: Olteanu locates it in NE Bessarabia, but Georgiev places it further West, in SW Ukraine, between the upper reaches of the rivers Siret and Dniester.[87]

South of the Danube, a dialect of Dacian ("Daco-Moesian") was probably spoken in the region known to the Romans as Moesia, which was divided by them into the Roman provinces of Moesia Superior (roughly mod. Serbia) and Moesia Inferior (mod. N. Bulgaria as far as the Balkan range plus Rom. Dobrogea region). This is evidenced by the distribution of -dava placenames, which occur in the eastern half of Moesia Superior and all over Inferior.[88] These regions were inhabited by tribes believed to have been Dacian-speaking, such as the Triballi, Moesi and Getae.

The northernmost part of Dacia as defined by Ptolemy, i.e. the region between the northern Carpathians and the upper stretch of the Dniester, may not have been mainly Dacian-speaking.[89] Ptolemy (III.8.3) lists two Celtic peoples, the Taurisci and Anartes, as resident alongside the Costoboci. (The latter are considered by mainstream scholarship to have been ethnic Dacians, but this is disputed by several scholars). The Germanic Bastarnae are also attested in this region in literature and the archaeological record during the 1st century BC and probably remained in the 1st century AD, according to Batty.[89] However, the presence in this region of Clepidava supports some Dacian presence.

Other regions

It has been argued that the zone of Dacian speech extended beyond the confines of Dacia (as defined by Ptolemy) and Moesia. An extreme view, presented by some outdated scholars, is that Dacian was the main language spoken all the way from the Baltic sea to the Black and Aegean seas. But the evidence for Dacian as a prevalent language outside Dacia and Moesia appears inconclusive:

To the South, it has been argued that the ancient Thracian language was a dialect of Dacian (or vice versa) and that therefore the Dacian linguistic zone extended over the Roman province of Thracia (Bulgaria S of Balkan Mts, northern Greece and European Turkey), as far as the Aegean sea. But this theory (the Daco-Thracian, or Thraco-Dacian, theory), ultimately based on the testimony of the Augustan-era geographer Strabo (Geographica VII.3.2 and 3.13), is disputed, with opponents arguing that Thracian was a distinct language from Dacian, either related or unrelated (see below, Thracian).

In addition, Strabo (VII.3.2) equates the Moesi people with the Mysi (Mysians) of NW Anatolia, stating that the two forms were Greek and Latin variants of the same name. The Mysians, he adds, were Moesi who had migrated to Anatolia and who spoke the same language i.e. Dacian. But there is not sufficient evidence about either Dacian or the Mysian language to verify Strabo's claim.[Full citation needed] It is possible that Strabo was making a false identification based solely on the similarity between the two tribal names, which may have been coincidental. The need for caution about Strabo's linguistic linkages is demonstrated by his further claim (VII.3.2) that the Mysians' neighbours, the Phrygians, were descended from a Thracian tribe and thus also spoke a similar language to the Thracians/Dacians.This is rejected by mainstream scholarship today, which considers the Phrygian language, which is better documented than the other two, a separate branch of IE, and a language unrelated to Thracian or Dacian.[4][90]

To the West, some scholars have asserted that Dacian was also the main language of the sedentary population of the Hungarian Plain, at least as far as the river Tisza, and even as far as the Danube. Statements by ancient authors such as Caesar, Strabo and Pliny the Elder have been (controversially) interpreted as supporting this view, but these are too vague or ambiguous to be of much geographical value.[Full citation needed] But there is little hard evidence to support the thesis of a large ethnic-Dacian population on the Plain:

  1. Toponyms: None of the 8 placenames on the Plain given by Ptolemy (III.7.1) carry the -dava suffix. At least 3 -Uscenum, Bormanum and the only one which can be located with confidence, Partiscum (Szeged, Hungary) - have been identified as Celtic placenames by scholars.[91]
  2. Archaeology: The archaeology of the sedentary population of the Plain has been interpreted by some scholars as showing Dacian (Mocsy 1974) or Celto-Dacian (Parducz 1956) features. But more recent scholarship e.g. Szabó (2005) and Almássy (2006), has favoured the view that the sedentary population of the Hungarian Plain 100 BC - AD 100 was predominantly ethnic Celtic and that any Dacian-style features were cultural imports. [92] Of 94 sites dated to this period excavated 1986-2006, the vast majority have been identified as Celtic, while only two as possibly (and none as certainly) Dacian, according to Almassy.[93] Visy (1995) also concludes that there is little archaeological evidence of a Dacian population on the Plain before the Sarmatian occupation bas the later 1st century AD. [94]
  3. Epigraphy: Inscription AE (1905) 14 records a campaign of the Augustan-era general Marcus Vinucius across the Danube, dated to 10 BC[95] or 8 BC[96] i.e. during or just after the Roman conquest of Pannonia (bellum Pannonicum 14-9 BC). The inscription states: "Marcus Vinucius... Consul [in 19 BC], etc... governor of Illyricum, the first [Roman general] to advance across the river Danube, defeated in battle and routed an army of Dacians and Bastarnae, and subjected the Cotini, Osi?,...[missing tribal name] and Anartes to the power of the emperor Augustus and of the people of Rome." [2]) It has been suggested that the latter Celtic tribes constituted the native population of the Plain, who, until Vinucius' offensive had been under Dacian political hegemony, but became Rome's clients thereafter.[Full citation needed][original research?]

To the East, beyond the Siret, it has been argued by numerous scholars that Dacian was also the main language of the modern regions of Moldavia and Bessarabia, as far East as the river Dniester. The main evidence adduced to support this consists of 3 -dava placenames which Ptolemy located just East of the Siret; and the mainstream identification as ethnic-Dacian of two peoples resident in Moldavia: the Carpi and Costoboci (but the Dacian ethnicity of the Carpi and Costoboci is disputed in academic circles, and they have also been variously identified as Sarmatian, Germanic, Celtic or even proto-Slavic). In any case, numerous non-Dacian peoples, both sedentary and nomadic, (Scytho-Sarmatian Roxolani and Agathyrsi, Germanic Bastarnae and Celtic Anartes), are attested in the ancient sources and in the archaeological record as inhabiting this region.[97] The linguistic status of this region during the Roman era must therefore be considered uncertain.

To the Northwest, the argument has been advanced that Dacian was also prevalent in Slovakia and parts of Poland. The basis for this is the presumed Dacian occupation of the fortress of Zemplin in Slovakia in the era of Dacian king Burebista (whose campaigns outside Dacia have been dated ca. 60-44 BC) and Ptolemy's location of two -dava placenames on the lower river Vistula in Poland.

But the hypothesis of a Dacian occupation of Slovakia during the 1st century BC is contradicted by the archaeological evidence that this region featured a predominantly Celtic culture from ca. 400 BC;[98] and of a sophisticated Celtic kingdom based in Bratislava during the 1st century BC, which issued its own gold and silver coinage (the so-called "Biatec" coins), which bear the names of several Celtic kings, and which is also manifested by the existence of numerous Celtic-type oppida (fortified hill-top settlements), of which Zemplin is the foremost exemplar in SE Slovakia. Furthermore, the archaeological Puchov culture, present in Slovakia in this period, is considered Celtic by mainstream scholarship [98] (although Dacian influence, in the form of cultural imports, appears to have increased later, during the 1st century AD). Some scholars argue that Zemplin was occupied by Burebista's troops from ca. 60 BC onwards, but this is based on the presence, alongside the Celtic material, of "Dacian-style" artefacts, which may have been only cultural imports. But even if parts of Slovakia were (briefly) occupied by Dacian troops under Burebista, it does not follow that the indigenous population became Dacian-speakers. The evidence, accepted by mainstream scholarship, is that the indigenous population of this region was, throughout this period, composed of Celtic-speaking tribes, notably the Boii and Cotini (cf. Tacitus' Germania 43: ca. AD 100).[original research?]

As regards Poland, the two -dava names are suspect.[original research?] Setidava also appears near the lower Danube in Ptolemy's account of Dacia proper (and is spelt Getidava in one manuscript; while Susudata may well be a mis-spelling of Sucidava, two of which appear elsewhere in Ptolemy (in Dacia and Moesia).[original research?] It is thus possible that the inclusion of these names on the Vistula was due to copying-errors by a medieval monk.[original research?] In any case, the hypothesis of a substantial Dacian population in Poland is not widely supported among modern scholars, as this region is generally regarded as inhabited predominantly by Germanic tribes during the early Roman imperial era e.g. Heather (2009).[99] [100]

Dacian vocabulary

Settlements and fortresses

Dava element

Onomastic range of the Dacian towns with the dava ending, covering Dacia, Moesia, Thrace and Dalmatia
Onomastic range of the Dacian towns with the dava ending, covering Dacia, Moesia, Thrace and Dalmatia

Ptolemy gives a list of 43 names of towns in Dacia, out of which arguably 33 were of Dacian origin. Most of the latter included the added suffix ‘dava’ (meaning settlement, village). But, other Dacian names from his list lack the suffix (e.g. Zarmisegethusa regia = Zermizirga). In addition, nine other names of Dacian origin seem to have been Latinised.[101]

The Dacian linguistic area is characterized mainly with composite names ending in -dava (-deva, -daua, -daba, etc.) ‘a town’. The settlement names ending in -dava, -deva, are geographically grouped as follows:

1. In Dacia: Acidava, Argedava, Argidava, Buridava, Cumidava, Dokidaua, Karsidaua, Klepidaua, Markodaua, Netindaua, Patridaua, Pelendova, *Perburidava, Petrodaua, Piroboridaua, Rhamidaua, Rusidava, Sacidaba, Sangidaua, Setidava, Singidaua, Sykidaba, Tamasidaua, Utidaua, Zargidaua, Ziridava, Zucidaua – 26 names altogether.

2. In Lower Moesia (the present Northern Bulgaria) and Scythia Minor (Dobruja): Aedabe, *Buteridava, *Giridava, Dausdavua, Kapidaua, Murideba, Sacidava, Scaidava (Skedeba), Sagadava, Sukidaua (Sucidava) – 10 names in total.

3. In Upper Moesia (the present districts of Nish, Sofia, and partly Kjustendil): Aiadaba, Bregedaba, Danedebai, Desudaba, Itadeba, Kuimedaba, Zisnudeba – 7 names in total.

4. Besides these regions, similar village names are found in three other places: Thermi-daua (Ptolemy), a town in Dalmatia. A Grecized form of *Germidava. This settlement was probably found by immigrants from Dacia.

Gil-doba – a village in Thrace, of unknown location.

Pulpu-deva in Thrace - today Plovdiv in Bulgaria

Settlements with irregular names

There are a number of Dacian settlements which don't have the usual -dava, -deva or -daba ending. Some of them include: Acmonia, Aizis, Amutria, Apulon, Arcina, Arcobadara, Arutela, Berzobis, Brucla, Diacum, Dierna, Dinogetia, Drobeta, Egeta, Genucla, Malva (Romula), Napoca, Oescus, Patruissa, Pinon, Potaissa, Ratiaria, Sarmizegetusa, Tapae, Tibiscum, Tirista, Tsierna, Tyrida, Zaldapa, Zeugma and Zurobara.

Tribal names

In the case of Ptolemy's Dacia, the tribal names include mostly names similar to those from the list of civitates and very few others.[102] Georgiev counts the Triballi, the Moesians and the Dardanians as Daco-Moesians.[103][104]

Names of kings and leaders

Plant names

Dioscorides, De Materia Medica, Byzantium, 15th century.

In ancient literary sources, the Dacian names for a number of medicinal plants and herbs survive in ancient texts,[7][8] including about 60 plant names in Dioscorides.[9]

The Greek physician Pedanius Dioscorides, of Anazarbus in Asia Minor, wrote the medical textbook De materia medica (Gr. Περί ύλης ιατρικής) in the mid-1st century AD. In Wellmannn’s opinion (1913), accepted by Russu (1967), the Dacian plant names were added in the 3rd century AD from a glossary published by the Greek grammarian Pamphilus of Alexandria (1st c. AD).[105] The Dacian glosses were probably added to the Pseudo-Apuleius texts by the 4th century. The mixture of indigenous Dacian, Latin and Greek words in the lists of Dacian plant names may be explained by a linguistic crossing process occurring in that period.[106]

Dacian toponyms, although many have uncertain meanings, are more reliable as sources of Dacian words than the names of medicinal plants provided by Dioscorides, which have led to speculative identifications: out of 57 plants, 25 identifications may be erroneous, according to Asher & Simpson.[107] According to the Bulgarian linguist Decev, of the 42 supposedly Dacian plant names in Dioscorides only 25 are truly Dacian, while 10 are Latin and 7 Greek. Also, of the 31 "Dacian" plant names recorded by Pseudo-Apuleius, 16 are really Dacian, 9 Latin and 8 Greek.[106]

Examples of common Dacian, Latin and Greek words in Pseudo-Apuleius:

Reconstruction of Dacian words

Both Georgiev and Duridanov use the comparative linguistic method to decipher ancient Thracian and Dacian names, respectively.

Georgiev (1977) argues that one can reliably decipher the meaning of an ancient place-name in an unknown language by comparing it to its successor-names and to cognate place-names and words in other IE languages, both ancient and modern. Georgiev considers decipherment by analysis of root-words (Wurzeletymologien) alone to be "devoid of scientific value".[110] He gives several examples of his methodology, of which one is summarised here:

The town and river (a tributary of the Danube) in eastern Romania called Cernavodă. In Slavic, the name means "black water". The same town in antiquity was known as Ἀξίοπα (Axiopa) or Ἀξιούπολις (Axioupolis) and its river as the Ἀξιός (Axios). The working assumption is, therefore, that Axiopa meant "black water" in Dacian, on the basis that Cernavodă is probably a loan-translation of the ancient Dacian name.[111] According to Georgiev, the likely IE root-word for Axios is *η-ks(e)y-no ("dark, black" cf. Avestan axsaena).[112] On the basis of the known rules of formation of IE composite words, Axiopa would break down as axi = "black" and opa or upa = "water" in Dacian (the -polis element is ignored, as it is a Greek suffix meaning "city"). The assumption is then validated by examining cognate placenames. There was another Balkan river known in Antiquity as Axios, which is today called Crna reka (Slavic for "black river"): although it was in Dardania (Rep. of Macedonia), a mainly Illyrian-speaking region, Georgiev considers this river-name of Daco-Moesian origin. The axi element is validated also by the older Greek name for the Black Sea, Ἄξεινος πόντος (Axeinos pontos, later altered to the euphemism Εὔξεινος πόντος Euxeinos pontos = "Hospitable sea"). The opa/upa element is validated by the Lithuanian cognate upė ("water").[113] The second component of the town's name *-upolis may be a diminutive of *upa cf. Lithuanian diminutive upelis.[111][dubious ]


  1. This etymology was questioned by Russu: Axiopa, a name attested only in Procopius' De Aedificiis, may be a corrupt form of Axiopolis.[114] However, even if correct, Russu's objection does not affect the interpretation of the axi- element as meaning "black".
  2. Fraser (1959) noted that the root axio that occurs in the place-name Axiopa is also found in Samothrace and in Sparta (where Athena Axiopoina was worshiped). Therefore, he considers this pre-Greek root as being of Thracian origin, meaning "great".[115] However, this objection may not be relevant, if Thracian was a different language from Dacian.

Reasons for some linguists’ scepticism of this reconstruction methodology of Dacian include:

  1. The phonetic systems of Dacian and Thracian and their evolution are not reconstructed directly from indigenous elements but from their approximative Greek or Latin transcripts.[116][117] Greek and Latin possessed no dedicated graphic sign for phonemes such as č, ġ, ž, š and others. Thus, if a Thracian (or Dacian) word contained such a phoneme, it is evident that a Greek or Latin transcript would not represent it accurately.[118]
  2. The etymologies that are adduced to back up the proposed Dacian and Thracian vowels and consonants changes (that are used for language words reconstruction with comparative method) are open to divergent interpretations, since the material is strictly onomastic, with the exception of Dacian plant names and of the limited number of glosses.[119] Because of this, there are divergent and even contradictory assumptions for the phonological structure and development of Dacian and Thracian languages.[119] As in (1) above, it is doubtful that the Dacian phonological system has been accurately reproduced by Greek or Latin transcripts of indigenous lexica.[120]
  3. In the case of personal names, the choice of the etymology is often a matter of compliance with assumed phonological rules.[121]
  4. Since, based on the work of V. Georgiev, the geographical aspect of occurrence of sound changes (i.e. o > a) within "Thracian territory" considered in the wider sense began to be emphasized by some researchers, the chronological aspect has been rather neglected.[122]
  5. There are numerous cases where lack of information obscured the vocalism of these idioms, generating the most contradictory theories.[123] Today, some 3,000 Thraco-Dacian lexical units are known. In the case of the oscillation *o / *a, the total number of words containing it is about 30, many more than the ones cited by both Georgiev and Russu, and the same explanation is not valid for all of them.[124]

Sound changes from Proto-Indo-European

Phonologically Dacian is a conservative IE language.[citation needed] From remaining fragments, the sound changes from PIE to Dacian can be grouped as follows.[citation needed]

Template:Present alternative views: some sound changes below are controversial

Short vowels

  1. PIE *a and *o appear as a.
  2. PIE accented *e, appears as ye in open syllable or ya in closed ones. Otherwise, PIE un-accented *e remains e.
  3. PIE *i, was preserved in Dacian as i.

Long vowels

  1. PIE and appears as
  2. PIE was preserved as


  1. PIE *ai was preserved as *ai
  2. PIE *oi appears in Dacian as *ai
  3. PIE *ei evolution is not well reconstructed yet. It appears to be preserved to ei or that already passed to i.
  4. PIE *wa was preserved as *wa.
  5. PIE *wo appears as *wa.
  6. PIE *we was preserved as *we.
  7. PIE *wy appears as *vi.
  8. PIE *aw was preserved as *aw.
  9. PIE *ow appears as *aw.
  10. PIE *ew was preserved as *ew.


Like many IE stocks it has merged the two series of voiced stops.

  1. Both *d and *dh became d,
  2. Both *g and *gh became g
  3. Both *b and *bh became b
  4. PIE *ḱ passed to ts
  5. PIE passed to dz
  6. PIE *kʷ when followed by e, i passed to c^ (like in English chart) Otherwise passed to k. Same fate for PIE cluster *kw.
  7. PIE *gʷ and *gʷh when followed by e or i passed to g^ Otherwise passed to g. Same fate for PIE cluster *gw
  8. PIE *m, *n, *p, *r, *l were preserved.

Note: In the course of the diachronic development of Dacian, a palatalization of k and g appears to have occurred before front vowels according to the following process [125]

  • k > [kj] > [tj] > [t∫] ~ [ts] {ts} or {tz} > [s] ~ [z] {z} e.g.:*ker(s)na is reflected by Tierna (Tabula Peutingeriana) Dierna (in inscriptions and Ptolemy), *Tsierna in station Tsiernen[sis], AD 157, Zernae (notitia Dignitatum), (colonia) Zernensis (Ulpian)[125]
  • g > [gj] > [dj] > [dz] ~ > [z] {z} e.g.:Germisara appears as Γερμιζερα, with the variants Ζερμιζίργα, Ζερμίζιργα[125]


There is no dispute among scholars that Dacian was an Indo-European language (IE). Russu (1967, 1969 and 1970) suggested that the phonological system of Dacian and, therefore, of its presumed Thraco-Dacian parent-language, was relatively close to the primitive IE system.[126]

Several linguists classify Dacian as a satem IE language: Russu [127], Radulescu (1987),[128], Katicic (1976) and Krizman (1976). [129] The supporting evidence, however, is thin. In Crossland’s opinion (1982), both Thracian and Dacian feature one of the main satem characteristics, the change of Indo-European *k and *g to s and z. But the other characteristic satem changes are doubtful in Thracian and not evidenced in Dacian.[130] In any case, the satem/centum distinction, once regarded as a fundamental divide between IE languages, is no longer considered significant in historical linguistics by mainstream scholars. [131] It is now recognised that it is only one of many isoglosses criss-crossing the IE zone; that languages can exhibit both types at the same time, and that these may change over time. In other words, the isogloss is worthless as a tool to determine the genetic descent of IE languages.

There is, however, much controversy about the place of Dacian in the IE evolutionary "tree". According to a dated view, Dacian derived from a Daco-Thraco-Phrygian (or "Paleo-Balkan") branch of IE. Today, the Phrygian is no longer widely seen as linked in this way to Dacian and Thracian.

In contrast, the hypothesis of a "Thraco-Dacian" (or "Daco-Thracian") branch of IE, indicating a close link between the Thracian and Dacian languages, has numerous adherents, including Russu 1967[132], Georg Solta 1980[133], Vraciu 1980[134], Crossland 1982 [135], Radulescu 1984[136], 1987 [137]. Mihailov (2008) and Trask 2000[138]. The Daco-Thracian theory is ultimately based on the testimony of several Greco-Roman authors: most notably, the Roman imperial-era historian and geographer Strabo, who states that the Dacians, Getae, Moesians and Thracians all spoke essentially the same language. (Ref: Strabo Geographica VII.3.2, 3.13). Herodotus states that "the Getae are the bravest and the most just amongst the Thracians", further evidence linking the Getae, and thus the Dacians, with the Thracians. [139] Some scholars also see support for a close link between the Thracian and Dacian languages in the works of Cassius Dio, Trogus Pompeius, Appian and Pliny the Elder.[25]

But the Daco-Thracian theory has been challenged since the 1960s by the Bulgarian linguist Vladimir I. Georgiev and his followers. Georgiev argues, on phonetic, lexical and toponymic grounds, that Thracian, Dacian and Phrygian were completely different languages, each constituting a separate branch of IE, and that no Daco-Thraco-Phrygian, or Daco-Thracian, branches of IE ever existed.[4] Georgiev argues that the distance between Dacian and Thracian was approximately the same as that between the Armenian and Persian languages [140] (which are completely different languages, although Armenian contains many Persian loanwords. These two languages are today generally seen to belong to separate IE branches: the Iranic branch and a stand-alone Armenian branch, respectively).

In elaborating the phonology of Dacian, Georgiev makes considerable use of plant-names attested in Dioscorides and Pseudo-Apuleius, ascertaining their literal meanings, and hence their etymology, with the help of the Greek translations, furnished by those authors. The phonology of Dacian produced in this way is strikingly different from that of the Thracian: the vowel change IE *o > * a recurs, and the k-sounds undergo the changes characteristic of the satem languages.[141] For the phonology of the Thracian, Georgiev adopts the principle that an intelligible place-name in a modern language is likely to be a translation of an ancient name.[141]

Georgiev (1977) also advanced the theory, on phonological and other grounds, that the modern Albanian language is descended from Dacian, or more precisely from what he dubbed "Daco-Moesian" (or Daco-Mysian), the Moesian dialect of Dacian. [142] But this view has not gained a wide acceptance among scholars and is rejected by most Albanian linguists, who consider that Albanian belongs to the Illyrian branch of IE. (Ref: Lloshi, 1999, p283). Polome accepts the view that Albanian is descended from Illyrian on balance, but considers the evidence inconclusive. [143]

Relationship with ancient languages


There is general agreement among scholars that both Dacian and Thracian were Indo-European languages. But beyond this, there are widely divergent views about their precise relationship:

  1. Dacian was a northern dialect or a slightly distinct variety of the Thracian language.[139][144][145] Alternatively, Thracian was a southern dialect of Dacian which developed relatively late. Linguists use the term "Daco-Thracian" (or "Thraco-Dacian") to denote this presumed Dacian and Thracian common language.[144] On this view, these dialects may have been mutually intelligible. A possible modern parallel is the relationship between the Danish and Swedish languages, which are mutually intelligible.[citation needed]
  2. Dacian and Thracian were distinct but related languages, descended from a hypothetical Daco-Thracian branch of Indo-European. One suggestion is that the Dacian differentiation from Thracian may have taken place only after 1500 BC.[146][147] In this scenario, the two tongues may not have been mutually intelligible. A modern parallel may be the relationship between the Latvian and Lithuanian languages. These are descended from the Baltic branch of IE and share many grammatical and lexical features. But they are not mutually intelligible.
  3. Dacian and Thracian were not closely related, constituting separate branches of IE and quite different languages.[4] However, they shared a large number of lexica, which were mutual borrowings due to long-term geographical proximity.[148] A modern parallel may be the relationship between Romanian and Bulgarian. These are completely different languages, being descended from the Romance and Slavic branches of IE respectively. But through long interaction with Slavs during the medieval era, the early speakers of Romanian (the Vlachs) acquired a large number of Slavic loanwords, which today amount to ca. 10-15% of the Romanian lexicon.

Georgiev and his followers argue that the phonetic development from IE of the two languages is clearly divergent.[149] Prominent among these differences are consonant-shifts that Georgiev claims occurred in Thracian but not in Dacian: IE *t became Thracian ta, and *m = t.[150] However, Daco-Thracianists deny that such a consonant-shifts occurred, arguing instead that in both languages Indo-European *ma fused into m and that IE *t remained unchanged. [128] Georgiev also argued that the vocalic development of the two languages also diverged.[151] For example, the Indo-European (IE) *e changed in Daco-Moesian to *i.e. e.g. the Dacian tribal name Biessoi, but not in Thracian: e.g. the Thracian tribe named Bessoi.[81] But Russu rejects Georgiev's suggestion that IE *o mutated into a in Thracian. [152] Georgiev also argues that placenames in the Daco-Moesian zone show different and generally less extensive changes in Indo-European consonants and vowels than those found in Thrace.

A comparison of Georgiev's and Duridanov's reconstructed words with the same meaning in the two languages shows that, although they shared some common lexica, most words were completely different. [153] However, not nearly enough words are known in each language to establish that they were unrelated.

According to Georgiev (1977), Dacian placenames and personal names are "completely different" from their Thracian counterparts.[140] However, Tomaschek (1883) and Mateescu (1923) argue that some common elements exist in Dacian and Thracian placenames and personal names.[154][155] But Polome (1982) considers that post-Georgiev research has confirmed a clear onomastic divide.[156]

Georgiev was the first scholar to discover a linguistically significant toponymic fact: Daco-Moesian placenames generally end in -DAVA (variants: -daba, -deva: "town" or "stronghold"). But placenames in Thrace proper (i.e. South of the Haemus range - Balkan mountains) usually end in -PARA (variant: -pera: "village" or "settlement":[157] cf Hindi suffix -pur = "town" e.g. Udaipur),[original research?] or, in fewer cases, in -BRIA ("town") or -DIZA (or -dizos: "stronghold")[158][159] But Papazoglu (1978) and Tacheva (1997) reject the argument that such different placename-endings imply different languages[160][161] (although, in historical linguistics, changes in placename suffixes is generally regarded as strong evidence of changes in prevalent language).[162]. Also, Papazoglu (1978) and Fisher (2003) argue that two -dava placenames are found in Thrace proper: Pulpudeva and Desudaba.[116] [163] However, according to Georgiev (1977), East of a line formed by the rivers Nestos and Uskur, the traditional western boundary of Thrace proper, Pulpudeva is the sole known -dava-type placename,[164] and Georgiev argues that it is not linguistically significant, as it was an extraneous and late foundation by the Macedonian king Philip II (Philippopolis) and its -dava name a Moesian import.[159] (N.B. West of the Nestos-Uskur line, lies a region where -dava placenames, including Desudaba, are intermingled with -para names.[164] This does not necessarily invalidate Georgiev's thesis, as this region was the border-zone between the Roman provinces of Moesia Superior and Thracia and the mixed placename suffixes may reflect a mixed Thracian/Moesian population.) For a map of the dava/para divide, see this (approximative) reproduction of Georgiev's toponymic map: [3]

Despite Georgiev's evidence, the Thraco-Dacian theory retains substantial support among modern linguists. For example:

  • Crossland (1982) considers that the divergence of a (presumed) original Thraco-Dacian language into northern and southern groups of dialects is not so significant as to rank them as separate languages.[165]
  • According to Georg Solta (1982), there is no significant difference between Dacian and Thracian.[116][166].
  • Radulescu (1984) accepts that Daco-Moesian possesses a certain degree of dialectal individuality, but argues that there is no fundamental separation between Daco-Moesian and Thracian.[167]
  • Renfrew (1990) argues that there is no doubt that Thracian is related to the Dacian which was spoken in what is today Romania before that area was occupied by the Romans.[168]

Polomé (1982) considers that the evidence adduced by Georgiev and Duridanov, although substantial, is not sufficient to determine if Daco-Moesian and Thracian were two dialects of the same language or two distinct languages.[169] Thus it appears that the controversy over whether Dacian and Thracian were the same language, or related or completely different, will not be resolved unless substantial new evidence is discovered.


The ethnonym Moesi was used within the lands alongside the Danube river, in north-western Thrace. As analysed by some modern scholars, the ancient authors used the name Moesi speculatively to designate Triballians and also Getic and Dacian communities.[170]


It is possible that Illyrian, Dacian and Thracian are three different dialects of the same language, according to Radulescu.[171] Template:Evidence? Opposing views?

Georgiev (1966), however, considers Illyrian a language closely related on the one hand to Venetic, on the other to Phrygian but with a certain Daco-Moesian admixture.[172] Venetic and Phrygian are considered centum languages, and this may mean that Georgiev, like many other paleolinguists, viewed Illyrian as probably being a centum language[citation needed] with Daco-Moesian admixture. Georgiev proposed that Albanian, a satemized language Template:What does "satemised" mean? developed from Daco-Moesian, a satemized language group, not from Illyrian. Template:This paragraph only looks at centum/satem classification. Discuss phonological evolution, grammatical features, lexical cognates But lack of evidence prevents any firm centum/satem classification for these ancient languages. In any case, Renfrew argues that centum/satem classification is irrelevant in determining genetic relationships between languages. This is because a language may contain both satem and centum features at the same time and these (and the balance between them) may change over time.[131]

Mainstream scholarship rejects Georgiev's theory and considers Albanian to be a direct descendant of Illyrian.[173] If this thesis represents the objective reality, the marked grammatical and lexical similarities between Albanian and Romanian (e.g. the post-posited definite article), may imply that Illyrian, rather than Dacian, forms the main substratum of Romanian. This thesis in turn would lend support to the view that proto-Romanian was a Latin dialect which developed South of the Danube, in the Illyrian-speaking part of Moesia Superior or somewhere in Illlyria itself, and which was not introduced into Dacia until relatively late, during the medieval era.


Scythian and Sarmatian


Tomaschek (1883) considers that etymologies proposed for Dacian names, toponyms and plants are better explained by the Aryan language dialects, specifically by the Indian language as well as by the Bactrian language.[174] Template:Outdated scholarship



There was a well-established tradition in the 4th century that the Getae (believed to be Dacians by mainstream scholarship) and the Gothi were the same people e.g. Orosius: Getae illi qui et nunc Gothi. This identification, now discredited, was supported by Jacob Grimm (the discoverer of Grimm's Law).[175] In pursuit of his hypothesis, Grimm proposed many kindred features between the Getae and Germanic tribes.[176] Template:Outdated scholarship


Among the Dacian names of plants, the only two that can be identified, propedula ("cinquefoil") and dyn ("nettle") are purely Celtic, according to Hehn.[176]


An analogy between the Getic (Dacian) and Slavic tongues was recognized by Mullenhof.[176]

Relationship with modern languages


The mainstream view among scholars is that Daco-Moesian forms the principal linguistic substratum of modern Romanian, a neo-Latin (Romance) language, which evolved from eastern Balkan Romance in the period AD 300-600, according to Georgiev.[15] The possible residual influence of Daco-Moesian on modern Romanian is limited to a modest number of words and a few grammatical peculiarities.[177] According to Georgiev (1981), in Romanian there are about 70 words which have exact correspondences in Albanian, but the phonetic form of these Romanian words is so specific that they cannot be explained as Albanian borrowings. These words belong to the Dacian substratum in Romanian, while their Albanian correspondences were inherited from Daco-Moesian.[178]

Substratum of Proto-Romanian

Blue=lands conquered by the Roman Empire.
Red = area populated by Free Dacians.
Language map based on the range of Dacian toponyms.

The Romanian language has been denoted "Daco-Romanian" by some scholars i.e. that it derives from late Latin superimposed on a Dacian substratum in the Roman colony of Dacia between AD 106 and 275.[179] Modern Romanian may contain 160-170 words of Dacian origin. By comparison, in modern French there are, according to Bulei, ca. 180 words of Celtic origin.[180] (But the Celtic origin of the latter is certain (as the Celtic languages are abundantly documented), whereas the Dacian origin of the former is in most cases speculative).

It is also argued that the Dacian language may form the substratum of the Proto-Romanian language, which developed from the Vulgar Latin spoken in the Balkans north of the Jirecek line, which roughly divides Latin influence from Greek influence. About 300 words in Eastern Romance (Daco-Romanian, Aromanian, Megleno-Romanian, Istro-Romanian) may derive from Dacian, and many of these show a satem-reflex, as one would expect in Dacian or Thracian words.[citation needed]

Whether Dacian in fact forms the substratum of Proto-Romanian is disputed (see Origin of the Romanians), yet this theory does not necessarily rely only in the Romanization having occurred in Roman Dacia, as Dacian was also spoken in Moesia, and as far South as northern Dardania. Moesia was conquered by the Romans more than a century before Dacia and its Latinity is confirmed by Christian sources.[181]

The Jireček Line, an imaginary line through the ancient Balkans that divided the influences of the Latin (in the north) and Greek (in the south) languages until the 4th century. This line is important in establishing the Romanization area in Balkans

Dacian / Thracian substratum of Romanian is often connected to the shared words between Romanian and Albanian. The correspondences between Albanian and Romanian reflect a common linguistic background.[182]

By rejecting the thesis of Illyrian- Albanian identification, Bulgarian linguist Vladimir Georgiev concludes that the Albanians originated in what is now Romania or Serbia and that their language developed during the 4th to 6th centuries when proto-Romanian was formed. He sees the Romanian language as a completely Romanized Daco-Moesian language, whereas Albanian as partly Romanized Daco-Moesian. However, Dacian and Illyrian may have been more similar than most linguists believe, according to Van Antwerp Fine.[183]

Romanian linguist Russu asserts a Thraco-Dacian origin for the pre-Roman lexical material shared by Albanian and Romanian.[182] He argued that the Albanians descend from a part of the Carpi, which he considers a tribe of Free Dacians.[184] Other linguists argue that Albanian is a direct descendant of the language of the Bessi, a Thracian tribe living in the Rhodope Mountains.[185]





Georgiev further suggested that Daco-Moesian is the ancestor of the modern Albanian language, based on the phonologies of the two languages. Based on certain marked lexical and grammatical affinities between Albanian and Romanian, he also suggested proto-Albanian speakers migrated from Dardania into the region where Albanian is spoken today.[186] However, this theory is rejected by most Albanian linguists, who consider Albanian a direct descendant of ancient Illyrian.[187] Polomé supports this view on balance, but considers the evidence inconclusive.[188]

Baltic languages

A number of scholars have pointed to the many close parallels between Dacian and Thracian placenames and those of the Baltic language-zone (Lithuania, Latvia and East Prussia), a region where an extinct but well-documented Baltic language, Old Prussian, was spoken until it was displaced by German during the Middle Ages.[189] These Baltic parallels have enabled linguists to decipher many Dacian and Thracian placenames. Of the 74 Dacian placenames analysed by Duridanov in his 1969 essay, a total of 62 have Baltic cognates, the great majority rated "certain" by Duridanov.[190] To explain this, Duridanov suggests that proto-Dacian- and proto-Thracian- speakers were in close geographical proximity with proto-Baltic-speakers for a prolonged period in prehistory, perhaps during the period 3000-2000 BC.[191] Mayer ventures further, suggesting that Dacian and Thracian were what he terms "southern pre-Baltoidic" languages, presumably meaning either proto-Baltic or close descendants of proto-Baltic.[192] The partially satem characteristics of Thracian and Dacian and their similarities to the Baltic group suggest that an ancestral Thraco-Dacian people was settled in Dacia until part of it migrated into Thrace, according to Crossland.[193]Template:Non sequitur: misquote?


The fate of Dacian

A map showing a theoretical scenario, the Albanians as a migrant Dacian people.

From the earliest times that they are attested, Dacians lived on both sides of Danube[194][195] and on both sides of the Carpathians (cf the northern Dacian town Setidava). It is unclear exactly when the Dacian language became extinct, or even whether it has a living descendant. The initial Roman conquest of part of Dacia did not put an end to the language, as Free Dacian tribes may have continued to speak Dacian in the area northeast of the Carpathians as late as the 6th or 7th century AD.[citation needed]

  • According to one hypothesis, a branch of Dacian continued as the Albanian language (Hasdeu, 1901).
  • Another hypothesis (Marius) considers Albanian to be a Daco-Moesian dialect that split off from Dacian before 300 BC and that Dacian itself became extinct.

However, mainstream scholarship considers Albanian to be a descendant of the ancient Illyrian language and not a Dacian dialect.[143] In this scenario, Albanian/Romanian cognates are either Daco-Moesian loanwords acquired by Albanian, or, more likely, Illyrian loanwords acquired by Romanian.

The argument for this early split (before 300 BC) is the following: Inherited Albanian words (e.g. Alb motër 'sister' < Late IE ma:ter 'mother') show the transformation Late IE /a:/ > Alb /o/, but all the Latin loans in Albanian having an /a:/ show Latin a: > Alb a. This indicates that the transformation PAlb /a:/ > PAlb /o/ happened and ended before the Roman arrival in the Balkans On the other hand, Romanian substratum words shared with Albanian show a Romanian /a/ that corresponds to an Albanian /o/ when the source of both sounds is an original common /a:/ (mazăre / modhull < *ma:dzula 'pea', raţă / rosë < *ra:tya: 'duck'), indicating that when these words had the same common form in Pre-Romanian and Proto-Albanian the transformation PAlb /a:/ > PAlb /o/ had not yet begun.[citation needed]

The correlation between these two facts indicates that the hypothetical split between the pre-Roman Dacians (those Dacians who were later Romanized) and Proto-Albanian happened before the Roman arrival in the Balkans.[citation needed]


According to Georgiev, Daco-Moesian was replaced by Latin as the everyday language in some parts of the two Moesias during the Roman imperial era, but in others (e.g. Dardania (S. Serbia/N. Macedonian Rep.), Daco-Moesian remained dominant, although heavily influenced by eastern Balkan Latin.[15] The language may have survived in remote areas at least until the 6th century.[196] Thracian, also supplanted by Latin (and by Greek in its southern zone), is documented as still a living language in ca. 500.[197]

In Romanian culture

Like in the case of any Romance language, it is argued that Romanian language derived from Vulgar Latin not only through a series of internal linguistic changes, but also because of Dacian (North Thracian) influences on Vulgar Latin in the late Roman era. (This influence explains a number of differences between Romanian -Thracian substrate-, French -Celtic substrate-, Spanish -Basque substratum-, Portuguese -Celtic substrate ?-[198])

Romanian doesn’t have any major dialects, a fact that is probably a reflection of its origin in a fairly compact mountain region – a habitat, which was inaccessible enough to discourage outside attack but which still, permitted easy internal communication. The origin of Romanian must of necessity be based on speculation, however for there are virtually no written records of the area from the time of the withdrawal of the Romans (around 300) until the end of the barbarian invasions nearly a thousand years later (around 1300).[199]

Another theory maintains that the Dacians themselves spoke a Latin language rather than a Thracian one and that people who settled the Italian Peninsula shared the same ancestors, yet no ancient texts indicate that the Dacian language was similar to that of the Romans. The Romanian philologist Nicolae Densuşianu argued in his book Dacia Preistorică (Prehistoric Dacia) that Latin and Dacian were the same language or mutually intelligible dialects. His work was disregarded by mainstream linguists as pseudoscience, but it was revived by the Nicolae Ceauşescu regime, which encouraged an ideology called Protochronism and stressed the important role of the Dacians in the creation of the modern Romanian people.

The first article to revive Densuşianu's theory was an unsigned article named "The Beginnings of the History of the Romanian People" published in Anale de istorie,[200] a journal published by the Romanian Communist Party's "Institute of History of the Party".[201]

The article claims that the Thracian language was a pre-Romance or Latin language using a demonstration which Lucian Boia describes as "a lack of basic professionalism and a straightforward contempt for the truth". Arguments used in the article include the lack of interpreters between the Dacians and the Romans, as depicted on the bas-reliefs of Trajan's column.[201] The bibliography includes, apart from Densuşianu, the work of a French academician Louis Armand (who is in fact an engineer), who allegedly showed that "the Thraco-Dacians spoke a pre-Romance language". Similar arguments are found in Iosif Constantin Drăgan's We, the Thracians (1976).[201]

This generated a great interest on researching of history of Dacia and many (often non-rigorous) works were published, among them Ion Horaţiu Crişan's "Burebista and His Age" (1975), who concluded the need of writing a monograph on the subject of "Dacian philosophy".[201] There were voices claiming the need of reconstructing the language and of the creation of a Dacian Language department at the University of Bucharest, but such proposals failed because of the lack of the object of study.[201]

After the 1989 Romanian Revolution, this theory continued being supported by Drăgan and the New York City-based physician Napoleon Săvescu, who published a book named We are not Rome's Descendents.[202] Together, they issue the magazine Noi, Dacii ("Us Dacians") and organize a yearly "International Congress of Dacology".[203]

See also


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