Indo-European studies

Indo-European studies

Indo-European studies is a field of linguistics dealing with Indo-European languages, both current and extinct. 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. The studies cover where the language originated and how it spread. This article also lists Indo-European scholars, centres, journals and book series.

tudy methods

Use of comparative linguistics

The Comparative method was developed in the 18th century and applied first to Indo-European languages. The existence of the Proto-Indo-Europeans has been inferred by comparative linguistics. At first, the various languages that have come to be called Indo-European were simply compared, with no attempt at reconstruction. Such studies started in the 19th century but 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 has been used to identify a pre-PIE language.

Use of phylogenetic methods

In the 1990s and afterwards, studies of IE have been made using databases of the IE languages with computer based analysis programs. These have generally confirmed the conclusions obtained using the Comparative Method but have raised additional questions.

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; IAST|Pāṇini wrote a detailed grammar of Sanskrit in the 4th century BC.Fact|date=October 2008

In the West, languages studies were undermined by the naive 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.Fact|date=October 2008

Around the 12th century, similarities between European languages became recognised. In Iceland, scholars noted the resemblances between Icelandic and English. Gerald of Wales claimed that Welsh, Cornish, and Breton were descendants of a common source. A study of the Insular Celtic languages was carried out by George Buchanan in the 16th century and the first field study was by Edward Lluyd around 1700. He published his work in 1707, shortly after publishing a translation of a study by Pezron on Breton.Fact|date=October 2008

Dante (1265-1321) was aware of the fact that the Romance languages were related. 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.Fact|date=October 2008

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.Fact|date=October 2008

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 relationshipRoger Blench [ Archaeology and Language: methods and issues] . In: A Companion To Archaeology. J. Bintliff ed. 52-74. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 2004.] . A few years earlier, Johann Elichmann already used the expression "ex eadem origine" (from a common source) in a 1640 study relating European languages to Indo-Iranian.

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.

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."

in his 1786 "The Sanscrit Language" postulating 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.

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 not only learned Sanskrit, but published some of the earliest work in ancient Iranian languages. August Schleicher was the first scholar to compose a tentative text in the extinct "common source" Jones 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" 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 verb" 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 [] . Current efforts are focussed 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 Kurgan hypothesis. J. P. Mallory's 1997 "Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture" gives an overview of this. 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 Aryan Race). In the period after World War II, several Indo-European scholars (e.g. Roger Pearson, Jean Haudry and the influential Georges Dumézil [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] ) and writers influenced by Indo-European studies (e.g. Alain de Benoist) were accused of having sympathies for Fascism or Nazism, and it was alleged that their political beliefs may have influenced their studies. [Arvidsson 2006. Bruce Lincoln. Theorizing Myth: Narrative, Ideology, and Scholarship (1999).] 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. [Arvidsson 2006:3, 308, 320] 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." [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.]

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. Purely linguistic research was assisted by attempts to reconstruct the culture and religion of the Proto-Indo-Europeans by scholars such as Georges Dumézil, as well as by archaeology (e. g. Marija Gimbutas, Colin Renfrew) and genetics (e. g. Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza).

List of Indo-European scholars

(historical; see below for contemporary IE studies)

*Friedrich Schlegel (1772-1829)
*Jakob Grimm (1785-1863)
*Rasmus Rask (1787-1832)
*Franz Bopp (1791-1867)
*August Friedrich Pott (1802-1887)
*Theodor Benfey (1809-1881)
*Rudolf von Raumer (1815-1876)
*Otto von Böhtlingk (1815-1904)
*Georg Curtius (1820-1885)
*August Schleicher (1821-1868)
*Max Müller (1823-1900)
*William Dwight Whitney (1827-1894)
*August Fick (1833-1916)
*August Leskien (1840-1916)
*Franz Kielhorn (1840-1908)
*Wilhelm Scherer (1841-1886)
*Berthold Delbrück (1842-1922)
*Johannes Schmidt (1843-1901)
*Ernst Windisch (1844-1918)
*Karl Brugmann (1849-1919)
*K. A. Verner (1846-1896)
*Hermann Osthoff (1846-1909)
*Jakob Wackernagel (1853-1938)
*Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913)
*Wilhelm August Streitberg (1864-1925)
*Hermann Hirt (1865-1936)
*Antoine Meillet (1866-1936)
*Holger Pedersen (1867-1953)
*Eduard Schwyzer (1874-1943)
*Ferdinand Sommer (1875-1962)
*Julius Pokorny (1887-1970)
*Manu Leumann (1889-1977)
*Jerzy Kuryłowicz (1895-1978)
*Georges Dumézil (1898-1986)
*Ernst Risch (1911-1988)
*Émile Benveniste (1902-1976)
*Oswald Szemerényi (1913-1996)
*Karl Hoffmann (1915-1996)
*Georg Renatus Solta (1915-2005)
*Helmut Rix (1926-2004)
*Calvert Watkins
*Warren Cowgill (1929-1985)
*Vyacheslav Vsevolodovich Ivanov (born 1929)
*Jochem Schindler (1944-1994)


*"Kuhn's Zeitschrift" KZ since 1852, in 1988 renamed to "Historische Sprachforschung" HS
*"Indogermanische Forschungen" IF since 1892
*"Glotta" since 1909
*"Bulletin de la Société de Linguistique de Paris" BSL
*"Die Sprache" since 1949
*"Münchner Studien zur Sprachwissenschaft" MSS 1952–
*"Journal of Indo-European studies" JIES since 1973
*"Tocharian and Indo-European Studies" since 1987
*"International Journal of Diachronic Linguistics and Linguistic Reconstruction" IJDL Munich since 2004

Book series

*"Leiden Studies in Indo-European" founded 1991
*"Copenhagen Studies in Indo-European" founded 1999
*" [ Leiden Indo-European Etymological Dictionary Series] founded 2005

Contemporary IE study centres

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

Origin of the term

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:

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

In English, "Indo-German" was used by J. C. Prichard in 1826 although he preferred "Indo-European". In French, use of _fr. "indo-européen" was established by A. Pictet (1836). In German literature, _de. "Indoeuropäisch" was used by Franz Bopp since 1835, while the term _de. "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".

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

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

Criticism of PIE

Proto-Indo-European has been described as a modern "myth" by Colin Renfrew, Bruce Lincoln and others. [Arvidsson 2006:5. Indo-European research has, in many ways, been an attempt to write the origin narrative of the bourgeois class - a narrative that, by talking about how things originally were, has sanctioned a certain kind of behavior, idealized a certain type of person, and affirmed certain feelings. Certainly, there have been some scholars who have not identified themselves with the Proto-Indo-Europeans, but they are few. Arvidsson 2006:319-320] [C.f. also e.g. Tremblay, X. in Fussman, G.; Kellens, J.; Francfort, H.-P.; Tremblay, X.: Aryas, Aryens et Iraniens en Asie Centrale. (2005) Institut Civilisation Indienne. Bryant 2001.] Historical interpretations of linguistic data by Indo-Europeanists have also been criticized, such as the speculative reconstruction of an (artificial) Proto-Indo-European language, or the quest for an Urheimat. [The question is what one makes of these similarities, and one steps onto a slippery slope whenever analysis moves from the descriptive to the historic plane of linguistics. In specific, reconstructing a "protolanguage" is an exercise that invites one to imagine speakers of that protolanguage, a community of such people, then a place for that community, a time in history, distinguishing characteristics, and a set of contrastive relations with other protocommunities where other protolanguages were spoken. For all of this, need it be said, there is no sound evidentiary warrant. Lincoln 1999:95] [C.f. e.g. Tremblay, X. in Fussman, G.; Kellens, J.; Francfort, H.-P.; Tremblay, X.: Aryas, Aryens et Iraniens en Asie Centrale. (2005) Institut Civilisation Indienne. Bryant 2001.] Historical interpretations of archaeological cultures on the basis of reconstructed proto-languages were also criticized. Erdosy thus argued: "The archaeology of the Indo-Europeans, in particular, is bedevilled by reliance on an outmoded view of archaeological cultures, which readily ascribes linguistic attributes to recurring assemblages of artefacts..." [Erdosy 1995:21-22, also p.14. George Erdosy (ed.) (1995). The Indo-Aryans of ancient South Asia. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. ISBN 3-11-014447-6] Communists in Soviet Russia were generally skeptical of Indo European Studies, even claiming that "the belief in the original homelands comes to the same thing as the belief in God's sovereign authority." [Arvidsson 2006:287]

ee also

*Historical linguistics
*Comparative method


External links

* [ TITUS gallery of Indo-Europeanists]
* [ Collection of articles dealing with the Indo-European studies]
* [ The Indo-European Database] (A site of joint resource of Indo-European languages, history, archaeology and religion.)

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