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Indo-European languages
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Indo-European languages

The Indo-European languages include some 443 (SIL estimate) languages and dialects spoken by about three billion people, including most of the major language families of Europe and western Asia, which belong to a single superfamily. Contemporary languages in this superfamily include (having more than one hundred million native speakers) Hindi/Urdu, English, Spanish, Russian, Portuguese, French and German.

Indo-European
Indo-European languages
Indo-European religion
Aryan race
Aryan invasion theory
Kurgan
Vedic civilization
Indo-European

The possibility of common origin of these disparate tongues was first proposed by Sir William Jones, who noticed similarities between four of the oldest languages known in his time, Latin, Greek, Sanskrit, and Persian. Systematic comparison of these and other old languages conducted by Franz Bopp supported this theory. In the 19th century, scholars used to call the group "Indo-Germanic languages" or sometimes "Aryan". However when it became apparent that the connection is relevant to most of Europe's languages, the name was expanded to Indo-European. An example of this was the strong similarity discovered between Sanskrit and older spoken dialects of Lithuanian.

The common ancestral (reconstructed) language is called Proto-Indo-European (PIE). There is disagreement as to the original geographic location (the so-called "Urheimat" or "original homeland"), where it originated from, with Armenia, the area to the north or west of the Black Sea, or Anatolia itself prime examples of proposed candidates.

The various subgroups of the Indo-European family include (cf. Satem and Centum languages):

earliest attested branch, from the 18th century BC; extinct, most notable was the language of the Hittites. including Sanskrit, attested from the 2nd millennium BC fragmentary records in Mycenaean from the 14th century BC; well attested from ca. the 7th century BC. including Latin and its descendants, the Romance languages, attested from the 1st millennium BC. Gaulish inscriptions date as early as the 6th century BC; Old Irish texts from the 6th century AD. (including English), earliest testimonies in runic inscriptions from around the 2nd century, earliest coherent texts in Gothic, 4th century. attested from the 5th century. extinct tongues of the Tocharians, extant in two dialects, attested from roughly the 6th century. earliest testimonies are in Old Church Slavonic (9th century). attested from the 16th century, sometimes placed with several extinct languages in the Illyrian languages subgroup.

Most spoken European languages belong to the Indo-European superfamily. There are, however, language families which do not. The Uralic language family, which includes Hungarian, Estonian, Finnish and the languages of the Sami, is an example. The Caucasian language family is another. The Basque language is unusual in that it does not appear to be related to any known languages.

The Maltese language and Turkish are two examples of languages spoken in Europe which have definite non-European origins. Turkish is a Turkic language, and Maltese is largely derived from Arabic.

Some linguists propose that Indo-European languages are part of a hypothetical Nostratic language superfamily, and attempt to relate Indo-European to other language families, such as Caucasian languages, Altaic languages, Uralic languages, Dravidian languages, Afro-Asiatic languages. This theory is controversial, as is the similar Eurasiatic theory of Joseph H. Greenberg.

See also

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