4 - Palaic  pp. 40-45


By H. Craig Melchert

Image View Previous Chapter Next Chapter


Palaic was once the spoken language of the land of Palā, generally agreed to have been located to the northwest of Hittite territory across the Halys River (modern Kizil Irmak) in what is now north central Turkey. The country name is surely reflected in the later classical Blaëne and Paphlagonia. Palaic is attested in scarcely a dozen ritual fragments from the cuneiform archives of the ancient Hittite capital Hattuša (modern Boğazköy). The documents are contemporary with the Hittite (sixteenth to thirteenth centuries BC), including a couple of manuscripts from the Old Hittite period.

What little Palaic we have owes its preservation to liturgical use by the Hittites, chiefly for the cult of the Hattic god Za/iparfa. Palā, mentioned in the Old Hittite Laws as one of the three divisions of the Hittite state along with Hatti and Luwiya, appears only rarely in later texts. Its decline in importance is sometimes attributed to the depredations of the Kaskeans, a people of the northern mountains who caused serious problems for the Hittites throughout their history. It is likely that Palaic was extinct as a spoken language by the thirteenth century, and it may well have been so by the time of our earliest texts in the sixteenth. The extremely sparse documentation makes all aspects of the following description provisional. Palaic is interpreted largely in light of the much better attested Hittite so far as the facts permit.