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The Etruscan language is of unknown genetic affiliation. It may have been related to one of the extinct languages of Asia Minor. Some suggest it is distantly related to Indo-European, others to Basque.

Most Etruscan inscriptions can be read approximately, because they are formulaic, mainly on tombs, so words such as clan 'son' are known, titles of priests and magistrates, and so on. The numerals 1 to 6 are frustratingly written on a die, but it is not known for certain which is which: comparison with tomb inscriptions only gives highly likely matches.

There is one very long untranslated text, the Zagreb mummy, and a recently discovered bronze plate.

Etruscan had three aspirated consonants KH, PH, TH, but did not have the sounds B, D, G, though it borrowed the entire alphabet including these from Greek. But the result was that the third position (gamma) was reassigned to the K sound, which became the Roman letter C. They also had an F sound, which didn't occur in Greek, so they used the Greek letters WH for this. The Greek W was the F-shaped digamma; eventually the Etruscans and Romans dropped the H and just wrote the sound with F.

There was a strong initial stress, which caused later vowels to be lost over the course of time: for example, their ethnic name Rasenna also appears as Rasna.