Lydian alphabet

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Lydian Text.jpg
LanguagesLydian language
Time period
700-200 BCE
Parent systems
Sister systems
Some other alphabets of Asia Minor
ISO 15924Lydi, 116
Unicode alias

Lydian script was used to write the Lydian language. Like other scripts of Anatolia in the Iron Age, the Lydian alphabet is related to the East Greek alphabet, but it has unique features.

The first modern codification of the Lydian alphabet was made by Roberto Gusmani in 1964, in a combined lexicon, grammar, and text collection.

Early Lydian texts were written either from left to right or from right to left. Later texts all run from right to left. One surviving text is in the bi-directional boustrophedon manner. Spaces separate words except in one text that uses dots instead. Lydian uniquely features a quotation mark in the shape of a right triangle.


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
Letter Transliteration Sound
Text Image
𐤠 EtruscanA-01.svg a [a]
𐤡 EtruscanB-01.svg traditional: b
new: p
[p~b] Plain labial voiced to [b] before nasals and probably [r]
𐤢 g [ɡ] Occasionally substituted for secondarily voiced /k/.
𐤣 d [θ~ð]? Descends from lenited PIE *t; most likely an interdental [θ~ð] though another coronal fricative such as [z] is possible
𐤤 Runic letter fehu.svg e [eː] Fairly high and long, like Greek ει; only occurs accented.
𐤥 EtruscanF-01.svg traditional: v
new: w
[w~v] Descends from PIE * w; may have been labiodental. Now usu. transcribed w to avoid confusion with ν for the nasal 𐤸.
𐤦 EtruscanI-01.svg i [i]
𐤧 EtruscanD-01.svg y [i̯~j]? Apparently an allophone of /i/, perhaps when unstressed. Attested only 11 times: artymu- ~ artimu-.[4] 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]
𐤪 m [m]
𐤫 EtruscanN-01.svg n [n]
𐤬 EtruscanO-01.svg o [oː] Fairly high and long, like Greek ου; only occurs accented.
𐤭 r [r]
𐤮 PhoenicianN-01.png traditional: ś new: s [s] A simple [s], despite its transcription.
𐤯 t [t~d] Voiced to [d] before nasals and probably [r]
𐤰 u [u]
𐤱 EtruscanF-02.svg f [f] or [ɸ] Labiodental or bilabial fricative. Alternates with /w/ in:
𐤫𐤤𐤱𐤮~‎𐤩𐤤𐤥𐤮 lewś~lefś "Zeus"
𐤲 PhoenicianT-01.png q [kʷ] At least historically [kʷ]; it is not clear if this pronunciation was still current.
𐤳 EtruscanZ-01.svg traditional: s
new: š
[ç] or [ʃ] Palatalized *s. Newer transcriptions use š.
𐤴 τ [tç] or [tʃ] 𐤴𐤴 ττ results from 𐤯+‎𐤳 t+s as in:
𐤨𐤠𐤯+𐤳𐤠𐤣𐤪𐤶𐤮 >‎ 𐤨𐤠𐤴𐤴𐤠𐤣𐤪𐤶𐤮
kat+sadmẽś > kaττadmẽś
𐤵 EtruscanSAN-01.svg ã nasal vowel Perhaps [ãː]. Only occurs accented. Ã or a is found before a nasal consonant: aliksãntru ~ aliksantru.[5]
𐤶 EtruscanKH-01.svg nasal vowel Not [ẽ]; perhaps [ã] or [æ̃] as in Lycian. Only occurs accented.
𐤷 λ [ʎ] Palatalized *l
𐤸 ν [ɲ] or [ŋ]? Arose from word-final or palatalized *m and *n; later loss of final vowels caused it to contrast with those sounds. Transliterated as a Greek ν (nu)
𐤹 Runic letter tiwaz.svg c [ts~dz]? An undetermined affricate or fricative: [ts], [z], [dz], or [dʒ], etc. At least one origin is assibilated PIE *d.

In addition two digraphs, aa and ii, appear to be allophones of [a] and [i] under speculative circumstances, such as lengthening from stress.[6] Complex consonant clusters often appear in the inscriptions and, if present, an epenthetic schwa was evidently not written: 𐤥𐤹𐤯𐤣𐤦𐤣 wctdid [wt͡stθiθ], 𐤨𐤮𐤡𐤷𐤯𐤬𐤨 kśbλtok- [kspʎ̩tok].

Note: a newer transliteration employing p for b, s for ś, š for s, and/or w for v appears in recent publications and the online Dictionary of the Minor Languages of Ancient Anatolia (eDiAna), as well as Melchert's Lydian corpus.[7][8]

Examples of words[edit]

𐤬𐤭𐤠 ora [ora] "month"

𐤩𐤠𐤲𐤭𐤦𐤳𐤠 laqrisa [lakʷrisa] "wall, dromos" or "inscription"[9]

𐤡𐤦𐤭𐤠 bira [pira] "house, home"

𐤥𐤹𐤡𐤠𐤲𐤶𐤫𐤯 wcbaqẽnt [w̩t͡spaˈkʷãnd] "to trample on" (from PIE *pekʷ- "to crush")


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 12.0
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points

See also[edit]


  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) page36.
  5. ^ Gérard (2005) page 35.
  6. ^ Gérard (2005) page 34.
  7. ^ "EDIANA - Corpus". Retrieved 2019-03-26.
  8. ^ "Lydian Corpus" (PDF).
  9. ^ Kelder, Jorrit. "A new reading of Lydian laqrisa as "words" or "inscriptions" (?)". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)

External links[edit]


  • Adiego, I. J. (2007). "Greek and Lydian". In Christidis, A.F.; Arapopoulou, Maria; Chriti, Maria (eds.). A History of Ancient Greek From the Beginning to Late Antiquity. Chris Markham (trans.). Cambridge University press. ISBN 0-521-83307-8.. Translator Chris Markham.
  • Gérard, Raphaël (2005). Phonétique et morphologie de la langue lydienne. Louvain-la-Neuve: Peeters. ISBN 9042915749. 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.