Indo-European languages

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Indo-European languages
Albanian | Anatolian
Armenian | Baltic | Celtic
Germanic | Greek | Indo-Iranian
Italic | Slavic | Tocharian
Language | Society | Religion
Kurgan | Yamna | BMAC | 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 Bengali, English, French, German, Hindi, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish (each with more than 100 million native speakers), as well as numerous smaller national or minority languages such as Armenian, Irish and Ossetian, for example.



Missing image
late Proto-Indo-European language in the Kurgan framework
mid- distribution
mid-3rd millennium BC distribution
mid  distribution
mid 2nd millennium BC distribution
distribution around
distribution around 500 BC
post-  and  distribution
post- Roman Empire and Migrations period distribution
late medieval distribution (after ,  and  expansions)
late medieval distribution (after Islamic, Hungarian and Turkic expansions)
Missing image
orange: countries with a majority of speakers of IE languages. yellow: countries with an IE language with official status

See also: Proto-Indo-European, Historical linguistics, Glottochronology.

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 and Latvian.

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. There are two main candidates today: 1. the steppes north of the Black Sea and the Caspian (see Kurgan) and 2. Anatolia (see Colin Renfrew). Proponents of the Kurgan hypothesis tend to date the proto-language to ca. 4000 BC, while proponents of Anatolian origin usually date it several millennia earlier (see Indo-Hittite).


The various subgroups of the Indo-European family include (in historical order of their first attestation):

In addition to the classical ten branches listed above, there are several extinct languages, about which very little is known:

There were no doubt other Indo-European languages which are now lost without a trace.

Satem and Centum languages

The Indo-European sub-branches are often classified in a Satem and a Centum group. This is based on the varying treatments of the three original velar rows. Satem languages lost the distinction between labiovelar and pure velar sounds, and at the same time assibilated the palatal velars. The centum languages, on the other hand, lost the distinction between palatal velars and pure velars. In general, the "eastern" languages are Satem (Indo-Iranian, Balto-Slavic), and the "western" languages are Centum (Germanic, Italic, Celtic). The Satem-Centum isogloss runs right between the (otherwise closely related) Greek (Centum) and Armenian (Satem) languages, with Greek exhibiting some marginal Satem features. There may be some languages that classify neither as Satem nor as Centum (Anatolian, Tocharian, and possibly Albanian). In any case, the Centum-Satem dichotomy is considered paraphyletic, i.e. there never was a "proto-Centum" or a "proto-Satem", but the sound changes spread by areal contact among already distinct post-PIE languages (say, during the 3rd millennium BC).

Non-Indo-European languages of Europe

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 languages are another. The Basque language is unusual in that it does not appear to be related to any known living languages. Etruscan is also an isolated, non-Indo-European language which was spoken on the Italic peninsula but is now extinct.

Maltese 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 Greenberg.


See also

External links

ar:هندوأوربية be:Індаэўрапейскія мовы bg:Индоевропейски езици ca:Llenges indoeuropees da:Indoeuropiske sprog de:Indoeuropische Sprachen et:Indoeuroopa keeled es:Lenguas Indoeuropeas eo:Hindeuxropa lingvaro fr:Langues indo-europennes ga:Cine teangeolaoch Ind-Eorpach he:שפות הודו אירופאיות hr:Indoeuropska jezična porodica hu:Indoeurpai nyelvcsald nds:Indoeuropsche Spraken nl:Indo-Europese talen ja:インド・ヨーロッパ語族 la:Linguae Indoeuropaeae jbo:xinjoiropno bangu pl:Języki indoeuropejskie pt:Lnguas indo-europias ro:Limbile indo-europene ru:Индоевропейские языки sl:Indoevropski jeziki fi:Indoeurooppalaiset kielet sv:Indoeuropeiska sprk th:ภาษากลุ่มอินโด-ยูโรเปียน uk:Індоєвропейські мови vi:Hệ ngn ngữ Ấn-u zh:印欧语系


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