Indo-European languages

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Linguistic classification One of the world's primary language families
Proto-language Indo-Hittite(?)
ISO 639-2 / 5 ine
Glottolog indo1319
Indo-European Language Family Branches in Eurasia.png
Present-day distribution of Indo-European languages in Eurasia:
   Baltic (East)
   Germanic (North and West)
  Non-Indo-European languages
Dotted/striped areas indicate where multilingualism is common (more visible upon full enlargement of the map).
  • indicates this branch of the language family is extinct

The Indo-European languages are a language family native to the overwhelming majority of Europe, the Iranian plateau, and the northern Indian subcontinent. Some European languages of this family—English, French, Portuguese, Russian, Dutch, and Spanish—have expanded through colonialism in the modern period and are now spoken across several continents. The Indo-European family is divided into several branches or sub-families, of which there are eight groups with languages still alive today: Albanian, Armenian, Balto-Slavic, Celtic, Germanic, Hellenic, Indo-Iranian, and Italic; another nine subdivisions are now extinct.


Today, the individual Indo-European languages with the most native speakers are English, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Hindustani, Bengali, Punjabi, French and German each with over 100 million native speakers; many others are small and in danger of extinction.

In total, 46% of the world's population (3.2 billion people) speaks an Indo-European language as a first language—by far the highest of any language family. There are about 445 living Indo-European languages, according to an estimate by Ethnologue , with over two-thirds (313) of them belonging to the Indo-Iranian branch. [1]

All Indo-European languages are descended from a single prehistoric language, linguistically reconstructed as Proto-Indo-European, spoken sometime during the Neolithic or early Bronze Age. The geographical location where it was spoken, the Proto-Indo-European homeland, has been the object of many competing hypotheses; the academic consensus supports the Kurgan hypothesis, which posits the homeland to be the Pontic–Caspian steppe in what is now Ukraine and southern Russia, associated with the Yamnaya culture and other related archaeological cultures during the 4th millennium BC to early 3rd millennium BC. By the time the first written records appeared, Indo-European had already evolved into numerous languages spoken across much of Europe, South Asia, and part of Western Asia. Written evidence of Indo-European appeared during the Bronze Age in the form of Mycenaean Greek and the Anatolian languages of Hittite and Luwian. The oldest records are isolated Hittite words and names—interspersed in texts that are otherwise in the unrelated Akkadian language, a Semitic language—found in texts of the Assyrian colony of Kültepe in eastern Anatolia dating to the 20th century BC. [2] Although no older written records of the original Proto-Indo-European population remain, some aspects of their culture and their religion can be reconstructed from later evidence in the daughter cultures. [3] The Indo-European family is significant to the field of historical linguistics as it possesses the second-longest recorded history of any known family, after the Afroasiatic Egyptian language and Semitic languages. The analysis of the family relationships between the Indo-European languages, and the reconstruction of their common source, was central to the development of the methodology of historical linguistics as an academic discipline in the 19th century.

The Indo-European language family is not considered by the current academic consensus in the field of linguistics to have any genetic relationships with other language families, although several disputed hypotheses propose such relations.

History of Indo-European linguistics

During the 16th century, European visitors to the Indian subcontinent began to notice similarities among Indo-Aryan, Iranian, and European languages. In 1583, English Jesuit missionary and Konkani scholar Thomas Stephens wrote a letter from Goa to his brother (not published until the 20th century) [4] in which he noted similarities between Indian languages and Greek and Latin.

Another account was made by Filippo Sassetti, a merchant born in Florence in 1540, who travelled to the Indian subcontinent. Writing in 1585, he noted some word similarities between Sanskrit and Italian (these included devaḥ/dio "God", sarpaḥ/serpe "serpent", sapta/sette "seven", aṣṭa/otto "eight", and nava/nove "nine"). [4] However, neither Stephens' nor Sassetti's observations led to further scholarly inquiry. [4]

In 1647, Dutch linguist and scholar Marcus Zuerius van Boxhorn noted the similarity among certain Asian and European languages and theorized that they were derived from a primitive common language that he called Scythian. [5] He included in his hypothesis Dutch, Albanian, Greek, Latin, Persian, and German, later adding Slavic, Celtic, and Baltic languages. However, Van Boxhorn's suggestions did not become widely known and did not stimulate further research.

Ottoman Turkish traveler Evliya Çelebi visited Vienna in 1665–1666 as part of a diplomatic mission and noted a few similarities between words in German and in Persian. Gaston Coeurdoux and others made observations of the same type. Coeurdoux made a thorough comparison of Sanskrit, Latin, and Greek conjugations in the late 1760s to suggest a relationship among them. Meanwhile, Mikhail Lomonosov compared different language groups, including Slavic, Baltic ("Kurlandic"), Iranian ("Medic"), Finnish, Chinese, "Hottentot" (Khoekhoe), and others, noting that related languages (including Latin, Greek, German, and Russian) must have separated in antiquity from common ancestors. [6]

The hypothesis reappeared in 1786 when Sir William Jones first lectured on the striking similarities among three of the oldest languages known in his time: Latin, Greek, and Sanskrit, to which he tentatively added Gothic, Celtic, and Persian, [7] though his classification contained some inaccuracies and omissions. [8] In one of the most famous quotations in linguistics, Jones made the following prescient statement in a lecture to the Asiatic Society of Bengal in 1786, conjecturing the existence of an earlier ancestor language, which he called "a common source" but did not name:

The Sanscrit [ sic ] language, whatever be its antiquity, is of a wonderful structure; more perfect than the Greek, more copious than the Latin, and more exquisitely refined than either, yet bearing to both of them a stronger affinity, both in the roots of verbs and the forms of grammar, than could possibly have been produced by accident; so strong indeed, that no philologer could examine them all three, without believing them to have sprung from some common source, which, perhaps, no longer exists. [note 1]

Sir William Jones, Third Anniversary Discourse delivered 2 February 1786, ELIOHS [9]

Thomas Young first used the term Indo-European in 1813, deriving it from the geographical extremes of the language family: from Western Europe to North India. [10] [11] A synonym is Indo-Germanic (Idg. or IdG.), specifying the family's southeasternmost and northwesternmost branches. This first appeared in French (indo-germanique) in 1810 in the work of Conrad Malte-Brun; in most languages this term is now dated or less common than Indo-European, although in German indogermanisch remains the standard scientific term. A number of other synonymous terms have also been used.

Franz Bopp was a pioneer in the field of comparative linguistic studies. Franz Bopp (2).jpg
Franz Bopp was a pioneer in the field of comparative linguistic studies.

Franz Bopp wrote in 1816 On the conjugational system of the Sanskrit language compared with that of Greek, Latin, Persian and Germanic [12] and between 1833 and 1852 he wrote Comparative Grammar. This marks the beginning of Indo-European studies as an academic discipline. The classical phase of Indo-European comparative linguistics leads from this work to August Schleicher's 1861 Compendium and up to Karl Brugmann's Grundriss , published in the 1880s. Brugmann's neogrammarian reevaluation of the field and Ferdinand de Saussure's development of the laryngeal theory may be considered the beginning of "modern" Indo-European studies. The generation of Indo-Europeanists active in the last third of the 20th century (such as Calvert Watkins, Jochem Schindler, and Helmut Rix) developed a better understanding of morphology and of ablaut in the wake of Kuryłowicz's 1956 Apophony in Indo-European, who in 1927 pointed out the existence of the Hittite consonant ḫ. [13] Kuryłowicz's discovery supported Ferdinand de Saussure's 1879 proposal of the existence of coefficients sonantiques, elements de Saussure reconstructed to account for vowel length alternations in Indo-European languages. This led to the so-called laryngeal theory, a major step forward in Indo-European linguistics and a confirmation of de Saussure's theory.[ citation needed ]


The various subgroups of the Indo-European language family include ten major branches, listed below in alphabetical order:

In addition to the classical ten branches listed above, several extinct and little-known languages and language-groups have existed or are proposed to have existed:

Indo-European family tree in order of first attestation Indo-European language tree (with major international languages highlighted).svg
Indo-European family tree in order of first attestation
Indo-European language family tree based on "Ancestry-constrained phylogenetic analysis of Indo-European languages" by Chang et al. IndoEuropeanLanguageFamilyRelationsChart.jpg
Indo-European language family tree based on "Ancestry-constrained phylogenetic analysis of Indo-European languages" by Chang et al.

Membership of languages in the Indo-European language family is determined by genealogical relationships, meaning that all members are presumed descendants of a common ancestor, Proto-Indo-European. Membership in the various branches, groups, and subgroups of Indo-European is also genealogical, but here the defining factors are shared innovations among various languages, suggesting a common ancestor that split off from other Indo-European groups. For example, what makes the Germanic languages a branch of Indo-European is that much of their structure and phonology can be stated in rules that apply to all of them. Many of their common features are presumed innovations that took place in Proto-Germanic, the source of all the Germanic languages.

In the 21st century, several attempts have been made to model the phylogeny of Indo-European languages using Bayesian methodologies similar to those applied to problems in biological phylogeny. [39] [40] [38] Although there are differences in absolute timing between the various analyses, there is much commonality between them, including the result that the first known language groups to diverge were the Anatolian and Tocharian language families, in that order.

Tree versus wave model

The "tree model" is considered an appropriate representation of the genealogical history of a language family if communities do not remain in contact after their languages have started to diverge. In this case, subgroups defined by shared innovations form a nested pattern. The tree model is not appropriate in cases where languages remain in contact as they diversify; in such cases subgroups may overlap, and the "wave model" is a more accurate representation. [41] Most approaches to Indo-European subgrouping to date have assumed that the tree model is by-and-large valid for Indo-European; [42] however, there is also a long tradition of wave-model approaches. [43] [44] [45]

In addition to genealogical changes, many of the early changes in Indo-European languages can be attributed to language contact. It has been asserted, for example, that many of the more striking features shared by Italic languages (Latin, Oscan, Umbrian, etc.) might well be areal features. More certainly, very similar-looking alterations in the systems of long vowels in the West Germanic languages greatly postdate any possible notion of a proto-language innovation (and cannot readily be regarded as "areal", either, because English and continental West Germanic were not a linguistic area). In a similar vein, there are many similar innovations in Germanic and Balto-Slavic that are far more likely areal features than traceable to a common proto-language, such as the uniform development of a high vowel (*u in the case of Germanic, *i/u in the case of Baltic and Slavic) before the PIE syllabic resonants *ṛ, *ḷ, *ṃ, *ṇ, unique to these two groups among IE languages, which is in agreement with the wave model. The Balkan sprachbund even features areal convergence among members of very different branches.

An extension to the Ringe-Warnow model of language evolution suggests that early IE had featured limited contact between distinct lineages, with only the Germanic subfamily exhibiting a less treelike behaviour as it acquired some characteristics from neighbours early in its evolution. The internal diversification of especially West Germanic is cited to have been radically non-treelike. [46]

Proposed subgroupings

Specialists have postulated the existence of higher-order subgroups such as Italo-Celtic, Graeco-Armenian, Graeco-Aryan or Graeco-Armeno-Aryan, and Balto-Slavo-Germanic. However, unlike the ten traditional branches, these are all controversial to a greater or lesser degree. [47]

The Italo-Celtic subgroup was at one point uncontroversial, considered by Antoine Meillet to be even better established than Balto-Slavic. [48] The main lines of evidence included the genitive suffix ; the superlative suffix -m̥mo; the change of /p/ to /kʷ/ before another /kʷ/ in the same word (as in penkʷe > *kʷenkʷe > Latin quīnque, Old Irish cóic); and the subjunctive morpheme -ā-. [49] This evidence was prominently challenged by Calvert Watkins, [50] while Michael Weiss has argued for the subgroup. [51]

Evidence for a relationship between Greek and Armenian includes the regular change of the second laryngeal to a at the beginnings of words, as well as terms for "woman" and "sheep". [52] Greek and Indo-Iranian share innovations mainly in verbal morphology and patterns of nominal derivation. [53] Relations have also been proposed between Phrygian and Greek, [54] and between Thracian and Armenian. [55] [56] Some fundamental shared features, like the aorist (a verb form denoting action without reference to duration or completion) having the perfect active particle -s fixed to the stem, link this group closer to Anatolian languages [57] and Tocharian. Shared features with Balto-Slavic languages, on the other hand (especially present and preterit formations), might be due to later contacts. [58]

The Indo-Hittite hypothesis proposes that the Indo-European language family consists of two main branches: one represented by the Anatolian languages and another branch encompassing all other Indo-European languages. Features that separate Anatolian from all other branches of Indo-European (such as the gender or the verb system) have been interpreted alternately as archaic debris or as innovations due to prolonged isolation. Points proffered in favour of the Indo-Hittite hypothesis are the (non-universal) Indo-European agricultural terminology in Anatolia [59] and the preservation of laryngeals. [60] However, in general this hypothesis is considered to attribute too much weight to the Anatolian evidence. According to another view, the Anatolian subgroup left the Indo-European parent language comparatively late, approximately at the same time as Indo-Iranian and later than the Greek or Armenian divisions. A third view, especially prevalent in the so-called French school of Indo-European studies, holds that extant similarities in non-satem languages in general—including Anatolian—might be due to their peripheral location in the Indo-European language-area and to early separation, rather than indicating a special ancestral relationship. [61] Hans J. Holm, based on lexical calculations, arrives at a picture roughly replicating the general scholarly opinion and refuting the Indo-Hittite hypothesis. [62]

Satem and centum languages

Some significant isoglosses in Indo-European daughter languages at around 500 BC.
Blue: centum languages
Red: satem languages
Orange: languages with augment
Green: languages with PIE *-tt- > -ss-
Tan: languages with PIE *-tt- > -st-
Pink: languages with instrumental, dative and ablative plural endings (and some others) in *-m- rather than *-bh- Indo-European isoglosses.png
Some significant isoglosses in Indo-European daughter languages at around 500 BC.
  Blue: centum languages
  Red: satem languages
  Orange: languages with augment
  Green: languages with PIE *-tt- > -ss-
  Tan: languages with PIE *-tt- > -st-
  Pink: languages with instrumental, dative and ablative plural endings (and some others) in *-m- rather than *-bh-

The division of the Indo-European languages into satem and centum groups was put forward by Peter von Bradke in 1890, although Karl Brugmann did propose a similar type of division in 1886. In the satem languages, which include the Balto-Slavic and Indo-Iranian branches, as well as (in most respects) Albanian and Armenian, the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European palatovelars remained distinct and were fricativized, while the labiovelars merged with the 'plain velars'. In the centum languages, the palatovelars merged with the plain velars, while the labiovelars remained distinct. The results of these alternative developments are exemplified by the words for "hundred" in Avestan (satem) and Latin (centum)—the initial palatovelar developed into a fricative [s] in the former, but became an ordinary velar [k] in the latter.

Rather than being a genealogical separation, the centum–satem division is commonly seen as resulting from innovative changes that spread across PIE dialect-branches over a particular geographical area; the centum–satem isogloss intersects a number of other isoglosses that mark distinctions between features in the early IE branches. It may be that the centum branches in fact reflect the original state of affairs in PIE, and only the satem branches shared a set of innovations, which affected all but the peripheral areas of the PIE dialect continuum. [63] Kortlandt proposes that the ancestors of Balts and Slavs took part in satemization before being drawn later into the western Indo-European sphere. [64]

Proposed external relations

From the very beginning of Indo-European studies, there have been attempts to link the Indo-European languages genealogically to other languages and language families. However, these theories remain highly controversial, and most specialists in Indo-European linguistics are skeptical or agnostic about such proposals. [65]

Proposals linking the Indo-European languages with a single language family include: [65]

Other proposed families include: [65]

Nostratic and Eurasiatic, in turn, have been included in even wider groupings, such as Borean, a language family separately proposed by Harold C. Fleming and Sergei Starostin that encompasses almost all of the world's natural languages with the exception of those native to sub-Saharan Africa, New Guinea, Australia, and the Andaman Islands.



Scheme of Indo-European language dispersals from c. 4000 to 1000 BCE according to the widely held Kurgan hypothesis.
- Center: Steppe cultures
1 (black): Anatolian languages (archaic PIE)
2 (black): Afanasievo culture (early PIE)
3 (black) Yamnaya culture expansion (Pontic-Caspian steppe, Danube Valley) (late PIE)
4A (black): Western Corded Ware
4B-C (blue & dark blue): Bell Beaker; adopted by Indo-European speakers
5A-B (red): Eastern Corded ware
5C (red): Sintashta (proto-Indo-Iranian)
6 (magenta): Andronovo
7A (purple): Indo-Aryans (Mittani)
7B (purple): Indo-Aryans (India)
[NN] (dark yellow): proto-Balto-Slavic
8 (grey): Greek
9 (yellow):Iranians
- [not drawn]: Armenian, expanding from western steppe Indo-European expansions.jpg
Scheme of Indo-European language dispersals from c. 4000 to 1000 BCE according to the widely held Kurgan hypothesis.
– Center: Steppe cultures
1 (black): Anatolian languages (archaic PIE)
2 (black): Afanasievo culture (early PIE)
3 (black) Yamnaya culture expansion (Pontic-Caspian steppe, Danube Valley) (late PIE)
4A (black): Western Corded Ware
4B-C (blue & dark blue): Bell Beaker; adopted by Indo-European speakers
5A-B (red): Eastern Corded ware
5C (red): Sintashta (proto-Indo-Iranian)
6 (magenta): Andronovo
7A (purple): Indo-Aryans (Mittani)
7B (purple): Indo-Aryans (India)
[NN] (dark yellow): proto-Balto-Slavic
8 (grey): Greek
9 (yellow):Iranians
– [not drawn]: Armenian, expanding from western steppe

The proposed Proto-Indo-European language (PIE) is the reconstructed common ancestor of the Indo-European languages, spoken by the Proto-Indo-Europeans. From the 1960s, knowledge of Anatolian became certain enough to establish its relationship to PIE. Using the method of internal reconstruction, an earlier stage, called Pre-Proto-Indo-European, has been proposed.

PIE is an inflected language, in which the grammatical relationships between words were signaled through inflectional morphemes (usually endings). The roots of PIE are basic morphemes carrying a lexical meaning. By addition of suffixes, they form stems, and by addition of endings, these form grammatically inflected words (nouns or verbs). The reconstructed Indo-European verb system is complex and, like the noun, exhibits a system of ablaut.


The diversification of the parent language into the attested branches of daughter languages is historically unattested. The timeline of the evolution of the various daughter languages, on the other hand, is mostly undisputed, quite regardless of the question of Indo-European origins.

Using a mathematical analysis borrowed from evolutionary biology, Donald Ringe and Tandy Warnow propose the following evolutionary tree of Indo-European branches: [66]

David Anthony proposes the following sequence: [68]

From 1500 BC the following sequence may be given:[ citation needed ]

Important languages for reconstruction

In reconstructing the history of the Indo-European languages and the form of the Proto-Indo-European language, some languages have been of particular importance. These generally include the ancient Indo-European languages that are both well-attested and documented at an early date, although some languages from later periods are important if they are particularly linguistically conservative (most notably, Lithuanian). Early poetry is of special significance because of the rigid poetic meter normally employed, which makes it possible to reconstruct a number of features (e.g. vowel length) that were either unwritten or corrupted in the process of transmission down to the earliest extant written manuscripts.

Most noticeable of all: [70]

Other primary sources:

Other secondary sources, of lesser value due to poor attestation:

Other secondary sources, of lesser value due to extensive phonological changes and relatively limited attestation: [71]

Sound changes

As the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) language broke up, its sound system diverged as well, changing according to various sound laws evidenced in the daughter languages.

PIE is normally reconstructed with a complex system of 15 stop consonants, including an unusual three-way phonation (voicing) distinction between voiceless, voiced and "voiced aspirated" (i.e. breathy voiced) stops, and a three-way distinction among velar consonants (k-type sounds) between "palatal" ḱ ǵ ǵh, "plain velar" k g gh and labiovelar kʷ gʷ gʷh. (The correctness of the terms palatal and plain velar is disputed; see Proto-Indo-European phonology.) All daughter languages have reduced the number of distinctions among these sounds, often in divergent ways.

As an example, in English, one of the Germanic languages, the following are some of the major changes that happened:

  1. As in other centum languages, the "plain velar" and "palatal" stops merged, reducing the number of stops from 15 to 12.
  2. As in the other Germanic languages, the Germanic sound shift changed the realization of all stop consonants, with each consonant shifting to a different one:
    gkx (Later initial xh)
    gʷʰ (Later initial )

    Each original consonant shifted one position to the right. For example, original became d, while original d became t and original t became θ (written th in English). This is the original source of the English sounds written f, th, h and wh. Examples, comparing English with Latin, where the sounds largely remain unshifted:

    For PIE p: piscis vs. fish; pēs, pēdis vs. foot; pluvium "rain" vs. flow; pater vs. father
    For PIE t: trēs vs. three; māter vs. mother
    For PIE d: decem vs. ten; pēdis vs. foot; quid vs. what
    For PIE k: centum vs. hund(red); capere "to take" vs. have
    For PIE : quid vs. what; quandō vs. when
  3. Various further changes affected consonants in the middle or end of a word:
    • The voiced stops resulting from the sound shift were softened to voiced fricatives (or perhaps the sound shift directly generated fricatives in these positions).
    • Verner's law also turned some of the voiceless fricatives resulting from the sound shift into voiced fricatives or stops. This is why the t in Latin centum ends up as d in hund(red) rather than the expected th.
    • Most remaining h sounds disappeared, while remaining f and th became voiced. For example, Latin decem ends up as ten with no h in the middle (but note taíhun "ten" in Gothic, an archaic Germanic language). Similarly, the words seven and have have a voiced v (compare Latin septem, capere), while father and mother have a voiced th, although not spelled differently (compare Latin pater, māter).

None of the daughter-language families (except possibly Anatolian, particularly Luvian) reflect the plain velar stops differently from the other two series, and there is even a certain amount of dispute whether this series existed at all in PIE. The major distinction between centum and satem languages corresponds to the outcome of the PIE plain velars:

The three-way PIE distinction between voiceless, voiced and voiced aspirated stops is considered extremely unusual from the perspective of linguistic typology—particularly in the existence of voiced aspirated stops without a corresponding series of voiceless aspirated stops. None of the various daughter-language families continue it unchanged, with numerous "solutions" to the apparently unstable PIE situation:

Among the other notable changes affecting consonants are:

The following table shows the basic outcomes of PIE consonants in some of the most important daughter languages for the purposes of reconstruction. For a fuller table, see Indo-European sound laws.

Proto-Indo-European consonants and their reflexes in selected Indo-European daughter languages
PIE Skr. O.C.S. Lith. Greek Latin Old Irish Gothic EnglishExamples
PIEEng. Skr. Gk. Lat. Lith. etc. Prs.
*pp; phHpØ;
`-b- [β]
*pṓds ~ *ped-footpád-poús (podós)pēs (pedis)pãdasPiáde
*tt; thHtt;
-th- [θ]
`-d- [ð];
*tréyesthreetráyastreĩstrēstrỹsthri (old Persian)
-ch- [x]
`-g- [ɣ]
*kk; cE[tʃ];
"raw meat"
OE hrēaw
*kʷid, kʷodwhatkímquid, quodkas, kadce, ci
*bb; bhHbb[b];
*dd; dhHdd[d];
Goth. taíhun
kc / k;
*ǵénu, *ǵnéu-OE cnēo
*bʰéroh₂bear "carry"bhar-phérōferō OCS berǫbar-
d*dʰwer-, dʰur-doordvā́raḥthurā́forēsdùrysdar
-g- [ɣ];
OHG gans
g /
-u- [w];
*gʷʰerm- ??warmgharmáḥthermósformus Latv. gar̂megarm
m*mūsmousemū́ṣ-mũsmūs OCS myšĭmuš
*-m-m-˛[˜]-n-m-n-Ø*ḱm̥tómhund(red)śatám(he)katóncentum OPrus simtansad
*lr (dial. l)l*leuk-lightrócateleukóslūxlaũkasruz
*i̯y[j]j[j]z[dz>zd,z] /
*u̯v[ʋ]vv[ʋ]w > h / Øu[w>v]f;
PIE Skr. O.C.S. Lith. Greek Latin Old Irish Gothic English

Comparison of conjugations

The following table presents a comparison of conjugations of the thematic present indicative of the verbal root *bʰer- of the English verb to bear and its reflexes in various early attested IE languages and their modern descendants or relatives, showing that all languages had in the early stage an inflectional verb system.

(* bʰer- 'to carry, to bear')
I (1st sg.)*bʰéroh₂
You (2nd sg.)*bʰéresi
He/She/It (3rd sg.)*bʰéreti
We two (1st dual)*bʰérowos
You two (2nd dual)*bʰéreth₁es
They two (3rd dual)*bʰéretes
We (1st pl.)*bʰéromos
You (2nd pl.)*bʰérete
They (3rd pl.)*bʰéronti
Major subgroup Hellenic Indo-Iranian Italic Celtic Armenian Germanic Balto-Slavic Albanian
Indo-Aryan Iranian Baltic Slavic
Ancient representative Ancient Greek Vedic Sanskrit Avestan Latin Old Irish Classical Armenian Gothic Old Prussian Old Church Sl. Old Albanian
I (1st sg.) phérō bʰárāmibarāmi ferō biru; berimberembaíra /bɛra/*beraberǫ*berja
You (2nd sg.)phéreisbʰárasibarahifersbiri; berirberesbaíris*berabereši*berje
He/She/It (3rd sg.)phéreibʰáratibaraitifertberidberēbaíriþ*beraberetъ*berjet
We two (1st dual)bʰárāvasbarāvahibaírosberevě
You two (2nd dual)phéretonbʰárathasbaíratsbereta
They two (3rd dual)phéretonbʰáratasbaratōberete
We (1st pl.)phéromenbʰárāmasbarāmahiferimusbermaiberemkʿbaíram*beramaiberemъ*berjame
You (2nd pl.)phéretebʰárathabaraθafertisbeirtheberēkʿbaíriþ*berateiberete*berjeju
They (3rd pl.)phérousibʰárantibarəṇtiferuntberaitberenbaírand*beraberǫtъ*berjanti
Modern representative Modern Greek Hindustani Persian Portuguese Irish Armenian (Eastern; Western) German Lithuanian Slovene Albanian
I (1st sg.)férno(ma͠i) bʰarūm̥(man) {mi}baram{con}firo beirim berum em; g'perem(ich) {ge}bäreberiubérem(unë) bie
You (2nd sg.)férnis(tū) bʰarē(tu) {mi}bari{con}feresbeirirberum es; g'peres(du) {ge}bierstberibéreš(ti) bie
He/She/It (3rd sg.)férni(ye/vo) bʰarē(ān) {mi}barad{con}ferebeiridhberum ē; g'perē(er/sie/es) {ge}biertberiabére(ai/ajo) bie
We two (1st dual)beriavabéreva
You two (2nd dual)beriatabéreta
They two (3rd dual)beriabéreta
We (1st pl.)férnume(ham) bʰarēm̥(mā) {mi}barim{con}ferimosbeirimid; beireamberum enkʿ; g'perenkʿ(wir) {ge}bärenberiamebéremo(ne) biem
You (2nd pl.)férnete(tum) bʰaro(šomā) {mi}barid{con}ferisbeirthidhberum ekʿ; g'perekʿ(ihr) {ge}bärtberiatebérete(ju) bini
They (3rd pl.)férnun(ye/vo) bʰarēm̥(ānān) {mi}barand{con}ferembeiridberum en; g'peren(sie) {ge}bärenberiabérejo; berọ́(ata/ato) bien

While similarities are still visible between the modern descendants and relatives of these ancient languages, the differences have increased over time. Some IE languages have moved from synthetic verb systems to largely periphrastic systems. In addition, the pronouns of periphrastic forms are in parentheses when they appear. Some of these verbs have undergone a change in meaning as well.

Comparison of cognates

Present distribution

Countries where Indo-European language family is majority native
Countries where Indo-European language family is official but not majority native
Countries where Indo-European language family is not official Indo-European distribution.png
  Countries where Indo-European language family is majority native
  Countries where Indo-European language family is official but not majority native
  Countries where Indo-European language family is not official
Distribution of Indo-European languages in the Americas
Dutch Americaslanguages (orthographic projection)-2.png
Distribution of Indo-European languages in the Americas

Today, Indo-European languages are spoken by billions of native speakers across all inhabited continents, [73] the largest number by far for any recognised language family. Of the 20 languages with the largest numbers of speakers according to Ethnologue, 10 are Indo-European: English, Hindustani, Spanish, Bengali, French, Russian, Portuguese, German, Persian and Punjabi, each with 100 million speakers or more. [74] Additionally, hundreds of millions of persons worldwide study Indo-European languages as secondary or tertiary languages, including in cultures which have completely different language families and historical backgrounds—there are around 600 million [75] learners of English alone.

The success of the language family, including the large number of speakers and the vast portions of the Earth that they inhabit, is due to several factors. The ancient Indo-European migrations and widespread dissemination of Indo-European culture throughout Eurasia, including that of the Proto-Indo-Europeans themselves, and that of their daughter cultures including the Indo-Aryans, Iranian peoples, Celts, Greeks, Romans, Germanic peoples, and Slavs, led to these peoples' branches of the language family already taking a dominant foothold in virtually all of Eurasia except for swathes of the Near East, North and East Asia, replacing many (but not all) of the previously-spoken pre-Indo-European languages of this extensive area. However Semitic languages remain dominant in much of the Middle East and North Africa, and Caucasian languages in much of the Caucasus region. Similarly in Europe and the Urals the Uralic languages (such as Hungarian, Finnish, Estonian etc.) remain, as does Basque, a pre-Indo-European isolate.

Despite being unaware of their common linguistic origin, diverse groups of Indo-European speakers continued to culturally dominate and often replace the indigenous languages of the western two-thirds of Eurasia. By the beginning of the Common Era, Indo-European peoples controlled almost the entirety of this area: the Celts western and central Europe, the Romans southern Europe, the Germanic peoples northern Europe, the Slavs eastern Europe, the Iranian peoples most of western and central Asia and parts of eastern Europe, and the Indo-Aryan peoples in the Indian subcontinent, with the Tocharians inhabiting the Indo-European frontier in western China. By the medieval period, only the Semitic, Dravidian, Caucasian, and Uralic languages, and the language isolate Basque remained of the (relatively) indigenous languages of Europe and the western half of Asia.

Despite medieval invasions by Eurasian nomads, a group to which the Proto-Indo-Europeans had once belonged, Indo-European expansion reached another peak in the early modern period with the dramatic increase in the population of the Indian subcontinent and European expansionism throughout the globe during the Age of Discovery, as well as the continued replacement and assimilation of surrounding non-Indo-European languages and peoples due to increased state centralization and nationalism. These trends compounded throughout the modern period due to the general global population growth and the results of European colonization of the Western Hemisphere and Oceania, leading to an explosion in the number of Indo-European speakers as well as the territories inhabited by them.

Due to colonization and the modern dominance of Indo-European languages in the fields of politics, global science, technology, education, finance, and sports, even many modern countries whose populations largely speak non-Indo-European languages have Indo-European languages as official languages, and the majority of the global population speaks at least one Indo-European language. The overwhelming majority of languages used on the Internet are Indo-European, with English continuing to lead the group; English in general has in many respects become the lingua franca of global communication.

See also


  1. The sentence goes on to say, equally correctly as it turned out: " is a similar reason, though not quite so forcible, for supposing that both the Gothic and the Celtic, though blended with a very different idiom, had the same origin with the Sanscrit; and the old Persian might be added to the same family."

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Italic languages</span> Branch of the Indo-European language family

The Italic languages form a branch of the Indo-European language family, whose earliest known members were spoken on the Italian Peninsula in the first millennium BC. The most important of the ancient Italic languages was Latin, the official language of ancient Rome, which conquered the other Italic peoples before the common era. The other Italic languages became extinct in the first centuries AD as their speakers were assimilated into the Roman Empire and shifted to some form of Latin. Between the third and eighth centuries AD, Vulgar Latin diversified into the Romance languages, which are the only Italic languages natively spoken today, while Literary Latin also survived.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Anatolian languages</span> Extinct branch of Indo-European languages

The Anatolian languages are an extinct branch of Indo-European languages that were spoken in Anatolia, part of present-day Turkey. The best known Anatolian language is Hittite, which is considered the earliest-attested Indo-European language.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Laryngeal theory</span> Hypothesis that Proto-Indo-European had phonemes beyond those reconstructed through comparison

The laryngeal theory is a theory in historical linguistics positing that the Proto-Indo-European language included a number of laryngeal consonants that are not reconstructable by direct application of the comparative method to the Indo-European family. The "missing" sounds remain consonants of an indeterminate place of articulation towards the back of the mouth, though further information is difficult to derive. Proponents aim to use the theory to:

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Proto-Indo-European language</span> Ancestor of the Indo-European languages

Proto-Indo-European (PIE) is the reconstructed common ancestor of the Indo-European language family. No direct record of Proto-Indo-European exists; its proposed features have been derived by linguistic reconstruction from documented Indo-European languages.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Isogloss</span> Geographic boundary of a certain linguistic feature

An isogloss, also called a heterogloss, is the geographic boundary of a certain linguistic feature, such as the pronunciation of a vowel, the meaning of a word, or the use of some morphological or syntactic feature. Isoglosses are a subject of study in dialectology, in which they demarcate the differences between regional dialects of a language; in areal linguistics, in which they represent the extent of borrowing of features between languages in contact with one another; and in the wave model of historical linguistics, in which they indicate the similarities and differences between members of a language family.

The ruki sound law, also known as the ruki rule or iurk rule, is a historical sound change that took place in the satem branches of the Indo-European language family, namely in Balto-Slavic, Armenian, and Indo-Iranian. According to this sound law, an original *s changed to after the consonants *r, *k, *g, *gʰ and the semi-vowels *w (*u̯) and *y (*i̯), as well as the syllabic allophones *r̥, *i, and *u:

<i>*Dyēus</i> Masculine Sky-god in Proto-Indo-European mythology

*Dyḗus, also *Dyḗus ph₂tḗr, is the reconstructed name of the daylight-sky god in Proto-Indo-European mythology. *Dyēus was conceived as a divine personification of the bright sky of the day and the seat of the gods, the *deywṓs. Associated with the vast diurnal sky and with the fertile rains, *Dyēus was often paired with *Dʰéǵʰōm, the Earth Mother, in a relationship of union and contrast.

The glottalic theory is that Proto-Indo-European had ejective or otherwise non-pulmonic stops, *pʼ *tʼ *kʼ, instead of the plain voiced ones, *b *d *ɡ as hypothesized by the usual Proto-Indo-European phonological reconstructions.

In historical linguistics, Italo-Celtic is a hypothetical grouping of the Italic and Celtic branches of the Indo-European language family on the basis of features shared by these two branches and no others. There is controversy about the causes of these similarities. They are usually considered to be innovations, likely to have developed after the breakup of the Proto-Indo-European language. It is also possible that some of these are not innovations, but shared conservative features, i.e. original Indo-European language features which have disappeared in all other language groups. What is commonly accepted is that the shared features may usefully be thought of as Italo-Celtic forms, as they are certainly shared by the two families and are almost certainly not coincidental.

As the Proto-Indo-European language (PIE) broke up, its sound system diverged as well, as evidenced in various sound laws associated with the daughter Indo-European languages. Especially notable is the palatalization that produced the satem languages, along with the associated ruki sound law. Other notable changes include:

Graeco-Armenian is the hypothetical common ancestor of Greek and Armenian branches that postdates Proto-Indo-European language. Its status is somewhat similar to that of the Italo-Celtic grouping: each is widely considered plausible without being accepted as established communis opinio. The hypothetical Proto-Graeco-Armenian stage would need to date to the 3rd millennium BC and would be only barely different from either late Proto-Indo-European or Graeco-Armeno-Aryan.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Proto-Anatolian language</span> Reconstructed ancestor of the Anatolian languages

Proto-Anatolian is the proto-language from which the ancient Anatolian languages emerged. As with almost all other proto-languages, no attested writings have been found; the language has been reconstructed by applying the comparative method to all the attested Anatolian languages as well as other Indo-European languages.

The phonology of the Proto-Indo-European language (PIE) has been reconstructed by linguists, based on the similarities and differences among current and extinct Indo-European languages. Because PIE was not written, linguists must rely on the evidence of its earliest attested descendants, such as Hittite, Sanskrit, Ancient Greek, and Latin, to reconstruct its phonology.

The Indo-European Etymological Dictionary is a research project of the Department of Comparative Indo-European Linguistics at Leiden University, initiated in 1991 by Peter Schrijver and others. It is financially supported by the Faculty of Humanities and Centre for Linguistics of Leiden University, Brill Publishers, and the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research.

Proto-Indo-European accent refers to the accentual (stress) system of the Proto-Indo-European language.

Jay Harold Jasanoff is an American linguist and Indo-Europeanist, best known for his h2e-conjugation theory of the Proto-Indo-European verbal system. He teaches Indo-European linguistics and historical linguistics at Harvard University.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Centum and satem languages</span> Indo-European linguistic classification

Languages of the Indo-European family are classified as either centum languages or satem languages according to how the dorsal consonants of the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European language (PIE) developed. An example of the different developments is provided by the words for "hundred" found in the early attested Indo-European languages. In centum languages, they typically began with a sound, but in satem languages, they often began with.

The following is a table of many of the most fundamental Proto-Indo-European language (PIE) words and roots, with their cognates in all of the major families of descendants.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Indo-European migrations</span> Migrations out of the Proto-Indo-European homeland

The Indo-European migrations are hypothesized migrations of Proto-Indo-European language (PIE) speakers, and subsequent migrations of people speaking derived Indo-European languages, which took place approx. 4000 to 1000 BCE, potentially explaining how these languages came to be spoken across a large area of Eurasia, spanning from the Indian subcontinent and Iranian plateau to Atlantic Europe, in a process of cultural diffusion.

Weise's law is a Proto-Indo-European sound law that causes the depalatalization of the palatovelar consonants *ḱ *ǵ *ǵʰ in certain contexts. In short, when *ḱ *ǵ *ǵʰ are followed by *r, they are depalatalized and thus merge with the plain velars *k *g *gʰ, respectively. Although this sound change is most prominent in the satem languages, it is believed that the change must have occurred prior to the centum–satem division, based on an earlier sound change that affected the distribution of Proto-Indo-European *u and *r. The law is named after German linguist Oskar Weise, who first postulated it in 1881 as the solution to a cognate correlation problem between Ancient Greek and Sanskrit.



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Further reading