Indo-European languages, Classification

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The Indo-European languages are a family of several hundred related languages and dialects. There are about 439 languages and dialects, according to the 2009 Ethnologue estimate, about half (221) belonging to the Indo-Aryan subbranch. It includes most major current languages of Europe, the Iranian plateau, and the Indian Subcontinent, and was also predominant in ancient Anatolia. With written attestations appearing since the Bronze Age in the form of the Anatolian languages and Mycenaean Greek, the Indo-European family is significant to the field of historical linguistics as possessing the second-longest recorded history, after the [[Afroasi


Dotted/striped areas indicate where multilingualism is common.]]




The various subgroups of the Indo-European language family include ten major branches, given in the chronological order of their emergence according to David Anthony:

  1. Anatolian (Asia Minor), the earliest attested branch. Emerged around 4200 BCE. Isolated terms in Luwian/Hittite mentioned in Semitic Old Assyrian texts from the 20th and 19th centuries BC, Hittite texts from about 1650 BC; extinct by Late Antiquity.
  1. Tocharian, emerged around 3700 BCE, extant in two dialects (Turfanian and Kuchean), attested from roughly the 6th to the 9th century AD. Marginalized by the Old Turkic Uyghur Khaganate and probably extinct by the 10th century.
  1. Germanic (from Proto-Germanic), emerged around 3300 BCE, earliest testimonies in runic inscriptions from around the 2nd century AD, earliest coherent texts in Gothic, 4th century AD. Old English manuscript tradition from about the 8th century AD.
  1. Italic, including Latin and its descendants (the Romance languages), emerged around 3000 BCE, attested from the 7th century BC.
  1. Celtic, descended from Proto-Celtic, emerged around 3000 BCE. Gaulish inscriptions date as early as the 6th century BC; Celtiberian from the 2nd century BC; Primitive Irish Ogham inscriptions 5th century AD, earliest inscriptions in Old Welsh from the 8th Century AD.
  1. Armenian, emerged around 2800 BCE. Alphabet writings known from the beginning of the 5th century AD.
  1. Balto-Slavic, emerged around 2800 BCE, believed by most Indo-Europeanists to form a phylogenetic unit, while a minority ascribes similarities to prolonged language contact.
    • Baltic, attested from the 14th century AD; for languages attested that late, they retain unusually many archaic features attributed to Proto-Indo-European (PIE).
  1. Hellenic, emerged around 2500 BCE. Fragmentary records in Mycenaean Greek from between 1450 and 1350 BC have been found. Homeric texts date to the 8th century BC. (See Proto-Greek, History of Greek.)
  1. Indo-Iranian, emerged around 2200 BCE, attested circa 1400 BC, descended from Proto-Indo-Iranian (dated to the late 3rd millennium BC).
  1. Albanian, attested from the 14th century AD; Proto-Albanian likely evolved from Paleo-Balkan predecessors.

In addition to the classical ten branches listed above, several extinct and little-known languages have existed:

  • Illyrian — possibly related to Messapian, Albanian, or both
  • Phrygian — language of the ancient Phrygians, possibly close to Thracian, Armenian, Greek
  • Paionian — extinct language once spoken north of Macedon
  • Thracian — possibly including Dacian
  • Dacian — possibly very close to Thracian
  • Ancient Macedonian — proposed relationships to Greek, Illyrian, Thracian, and Phrygian.
  • Ligurian — possibly close to or part of Celtic.
  • Sicel - an ancient language spoken by the Sicels (Greek Sikeloi, Latin Siculi), one of the three indigenous (i.e., pre-Greek and pre-Punic) tribes of Sicily. Proposed relationship to Latin or proto-Illyrian (Pre-Indo-European) at an earlier stage.
  • Lusitanian — possibly related to (or part of) Celtic, Ligurian, or Italic
  • Cimmerian – possibly Iranian, Thracian, or Celtic

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