Anatolian languages (ănˌətōˈlēən) [key], subfamily of the Indo-European family of languages (see The Indo-European Family of Languages, table); the term "Anatolian languages" is also used to refer to all languages, Indo-European and non-Indo-European, that were spoken in Anatolia in ancient times. The progress made in the identification, decipherment, and analysis of the Indo-European Anatolian languages from extant texts owes much to 20th-century scholarship. These Anatolian languages were spoken in Anatolia, or Asia Minor, from about the 2d millennium B.C. and gradually became extinct during the first few centuries A.D. They include Cuneiform Hittite, Hieroglyphic Hittite, Luwian (also called Luvian or Luish), Palaic, Lycian, and Lydian. The Anatolian languages are the tongues of Indo-European-speaking invaders of Anatolia and became mixed to some extent with indigenous languages of the region. Much of the vocabulary of the Anatolian languages was apparently borrowed from these native tongues, but their grammar continued to be essentially Indo-European.
The principal known member of the Anatolian division of the Indo-European family is Hittite, the tongue of the Hittites, who entered and conquered much of Anatolia early in the 2d millennium B.C. The oldest surviving written records of Hittite, dated at about the 15th or 14th cent. B.C., are among the earliest extant remains of any Indo-European language. From c.1500 to 1200 B.C., Hittite was written both in cuneiform (a system of writing taken over from Mesopotamia) and in hieroglyphics (a form of picture writing unrelated to the hieroglyphics of Egypt). After the fall of the Hittite Empire (c.1200 B.C.) the use of cuneiform ceased, but writing in hieroglyphics continued until the 7th cent. B.C. Cuneiform and Hieroglyphic Hittite are separate but closely related languages.
A near relative of Hittite was Luwian, the Anatolian language of the now extinct Luwian people. Dominant in a large part of S Anatolia during the period of the Hittite Empire, Luwian was written in cuneiform, and its surviving documents go back to the 14th cent. B.C. In areas of N Anatolia, Palaic flourished. Also close to Hittite, it was written in cuneiform. Grammatical features common to Hittite, Luwian, and Palaic include: two genders, one of which combines masculine and feminine as a common gender and the other of which is neuter; two moods, indicative and imperative, the first of which has a present and a preterit tense; and two voices, active and middle. Lycian, a language of SW Anatolia for which there are written records dated from about the 5th to 4th cent. B.C., may have been a continuation of Luwian. Lycian was written in a form of the Greek alphabet, as was Lydian. Lydian was spoken in W Anatolia, and the surviving written records date from about the 5th to 4th cent. B.C.
See E. H. Sturtevant and E. A. Hahn, A Comparative Grammar of the Hittite Language (2d ed. 1951); J. Friedrich, Extinct Languages (tr. 1957, repr. 1971).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.