Lydian alphabet

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Languages Lydian language
Time period
700-200 BC
Parent systems
Sister systems
Other Alphabets of Asia Minor
Direction Right-to-left
ISO 15924 Lydi, 116
Unicode alias

Lydian script was used to write the Lydian language. That the language preceded the script is indicated by names in Lydian, which must have existed before they were written. Like other scripts of Anatolia in the Iron Age, the Lydian alphabet is a modification of the East Greek alphabet, but it has unique features. The same Greek letters may not represent the same sounds in both languages or in any other Anatolian language (in some cases it may). Moreover, the Lydian script is alphabetic.

Early Lydian texts are written both from left to right and from right to left. Later texts are exclusively written from right to left. One text is boustrophedon. Spaces separate words except that one text uses dots. Lydian uniquely features a quotation mark in the shape of a right triangle.

The first codification was made by Roberto Gusmani in 1964 in a combined lexicon (vocabulary), grammar, and text collection.

The alphabet

The Lydian alphabet[2][3] is closely related to the other alphabets of Asia Minor as well as to the Greek alphabet. It contains letters for 26 sounds. Some are represented by more than one symbol, which is considered one "letter." Unlike the Carian alphabet, which had an f derived from Φ, the Lydian f has the peculiar 8 shape also found in the Etruscan alphabet.

The Lydian Alphabet
Lydian Letter Transliteration Sound Table Notes
𐤠 EtruscanA-01.svg a [a]
𐤵 EtruscanSAN-01.svg ã nasal vowel Perhaps [ãː]. Only occurs accented. Ã or a is found before a nasal consonant: aliksãntru ~ aliksantru.[4]
𐤡 EtruscanB-01.svg b [p], [b] Voiced to [b] before nasals and probably [r]
𐤹 Runic letter tiwaz.svg c [dz]? An undetermined voiced affricate or fricative: [z], [dz], or [dʒ], etc. At least one origin is assibilated *d.
𐤣 d [ð]? Or perhaps some other voiced fricative such as [z].
𐤤 Runic letter fehu.svg e [eː] Fairly high and long, like Greek ει; only occurs accented.
𐤶 EtruscanKH-01.svg nasal vowel Not [ẽ]; perhaps [ã]. Only occurs accented.
𐤱 EtruscanF-02.svg f [f]
𐤢 Ɔ g [ɡ] Occasionally substituted for voiced /k/.
𐤦 EtruscanI-01.svg i [i]
𐤧 EtruscanD-01.svg y ? Apparently an allophone of /i/, perhaps when unstressed. Attested only 11 times: artymu- ~ artimu-.[5] It may be a borrowing of Carian 𐊹.
𐤨 EtruscanK-01.svg k [k], [ɡ] Voiced to [ɡ] before nasals and probably [r]
𐤩 EtruscanP-01.svg l [l]
𐤷 λ [ʎ] Palatalized *l.
𐤪 m [m]
𐤫 EtruscanN-01.svg n [n]
𐤸 ν [ɲ] or [ŋ]? Arose from word-final *m and *n; later loss of final vowels caused it to contrast with those sounds.
𐤬 EtruscanO-01.svg o [oː] Fairly high and long, like Greek ου; only occurs accented.
𐤲 PhoenicianT-01.png q [kʷ] At least historically [kʷ]; it's not clear if this pronunciation was still current.
𐤭 q r [r]
𐤳 EtruscanZ-01.svg s [ç] or [ʃ] Palatalized *s.
𐤮 PhoenicianN-01.png ś [s] A simple [s], despite its transcription.
𐤯 T t [t], [d] Voiced to [d] before nasals and probably [r]
𐤴 τ [ts] or [tʃ]
𐤰 y u [u]
𐤥 EtruscanF-01.svg v [v]

In addition two digraphs, aa and ii, appear to be allophones of [a] and [i] under speculative circumstances, such as lengthening from stress.[6] A schwa was evidently not written: dctdid, kśbλtok-.

Examples of words

𐤬𐤭𐤠 EtruscanA-01.svgEtruscanR-01.svgEtruscanO-01.svg - Ora - "Month"

𐤬𐤳𐤦𐤭𐤲𐤬𐤩 EtruscanA-01.svgEtruscanZ-01.svgEtruscanI-01.svgEtruscanR-01.svgPhoenicianT-01.pngEtruscanA-01.svgEtruscanP-01.svg - Laqrisa - "Wall"

𐤬𐤭𐤦𐤡 EtruscanA-01.svgEtruscanR-01.svgEtruscanI-01.svgEtruscanB-01.svg - Bira - "House, Home"


The Lydian alphabet was added to the Unicode Standard in April, 2008 with the release of version 5.1. It is encoded in Plane 1 (Supplementary Multilingual Plane).

The Unicode block for Lydian is U+10920–U+1093F:

Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
U+1092x 𐤠 𐤡 𐤢 𐤣 𐤤 𐤥 𐤦 𐤧 𐤨 𐤩 𐤪 𐤫 𐤬 𐤭 𐤮 𐤯
U+1093x 𐤰 𐤱 𐤲 𐤳 𐤴 𐤵 𐤶 𐤷 𐤸 𐤹 𐤿
1.^ As of Unicode version 8.0
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points

See also


  1. Himelfarb, Elizabeth J. "First Alphabet Found in Egypt", Archaeology 53, Issue 1 (Jan./Feb. 2000): 21.
  2. Adiego (2007) page 769.
  3. Everson (2006).
  4. Gérard (2005) page 35.
  5. Gérard (2005) page36.
  6. Gērard (2005) page 34.

External links


  • Adiego, I. J. (2007). "Greek and Lydian". In Christidis, A.F.; Arapopoulou, Maria; Chriti, Maria. A History of Ancient Greek From the Beginning to Late Antiquity. Chris Markham (trans.). Cambridge University press. ISBN 0-521-83307-8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>. Translator Chris Markham.
  • Gérard, Raphaël (2005). Phonétique et morphologie de la langue lydienne. Louvain-la-Neuve: Peeters. isbn=9042915749. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> French language text.
  • Gusmani, R. Lydisches Wörterbuch. Mit grammatischer Skizze und Inschriftensammlung, Heidelberg 1964 (Ergänzungsband 1-3, Heidelberg 1980-1986).
  • Melchert, H. Craig (2004) "Lydian", in Roger D. Woodard (ed.), The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the World's Ancient Languages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-56256-2. pp. 601–608.
  • Shevoroshkin, V. The Lydian Language, Moscow, 1977.