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Indo-European Languages

or Aryan Languages. Names used to designate those languages and dialects of Europe and Asia which can be grouped together as showing by their vocabularies and general grammatical structure a strong linguistic relationship to one another. The term Indo-Germanic is also frequently applied to the same family. The languages in question are conveniently arranged in eight groups.

I. The Indian and Iranian Group

1. Indian.

Of these, Sanskrit, the ancient literary language of the priestly caste of the Brahmins, is the chief. In its oldest form it is found in the Vedas, or sacred hymns, from about B.C. 1500. Later it was modified by the native grammarians.

2. Iranian or Persian.

This is found in the cuneiform inscriptions of Persia (Old Persian) and in the Avesta, or sacred books of Zoroaster (Avestan, Zend, Old Bactrian). See Cuneiform; Persia; Zoroaster.

II. Armenian Group

This group includes the dialects of Armenia, and its main point of difference as compared with the Indian and Iranian tongues lies in its possession of the vowel e.

III. Hellenic Group

This comprises the dialects of ancient Greece and the modern dialects descended from them. Roughly, the ancient Hellenic dialects are divided into Ionic and non-Ionic, but oftener into Doric, Aeolic, and Ionic. The dialects of modern Greece are known as Romaic. For a fuller account, see Dialects.

IV. Albanian or Skipetar

A tongue of which little is definitely known, though it is classed as distinct from the Greek, and regarded as representative of the ancient Illyrian.

V. Italic Group

These are the Indo-European dialects developed out of those spoken in Italy. They are to be roughly divided:
  • 1. UmbroOscan,
  • 2. Latin, and
  • 3. the modern Romance Languages sprung from the vulgar Latin (Italian, French, Provençal, Spanish, Portuguese, Catalan [in North Spain], Rhaeto-Romanic [in the Tyrol, etc.], and Roumanian or Wallachian). See Italia; Osci; Umbria.

VI. Keltic Group

The Keltic dialects are subdivided into two:
  • 1. Northern Keltic (Irish, Gaelic [Scotland], Manx [in the Isle of Man]); and
  • 2. Southern Group (Cymric [Wales], Cornish [Cornwall], and Armorican [Brittany]). See Celtae.

VII. Teutonic Group

This is subdivided into
  • 1. Eastern Teutonic (Ancient Gothic and Scandinavian), and
  • 2. Western Teutonic (English, Frisian, Saxon, High German, Low German).

VIII. Baltic and Sclavonic Group

  • 1. Baltic (Old Prussian, Lithuanian, and Lettish);
  • 2. Russian (Bulgarian, Servian, Croatian, Czechish, and Polish).

Separation and Development.

Comparative philologists have long speculated over the probable separation and development of these different languages. Two main theories have been put forward. The older is that known as the Genealogical Theory, best stated by Schleicher, but now generally abandoned. According to this view there was a parent-language (Ursprache) spoken by a single people dwelling together in the original home of the race. From these “there hived off swarms which, on geographical disjunction, began to develop differences in language that separated them from the other members of their stock—swarms, however, which still comprised two or three more peoples that for a long period were linguistically one.” Hence were assumed an Italo-Graeco-Keltic period, a Graeco-Latin period, and a Lithu-Slavo-Teutonic period, to account for special points of agreement observed between certain members of the family—e. g. Latin and Greek, Latin and Keltic, etc. The relation between the divisions of the Indo-European language according to the genealogical theory is shown in the following table based upon Schleicher.

At the present time, the Wave Theory or Transition

Plan illustrating Schleicher's Genealogical Theory.

Theory of Johannes Schmidt, which has the support of Brugmann, Paul, and Schrader, has supplanted the genealogical theory, as it presents fewer difficulties and contradictions when tested by known facts. According to Schmidt, the primitive Indo-European peoples were strictly homogeneous, not packed closely together into a limited territory, but settled at considerable distances though with facility of intercourse. Thus differences of dialect would be evolved and accentuated in many parts of the whole territory, and, having been so evolved, spread in waves or undulations over the immediate neighbourhood. Adjacent peoples partook of one another's linguistic peculiarities, and neighbouring dialects borrowed from one another, while those widely separated had no close mutual connection, but became more and more unlike. The relation of different languages is thus explained partly by geographical as well as by genealogical conditions. This can be illustrated in the special group of Greek dialects in later times. In Attic, Boeotian, and Euboean Greek alone an original τι became ττ, because Attica, Boeotia, and Euboea are geographically contiguous; and so, in later Laconian, ς is changed to ρ (Rhotacism) by the influence of the usage of Elis, the neighbour of Laconia. There are, in fact, three kinds of resemblances to be noted in the Indo-European tongues—resemblances inherited from the original tongue, resemblances due to long-continued geographical proximity, and resemblances that come from accidental contact with different neighbours at different points, perhaps during a gradual migration from place to place. This last is important, for it will account for the fact that languages which have no especial closeness of relation often exhibit curious special coincidences. Thus, as noted above, Armenian agrees with its European rather than with its Asiatic congeners in possessing e; Sanskrit and Letto-Slavonic assibilate the palatal guttural; Latin and Keltic alone have r as a passive sign.

It is not possible to say that any one of the existing Aryan languages has a predominance of archaic traits; and attempts to reconstruct the primitive tongue from comparative evidence are always unsatisfactory and frequently fanciful. As to the early home of the race before its separation and dispersion, several theories have been held. The old view placed it in Asia among the mountains of the Hindu-Kush (Max Müller). Other suppositions have been vigorously urged. Latham argues that the whole people must have dwelt where the majority of its parts are now found— i. e. in Europe. Benfey supported the same conclusion, arguing from the absence of common names for beasts of prey, and fixed upon the country north of the Black Sea. Geiger and Cuno urge the claims of Germany; Pösche holds to Western Russia; Penka, appealing to craniology, declares Scandinavia to have been the original home; Schrader defends a site partly European and partly Asiatic. The first is the territory bounded on the south by the Danube and the Black Sea, on the west by the Carpathian Mountains, on the east by the Dnieper, and on the north by the forests and swamps of Volhynia. This he regards as the seat of the common European culture, and for the common Indo-Iranian development he selects ancient Sogdiana and Bactriana.

See Brugmann, Comparative Grammar of the IndoGermanic Languages (1888-95); Curti, Die Sprachschöpfung (1890); Schrader, Prehistoric Antiquities of the Aryan Peoples (Eng. trans. 1890); Taylor, The Origin of the Aryans (1889); Wilser, Die Herkunft der Deutschen (1886); an article by Hirt, “Die Urheimat der Indo-Germanen,” the introduction to Clark's Manual of Linguistics (1893); various papers in Brugmann's Indogermanische Forschungen; and also the article Philologia in this Dictionary.

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