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Indo-European studies

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Title: Indo-European studies  
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Subject: List of linguists, Proto-Indo-European language, Ancient Anatolians, Proto-Indo-European Urheimat hypotheses, Indo-European migrations
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Indo-European studies

Indo-European studies or Indo-German studies (German: Indogermanistik) is a field of linguistics and an interdisciplinary field of study dealing with Indo-European languages, both current and extinct.[1] Its goal is to amass information about the hypothetical proto-language from which all of these languages are descended, a language dubbed Proto-Indo-European (PIE), and its speakers, the Proto-Indo-Europeans, including their society and religion. The studies cover where the language originated and how it spread. This article also lists Indo-European scholars, centres, journals and book series.


  • Study methods 1
    • Use of comparative linguistics 1.1
    • Use of mass comparison 1.2
    • Use of internal reconstruction 1.3
  • History of Indo-European studies 2
    • Preliminary work 2.1
    • Early Indo-European studies 2.2
    • Later Indo-European studies 2.3
  • List of Indo-European scholars 3
  • Journals 4
  • Book series 5
  • Contemporary IE study centres 6
  • Origin of the term 7
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10

Study methods

Use of comparative linguistics

The Comparative method was formally developed in the 19th century and applied first to Indo-European languages. The existence of the Proto-Indo-Europeans had been inferred by comparative linguistics as early as 1640, while attempts at an Indo-European proto-language reconstruction date back as far as 1713. However, by the 19th century, still no consensus was reached about the internal groups of the IE family.

Use of mass comparison

Using the method of Mass comparison, the IE languages are sometimes considered to be part of super-families such as Nostratic or Eurasiatic.

Use of internal reconstruction

The method of internal reconstruction is used to compare patterns within one dialect, without comparison with other dialects and languages, to try to arrive at an understanding of regularities operating at an earlier stage in that dialect. It has also been used to infer information about earlier stages of PIE than can be reached by the comparative method.

History of Indo-European studies

Preliminary work

By the time of Socrates (469-399 BC), the ancient Greeks were aware that their language had changed since the time of Homer (about 730 BC). Aristotle (about 330 BC) identified four types of linguistic change: insertion, deletion, transposition and substitution. In the 1st century BC, the Romans were aware of the similarities between Greek and Latin. There were also linguistic traditions in Mesopotamia and India; Pāṇini wrote a detailed grammar of Sanskrit in the 4th century BC.

In the post-classical West, languages studies were undermined by the naïve attempt to derive all languages from Hebrew since the time of Saint Augustine. Prior studies classified the European languages as Japhetic. One of the first scholars to challenge the idea of a Hebrew root to the languages of Europe was Joseph Scaliger (1540–1609). He identified Greek, Germanic, Romance and Slavic languages groups by comparing the word for "God" in various European languages. In 1710, Leibniz applied ideas of gradualism and uniformitarianism to linguistics. Like Scaliger, he rejected a Hebrew root, but also rejected the idea of unrelated language groups and considered them all to have a common source.[2]

Around the 12th century, similarities between European languages became recognised. In Iceland, scholars noted the resemblances between Icelandic and English. Edward Lluyd around 1700. He published his work in 1707, shortly after publishing a translation of a study by Pezron on Breton.

Grammars of European languages other than Latin and Classical Greek began to be published at the end of the 15th century. This led to comparison between the various languages.

In the 16th century, visitors to India became aware of similarities between Indian and European languages. For example, Filippo Sassetti reported striking resemblances between Sanskrit and Italian.[3]

Early Indo-European studies

In a publication of 1647, Marcus Zuerius van Boxhorn proposed the existence of a primitive common language he called "Scythian". He included in its descendants Dutch, Greek, Latin, Persian and German, and in a posthumous publication of 1654 added Slavic, Celtic and Baltic. The 1647 publication discusses, as a first, the methodological issues in assigning languages to genetic groups. For example, he observed that loanwords should be eliminated in comparative studies, and also correctly put great emphasis on common morphological systems and irregularity as indicators of relationship.[4] A few years earlier, the Silesian physician Johann Elichmann (1601/1602–1639) already used the expression ex eadem origine (from a common source) in a 1640 study published relating European languages to Indo-Iranian.[4][5]

The idea that the first language was Hebrew continued to be advanced for some time: Pierre Besnier (1648–1705) in 1674 published a book which was translated into English the following year: A philosophical essay for the reunion of the languages, or, the art of knowing all by the mastery of one.[6]

Leibniz in 1710 proposed the concept of the so-called Japhetic language group, consisting of languages now known as Indo-European, which he contrasted with the so-called Aramaic languages (now generally known as Semitic).

The concept of actually reconstructing an Indo-European proto-language was suggested by William Wotton in 1713, while showing, among others, that Icelandic ("Teutonic"), the Romance languages and Greek were related.[4]

In 1741 Godofredus Henselius (1687–1767) published a language map of the world in his Synopsis Universae Philologiae. He believed that all languages were derived from Hebrew.

Mikhail Lomonosov compared numbers and other linguistic features in different languages of the world including Slavic, Baltic ("Kurlandic"), Iranian ("Medic"), Finnish, Chinese, "Hottentot" and others. He emphatically expressed the antiquity of the linguistic stages accessible to comparative method in the drafts for his Russian Grammar published in 1755:[7]

Imagine the depth of time when these languages separated! ... Polish and Russian separated so long ago! Now think how long ago [this happened to] Kurlandic! Think when [this happened to] Latin, Greek, German, and Russian! Oh, great antiquity!

Gaston-Laurent Coeurdoux (1691–1779) sent in 1767 a Memoire to the Academy of Sciences (France) in which he demonstrated the similarity between the Sanskrit, the Latin, the Greek and even the German and Russian languages.

Despite the above, the discovery of the genetic relationship of the whole family of Indo-European languages is often attributed to Sir William Jones, a British judge in India who in a 1786 lecture (published 1788) observed that

The Sanskrit 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.[8]

In his 1786 The Sanscrit Language, Jones postulated a proto-language uniting six branches: Sanskrit (i.e., Indo-Aryan), Persian (i.e., Iranian), Greek, Latin, Germanic and Celtic. In many ways his work was less accurate than his predecessors', as he erroneously included Egyptian, Japanese and Chinese in the Indo-European languages, while omitting Hindi.[4]

In 1814 the young Dane Rasmus Christian Rask submitted an entry to an essay contest on Icelandic history, in which he concluded that the Germanic languages were (as we would put it) in the same language family as Greek, Latin, Slavic, and Lithuanian. He was in doubt about Old Irish, eventually concluding that it did not belong with the others (he later changed his mind), and further decided that Finnish and Hungarian were related but in a different family, and that "Greenlandic" (Kalaallisut) represented yet a third. He was unfamiliar with Sanskrit at the time. Later, however, he learned Sanskrit, and published some of the earliest Western work on ancient Iranian languages.

August Schleicher was the first scholar to compose a tentative reconstructed text in the extinct common source Van Boxhorn and later scholars had predicted (see: Schleicher's fable). The reconstructed Proto-Indo-European language (PIE) represents, by definition, the common language of the Proto-Indo-Europeans. This early phase culminates in Franz Bopp's Comparative Grammar of 1833.

Later Indo-European studies

The classical phase of Indo-European comparative linguistics leads from Bopp to August Schleicher's 1861 Compendium and up to Karl Brugmann's Grundriss (outline of Indo-Germanic languages) published from the 1880s. Brugmann's junggrammatische re-evaluation of the field and Ferdinand de Saussure's proposal of the concept of "consonantal schwa" (which later evolved into the laryngeal theory) may be considered the beginning of "contemporary" Indo-European studies. The Indo-European proto-language as described in the early 1900s in its main aspects is still accepted today, and the work done in the 20th century has been cleaning up and systematization, as well as the incorporation of new language material, notably the Anatolian and Tocharian branches unknown in the 19th century, into the Indo-European framework.

Notably, the laryngeal theory, in its early forms barely noticed except as a clever analysis, became mainstream after the 1927 discovery by Jerzy Kuryłowicz of the survival of at least some of these hypothetical phonemes in Anatolian. Julius Pokorny in 1959 published his Indogermanisches etymologisches Wörterbuch, an updated and slimmed-down reworking of the three-volume Vergleichendes Wörterbuch der indogermanischen Sprachen of Alois Walde and Julius Pokorny (1927–32). Both of these works aim to provide an overview of the lexical knowledge accumulated until the early 20th century, but with only stray comments on the structure of individual forms; in Pokorny 1959, then-recent trends of morphology and phonology (e.g., the laryngeal theory), go unacknowledged, and he largely ignores Anatolian and Tocharian data.

The generation of Indo-Europeanists active in the last third of the 20th century, such as Oswald Szemerényi, Calvert Watkins, Warren Cowgill, Jochem Schindler, Helmut Rix, developed a better understanding of morphology and, in the wake of Kuryłowicz's 1956 Apophonie, ablaut. The Lexicon of the Indo-European verbs edited by Rix appeared in 1997 as a first step towards a modernization of Pokorny's dictionary; a corresponding tome addressing the noun is in preparation.[9] Current efforts are focused on a better understanding of the relative chronology within the proto-language, aiming at distinctions of "early", "middle" and "late", or "inner" and "outer" PIE dialects, but a general consensus has yet to form. From the 1960s, knowledge of Anatolian began to be of a certainty sufficient to allow it influence the image of the proto-language, see also Indo-Hittite.

Such attempts at recovering a sense of historical depth in PIE have been coupled with efforts towards coupling the history of the language with archaeology, notably with the Marija Gimbutas, Colin Renfrew) and genetics (e. g. Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza). These speculations about the realia of Proto-Indo-European culture are however not part of the field of comparative linguistics, but rather a sister-discipline.

Some concepts of Indo-European studies also influenced the Nazis. (See

  • TITUS gallery of Indo-Europeanists
  • Collection of articles dealing with the Indo-European studies

External links

  1. ^ UCLA Interdepartmental Graduate Program in Indo-European Studies: General Information
  2. ^ Hoenigswald, Henry (1990). "Descent, Perfection and the Comparative Method since Leibniz". In Tullio De Mauro & Lia Formigari. Leibniz, Humboldt, and the Origins of Comparativism. John Benjamins. pp. 119–134.  
  3. ^ Nunziatella Alessandrini, "Images of India through the eyes of Filippo Sassetti, a Florentine Humanist merchant in the 16th century", Mary N. Harris, ed., Sights and Insights: Interactive images of Europe and the wider world
  4. ^ a b c d Roger Blench Archaeology and Language: methods and issues. In: A Companion To Archaeology. J. Bintliff ed. 52–74. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 2004.
  5. ^ Elichmann J (1640) Tabula Cebetis Graece, Arabice, Latine. Item aurea carmina Pythagorae. Lugduni Batavorum: Typis Iohannis Maire
  6. ^ Besnier P (1674) La reunion de langues
  7. ^ M. V. Lomonosov. In: Complete Edition, Moscow, 1952, vol. 7, pp 652-659: Представимъ долготу времени, которою сіи языки раздѣлились. ... Польской и россійской языкъ коль давно раздѣлились! Подумай же, когда курляндской! Подумай же, когда латинской, греч., нѣм., росс. О глубокая древность!
  8. ^ cited on page 14–15.
  9. ^
  10. ^ Arvidsson, Stefan (2006), Aryan Idols: Indo-European Mythology as Ideology and Science, translated by Sonia Wichmann, Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, pp. 2, 3, 241 ff., 306
  11. ^ Arvidsson 2006. Bruce Lincoln. Theorizing Myth: Narrative, Ideology, and Scholarship (1999).
  12. ^ Arvidsson 2006:3, 308, 320
  13. ^ David Anthony 1995 "Nazi and Eco-Feminist Prehistories: Ideology and Empiricism in Indo-European Archaeology. In Nationalism, Politics and the Practice of Archaeology (82-96) Ed. P.Kohl and Fawcett. Cambridge University Press.
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See also

Indo-Hittite is sometimes used for the wider family including Anatolian by those who consider that IE and Anatolian are comparable separate branches.

Today, Indo-European, Indo-Européen is well established in English and French literature, while Indogermanisch remains current in German literature, but alongside a growing number of uses of Indoeuropäisch.

In English, Indo-German was used by J. C. Prichard in 1826 although he preferred Indo-European. In French, use of indo-européen was established by A. Pictet (1836). In German literature, Indoeuropäisch was used by Franz Bopp since 1835, while the term Indogermanisch had already been introduced by Julius von Klapproth in 1823, intending to include the northernmost and the southernmost of the family's branches, as it were as an abbreviation of the full listing of involved languages that had been common in earlier literature. Indo-Germanisch became established by the works of August Friedrich Pott, who understood it to include the easternmost and the westernmost branches, opening the doors to ensuing fruitless discussions whether it should not be Indo-Celtic, or even Tocharo-Celtic.

  • indo-germanique (C. Malte-Brun, 1810)
  • Indoeuropean (Th. Young, 1813)
  • japetisk (Rasmus C. Rask, 1815)
  • indisch-teutsch (F. Schmitthenner, 1826)
  • sanskritisch (Wilhelm von Humboldt, 1827)
  • indokeltisch (A. F. Pott, 1840)
  • arioeuropeo (G. I. Ascoli, 1854)
  • Aryan (F. M. Müller, 1861)
  • aryaque (H. Chavée, 1867).

The term Indo-European itself now current in English literature, was coined in 1813 by the British scholar Sir Thomas Young, although at that time, there was no consensus as to the naming of the recently discovered language family. However, he seems to have used it as a geographical term. Among the other names suggested were:

Origin of the term

 Croatia University of Zagreb[17]
 Czech Republic Charles University in Prague[18]
 Denmark Copenhagen[19][20][21]
 Italy Universita degli Studi di Padova
 Netherlands Leiden[40][41]
 Poland Jagiellonian University[42]
 Slovenia Ljubljana[43]
 Sweden Uppsala[46]
 United Kingdom Oxford[52]
 United States

The following universities have institutes or faculties devoted to IE studies:

Contemporary IE study centres

Book series


(historical; see below for contemporary IE studies)

List of Indo-European scholars

In the 20th century, great progress was made due to the discovery of more language material belonging to the Indo-European family, and by advances in comparative linguistics, by scholars such as Ferdinand de Saussure.

[13] Anthony remarked that "Indo-European linguistics and archaeology have been exploited to support openly ideological agendas for so long that a brief history of the issue quickly becomes entangled with the intellectual history of Europe."[12] Arvidsson speculated that the fact that many Indo-European scholars identify themselves as the descendants of the ancient Indo-Europeans may explain why the field of Indo-European studies has also been ideologically abused.[11]) were accused of having sympathies for Fascism or Nazism, and it was alleged that their political beliefs may have influenced their studies.Alain de Benoist) and writers influenced by Indo-European studies (e.g. [10]

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