All You Need to Know about Indo European Language Family

Indo-European is a family of languages that are widely spoken in Europe and many regions of South Asia, and they further spread around the globe because of colonization. Indo–European as a name subject depicts geographical regions that start from the Indian sub-continent to the western part of Europe. The Indo European Language Family comprises languages from Southwest, Central, and South Asia. Approximately 2.6 billion people from around the globe are speaking Indo-European languages that are around 45% of the world’s population. The Indo European Language family is divided into several branches like Germanic, Romance, Indo Iranian, and Balto-Slavic groups. In these branches, the most popular languages are Hindustani, English, Spanish, Russian, Bengali, and Panjabi and which are native to 100 million speakers. The other languages like Italian, Marathi, French, Persian, and German are native to 50 million people. As per the Ethnology, there are 445 living Indo-European languages and out of these, two-third of them belong to the Indo-Iranian branch. Branches of Indo European include Indo-Iranian languages like Sanskrit and Iranian languages. Other related languages include Latin and related Celtic Germanic languages like English, Balto Slavic, Albanian, Tocharian, and Anatolian. 

 History about Indo European Language Family

In 1784, an English judge who was living in Calcutta, Sir William Jones, founded an institution called Asiatic society. It was established by some like-minded people to study Asia and to study what is produced by man and nature there.  This institution was handling the British colonial project. In 1986 Jones addressed the society and claimed that the Sanskrit language is antique and it has great composition, it is a more perfect language than Greek, more inquisitive language than Latin. These three languages are so integrated into the form of verbs and grammar that it seems they are developed from a single source. The Celtic and Gothic languages are also integrated, but with different idioms. They originated from Sanskrit and Old Persian. 

In short, Sanskrit is similar to the classical languages of Europe and it has opened the new doors of comparative linguistics and philosophy. Jones is not the only man who made this claim. The connection between the Sanskrit and European Languages is also observed in the 16th century, and it is the assumption that these languages originated from a common ancestor language. Jones has a very great reputation in India, so his assumption is believed by the people. The Indo-European word was first used by Thomas Young in 1813, although it was already hypothesized by Jones previously.

In the 19th century and at the start of the 20th century, many details came into light that showed the relationship among languages that are spoken in different corners of the world. This resulted in the formation of unrelated linguistic groups like Welsh speakers in Wales, Bishnupriya Manipuri speakers in North Eastern India, Divehi speakers in the Maldives, Albanians and Armenians, and many other cultures that relate to common linguistic ancestry. Due to the universal brotherhood, the relationship between the languages has developed. 40 percent of the world’s population speaks an Indo-European tongue that is approximately 3 billion people. Although all these tongues may sound different they belong to a common ancestor. Initially, these tongues were largely spoken in Asia and Europe but because of modern-day colonialism and migration, Indo-European languages are spoken all over the world.

 Branches of Indo European Language 

At present, Indo-European Language comprises 10 different branches, like Indo-Iranian, Anatolian, Italic, Hellenic, Tocharian, Armenian, Celtic, Albanian, Balto-Slavic, Albanian and Germanic. The largest branch of Indo European Language is the Indo-Iranian branch that has approximately one billion speakers. It is further divided into Indo-Aryan, Nuristani, and Iranian. This branch was discovered by the epic quest of Jones. The Indo-Aryan branch consists of many Indian languages that have their origin from Sanskrit. It contains languages like Kurdish, Pashto, and Persian while the Nuristani branch consists of languages like Kamkata-viri, Askunu, and others spoken in the remote valleys of Afghanistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in Pakistan. English is the most influential language that is part of the Germanic sub-division with languages like Dutch, German, and others. Knowing that all of these languages originated from a single ancestor, intellectuals have tried to recreate another language that includes all of these tongues. This language is called Proto-Indo-European that existed between 4500 BCE and 2500 BCE. It is further divided into different branches because the speakers migrated to different areas. 

Let’s have a look at different branches of the Indo European Language Family.

 Anatolian

The Anatolian languages are used to denote all the languages of Indo European and non-Indo European that are spoken in Anatolia at present. It is also widely spoken in Turkey’s Asian portion and some parts of Northern Syria. The most renowned branch of this language was Hittite. The Hattusas was the capital of the Hittite Kingdom that was discovered in 1906 CE. In the 2nd millennium BC, the Anatolian language was spoken in Asia Minor and Anatolia, but it started vanishing in the first few centuries AD. These languages are the tongue of Indo-European-speaking invaders of Anatolia, and they get to mix with other languages of the region. The vocabulary part of the Anatolian language was taken from native tongues, but their grammar part is Indo-European.

 Greek

Greek is the ancient language with different dialects and has written history for over 3000 years. It is widely spoken in the Peloponnese peninsula, Balkans, southern end, and the surrounding area of the Aegean Sea. One of the oldest branches of the Greek language is Mycenaean that was used by Mycenaean civilization, and it was carved on ceramic vessels and clay tablets found in Crete. It used a syllabic script because of the absence of an alphabetic written system. The first writing of the Greek language was seen in the early part of the 8th century BCE that was the time of Odyssey.

 Italic

Although Italic people are not from Italy, it is still the prominent language of the Italian Peninsula. They came from another region and crossed the Alps to reach Italy. Latin is one of the Italic languages, It is spoken by rural tribes that are populated in the middle of the Italian Peninsula. Latin was boosted in the era of Rome. Different Roman authors like Ovid, Cicero, Seneca, Pliny, and Marcus Aurelius used Classical Latin in their work. The other former languages that do not exist now are South Picene, Umbrian, Sabellic, Oscan, and Faliscan. The existing and surviving languages are the French, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Catalan, and Romanian.

 Indo-Iranian

Iranian and Indic are the sub-branches of the Indo-Iranian branch. These branches are usually spoken in India, Pakistan, and Iran and the countries near them. These branches also spread along with the black Sea till Western China. Sanskrit is also a part of the Indic sub-branch. It means perfected and refined. The oldest version of Sanskrit is called Vedas which is used in Vedas. All the religious texts and hymns are also in the Sanskrit language. In 1500 BCE, many Indic speakers came to Central Asia and invaded the Indian subcontinent. The history of this language is found in hymn1.31 of the Rig-Veda.

The other important branch of the Indo-Iranian language is Avestan. It is the oldest branch of Ayestan and is known as Gothic Ayestan. It is considered as Sanskrit’s sister. It is also used in the religious texts of Zoroastrian. At present, many Indic languages are spoken in Pakistan and India like Bengali, Punjabi, Hindi, and Urdu. Pashto is spoken in Afghanistan.

 Germanic

There are three branches of Germanic. One is West Germanic, the second is North Germanic and the third is East Germanic that is endangered. The Germanic-speaking people were residing in the areas along with Southern Scandinavia till the North Baltic Sea coast. They met with the Balto-Slavic tribes and Finnic speakers that enhanced the Germanic language lexicon. The modern version of the West Germanic sub-branch is Dutch, Frisian, English, and Yiddish, and the North Germanic sub-branch includes Norwegian, Faroese, Danish, Swedish, and Icelandic.

Tocharian

The Tocharian-speaking people reside in the Western part of China’s Taklamakan Desert, and their history is unknown. Some of the Buddhist translated works show their existence. The translated work from the 6th to 8th centuries doesn’t explain the Tocharian work. Although Tocharian A and Tocharian B were developed. Some pieces of work regarding Tocharian A were found that shows that Tocharian A is endangered and it is used for some poetic and religious purposes whereas Tocharian B is used as an administrative language. 

 Armenian

There is no clear history of the Armenian people. Many people think that they came with the Balkans and Phrygians and entered Anatolia in the later part of the 2nd millennium BCE. Armenia settled in near Lake Van that is called Turkey at present and it was the part of Urartu. This area was assaulted by the Assyrians in the 8th century BCE and Armenians held the area before the arrival of Medes. During the rule of the Achaemenid Empire, the complete area became the hub of Persia. The Persian language has a great impact on the Armenian language that makes all of us think that Armenian is the part Persian language and it is the part of the Iranian group.

 Albanian

Albania is from the branch of Indo-European languages. The history of this language origin is not clear. One school of thought thinks that Albanian is from Illyrian but this information is not accurate. Another school of thought is of the view that Albanian is from Thracian that is already endangered. At present Albanian is the official language of Albania and it is further spoken in Yugoslavia, the Republic of Morocco, Southern Italy, and Greece.

Balto-Slavic

The Balto Slavic has sub-branches that are Baltic and Slavic. The balts invaded Western Poland till the Ural mountains and later settled down near the Baltic sea. The Balts are a great acquaintance with Finnic tribes. Although the language of Finnic is not included in Indo-European languages they borrowed many words from the Baltic language. 

The Slavs were inhabited at Western Polish Borders near the Dnieper River that leads to Belarus. In the 6th century CE, their territory was expanded because of the Balkans and Greece. Many of them moved to Iranian territory that made Slavs take many words from their vocabulary. When they went west, they again borrowed many words from Germanic tribes.  At present only Latvian and Lithuanian endured in Baltic languages, Bulgarian, Czech, Croatian, Polish, Serbian, Slovak and Russia are the survivors of Slavic languages.

Wrapping Up

The Indo European family is the largest group of languages that depicts the richest heritage of old civilizations. These languages came into existence when different cultures mingled together. 

If you need translation services to and from these Indo-European languages, CCJK can help. Get in touch to know more! 

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