Lombardic language

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Region Pannonia and Italy
Era Middle Ages
(Runic script), Last Latin script
Language codes
ISO 639-3 lng
Linguist list
Glottolog None
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

Lombardic or Langobardic is the extinct language of the Lombards (Langobardi), the Germanic-speaking people who settled in Italy in the 6th century. It was already rapidly declining by the 7th century because the invaders quickly adopted the Latin vernacular spoken by the local Roman population. Lombardic may have been in scattered use until as late as ca. AD 1000. A number of Italian place names and items of Italian vocabulary derive from Lombardic. Some linguists have argued that the modern Cimbrian and Mocheno dialects in Northeastern Italy, usually classified as Austro-Bavarian, are in fact surviving Lombard remnants.[1][2]

Lombardic is preserved only fragmentarily, the main evidence being individual words used in Latin texts. For example, the Edict of Rothari of 643, the earliest Lombard legal code, is written in Latin, with only individual legal terms given in Lombardic. The many Lombard personal names preserved in Latin deeds from the Kingdom of the Lombards also provide evidence of the language.

In the absence of Lombardic texts, it is not possible to draw any conclusions about its morphology and syntax. The genetic classification is necessarily based entirely on phonology. Because there is evidence that Lombardic participated in, and indeed shows some of the earliest evidence for, the High German consonant shift, it is classified as an Elbe Germanic or Upper German dialect. The Historia Langobardorum of Paulus Diaconus mentions a duke Zaban of 574, showing /t/ shifted to /ts/. The term stolesazo (the second element is cognate with English seat) in the Edictum Rothari shows the same shift. Many names in the Lombard royal families show shifted consonants, particularly /p/ < /b/ in the following name components:

  • pert < bert: Aripert, Godepert
  • perg < berg: Gundperga (daughter of King Agilulf)
  • prand < brand: Ansprand, Liutprand

It has been suggested that the consonant shift may even have originated in Lombardic.[citation needed]

Formerly, Lombardic was classified as Ingaevonian (North Sea Germanic), but this classification is considered obsolete. The classification of Lombardic within the Germanic languages may be complicated by issues of orthography. According to Hutterer (1999) it is close to Old Saxon. Tacitus counts them among the Suebi. Paulus Diaconus (8th century) and the Codex Gothanus (9th century) wrote that the Lombards were ultimately of Scandinavian origin, having settled at the Elbe before entering Italy.

Longbardic fragments are preserved in runic inscriptions, in Latinized forms, and in transcriptions influenced by Old High German orthography. This Lombardic alphabet, as commonly transcribed, consists of the following graphemes:

a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, k, l, m, n, o, p, q(u), r, s, ʒ, t, þ, u, w, z

The qu represents a [kw] sound. The ʒ is [s], e.g. skauʒ [skaus] "womb". The z is [ts]. h is [h] word-initially, and [x] elsewhere.

Among the primary source texts are short inscriptions in the Elder Futhark, among them the "bronze capsule of Schretzheim" (ca. 600):

On the lid: arogisd
On the bottom: alaguþleuba : dedun
("Arogisl/-gast. Alaguth (and) Leuba made (it)",[3] less likely "Arogis and Alaguth made love")

And also the two fibulae of Bezenye, Hungary (mid 6th century):

Fibula A: godahid unj[a]
Fibula B: (k?)arsiboda segun
("To Godahi(l)d, (with) sympathy (?), Arsiboda's bless"[4])

There are a number of Latin texts that include Lombardic names, and Lombardic legal texts contain terms taken from the legal vocabulary of the vernacular, including:

In 2005, there were claims that the inscription of the Pernik sword may be Lombardic.


  1. Bruno Schweizer: Die Herkunft der Zimbern. In: Die Nachbarn. Jahrbuch für vergleichende Volkskunde 1, 1948, ISSN 0547-096X, S. 111–129.; Alfonso Bellotto: Il cimbro e la tradizione longobarda nel vicentino I. In: Vita di Giazza e di Roana 17-18, (1974) S. 7–19; Il cimbro e la tradizione longobarda nel vicentino II. In: Vita di Giazza e di Roana 19-20, (1974) S. 49–59.
  2. Ermenegildo Bidese Die Zimbern und ihre Sprache: Geographische, historische und sprachwissenschaftlich relevante Aspekte. In: Thomas Stolz (ed.): Kolloquium über Alte Sprachen und Sprachstufen. Beiträge zum Bremer Kolloquium über „Alte Sprachen und Sprachstufen“. (= Diversitas Linguarum, Volume 8). Verlag Brockmeyer, Bochum 2004, ISBN 3-8196-0664-5, S. 3–42.Webseite von Ermenegildo Bidese
  3. J.H. Looijenga, Runes Around The North Sea And On The Continent Ad 150-700, PhD diss. Groningen 1997, p. 158. Download PDF
  4. J.H. Looijenga, Runes Around The North Sea And On The Continent Ad 150-700, PhD diss. Groningen 1997, p. 134. Download PDF

External links


  • Adolf Bach, Geschichte der deutschen Sprache, 8th edn, (Heidelberg 1961)
  • Claus Jürgen Hutterer, Die germanischen Sprachen, Wiesbaden (1999), 336–341.
  • J.M. Wallace-Hadrill, The Barbarian West 400-1100, 3rd edn (London 1969), Ch. 3, "Italy and the Lombards"
  • Nicoletta Francovich Onesti, Vestigia longobarde in Italia (468-774). Lessico e antroponimia, 2nd edn (Roma 2000, Artemide ed.)