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Hittite language


Historical map of the Neo-Hittite states (ca. ...

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Hittite (natively nešili “[in the language] of Neša“) is the extinct language once spoken by the Hittites, a people who created an empire centered on Hattusa in north-central Anatolia. The language is attested in cuneiform, in records from the 16th (Anitta text) down to the 13th century BC, with isolated Hittite loanwords and numerous personal names appearing in an Old Assyrian context from as early as the 20th century BC.

Already in the Late Bronze Age, Hittite was losing ground in competition with its close relative Luwian. It appears that in the 13th century BC Luwian was the most widely spoken language in the Hittite capital Hattusa. After the collapse of the Hittite Empire as a part of the more general Bronze Age collapse Luwian emerged in the Early Iron Age as the main language of the so-called Neo-Hittite states in southwestern Anatolia and northern Syria.

Hittite is the earliest attested Indo-European language, but was only rediscovered more than a century after the Proto-Indo-European hypothesis had been formulated. Because of marked differences in its structure and phonology, somelinguists, most notably Edgar H. Sturtevant and Warren Cowgill, argued that it should be classified as a sister language to the Indo-European languages, rather than a daughter language, formulating the Indo-Hittite hypothesis. Other linguists, however, continue to accept the traditional 19th century view of the primacy of Proto-Indo-European and interpret the unusual features of Hittite as mainly due to later innovations. Still others claim that Hittite, as well as its Anatolian cousins, split off from Proto-Indo-European at an early stage, thereby preserving archaisms that were later lost in the other Indo-European languages

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