This introduction to the Messapian language, published by Reichert Verlag, is the result of many years spent studying Messapian inscriptions. Messapian is a classical non-Italianate language documented in Apulia (Italy) between the sixth and second centuries B.C. Many of the Messapian inscriptions were mainly found in the southern Apulian region of Salento. Messapian used an adaptation of the Greek alphabet of Tarent, and hence the inscriptions are easy to read. The majority of the approximately 600 known inscriptions are brief epitaphs naming the dead. There are also a series of longer inscriptions, the details of which are often so unclear however that they represent the only instances of a given lexeme. The context of their excavation is also unknown, and hence the function of some inscriptions remains a mystery.
Description is based on the corpus of inscriptions that has been documented since 2002 by the compact Monumenta linguae messapicae, edited by C. de Simone and S. Marchesini. The publication conveys the fundamentals of Messapian grammar, primarily depicted synchronically but also containing some discussion of diachronic aspects. The work also presents the Messapian system of proper names, about which much is known due to the many epitaphs, and contains analysis and discussion of eighteen further brief and longer Messapian epitaphs, including an inscription from the Grotta della poesia that hitherto had escaped diplomatic editing. The recently discovered inscriptions from Castro are also briefly introduced. An extensive bibliography for further reading concludes the volume, which is conceived both as an initial source of information and as a handbook for academic teaching.