View Full Version : Ancient Punic Language

11-29-2009, 04:06 PM
Hi there, it's me again - so successful last time I thought I'd ask another...

I'm writing something set in part in Ancient Carthage. I would like to use some of the language, which is apparently a dialect of ancient Phoenician. My understanding is that ancient Hebrew is a good analogue.

Can someone recommend a good book or course to learn Ancient Hebrew, preferably as cheap as possible?

Also, would Classical Latin be understood in Carthage? I know they and the Romans were enemies, but being a trading centre, I wonder whether some would be spoken anyway. Or would Greek be the better choice, (in which case I am in trouble as I have zero ancient Greek).

If anyone has any insights, please share! Thanks in advance!

11-29-2009, 06:25 PM
There are books, etc. on Punic, so why settle for a related language. If you want another language that might have been comprehensible, then try Aramaic. The Wikipedia article may be helpful: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phoenician_language
Unfortunately, few examples of Punic remain. http://www.omniglot.com/writing/phoenician.htm
Try searching, you may find more than you expect.

11-29-2009, 07:09 PM
Carthago Delenda Est!

It's dead, thanks to the conserted effort of the Roman Empire a couple millennia ago. The number of people who'd know if you got it wrong are pretty small. I'm not discouraging reasearch, just pointing out the odds.

11-29-2009, 07:14 PM
. Or would Greek be the better choice, !

If you believe the Aeneid, the refugees from the fall of Troy (Greeks) landed and intermarried with the local Etruscans to form what would become Rome.

11-30-2009, 05:34 PM
Thanks guys! I'm more grateful than I can say.

I should probably explain the issue I have a little better. The book I'm writing is science fiction and deals with people who find themselves able to travel through the multiverse.

My narrative problem is that the heroine has been supplied with a very limited set of phrases in probably no more than eight languages to use in an emergency. There is only six weeks to teach her these things. Two of these languages do not exist in our world, or rather the dialect of one does not, but they are commonly spoken conqueror languages in
many other worlds.

The languages are:

Latin (Classical)
Cantonese (modern)
Spanish (early modern)
Hindi (modern)
Emisketan (an Indo-European language similar to Persian, not spoken in this world, modern)
Arabic (modern)
Russian (modern)
Para Etse-etse (Classical era - African click language not spoken in this world)

The phrases include things like, "I am the slave of a powerful man",
"My husband will pay you to escort me safely to the city", etc.
I think anything more elaborate is simply not going to be doable in the timeframe she has.

So I need a very vague knowledge of a Phoenician language I can construct simple conversations from and which will not cost me the earth to learn (the only Punic book I can find on Amazon is nearly 100 and presupposes knowledge of Canaanite languages generally).

Aramaic would be a little more authentic, but again, I need something I can get basically conversant in quickly and yet I can tinker with to make sound more Punic.

Hebrew seems to be better supported than Aramaic from a learning perspective, yet similar enough to be worth doing. I can also get Hebrew checked by someone else if I want, Aramaic would be trickier (and original Punic impossible). But I just want to be sure I'm not making a mistake. It would be nice to get it as right as possible in my time and money resources.

Ideally, I planned to have her able to get by (albeit very haltingly) in Latin and then pick up some Punic on the way to Gaul.

Basically, after all my chatter, I am just wondering if there is a compelling and as-yet-unforeseen-by-me reason why my current plan is doomed.

11-30-2009, 06:03 PM
I tried something of that general type. It's still sitting somewhere waiting to be turned into something comprehensible. The language was a minor problem in my mind, but it destroyed the story as something that could be read, but I was using too much of it. After putting it in, there was the problem of making it clear top readers.

There are many free language resources online. If you think that Ancient Hebrew would work, then go for it.

11-30-2009, 06:37 PM
Thanks sir! Happily the lion's share of the section involves the heroine being on her own and is consequently internal monologue, but I just need enough dialogue for her to be able to carry out a couple of essential plot interactions.

Have ordered a starter's Hebrew book from Amazon, and shall see how I get on!

11-30-2009, 07:57 PM
I don't think that you should waste too much trouble, if it is a small piece. Since you are already using two completely made-up languages, you should be able to get away with fudging a few lines by using online translators.