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Indo-European languages

Indo-European languages
Anatolian | Indo-Iranian | Greek | Italic
Celtic | Germanic | Armenian
Balto-Slavic | Tocharian | Albanian
Language | Society | Religion
Kurgan | Yamna | Aryan
Indo-European studies

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 Persian, English, Spanish, Hindi, Bengali, Russian, Gujarati, Italian, Portuguese, French and German.



The possibility of common origin for 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):

Non-IE European languages

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 living 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

External links

  • The Evolution of the Indo-European Languages, by Dr. C. George Boeree .
  • Indo-European Roots, from the American Heritage Dictionary .
  • Indo-European Documentation Center at the University of Texas
  • Say something in Proto-Indo-European (by Geoffrey Sampson )
  • IE language family overview (SIL)
  • Gray & Atkinson, article on PIE Phylogeny
  • Indo-European Root/lemmas (by Andi Zeneli )

Last updated: 02-05-2005 10:15:35
Last updated: 03-18-2005 11:16:12