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|Native to||Ancient Raetia|
uncertain, perhaps Tyrsenian
The ancient Raetic language is not the same as one of the modern Romance languages of the same Alpine region, known as Rhaeto-Romanic—although both are sometimes referred to as "Rhaetian".
ClassificationThe most credible theories are that Raetic was:
- a member along with Etruscan of a proposed Tyrrhenian language family, possibly influenced by neighboring Indo-European languages. Several recent works support this theory.
- an independent branch of the Indo-European language super-family, intermediate between Illyrian and Celtic, which was later influenced by Etruscan
- a language isolate, later influenced by Etruscan
HistoryIt is clear that in the centuries leading up to Roman imperial times, the Raetians had at least come under Etruscan influence, as the Raetic inscriptions are written in what appears to be a northern variant of the Etruscan alphabet. The ancient Roman sources mention the Raetic people as being reputedly of Etruscan origin, so there may at least have been some ethnic Etruscans who had settled in the region by that time.
In his Natural History (1st century AD), Pliny wrote about Alpine peoples:
adjoining these (the Noricans) are the Raeti and Vindelici. All are divided into a number of states. The Raeti are believed to be people of Tuscan race driven out by the Gauls; their leader was named Raetus.Pliny's comment on a leader named Raetus is typical of mythologized origins of ancient peoples, and not necessarily reliable. The name of the Venetic goddess Reitia has commonly been discerned in the Raetic finds, but the two names do not seem to be linked. The spelling as Raet- is found in inscriptions, while Rhaet- was used in Roman manuscripts; whether this Rh represents an accurate transcription of an aspirated R in Raetic or is an error is uncertain.
Many inscriptions are known, but most of them are only short and fairly repetitive, probably mostly votive texts. Raetic became extinct by the 3rd century AD, with its speakers adopting Vulgar Latin in the south and Germanic in the north, and possibly Celtic prior to that.