INDO-EUROPEAN AND THE INDO-EUROPEAN LANGUAGES

INDO-EUROPEAN HYPOTHESIS

Sir William Jones, 1786, hypothesis that most European languages and others (in India, parts of the Middle East, and Asia) are cognates (are related, as a family, by common origins)

notion of a common ancestor language, the Indo-European language, which was the origin of Sanskrit, Persian, Latin, Greek, Romance, Germanic and Celtic languages, and others

development of Indo-European theory in the early 19th century:

DESCENDANTS OF THE COMMON INDO-EUROPEAN LANGUAGE

Indo-European Language Subfamilies and examples:

THE ORIGINAL INDO-EUROPEAN PEOPLE

Kurgan culture

It's speculated that the so called Kurgan were the original Indo-European people; lived northwest of the Caucasus, north of the Caspian Sea, as early as the fifth millennium B.C.

Their language is known by scholars as Common Indo-European or Proto-Indo-European.

Aspects of Kurgan culture: domesticated cattle and horses, farming, herding, four-wheeled wagons, mobility, mound builders, hilltop forts, complex sense of family relationship and organization; counting skills; used gold and silver; drank a honeybased alcoholic beverage, mead; multiple gods (worship of sky/thunder, sun, horse, boar, snake), belief in life after death, elaborate burials (Reference: Marija Gimbutas, "The Beginning of the Bronze Age in Europe and the Indo-Europeans" 1973)

Descendants of words for trees (ash, apple, oak, linden, aspen, pine), animals (bear, wolf), and other (honey, snow, cold, winter, father, mother) allow for hypotheses regarding their original homeland and culture.

Beginning around 3000 BC the Indo-European people abandoned their homeland and migrated in a variety of directions (found in Greece by 2000 BC, in northern India by 1500 BC)

 

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THE COMMON INDO-EUROPEAN LANGUAGE

Proto-Indo-European or Common Indo-European (CIE): spoken around 5000-3000 BC in areas of Eastern Europe/Western Asia

Lexicon

Words derived from the Common Indo-European language are preserved in a large number of languages: numerals from one to ten; the word meaning the sum of ten tens (Latin "centum," Avestan "satem," English "hundred"); words for certain bodily parts (heart, lung, head, foot); words for certain natural phenomena (air, night, star, snow, sun, moon, mind); certain plant and animal names (beech, corn, wolf, bear); certain cultural terms (yoke, mead, weave, sew); monosyllables that pertain to sex and excretion (example: modern English "fart" likely derived from Indo-European "perd"; also modern English slang "f---" perhaps derived from Indo-European "peig" or "pu" meaning respectively "hostile, evil-minded" and "to soil, defile")

Phonology

many stops, voiced, voiceless, and aspirated ([bh] [dh])

poor in fricatives (only [s] and [z])

several laryngeal (h-like) consonants (could double as vowels)

nasals [n], [m], and liquids [l] and [r], and glides [y] and [w] (also could double as vowels)

vowels: [a], , [i], , [u],

Morphology

The Common Indo-European language was inflected. It used suffixes and internal (root) vowel changes (ablaut system) to indicate grammatical information like case, number, tense, person, mood, etc.

Nouns

Indo-European nouns were inflected for eight cases: nominative, vocative, accusative, genitive, dative, ablative, locative, and instrumental.

Example:

Hypothetical declension of Indo-European word EKWOS ("horse") (ancestor of Modern English, "horse," Latin: "equus," and Old English, "eoh")

Nominative: ekwos
Accusative: ekwom
Genitive: ekwosyo
Dative: ekwoy

Hypothetical declension of Indo-European word KWON ("dog") (ancestor of Modern English "canine" and Latin "canis")

Nominative: kwon
Accusative: kwónm
Genitive: kunés

If the Indo-European verb "gwhenti" is the third person singular present of "to kill," what is the meaning of the following expressions:

kwon gwhenti ekwom

ekwom gwhenti kwon

gwhenti kwon ekwom

kwon ekwom gwhenti

How about:

ekwos gwhenti kwónm

gwhenti ekwos kwónm

kwónm gwhenti ekwos

If the Indo-European noun "pastrom" meant "shepherd,"and if we assume something like "pastres" was its genitive case, what is the meaning of:

pastres kwon

pastres ekwos

kunés pastrom

pastrom kunés

ekwos gwhenti pastres kwónm

Verbs

Indo-European verbs had six "aspects" (we would call them "tenses"):

Indo-European had three voices: active, passive and middle (reflexive)

Indo-European had five moods: indicative(fact), subjunctive(will), optative(wish), imperative (command), injunctive (unreality)

Indo-European had seven verb classes (distinguished by root vowels and following consonants)

Syntax

Indo-European had a flexible word order, tendency to Subject-Object-Verb (SOV)

Prosody/Accent

Indo-European accent could be on any syllable and was characterized by pitch rather than loudness

 

FROM COMMON INDO-EUROPEAN TO GERMANIC

Transition from Common Indo-European (CIE) (around 3000 BC) to Common Germanic (CGmc) (around 100 BC)

One of the oldest records of a Germanic language is a runic inscription identifying the workman who made a horn about A.D. 400. Transliterated it reads as follows:

ek hlewagastir holtijar horna tawido


Translated, it roughly means:


I, Hlewagastir Holtson, [this] horn made

Prosody

Phonology

Morphology

Syntax

Lexicon

References

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Rev. 1/14/2004