|Before the 16th century, Europe, and South, Central and Southwest Asia; today worldwide.|
|Linguistic classification:||One of the world's major language families|
|ISO 639-2 and 639-5:||ine|
Countries with a majority of speakers of IE languages
Countries with an IE minority language with official statusCountries where no Indo-European language is official, but a significant minority speak an Indo-European language
The Indo-European languages are a family of several hundred related languages and dialects, including most major languages in Europe, the Iranian plateau, and South Asia. Some linguists also believe that the Ainu language of northern Japan is (distantly) related to Indo-European languages.
The earliest Indo-European writing is from the Bronze Age in Anatolian and Mycenaean Greek. The origin of Indo-European is after the invention of farming since some Proto-Indo-European words are farming words.
Although it may have fewer different languages than some other language families, it has the most native speakers, about 2.7 billion.
Four of the six official languages of the United Nations are Indo-European: English, Spanish, French, and Russian.
Main language groups[change | change source]
These are the main Indo-European language groups:
- Anatolian: Luwian; Hittite
- Celtic (such as Irish and Welsh)
- Germanic (such as English, German, and Swedish)
- Greek (and modern Greek)
- Latin and the Romance languages (such as French, Italian, and Romanian)
History of Indo-European linguistics[change | change source]
Suggestions of similarities between Indian and European languages began to be made by European visitors to India in the 16th century. In 1583, Thomas Stephens S.J. an English Jesuit missionary in Goa, India, noticed similarities between Indian languages and Greek and Latin and included them included in a letter to his brother, but it was not published until the 20th century.
The first account to mention Sanskrit is from Filippo Sassetti. Born in Florence, Italy, in 1540, he was a merchant who was among the first Europeans to study the Sanskrit. Writing in 1585, he noted some word similarities between Sanskrit and Italian such as devaḥ/dio "God", sarpaḥ/serpe "serpent", sapta/sette "seven", aṣṭa/otto "eight", nava/nove "nine"). However, neither observation led to further scholarly inquiry.
In 1647, Dutch linguist and scholar Marcus Zuerius van Boxhorn noted the similarity among Indo-European languages and supposed that they derived from a primitive common language. He included in his hypothesis Dutch, Greek, Latin, Persian, and German and later added Slavic, Celtic and Baltic languages. However, his suggestions did not become widely known and did not stimulate further research.
Gaston Coeurdoux and others had made similar observations. Coeurdoux made a thorough comparison of Sanskrit, Latin and Greek conjugations in the late 1760s to suggest a relationship between the languages. Similarly, Mikhail Lomonosov compared different languages groups of the world, including Slavic, Baltic, Iranian, Finnish, Chinese, Hottentot and others.
The hypothesis reappeared in 1786, 20 years after Coeurdoux, when Sir William Jones first lectured on the striking similarities between three of the oldest languages known in his time: Latin, Greek, and Sanskrit. He later tentatively added Gothic, Celtic, and Old Persian but made some errors and omissions in his classification.
In 1813, Thomas Young was first to use the term Indo-European. It became the standard scientific term except in Germany through Franz Bopp's Comparative Grammar. Appearing between 1833 and 1852, it was the starting point of Indo-European studies as an academic discipline.
Some 20th-century scholars thought Indo-European languages started in Armenia or India, but most think that it was in Eastern Europe or Anatolia. Recently newer studies support an origin in northern Iran and Armenia.
References[change | change source]
- "Ethnologue list of language families". Ethnologue.com. Retrieved 2010-08-07.
- It is composed of 449 languages and dialects, according to the 2005 Ethnologue estimate, about half (219) belonging to the Indo-Aryan sub-branch.
- Auroux, Sylvain (2000). History of the language sciences. Berlin, New York: Walter de Gruyter. p. 1156. ISBN 3110167352.
- M.V. Lomonosov. In: Complete edition, Moscow, 1952, vol 7, pp 652-659: (transl.) 'Imagine the depth of time when these languages separated! ... Polish and Russian separated so long ago! Think when [this happened to] Latin, Greek, German, and Russian! Oh, great antiquity!'
- cited on page 14-15.
- Blench, Roger 2004. Archaeology and language: methods and issues. In: A companion to archaeology. J. Bintliff ed. 52-74. Oxford: Basil Blackwell 2004. (He erroneously included Egyptian, Japanese and Chinese in the Indo-European languages, while omitting Hindi.)
- In London Quarterly Review X/2 1813.; cf. Szemerényi 1999:12, footnote 6
- In German it is indogermanisch 'Indo-Germanic' which indicates the east-west extension, but omits the Italic languages.