Indo-European languages, Proposed subgroupings

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Summary

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

Details

Specialists have postulated the existence of such subfamilies (subgroups) as Italo-Celtic, Graeco-Armenian, Graeco-Aryan, and Germanic with Balto-Slavic. The vogue for such subgroups waxes and wanes; Italo-Celtic for example was once a standard subgroup of Indo-European, but is now little honored, in part because much of the evidence it was based on was misinterpreted.

Subgroupings of the Indo-European languages are commonly held to reflect genetic relationships and linguistic change. The generic differentiation of Proto-Indo-European into dialects and languages happened hand in hand with language contact and the spread of innovations over different territories.

Rather than being entirely genetic, the grouping of satem languages is commonly inferred as an innovative change that occurred just once, and subsequently spread over a large cohesive territory or PIE continuum that affected all but the peripheral areas. Kortlandt proposes the ancestors of Balts and Slavs took part in satemization and were then drawn into the western Indo-European sphere.

Shared features of Phrygian and Greek and of Thracian and Armenian group together with the Indo-Iranian family of Indo-European languages. Some fundamental shared features, like the aorist (a verb form denoting action without reference to duration or completion) having the perfect active particle -s fixed to the stem, link this group closer to Anatolian languages and Tocharian. Shared features with Balto-Slavic languages, on the other hand (especially present and preterit formations), might be due to later contacts.

The Indo-Hittite hypothesis proposes the Indo-European language family to consist of two main branches: one represented by the Anatolian languages and another branch encompassing all other Indo-European languages. Features that separate Anatolian from all other branches of Indo-European (such as the gender or the verb system) have been interpreted alternately as archaic debris or as innovations due to prolonged isolation. Points proffered in favour of the Indo-Hittite hypothesis are the (non-universal) Indo-European agricultural terminology in Anatolia and the preservation of laryngeals. However, in general this hypothesis is considered to attribute too much weight to the Anatolian evidence. According to another view the Anatolian subgroup left the Indo-European parent language comparatively late, approximately at the same time as Indo-Iranian and later than the Greek or Armenian divisions. A third view, especially prevalent in the so-called French school of Indo-European studies, holds that extant similarities in non-satem languages in general - including Anatolian - might be due to their peripheral location in the Indo-European language area and early separation, rather than indicating a special ancestral relationship. Hans J. Holm, based on lexical calculations, arrives at a picture roughly replicating the general scholarly opinion and refuting the Indo-Hittite hypothesis.

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