Indo-European Linguistics

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Indo-European Linguistics


a branch of comparative historical linguistics that deals with the Indo-European languages. It is based on the study of correspondences among similar elements of the Indo-European languages (with an orientation toward their ancient status) and interpretation of the correspondences. The founders of Indo-European linguistics were the German scholar F. Bopp (conjugation system of Sanskrit in comparison with Greek, Latin, Germanic, and other languages) and the Danish scholar R. Rask (comparison of the data of the Germanic languages with Greek, Latin, and Balto-Slavic and establishment of their affinity).

The main achievements of the first period (early 19th century) in the development of Indo-European linguistics were the determination of the sphere of the Indo-European languages and the creation of the first comparative historical grammar (Bopp) and the principles of Indo-European etymology (the German scholar A. Pott). The second period (mid-19th century) was marked by the works of the German scholar A. Schleicher (a new version of comparative grammar; the interpretation of the similarities among the Indo-European languages as resulting from their origin from a common Indo-European parent language), the German scholar J. Schmidt (the wave theory, which explains the interelationships of the Indo-European languages and which had exceptional influence on linguistic geography, dialectography, areal linguistics, and the theory of contacts), and the German scholar A. Fick (Indo-European etymology). The third period (late 19th and early 20th century) is associated above all with the neogrammarian school (the German scholars K. Brugmann, H. Osthoff, and B. Delbriick and their followers A. Bezzen-berger, A. Leskien, W. Streitberg, and C. Bartholomae), the Swiss scholar F. de Saussure, the Russian scholar F. F. For-tunatov, the Swiss scholar J. Wackernagel, the French scholars A. Meillet and R. Gauthiot, the Austrian scholar P. Kretsch-mer, the German scholar F. Sommer, the Danish scholar H. Pedersen, and the German scholars A. Walde and H. Hirt; many of these scholars also continued their successful work after this period.

The neogrammarians deserve credit for posing the question on the reliability of correspondences and their formulation of strict criteria (compare law of regular sound changes), which led to the discovery of a. series of laws (the laws of Verner, Brugmann, Fortunatov and de Saussure, and Wackernagel) and the creation of new theories of vocalism and alternations which established the principles of Indo-European morphophonology. The main work of the neogrammarian school was the comparative grammar of the Indo-European languages by Brugmann and Del-briick (2nd ed., vols. 1-5, 1897-1916). The introduction of the concept of analogy (notable for its explanatory role in studies of morphology) must be classed among their theoretical achievements. Saussure, the first to use a systemic approach to language (1879), succeeded in discovering (theoretically) a special sound element, later confirmed by the data of newly discovered Indo-European languages, which contributed to the creation of a new picture of Indo-European vocalism. Meillet, who had given up research on all the groups of Indo-European languages, devoted his attention to dialect correspondences within the Indo-European parent language. The subsequent development of Indo-European linguistics was characterized by an expansion of material (the discovery of Hittite and other Anatolian languages, Tocharian, and a number of Middle Iranian languages) and increased attention to the little-known Illyrian, Messapian, Thracian, Phrygian, and Venetic languages; the use of structural methods and the development of criteria for reconstruction (compare “internal” reconstruction); new theories of vocalism and consonantism (laryngeal theory, accentuation, and morpho-phonological aspect) and the structure of nominal stems and roots; original ideas associated with the structure of the case paradigm and the verb; marked progress in the reconstruction of syntactic phenomena; and new hypotheses on the dialect differentiation of the ancient Indo-European continuum and its genetic relationships (with the “Nostratic” languages). The leading figures of this period are E. Benveniste (France); J. Kurylowicz (Poland); F. Specht, H. Krahe, and J. Pokorny (Germany); V. Pisani, G. Bonfante, and G. Devoto (Italy); W. Porzig and P. Thieme (Germany); C. Watkins (USA); and V. V. Ivanov (USSR).

In the 150 years of its existence, Indo-European linguistics has led the field of comparative historical linguistics in every respect, providing a model for the study of other related groups of languages. Important (basic) works on Indo-European linguistics are taken into consideration in the bibliographical publication Indogermanisches Jahrbuch and in the leading journals Zeitschrift für vergleichende Sprachforschung auf dem Gebiete der indogermanischen Sprachen (Gottingen, since 1852) and In-dogermanische Forschungen (Berlin-Leipzig, since 1892).


Delbriick, B. “Vvedenie v izuchenie iazyka.” In S. Bulich, Ocherk istorii iazykoznaniiav Rossii. St. Petersburg, 1904.
Tomsen, V. Istoriia iazykovedeniia do kontsa XIX v. Moscow, 1938.(Translated from Danish.)
Obshchee i indoewopeiskoe iazykoznanie: Obzor literatury. Moscow, 1956. (Translated from German.)
Desnitskaia, A. V. Voprosy izucheniia rodstva indoewopeiskikh iazykov. Moscow-Leningrad, 1955.
Bosch-Gimpera, P. Les Indo-Européens: Problemes archéologiques. Paris, 1961.
Hencken, H. Indo-European Languages and Archaeology. Menasha, Wisconsin, 1955.
Devoto, G. Origini indeuropee. Florence, 1962.
Schmitt, R. Dichtung und Dichtersprache in indogermanischer Zeit. Wiesbaden, 1967.
Benveniste, E. Le Vocabulaire des institutions indoeuropéennes. Vols.1-2. Paris, 1969.


References in periodicals archive ?
In Ex Anatolia Lux: Anatolian and Indo-European Studies in Honor ofH.
The results of the present research will provide the world of the Indo-European studies with the first comprehensive study ever dedicated to morpho-syntax of the Luwian language.
Sanskrit holds a prominent position in Indo-European studies.
Conference of the Society for Indo-European Studies (2010: Los Angeles, Calif.
In conclusion I should say that this book is not easy to read, but persistent and interested readers will be rewarded by a deep knowledge of the numerous phenomena which Indo-European studies seek to understand.
In a diachronic perspective, on the other hand, a culture which has appeared of paramount importance since the very beginnings of Indo-European studies for its unquestionable antiquity, namely Old Indic, has been ostensibly lacking in written documents until relatively recent times: from king Asoka's inscription (third century B.
Journal of Indo-European Studies, Monograph Number 22.
Tocharian and Indo-European Studies, Supplementary Series, vol.
This proposal alone would mark a revolution in Indo-European studies, but there are two more revolutionary ideas.
Personally, I advise my students to choose a combination that best suits their interests and abilities (although due to my background in general linguistics and Indo-European studies I belong more to the specialised group), since only this will ensure the necessary enthusiasm and perseverance.
This volume contains papers from a colloquium celebrating the 125th anniversary of Indo-European studies at the University of Graz, and other essays solicited to mark the occasion.

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