Lombardic language

Lombardic or Langobardic is an extinct West Germanic language that was spoken by the Lombards (Langobardi), the Germanic people who settled in Italy in the sixth century. It was already rapidly declining by the seventh century because the invaders quickly adopted the Latin vernacular spoken by the local Gallo-Roman population. Lombardic may have been in use in scattered areas until as late as c.1000 AD. A number of place names in the Lombardy Region in Northern Italy and items of Lombard vocabulary derive from Lombardic. Some linguists have argued that the modern Cimbrian and Mocheno varieties in Northeast Italy, usually classified as Bavarian, are in fact surviving Lombard remnants.[1] This could, in turn, indicate that Lombardic was itself a Bavarian dialect.

RegionPannonia and Italy
Extinct11th century
Runic script, later shifted to Latin script
Language codes
ISO 639-3lng


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 (ablative)[2] (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 /b/ > /p/ in the following name components:

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

This sound change left two different sets of names in the Italian language: palco (< Lombardic palk, "beam") vs. balcone (< longobard balk, "wood platform"); panca (< Lombardic panka) vs. banca (Lombardic banka, "bench").[3]

Numerous words in the Lombard language have been derived from Lombardic. A few examples include bicer (< Lombardic bikar, "glass"), scossà (< skauz, "apron"), busècca (< butze, "tripe") and biott (< blauths, "nude").

Formerly, Lombardic was classified as Ingaevonian (North Sea Germanic) or as Eastern Germanic, but these classifications are considered obsolete.[4] 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.

Lombardic 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:[5]

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" (c. 600):

  • On the lid: arogisd
  • On the bottom: alaguþleuba : dedun
(Translation: "Arogisl/-gast. Alaguth (and) Leuba made (it)",[6] or 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
(Translation: "To Godahi(l)d, (with) sympathy (?), Arsiboda's bless"[7])

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 2006, Emilia Denčeva argued that the inscription of the Pernik sword may be Lombardic.[8]


  1. Bruno Schweizer: Die Herkunft der Zimbern. In: Die Nachbarn. Jahrbuch für vergleichende Volkskunde 1, 1948, ISSN 0547-096X, pp. 111–129; Alfonso Bellotto: Il cimbro e la tradizione longobarda nel vicentino I. In: Vita di Giazza e di Roana 17-18, 1974, pp. 7–19; id.: Il cimbro e la tradizione longobarda nel vicentino II. In: Vita di Giazza e di Roana 19-20, 1974, pp. 49–59; 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, pp. 3–42 (Website of Ermenegildo Bidese).
  2. Edictus rothari, cap. 150: "[…] districtus ab stolesazo."
  3. Giacomo Devoto: Dizionario etimologico.
  4. Federico Albano Leoni (1991). "Langobardisch". Lexikon des Mittelalters, V: Hiera-Mittel bis Lukanien (in German). Stuttgart and Weimar: J. B. Metzler. col. 1698–1699. ISBN 3-7608-8905-0.
  5. Hutterer 1999, p. 339.
  6. J. H. Looijenga, Runes Around The North Sea And On The Continent Ad 150-700, PhD diss. Groningen 1997, p. 158 (Download PDF).
  7. J. H. Looijenga, Runes Around The North Sea And On The Continent Ad 150-700, PhD diss. Groningen 1997, p. 134 (Download PDF). Archived 2011-07-16 at the Wayback Machine
  8. Dentschewa 2006.


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