North Italic Script

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The North Italic Script is an alphabet system that has been widespread in northern Italy approximately between the 8th century BC and the 1st century AD. Several regional variants can be identified over this period of time.

Regional variants

In LexLep we do not distinguish between regional variants of the North Italic script as long as we have not defined significant formal criteria. Formerly established "alphabet areas" like those of Lugano, Sondrio, Bolzano, and so on (Pauli 1885, Lejeune 1971) seem to be inadequate since there are, with the one exception of Camunic alphabet around Sondrio, no graphic or orthographic borders between these areas. One may, though, recognise certain typical "Venetic", "Raetic" characteristics. The variation, for example, between the various sub-types of the Venetic script are more pronounced than are the differences between any of those variants and the Lepontic script. Only the "Camunic" script stands out very distinctly in the North-Italian area.

Comparison chart of North Italic alphabets by Morandi 2004

Supposed "Lepontic Alphabet"

This definition is mainly based on the definition of the "Lugano" alphabet by Lejeune 1971 (cf. p. 14, fig. 2).

Position Character Customary Name Transliteration Attestation in Lepontic inscriptions (27)
(all variants, including alternative reading variants)
A 14 (show list) 51.85 %
E 9 (show list) 33.33 %
V 6 (show list) 22.22 %
Z 1 (show list) 3.70 %
theta Θ 0 (show list) 0.00 %
I 18 (show list) 66.66 %
K 6 (show list) 22.22 %
L 10 (show list) 37.03 %
M 3 (show list) 11.11 %
N 6 (show list) 22.22 %
P 11 (show list) 40.74 %
san, sade Ś 3 (show list) 11.11 %
Q 0 (show list) 0.00 %
R 10 (show list) 37.03 %
S 15 (show list) 55.55 %
T 6 (show list) 22.22 %
U 10 (show list) 37.03 %
phi Φ 0 (show list) 0.00 %
19 Χ 0 (show list) 0.00 %
O 14 (show list) 51.85 %
space, spatium space 5 (show list) 18.51 %
word separator : 5 (show list) 18.51 %

Abecedarial texts

A curious feature of Lepontic, which aligns it with the Venetic and Camunic writing traditions, is the inclination to 'abecedarial' writing. Even though no full alphabetic sequence has been found so far in the Lepontic region, there are a number of sequences consisting of the initial elements of the alphabetic sequence (aev, maybe zv with reversed order of the first two consonantal signs) which serve as abridged surrogate of the full series.

Character Variants

All the character variants of the North Italic Script are rendered by a special character.

Please note that the hitherto defined character variants represent an interim result. Not all variants are confirmed yet. The listed variants include all readings (including several variant readings), and therefore some variants are listed a number of times. We are still working on the evaluation. A chronological analysis has not yet been conducted.

Additional Literature

This list is not a comprehensive collection of relevant literature. It is a first result of the research work in progress.

North Italic Scripts

Alphabet of Lugano

  • Sign variants, chronology and phonology:

Lejeune 1974: 343 (alpha, theta), 373-375 (<z> / <ś>); regarding theta Θ2 s cf. Bermond Montanari 1988: 242 (Etruscan script), further to theta and alphabet variant from Chiusi cf. Maggiani & Prosdocimi 1976: 262, Briquel 1973 (in MEFRA 85): 75 ff., Cristofani 1974 (in REE 1974): n. 333, Tibiletti Bruno 1975: 47-57 (chronology and typology of sign-variants); Tibiletti Bruno 1978: 172-175 (phonetic value of χ, v, z, ś); Salzani & Solinas 1998: 143-148 and Verger 1998: 280 fn. 42, 284-287, fn. 58 (phonetic value of ś)


Further to Camunic alphabetic signs:



Since numeric characters were or became identical with alphabetic ones in the antique tradition there is some difficulty to identify them properly. While the Latin numeric characters (esp. I "1", V "5", X "10") normally pose no problem, there can only be presumptions concerning the North Italic numeral system due to poor attestation. Based on the Etruscan and early Roman numeral system (Ifrah 1986: 163-183) one may assume the following "North Italic" numeric characters:

Character Value
I s 1
U3 s or U s 5
T s 10
Χ6 s or Χ s 50
hundred s 100
? 500
thousand s or Θ2 s 1000


Inscriptions in North Italic Script



Bermond Montanari 1988 Giovanna Bermond Montanari, "I Cippi di Rubiera", Studi Etruschi 54 (1988), 239-245.
De Marinis & Motta 1991 Raffaele C. De Marinis, Filippo Motta, "Una nuova iscrizione lepontica su pietra da Mezzovico (Lugano)", Sibrium 21 (1990–1991), 201–225.
De Marinis 1986 Raffaele De Marinis, "Lingua e alfabeto", in: Various authors, Como fra Etruschi e Celti, Como: Società Archeologica Comense 1986. (Catalogo della mostra), 73–76.
De Marinis 1988 Raffaele De Marinis, "Liguri e Celto-Liguri", in: Anna Maria Chieco Bianchi, Giovanni Colonna, Bruno d'Agostino, Francesco d'Andria, Ettore M. de Juliis, Raffaele de Marinis, Venceslas Kruta, Maurizio Landolfi, Francesco Roncalli (eds), Italia omnium terrarum alumna. La civiltà dei Veneti, Reti, Liguri, Celti, Piceni, Umbri, Latini, Campani e Iapigi, Milano: Scheiwiller 1988, 159–259.
De Marinis 1992 Raffaele C. De Marinis, "Il territorio prealpino e alpino tra i Laghi di Como e di Garda dal Bronzo recente alla fine dell'età del Ferro", in: Ingrid R. Metzger, Paul Gleirscher (eds), Die Räter / I Reti, Bozen: Athesia 1992, 145–174.
De Marinis 1999 Raffaele Carlo De Marinis, "La cultura Breno-Dos dell'Arca e il problema degli Euganei", in: Raffaella Poggiani Keller (ed.), Atti del II Convegno Archeologico Provinciale, Grosio 20 e 21 ottobre 1995, Sondrio: Tipografia Bettini 1999, 117–125.
Eska 1998c Josef Francis Eska, "PIE *p (doesn't become) Ø in proto Celtic", Münchener Studien zur Sprachwissenschaft 58 (1998), 63-80.
Gambari & Colonna 1988 Filippo Maria Gambari, Giovanni Colonna, "Il bicchiere con iscrizione arcaica da Castelletto Ticino e l'adozione della scrittura nell'Italia nord-occidentale", Studi Etruschi 54 (1986 [1988]), 119–164.
Giussani 1902 A[ntonio] Giussani, "L' iscrizione nord-etrusca di Tesserete e le altre iscrizioni pre-romane del nostro territorio", Rivista Archeologica della Provincia e Antica Diocesi di Como 46 (1902), 25–67.