Indo-European languages

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The Indo-European languages are a language family of several hundred related languages and dialects.


  • When the IE family had been discovered and scholars sought the land of origin, they initially thought of India because of Sanskrit’s ancientness.
    • (Beekes 1990:73), quoted in Elst, Koenraad (2018). Still no trace of an Aryan invasion: A collection on Indo-European origins.
  • The question of identifying archaeological remains of Indo-European populations in Central Asia has been one of the main questions that has occupied a number of linguists and historians for many years [...] when written records are not available, a reconstructed time-space framework is generally used to substantiate the reconstruction with some relevant illustrative material. The linguistic attributes are mapped onto archaeological correlates: artifacts are selected, like the chariot, as well as ecofacts, like agriculture, or whole archaeological cultures (material assemblages). The archaeological correlates become some sort of labels or tags that one may employ in order to trace the supposed Indo-European populations. But, in fact, very little of the illustrative archaeological material actually exhibits specific Indo-European or Indo-Iranian traits; a question therefore arises: what is the relevance of archaeological material if any sort of assemblage present at the expected or supposed time/space spot can function as the tag of a linguistic group?
    • The Archaeology of Proto-historic Central Asia and the Problems of Identifying Indo-European and Uralic-speaking Populations. Francfort, H.P. pp. 151-163 in ―Early Contacts between Uralic and Indo-European: Linguistic and Archaeological Considerations‖, ed. Carpelan, Parpola, Koskikallio Suomalais- Ugrilainen Seura, Helsinki, 2001.. Quoted in Talageri, S. G. (2010). The Rigveda and the Avesta. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan.
  • The great interest of the Ṛgveda is, in fact, historical rather than poetical. As in its original language we see the roots and shoots of the languages of Greek and Latin, of Kelt, Teuton and Slavonian, so the deities, the myths, and the religious beliefs and practices of the Veda throw a flood of light upon the religions of all European countries before the introduction of Christianity… the science of comparative philology could hardly have existed without the study of Sanskrit…”
    • Griffith in his preface to his translation of the Rigveda, quoted in Talageri, S. (2000). The Rigveda: A historical analysis. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan.
  • “Several kinds of evidence for the PIE locus have been presented here. Ancient loanwords point to a locus along the desert trajectory, not particularly close to Mesopotamia and probably far out in the eastern hinterlands. The structure of the family tree, the accumulation of genetic diversity at the western periphery of the range, the location of Tocharian and its implications for early dialect geography, the early attestation of Anatolian in Asia Minor, and the geography of the centum-satem split all point in the same direction: a locus in western central Asia. Evidence presented in Volume II supports the same conclusion: the long-standing westward trajectories of languages point to an eastward locus, and the spread of IE along all three trajectories points to a locus well to the east of the Caspian Sea. The satem shift also spread from a locus to the south-east of the Caspian, with satem languages showing up as later entrants along all three trajectory terminals. (The satem shift is a post-PIE but very early IE development). The locus of the IE spread was therefore somewhere in the vicinity of ancient Bactria-Sogdiana.” ...
  • “The locus is a smallish part of the range which functions in the same way as a dialect-geographical centre: an epicentre of sorts from which innovations spread to other regions and dialects, and a catchpoint at which cultural borrowings and linguistic loanwords entered from prestigious or economically important foreign societies to spread (along with native linguistic innovations) to the distant dialects. If an innovation arose in the vicinity of the locus, or a loanword entered, it spread to all or most of the family; otherwise, it remained a regionalism. Diversification of daughter dialects in a spread zone takes place far from the locus at the periphery, giving the family tree a distinctive shape with many major early branches, and creating a distinctive dialect map where genetic diversity piles up at the periphery. These principles make it possible to pinpoint the locus in space more or less accurately even for a language family as old as IE. Here it will be shown that the locus accounting for the distribution of loanwords, internal innovations and genetic diversity within IE could only have lain well to the east of the Caspian Sea.”...
  • “Central Eurasia is a linguistic bottleneck, spread zone, and extinction chamber, but its languages had to come from somewhere. The locus of the IE spread is a theoretical point representing a linguistic epicentre, not a literal place of ethnic or linguistic origin, so the ultimate origin of PIE need not be in the same place as the locus. There are several linguistically plausible possibilities for the origin of Pre-PIE. It could have spread eastward from the Black Sea steppe (as proposed by Mallory 1989 and by Anthony 1991, 1995), so that the locus formed only after this spread but still very early in the history of disintegrating PIE… It could have come into the spread zone from the east as Mongolian, Turkic, and probably Indo-Iranian did. Or it could have been a language of the early urban oases of southern central Asia.”...
  • The vast interior of Eurasia is a linguistic spread zone [....] where [....] a single language or language family spreads out over a broad territorial range.
  • The central Eurasian spread zone ... was part of a standing pattern whereby languages were drawn into the spread zone, spread westward, and were eventually succeeded by the next spreading family. The dispersal for each entering family occurred after entry into the spread zone. The point of dispersal for each family is the locus of its proto-homeland, and this locus eventually is engulfed by the next entering language [....] the locus is one of the earliest points to be overtaken by the next spread.
  • The vast interior of Eurasia is a linguistic spread zone—a genetic and typological bottleneck where many genetic lines go extinct, structural types tend to converge, a single language or language family spreads out over a broad territorial range, and one language family replaces another over a large range every few millennia. The linguistic geography of the central and western grasslands, from at least the Neolithic until early modern times, has consisted of an overall westward trajectory of language spreads... The central Eurasian spread zone... was part of a standing pattern whereby languages were drawn into the spread zone, spread westward, and were eventually succeeded by the next spreading family.
    • Johanna Nichols in Archaeology and Language, Vol. I: Theoretical and Methodological Orientations edited by Roger Blench and Matthew Spriggs, Routledge, London and New York, 1997. (Paper by Johanna Nichols). Quoted in Talageri, S. (2000). The Rigveda: A historical analysis. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan.
  • Prior to the Iranian expansion, in the early Bronze Age, IE spread to cover the entire steppe and the Danube plain (and subsequently all of Europe), with substantial speech communities also in Anatolia (Hittite and congeners) and northern Mesopotamia (surviving in Armenian) and, in all probability, coverage of much or all of western central Asia (probably by ancestral Indo-Iranian). What is historically attested of the IE spread fits closely the pattern followed later by Iranian, Turkic, and Mongolian.
    • Johanna Nichols NICHOLS. 1998. The Eurasian spread zone and the Indo-European dispersal. in : Blench, R., & Spriggs, M. (2012). Archaeology and Language II: Archaeological Data and Linguistic Hypotheses. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis.
  • This is a familiar story. Crossland, writing as a skeptic about traditions concerning the origin of Greco-Roman civilization, remarks: ‘The role of the Indo-European peoples in the ancient world has been portrayed too often as the incarnation of northern virility sweeping down in massed chariots to bring new vigour to the decadant south’.
    • Crossland, quoted from LEACH, Edmund. 1990. Aryan Invasions Over Four Millennia. in E. Ohnuki-Tierney (ed.), ‘Culture Through Time, Anthropological Approaches’. Stanford University Press. Stanford (California)
  • After the dispersals of the early PIE dialects [...] there were still those who remained [...] Among them were the ancestors of the Greeks and Indo-Iranians [...] also shared by Armenian; all these languages it seems, existed in an area of mutual interaction.
    • Heaven, Heroes and Happiness: The Indo-European Roots of Western Ideology. Winn, Shan M.M. University Press of America, Lanham-New York-London, 1995. (WINN 1995:323-324)Quoted in Talageri, S. G. (2010). The Rigveda and the Avesta. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan.
  • The biological situation among the speakers of modern Indo-European languages can only be explained through a transfer of languages like a baton, as it were, in a relay race, but not by several thousand miles’ migration of the tribes themselves.
  • [This is a very important insight for understanding the large common (partly pre-IE substratal) element in the European IE languages, distinguishing them collectively from Anatolian, Tokharic and Indo-Iranian:] “The study of the lexicon of the Northern European languages, especially Germanic and Baltic, reveals that a large number of terms relevant to the ecology of the habitat of the early populations of the area and to their socioeconomic activities have no plausible Indo-European etymology. (…) it is possible to ascribe to the pre-Indo-European substrate in the Baltic area a number of names of plants, animals, objects and activities characteristic of the Neolithic cultures.” [Many of these terms also extend to Celtic, Slavic and sometimes Italic and Greek.]
    • Edgar C. Polomié: “The Indo-Europeanization of Northern Europe: the Linguistic Evidence”, Journal of Indo-European Studies, fall 1990, p.331-337., quoted in Elst, Koenraad (1999). Update on the Aryan invasion debate New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan.

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