(coastal parts of) Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, southern Iberia, Libya, Malta
c. 800 BC to AD 500
The Punic language, also called Carthaginian or Phoenicio-Punic, is an extinct variety of Berber/Phoenician language, a Canaanite language of the Semitic family. It was spoken in the Carthaginian empire in North Africa and several Mediterranean islands by the Punic people throughout classical antiquity, from the 8th century BC to the 5th century AD.
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The Punics stayed in contact with Phoenicia until the destruction of Carthage by the Roman Republic in 146 BC. While Punic was spoken, it underwent many changes under Berber influence. At first, there was not much difference between Phoenician and Punic, but as time went on and Carthage and its colonies lost contact with Phoenicia, Punic began to become influenced less by Phoenicia but more by the Berber languages spoken in and around Carthage by the ancient Libyans.
The term Neo-Punic is used in two senses: one pertaining to the Phoenician alphabet and the other to the language itself. In the present context, Neo-Punic refers to the dialect of Punic spoken after the fall of Carthage and after the Roman conquest of the former Punic territories in 146 BC. The dialect differed from the earlier Punic language, as is evident from divergent spelling compared to earlier Punic and by the use of non-Semitic names, mostly of Libyco-Berber origin. The difference was due to the dialectal changes that Punic underwent as it spread among the North-African peoples. Neo-Punic works include Lepcis Magna N 19 (92 AD).
By around the fourth century AD, Punic was still spoken in Tunisia, parts of North Africa, and the Mediterranean. The Neo-Punic alphabet also descended from the Punic language. By around 400, the first meaning of Punic was used mainly for monumental inscriptions, replaced by the cursive Neo-Punic alphabet elsewhere. Examples of Punic literary works cover the topic of Mago, a Punic general with great notoriety, who spread Carthage’s influence as much through writing books as he did fighting. Mago wrote 28 volumes about animal husbandry.
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