The Carian Language

“…Iot.uluλ, Highly Esteemed….”

“The barbarously speaking Carians (Homeros)”


The Carian language is considered as one of the aboriginal languages of Asia Minor. It has not been fully deciphered.
As to the location of Caria, it is not too difficult to determine its geographic borders. According to an ancient map from an atlas dated to 1923 [*], Caria, sticking to a simple definition, was a landscape bordered by the Meander River to the north, the Köyceğiz River to the south, the mountain of Akdağ to the east and the Aegean Sea to the west. Upon close inspection one can tell that this is a map of a landscape of ancient times – Ephesos is shown as a seaside city on the shore of Sinus Caystrius and Miletos was a commercial harbor at the mouth of what was once a bay, now the Lake of Bafa, where the boatbuilding city of Heraklea ad Latmos was.



A Northern Caria Landscape:  the Mountain of Latmos (the Beşparmak Mountain or Carian Athos) from the Plain of Meander. The Bafa Lake cannot be seen from this angle.


The streams which make up the branches of the Meander, especially, break the landscape here into deep valleys and canyons and have lead to the development of Caria as a region of independent cultures.


Southern Caria: the Caunos/Dalyan region on the Lycian border of Caria.

The subject, however, gets very complex when it becomes the identities, especially the language and the script, of Carians. As I mention it in my Skylax article, it is emphasized that the Carian language is an Indo-European language descending from the languages of the ‎Hittites and the Luwi, the ancient languages of Anatolia, rather than descending from the Greek language. As said, the Carian language is an extinct language not deciphered fully yet. There are some clues, but contrary to the Lydian and Lycian languages, the main body of the language has not been worked out yet. The mountainous geography of Caria, as I have mentioned, again, in my Skylax article, presents a place where, between the valleys, independent dialects and even scripts could have easily developed. This makes the job of the modern linguist even harder.

What did the Carian language resemble?

As it appears from the very few sources I could find, the Carian language was more widespread than a local language. Especially because of their “expatriate” life style, Carians managed to carry their language to far away lands, foremost to Egypt and Iran. As it appears from the so far deciphered about 250 Carian words, there were abstract concepts in their language.

Scientists seem to be in agreement about that the claim that Carian language descended from the Hittite language and it was one of the aboriginal languages of Asia Minor.

A “Bilingual”
In 1997, at the Caunos excavation, right next to us, three pieces of stones were discovered.


These stones received some attention as they formed a bilingual inscription consisting of the Carian and Greek languages. It recorded a decree by the administration of the city of Caunos about two Athenians who were to be honoured. Do not let the similarity between the Carian script and the Greek script mislead you: Greeks and the peoples of Asia Minor learned how to write from the Semites, especially the Phoenicians, and the two different language groups used similar “borrowed” symbols.

At the time of writing I believe the scientists are still working on this inscription which seems to be made up of a few sentences and they are not ready yet to share their results.

A Few Examples

Here are some examples from the Carian language in order to present the feel of the language:

ebad, epad: here

glous: pirate, bandit

kave: priest

lukk: a Lelegian

mava: goddess Ma

mesna: a god

mukwar: a prayer

nt_a: in, inside

sav, sava: a good thing

uk: I, me

ussos: spear

Or we can look at some comparative script tables:




The first table compares the Semite script, especially the Phoenician script, the Greek script and the Anatolian scripts.The second table is limited to the Carian script, but it compares the kinds of the Carian scripts, especially the derivatives used in Egypt and the ones used in the “motherland”.There were five vowels, many diphthongs and palatal [n] and [l] in the Carian language. There were also aspirated consonants as well: [kh], [th], [ph]. According to some sources, some vowels in the Hittite language, that is, some consonants which cause the vocal cords vibrate, lost their sounds in the Carian language; that is, they are thought to be pronounced without the vibration of the vocal cords. In other words, [g]s became [k]s and [b]s became [p]s. In the Carian language nouns had two genders. The first gender brought together the masculine and the feminine. We can liken this to a gender that, for example, brought together the “der” and “die” in German. The second one was the neuter gender, probably such as the German “das”. The noun had cases like in Turkish, but contrary to Turkish, the cases were made with prefixes.
I could only find one sample sentence:“tuwanu st.esan kλ iot.uluλ slnkoλp kovkove dans”“This sacred inscription drawn up for Highly Esteemed lotulv was erected by Kovkove.”
There is one more point needs to be known: Initially one may not see a connection between the “contemporary civilization” and making somewhat witty remarks about the Carian language. This initial view, like many others, is misleading. Today the Turks find defending themselves against various accusations, which we believe the Turks do not deserve. The reason behind this is that we have not mastered our own facts, our own culture at the level we need in order to convince our addressees – starting from very ancient times.
Carians. Their languages and scripts… Another piece of the cultural mosaic of Asia Minor.