Definitions

cunabula

Punic language

The Punic language is an extinct Semitic language formerly spoken in the Mediterranean region of North Africa and several Mediterranean islands, by people of the Punic culture.

Description

Punic is an extinct variety of the Phoenician language spoken in the oversea Phoenician empire in North Africa, including Carthage, and the Mediterranean. It is known from inscriptions and personal name evidence.

Augustine of Hippo is generally considered the last major ancient writer to have some knowledge of Punic, and is considered "our primary source on the survival of [late] Punic". Writing around 401, he says:

Quae lingua si improbatur abs te, nega Punicis libris, ut a viris doctissimis proditur, multa sapienter esse mandata memoriae. Poeniteat te certe ibi natum, ubi huius linguae cunabula recalent.

And if the Punic language is rejected by you, you virtually deny what has been admitted by most learned men, that many things have been wisely preserved from oblivion in books written in the Punic tongue. Nay, you ought even to be ashamed of having been born in the country in which the cradle of this language is still warm. (Ep. xvii)

The idea that Punic exerted an influence on the modern Maltese language was first raised in 1565. This theory has been mostly discredited; mainstream theories hold Maltese to be derived from Siculo-Arabic, with a large number of loanwords from Italian. Punic was indeed spoken on the island of Malta at some point in its history, as evidenced by the Cippi of Melqart, integral to the decipherment of Punic after its extinction, and other inscriptions found on the islands.

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